RESEARCH OFFICERS COMMITTEE:
2006-07 ANNUAL REPORT
for postdoc salaries, the ROC met with Dr. Alvin Krasna, chair of the Committee
on Qualifications and
Faculty Handbook: The Office of the Provost has been updating the Faculty Handbook. Dr. Rittenberg asked the ROC to review the 2000 edition and offer suggestions for revisions. We responded with a number of recommendations.
In March the Housing
Policy Committee surveyed all professional research officers (PROs) and postdocs
to learn about their access to, and experience with,
the final Senate plenary last year, Housing Policy presented a resolution to
cap annual rental increases at the rate of the mean annual salary increase for officers
of instruction and research until the administration provides the University community
with a strategy for maintaining affordable housing in the face of escalating
operating costs. The resolution was brought
forth in response to a proposed guidelines increases of 5 percent for
Office of Diversity Initiatives mandate: Research officers, especially postdocs, are an important part of the academic pipeline and a key channel for accomplishing ethnic and gender diversity in academia. However, this role was not explicitly recognized in the mandate of the Vice Provost for Diversity Initiatives. Last year the ROC raised this issue with President Bollinger and Vice Provost Jean Howard. The president responded by updating his mandate to explicitly include research officers and Vice Provost Howard updated the Diversity Initiatives web page similarly.
Postdoc issues: The ROC met several times with Beth Israel, head of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs, and her assistant Natalie Cox. Last year they completed a survey of postdocs, the results of which are due for release this year. The ROC has been monitoring the survey, which identifies a number of concerns, including career development training, salaries, inequities in benefits, and the lack of housing.
Professional research officer titles: The professional research officer (PRO) ranks
include senior research scientists/scholars, research scientists/scholars, and associate
research scientists/scholars. According to the Faculty Handbook, theses titles are equivalent,
to full professor, associate professor, and assistant professor. But this equivalence is recognized neither
inside nor outside the University, with a large negative impact on the ability
of PROs to win funding, both at
Salary equity study: In response to a request from the ROC, the Senate Commission on the Status of Women and Vice Provost Howard launched a salary equity study for research officers. It was conducted by the provost’s Office of Planning and Institutional Research, headed by Lucy Drotning. She and her assistant Jose Uribe met with the ROC to define the scope of the survey and discuss preliminary results. The administration also formed a small committee, including two researchers, to review the findings. We anticipate a presentation to the Senate this year.
Staff Officers survey: During the summer of 2006, the ROC surveyed the nearly 400 staff officers of research, who make up about 20 percent of our constituency. About 80 (20 percent) responded. Here follows a brief summary of the results (the full report is available at www.columbia.edu/cu/senate/committees/resrch_officers/SSASAreport.pdf):
• The vast majority of respondents indicated their responsibilities primarily
involve research. Most wanted to have co-author status on manuscripts presenting
research results and to attend conferences. Additionally, most wanted periodic performance evaluations.
• A majority who supervise others indicated that they had received inadequate training and support for this supervisory role.
• Most felt adequately informed about their benefits. Many were
dissatisfied with the
• The vast majority of respondents holding Ph.D.s indicated they wanted an opportunity for promotion to the professional research officer ranks.
• A large majority consider the working environment at
The ROC will follow up on these findings this year.
benefits for staff officers and postdocs: Currently
both staff officers and postdocs are ineligible for retirement benefits during
their first two years at
will press for a change in this policy.
Termination policy: The ROC has met with Vice Provost Rittenberg on its request to change the current termination policy for research officers (which provides severance pay only in the rare instance of an unexpected loss of funding in the midst of a grant) to the policy governing administrative officers (which provides severance pay based on length of service). This year Dr. Rittenberg, in consultation with the ROC, will investigate the feasibility of such a policy.
For the Committee,