October 4, 2013


Here we provide brief summaries of the highest-priority issues that the ROC discussed during the past year.

Salary equity study: The ROC has been monitoring the progress of the salary equity study initiated in Fall 2012 by Vice Provost Stephen Rittenberg.  This is a follow-up to the previous study, released in May 2010, which took 4 years to complete.  About that study Provost Steele wrote in his cover letter that the report “finds some evidence of statistically significant differentials in pay by gender and race/ethnicity…. There is also evidence that some of these differentials are related to starting salaries.”  The Provost shared the report with the appropriate senior administrators on the Medical and Morningside campuses.  He asked for reviews of current salaries and for adjustments where appropriate.  He also asked for a review of the process for setting starting salaries “to ensure that starting salaries are comparable, all else being equal.”  In the subsequent three years after the release of the report and after multiple meetings with various university administrators, our committee has little sense of whether the report’s recommendations have been implemented throughout the University.  We look forward to the results of the new study which will help to re-evaluate the situation and quantify what changes have been made. 

Postdoctoral researcher issues: The ROC sent a letter to Provost Coatsworth on behalf of the Postdoctoral Research Fellows (PDRFs) asking the university to provide an annual health care supplement for those PDRFs whose fellowships do not provide any such funds.  PDRFs are the cream of the next generation of researchers and bring about $14 million each year to the university in research funds.  We should be trying to attract as many as possible to Columbia.  Moreover, they should not be effectively penalized for choosing to bring their fellowship to Columbia.  Many of our peer institutions already provide such support.  For Columbia to remain competitive in attracting PDRFs, we should match what our sister schools already do.

We are also concerned by the recent departure of Lily Bao Secora, who was the director of the Office of Postdoctoral Affairs.  We were extremely impressed by the accomplishments of the Office under her directorship.  A minimum for postdoctoral researcher salaries was finally established across the university and a wide range of professional development and social/networking programming were introduced.  We hope her replacement will build on all these accomplishments and continue to improve conditions for postdoctoral researchers at Columbia.

Effort reporting: By law, Federal grant funds may not be used to compensate researchers for the time they spend writing grant proposals. Such support must come from “non-sponsored” sources.  The ROC remains concerned that the University does not have adequate funding sources for this purpose.  We are also concerned that Principal Investigators are not fully aware of this requirement and continue to instruct their group members to prepare grants without providing non-sponsored funding for such work.  We have raised both of these issues several times in meetings with various senior administrators.

ARC: Over a year after Accounting and Reporting at Columbia (the ARC system) was introduced, it is still not performing as needed.  Many Principal Investigators still are not receiving monthly statements about the funds in their research accounts.  Lacking reliable information on the available research funds remaining makes it extremely difficult to budget for research programs.  The ROC has met both as a committee and individually with various university administrators about this issue.

Meetings with University Administrators:


University Senate Research Officers Committee 2012-2013

Daniel Wolf Savin, Chair, Senior Research Scientist, Astrophysics Laboratory
Hatim Diab, Senior Staff Associate, SEAS Center for Computer Learning Systems
Mona Diab, Research Scientist, Engineering and Applied Science
Mercy Davidson, Senior Research Scientist, Radiation Oncology
Angela D. Nelson, Senior Staff Associate, Medicine
Owen Rambow, Research Scientist, Center for Computational Learning Systems
Alexandria Wise, Postdoctoral Research Scientist, Pathology and Cell Biology