Postdoctoral Fellows Policy


October 26, 2000

Revision Date

June 27, 2019


R 50.03

Revision No.


Policy Authority: Vice-President Research and International
Associated Procedure(s): Procedure for Postdoctoral Fellow Appointments


1.1.   Postdoctoral fellows (PDFs) are key contributors to SFU’s research enterprise. SFU recognizes the role of PDFs in supporting our research mission. A Postdoctoral Fellow (“PDF”) is a valued member of the University community, whose primary focus is research and whose principal objectives include broadening the PDF’s research-related expertise, building associations with established researchers, and strengthening the PDF’s publication record, thereby enhancing the PDF’s future employment opportunities. As researchers, PDFs have the opportunity to make significant contributions to their chosen fields, to the University, and to the University’s faculty researchers and graduate students.

2.0     PURPOSE

2.1     The purpose of this Policy is to define the status and the role of a person holding an appointment as a PDF and, in support of this purpose, to establish the requirements for such appointments and to outline the scope of a PDF’s intended activities.

2.2     This Policy distinguishes between a PDF who is funded through a grant, contract, or other funding mechanism which is held by either a faculty member or the University and a PDF who is funded through a fellowship provided by an external agency.

3.0    SCOPE

3.1    This policy applies to PDFs, faculty members, and administrators at the University.


4.1    “Postdoctoral Fellow” or “PDF” means a person who has completed a doctoral degree and who has been appointed by the University for a limited period of time to undertake advanced research and further professional development in association with one or more of the University’s faculty members.

4.1.1  There are two appointment categories for PDFs

a)  a PDF whose salary is paid in whole or in part either from funds held by a University faculty member or from the University’s financial resources or a combination of the two will be appointed as an Internal PDF. An Internal PDF is an employee of the University;

b)  a PDF who has secured funding from an external funding organization or a fellowship program which is external to the University and whose salary is paid wholly from such funding will be appointed as an External PDF. An External PDF is not an employee of the University. Use of the University’s facilities to manage and account for an External PDF’s funding, including processing of payroll and administration benefits, does not alter the status of an appointment as an External PDF.

c)  Unless otherwise required by the context, both Internal and External PDFs will be referred to in this policy simply as PDFs.

4.2    “Research” means an undertaking intended to extend knowledge through a disciplined inquiry or systematic investigation or both.

4.3     “Faculty Member” means a University grant eligible faculty member who has been designated to oversee the activities associated with a PDF’s advanced research and further professional development. For purposes of this definition, a “Faculty Member” includes a person holding an appointment at the University in one of the following ranks: Adjunct, Professor, and Professor Emeritus.

4.4    “Supervisor” means the Faculty Member with primary responsibility for the employment relationship between the PDF and the University. In the case that the Faculty Member described in 4.3 is an employee of the University, they may simultaneously serve as the sole supervisor. Should the Faculty Member defined in 4.3 above not be an employee of the University, then that PDF must be co-supervised by a Faculty Member employed by the University.

4.5    “University” means Simon Fraser University.

5.0     POLICY

5.1    Postdoctoral Fellow Appointment Requirements

5.1.1  A PDF will be appointed for an indefinite term but in all cases with an indication of the anticipated duration of appointment.

5.1.2  A PDF’s initial appointment will have an anticipated duration of one year and it must be made within the first five years after the PDF’s completion of a doctoral degree. Subject to satisfactory performance during a PDF’s initial appointment and the continued availability of sufficient funding, a PDF will be eligible for but not guaranteed to receive further appointments, each with an anticipated duration of one year. The total duration of a PDF’s initial and further appointment(s), taken as a whole, must not exceed five years.

5.1.3  An exception to the requirements set out in section 5.1.2 above may be made by the Vice President Research and International (“VPRI”) on application but only when such an application is made in advance, in writing, and in conformity with the following provisions:

a)  an appointment of less than one year may be made in circumstances the VPRI reasonably considers to be exceptional. An application for an appointment of less than one year in duration must acknowledge that such an appointment may adversely impact a PDF’s eligibility for benefits and confirm that this risk has been brought to the PDF’s attention;

b)  an appointment with a term of more than one year but no more than five years may be made in circumstances the VPRI reasonably considers to be exceptional; and

c)  if the basis for requesting an exception is that a PDF’s appointment has been interrupted by a leave provided for or required by law, including without limitation a maternity, parental, adoption, or disability-related leave, the circumstances giving rise to the application will be deemed to be exceptional

5.1.4   All PDFs must have a Supervisor.

5.1.5   All PDFs are required to adhere to all applicable University Policies.

5.1.6   At all times, both the offer and the continuation of an appointment as a PDF will be subject to the availability of sufficient funding.

5.2    Postdoctoral Fellow Eligible Activities

5.2.1  In addition to undertaking Research, a PDF may also be involved in undergraduate and graduate lecturing, laboratory instruction, tutorials, supervision of undergraduate projects, and assisting with the supervision (other than Senior Supervision) of graduate students.

5.2.2  PDFs will not normally be eligible to hold grant funding independently. A PDF who proposes to hold grant funding independently must undertake a thorough and careful review of the relevant eligibility requirements before taking any steps to obtain such grant funding. An application for such grant funding will be considered an exceptional measure. A PDF who proposes to hold grant funding independently must obtain the written approval of the VPRI to do so before applying for such funding. The VPRI will only consider granting such an approval when the duration of the proposed external funding does not exceed the anticipated duration of the PDF’s then current appointment.


6.1       The information and records made and received to administer this policy are subject to the access to information and protection of privacy provisions of British Columbia’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the University’s Information Policy series. The information and records will be treated in a confidential manner, in compliance with the Act and with applicable University policies.  


7.1      Information and records made and received to administer this policy are evidence of the employment relationship between SFU and Postdoctoral Fellows and are important in documenting legal rights and responsibilities. Information and records must be retained and disposed of in accordance with a records retention schedule approved by the University Archivist. 


8.1      This policy must be reviewed at intervals of no more than every five years and may always be reviewed as needed.

9.0      AUTHORITY

9.1      The VPRI is responsible for the administration of this policy.


10.1    Disputed questions about the interpretation and application of this policy and its associated procedures must be referred to the President, whose decision in these matters will be final.


11.1    Procedures for Postdoctoral Fellow Appointments