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NCSA Postdoctoral Researcher Program: Guidelines and Procedures

1. Aim of NCSA Postdoc Program

Establish and operate a program to recruit, hire, mentor, support and assess a vibrant, diverse and productive community of postdoctoral researchers at NCSA that promote, contribute to and leverage our culture and contribute towards a talent pool of future faculty, researchers, developers and leaders in computational and data sciences, cyberinfrastructure and digital technologies, and collaborative and interdisciplinary research.


2. Key Policy Principles

2.1.  Postdocs are future talent for the computational, cyberinfrastructure and HPC community; their professional development should be intentional, planned and supported.

2.2.  Postdocs should receive appropriate recognition, compensation and benefits for their contribution to the research enterprise.

2.3.  To ensure that the postdoc appointments are beneficial to all stakeholders, there should be a clear and mutually agreed upon understanding regarding the nature and purpose of the appointment and all stakeholders should be involved in the postdoc selection process.

2.4.  All postdocs should have at least two mentors, one of which should not have a role to evaluate the postdoc’s performance.

2.5.  Appropriate incentives to staff for mentoring postdocs should be provided.


3. Definition of Postdoctoral Researcher

  • PhD level researcher
  • Early-stages of career
  • Small number of short term appointments
  • Focus on building platform for future career
  • Encourage mobility to work with best labs, mentors and gain broad experience both nationally and internationally. 

 

4. Categories of Postdocs

Postdocs will differ in their level of position (junior/senior), funding source (internal/external grant/own funding), and primary function (research/development/training/support), and appointment (NCSA employee/UIUC employee/visiting scholar).

  • All full-time NCSA postdocs must have personal development plans, mentoring, and assessment. Senior postdocs are those who have and are able to execute independent research plans; junior postdocs typically take part in faculty led research and development programs. Part-time NCSA postdocs are welcome to participate in the NCSA Postdoctoral Researcher Program although it is understood there may be separate requirements from the postdoc's home department.

  • Postdoctoral Researcher: The usual type of postdoc at NCSA, these will be funded through research funding external grants, and from NCSA (e.g. through the theme areas or faculty start up). It is common for postdocs funded by other units at the University of Illinois to have a significant or full-time NCSA presence, to be registered as sponsored guests with NCSA, and be assigned a NCSA desk. They will be treated as NCSA Postdoctoral Researchers and listed as such e.g. on web pages.
  • Visiting Postdoctoral Researcher: Visiting postdoctoral researchers have postdoc positions at other institutions, are funded by other institutions, or are self-funded through e.g. fellowships, and are making an extended visit to NCSA (e.g. more than a month). The postdoc host at NCSA should register visiting postdoctoral researchers at NCSA a s “sponsored guests”. Visiting postdocs are encouraged to play a full role in postdoc and other activities at NCSA, as appropriate for the length of their visit.
  • Specific Postdoc Programs: NCSA partners with different national and international institutions and encourages postdoc exchanges and joint postdoc programs as a mechanism for increased collaboration and enhanced postdoc training.
     

5. Elements of NCSA Postdoctoral Program

5.1. Coordination

All postdocs will be coordinated through the Research and Education Directorate (RED) by the RED Research Coordinator who will maintain a database for postdocs, and track, assess and manage different facets of the program. The office will also develop policies for postdocs and execute the postdoctoral fellow program.


5.2. Professional Development Plan

Each postdoc will have a professional development plan (PDP). The postdoc will develop these plans within the three months of their appointment with the help of their mentors. The postdoc’s mentoring committee will approve plans. The postdoc will be asked to submit a brief report on progress with respect to the personal development each 6 months of the postdocs tenure at NCSA. An overview of the PDP development process is located here.


5.3. Mentoring

Each postdoc will have a mentoring committee with at least two NCSA faculty or senior staff members representing different domains and/or aspects. The postdoc supervisor or the principal investigator will complete an annual review of postdoc performance and progress. Reports from the mentoring committee will be filed with the RED.


5.3.1. Mentoring Process

1.  Postdoc will be asked to assemble a mentoring committee within their first month.

2.  Each postdoc will have at least two mentors, one is the Principal Investigator or supervisor who evaluates their performance, another who is not involved with evaluation or promotion.

3.  The postdoc should initially discuss with their mentoring committee their plan of research, areas for personal development, and opportunities for broader engagement with NCSA etc. The postdoc should then write a short personal development plan.

4.  Postdocs will meet regularly with their mentors. If appropriate, the personal development plan should be amended to reflect new targets or needs. All changes should be coordinated with and approved by the PI/supervisor.


5.4. Training

There will be required training (ethics, lab safety, workplace respect, innovation) and optional development training (teaching, grant writing, presentation skills, management, computation). Plans for these will be developed and assessed through the personal development plan.


5.5. Support

A postdoc handbook will be developed to outline the support mechanisms available and relevant procedures and policies, e.g. orientation to NCSA, orientation to Champaign/USA, organization of social events, conflict resolution, etc. 


6. Postdoctoral Affairs at NCSA

The postdoctoral program at NCSA is organized through the Research and Education Division. A yearly report on postdoctoral activities will be provided each year to the Director’s Office. Postdoc activities undertaken at NCSA include:

1.  Coordinate the advertising of NCSA postdoctoral opportunities and recruitment of postdocs. (HR and RED)

2.  Coordinate the hiring of postdocs. (HR and RED)

3.  Development and coordination of Postdoc Program. (RED, Academic Council, HR)

4.  Development of policies for supervision of postdocs including mentoring, development plans, conflict resolution. (RED, Academic Council, work with Illinois Postdoc Office)

5.  Development and coordination of ongoing support mechanisms for postdocs. Includes developing postdoc handbook, support for travel and international visits, housing advice, orientation, training, social events, etc. (RED, HR, leverage campus office, work with Beckman and IGB)

6.  Development and coordination of assessment structure for the postdoc program, including alumni tracking. (RED, PA)

7. Develop mechanisms to encourage and support diversity in the postdoctoral program (RED, Senior Advisor on Diversity and Inclusion)

 

7. Theme Area Postdoctoral Fellows

Towards encouraging the development of strong, cohesive thematic areas at NCSA, the center is supporting a number of competitively recruited Theme Area Postdoctoral Fellows. These positions will typically be for two years, and will involve recruiting a postdoctoral researcher to catalyze interdisciplinary research in one or more areas of interest to the theme. It is encouraged to leverage other funds for these positions as appropriate. Elements of the process for advertising and recruiting these postdoctoral fellows are:

  • The process should be initiated and governed by the theme lead
  • An appropriate plan, and summary on the NCSA web pages, should be in place for the thematic area, identifying clear areas of interest and the involved faculty and staff
  • Plans should be discussed with the Associate Director for Research and Education to ensure that funds are available and e.g. timing is good.
  • All faculty and research staff involved in the theme should contribute towards the areas of interest listed in the advertisement for the postdoc position
  • A search committee should be assembled to represent the broad theme, at least one non-­theme member should be included. The search committee and advertisement should be approved by the Associate Director for Research and Education before the search starts. 

 

8. Responsible Professional Practices

The postdoc's mentors will discuss responsible professional practices  with the postdoc throughout all phases of the research project. In addition, postdocs will be directed to tools, resources and seminars available through the University's NSF-funded National Center for Professional and Research Ethics (http://ethicscenter.csl.illinois.edu/). The postdoc will also be referred to relevant training provided the the Institutional Review Board. 


Addressing Discrimination and Harassment

NCSA and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign are committed to the prompt and equitable resolution of all alleged or suspected violations of the Discrimination and Harassment policy about which the University knows or reasonably should know, regardless of whether a complaint alleging a violation of this policy has been filed and regardless of where the conduct at issue occurred. 

If you are concerned that this policy has been violated, please contact Amanda Lombardo (alombar@illinois.edu) or Gabrielle Allen (gdallen@illinois.edu).

For more on the University’s procedures for addressing discrimination and harassment, please see http://cam.illinois.edu/ix/ix-b/ix-b-3.htm

 

9. Additional Resources

The Office of Postdoctoral Affairs in the Graduate College at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (http://www.grad.illinois.edu/postdocs) offers a number of resources for UIUC postdoctoral researchers, including:

  • Professional Development Programs in Communication and Grant Writing; Scientific Management; and Preparing for a Research or Teaching Career;

  • Certificate Programs;

  • Graduate College Career Development Office;

  • Speakers and Social Events

 

 


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