Suzanne Ponik et al.: University of Wisconsin–Madison

Topic: Staff Scientists
by Andrea Bilger, Mats W. Johansson, Suzanne M. Ponik, and Megan E. Spurgeon
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Proposed Action to make the academic staff scientist position(s) more attractive and stable:

1) Improve opportunities for promotion, recognition, and compensation increases for AS scientists and have transparent, clearly communicated, and campus-wide-consistent criteria for these. Also, establish a real research track series and make it possible for at least a subset of interested and qualified scientists (criteria to be established) to apply to enter or transfer into this series.

2) Improve job stability and security, especially progressively with time of employment. Improving stability may require institutional support and/or a funding mechanism to be put in place to cover at least part of salaries (perhaps a supplement to RO1 funding specifically for staff scientists). Additionally, with time of employment increase length of contract (perhaps to 3-4 years or longer and not only dependent on grant status), expand possibilities of bridge funding directly to a greater number of AS scientists, between grant periods and between employment in different labs/departments. Also, make it easier to transfer to another laboratory or department within campus while keeping the obtained title and job security levels.

3) Transparent and clearly defined and communicated expectations for the roles and duties of each individual position, e.g., on individual research projects, collaborations within and outside lab/department, supervision or assistant supervision of students, degree of independence, participation in grant writing and/or own grant writing, participation in advisory and regulatory committees, etc.

4) Officially allow multiple roles for AS scientists, i.e., each position would not have to be 100% research but could officially include a smaller proportion of administration (e.g., at a core facility), teaching, or outreach. This should improve security for the individual, for instance, in an uncertain grant situation a part of a person’s time may be shifted from research to another role. It may also allow individuals to gain work experience in areas they could transfer to if funding is lost.