Carnegie Mellon University

Appointments — Research Faculty

POLICY TITLE: Carnegie Mellon University Policy on Research Faculty Appointments
DATE OF ISSUANCE: This policy was originally issued by the Office of the President on March 6, 1987, as Organization Announcement No. 313. It appears in the current issue of the Faculty Handbook. This policy was most recently updated on October 23, 2009.
ACCOUNTABLE DEPARTMENT/UNIT: Office of the Provost. Questions about policy content should be directed to the Office of the Provost at 412-268-3260.
ABSTRACT: Research Faculty positions resemble regular faculty positions in regard to research-related responsibility. Due to the external nature of funding, these positions do not carry eligibility for tenure.

Concept and Scope

Among the full-time professional positions in research at Carnegie Mellon University that are fully supported from sources external to the university, it is proper to make particular provision for those that most clearly resemble regular faculty positions in regard to responsibility in designing, carrying out and managing research — including service as principal investigator when appropriate — quality of publications, supervision of research students, recognition inside and outside of the university, professional activities and active participation in the continuing effort to improve departments, colleges and the university. The main distinction between this group of positions and the regular faculty, stemming from the external nature of the sources of funding and the constraints these impose, is that these positions do not carry eligibility for tenure. Moreover, holders of these positions are not generally obligated to teach regular courses; a more intensive participation is expected of them, however, in the management of research projects.

The holders of the positions thus distinguished shall be called, for the purposes of this policy, the research faculty.

The breadth of responsibilities in initiating, carrying out, and managing research and in performing their other academic activities distinguishes the research faculty from other professional positions in research, also funded from external sources, that call for qualified persons to perform more specific professional duties, normally pertaining to a specified research project and its management. These latter positions calling for more limited initiative and breadth, shall continue to be subject to the provisions of the Policy on Special Faculty Appointments (appointments of category (B) under that policy), as shall those of an ultimately non-renewable, post-doctoral or visiting nature (category (A) under the same policy).

The similarity of the required involvement of the research faculty and the regular faculty in providing the basis for the university's quality and legitimate reputation carries with it: (1) the obligation to scrutinize the appointments and reappointments to research faculty positions with the same care and with the same fundamental principles and procedures as those pertaining to the regular faculty (the eligibility for tenure excepted), including evaluation at the university-wide level; (2) the requirement that all research faculty positions be established in academic departments or the Robotics Institute; and (3) the conferring on the research faculty of the same benefits as on the regular faculty, as specified herein.

The research faculty, within the meaning of this policy, consists of persons with the ranks of Assistant Research Professor, Associate Research Professor, and Research Professor. These designations are specific to research faculty positions, and may not be used for any other positions in the university. For the purpose of the application of pertinent provisions of the Appointment and Tenure Policy, as specified below, these ranks shall be regarded as equivalent to those of assistant professor, associate professor, and professor, respectively. The holders of these ranks shall enjoy the same faculty benefits and perquisites as do the holders of equivalent ranks in the regular faculty, viz., those specified in the section on Faculty Benefits in the Faculty Handbook.


All research faculty positions shall be established in academic departments or the Robotics Institute. The making of every appointment in the research faculty (including reappointment, with or without promotion, whether preceded by an evaluation or not), and the specification of its term and compensation require a proposal by the head of the department, a recommendation by the dean, and the approval of the president, who may delegate this function to a provost. The department head's proposal shall specify the manner of funding, whether from resources administered by the department or not, and the president or his designee shall not approve an appointment unless he is satisfied that appropriate funding will be available during the entire term of the appointment and reasonably satisfied that it will continue to be available through the term in which the next evaluation would be required. The president or his designee shall also review every decision to let an appointment (other than a terminal appointment required to satisfy the provisions of this policy for timely notice) lapse at the expiration of its term.

Every appointment (including reappointment, with or without promotion) to a position in the research faculty shall be for a term of one year (with the exception of a terminal appointment, as mentioned). In the rank of Assistant Research Professor, no reappointment without promotion (other than a terminal appointment) may be made if it would extend the holding of that rank beyond six years. All reappointments and promotions in the research faculty are subject to the substantive and procedural provisions of this policy.

When an appointment or reappointment (with or without promotion) is made, it is the responsibility of the department head, the dean, and the provost to ensure that the appointee is given clear and full information in writing concerning the terms, functions, and duties of the appointment, including the applicable university and college policies. No oral commitments supplementing written information shall be made or recognized.

During the term of their appointment, holders of research faculty positions are subject to, and protected by, the same university policies concerning academic freedom and dismissal for cause as are regular but untenured faculty members.

Reappointment and promotion in the research faculty are governed by the contributions the candidate has made or may be expected to make to the university's excellence, as well as by the maintenance of the funded research program under which the appointment was made or its replacement by an appropriate substitute program. All decisions on promotion, as well as the other decisions on reappointment described below, shall therefore be preceded by a full and thorough evaluation, to be carried out according to the criteria and procedures specified in this policy. A decision to promote may be made at any time during a term of appointment, and the consequent appointment at the higher rank, if accepted, shall supersede the current term.

A decision on a reappointment in the same rank shall necessarily be based on an evaluation, as referred to above, whenever the reappointment would first extend the term beyond a) three years from an original appointment in that rank; or b) in the rank of Associate Research Professor, three years from promotion to this rank or six years from the reappointment in this rank following the latest evaluation; or c) in the rank of Research Professor, six years from promotion to this rank, or from the reappointment to this rank following the latest evaluation.

When the decision on a reappointment does not require an evaluation under the preceding provisions, a decision to let the appointment (other than a terminal appointment) lapse at the expiration of its term may be made only for reasons of unavailability of funding from the research program under which the appointment was made or from an appropriate substitute program.

Timely notice shall be given of every decision not to reappoint a member of the research faculty or to let an appointment (other than a terminal appointment) lapse. Notice is timely if given one year before the expiration of the term of appointment. In order to comply with this provision, it may be necessary to extend a term by an additional appointment of up to one year, designated as a terminal appointment, the decision not to reappoint or to let the appointment lapse notwithstanding.



Evaluation for appointment, reappointment, and promotion in the research faculty is aimed at determining the contributions the candidate has made and may be expected to make to the university's excellence. All involved should recognize that the final decision resulting from the evaluation is partly subjective. Each affirmative decision is an indication to the individual that the faculty and the administration feel that the candidate's overall progress to that point has been outstanding. Each appointment, reappointment, or promotion does not, however, guarantee future reappointments or promotions. In addition, those qualified for advancement may be denied reappointment or promotion because of the unavailability of suitable funding or, following evaluation, because their talents and interests do not sufficiently fulfill the needs and promote the goals and priorities of the university.


The criteria for evaluation are primarily those in the category of research, scholarly or artistic activities. The specific designation of activities which relate to these general criteria may vary among different colleges and schools of the university, each in accordance with its promotion document. The level of competence and achievement in this category required for appointment, reappointment, or promotion at the ranks of Associate Research Professor and Research Professor is described below.

Research, scholarly or artistic activities are those which lead to the production of new knowledge; to increased problem-solving capabilities, including such activities as design and analysis; to original critical or historical theory and interpretation; or to the production of art or artistic performance.

To be promoted, a research faculty member must also demonstrate competence in teaching and educational activities, i.e., in disseminating the knowledge of his or her field. Typically this will be accomplished by supervising graduate and post-doctoral research, development of educational programs and educational publications. If a research faculty member has accepted teaching assignments, then the teaching performance in these assignments must be evaluated in reappointment or promotion actions.

Research faculty members may also carry on professional activities that should be considered for evaluation: e.g., professional practice, consulting, public service, service in technical and professional societies and associations, and editorial work on professional journals. Insofar as such activities either contribute to or are an extension of: teaching and educational activities; or research, scholarly, or artistic activities; they should be considered as they are applicable under those two categories.

In addition to all of the above, it is expected that each research faculty member, just as every faculty member, will make his or her contribution to the campus, such as service on committees, participation in campus activities, etc.

A candidate for initial appointment or promotion to the rank of Research Professor should be very well established in his or her field. The candidate should be a recognized leader with outstanding contributions and a national or international reputation. Evaluation for reappointment at this rank should confirm continued growth in leadership and reputation. An evaluation of reappointment in the rank of Associate Research Professor should show that the leadership and reputation required for the rank of Research Professor are at least firmly in the process of becoming established. A candidate for initial appointment or promotion to the rank of Associate Research Professor should have a record of accomplishment indicating a clear promise of leadership that in due time will be sufficiently established to deserve promotion to the rank of Research Professor.

Procedures and Other Provisions

All provisions of the Appointment and Tenure Policy of Carnegie Mellon University shall be applicable mutatis mutandis to the research faculty, with the exception of those that refer to the granting of tenure, those that describe criteria for evaluation, and any others that conflict with the provisions of the present policy. In case of conflict, the provisions of the present policy shall prevail.

In the process of evaluation of candidates for reappointment or promotion in the research faculty, as well as for initial appointment to the rank of Associate Research Professor or Research Professor, the cognizant university committee shall be:

  1. the University Committee on Non-Tenured Appointments, for all evaluations for reappointment at the rank of Assistant Research Professor and for initial appointment or promotion to the rank of Associate Research Professor;
  2. the University Committee on Tenured Appointments for all evaluations for reappointment at the rank of Associate Research Professor and for initial appointment or promotion to, or reappointment at, the rank of Research Professor.

Each college or school desiring to have members of the research faculty shall promptly incorporate into its promotion and tenure document the appropriate provisions, which shall conform to the provisions of this policy, but shall otherwise agree as closely as possible, within the characteristics of the research faculty, to the document's provisions regarding regular faculty. In particular, research faculty candidates for reappointment or promotion must be evaluated at the college level by the same committee(s) evaluating regular faculty candidates. Committees evaluating research faculty candidates for reappointment or promotion in the Robotics Institute shall consist of regular faculty members. Pending such incorporation and its approval by the university, the provisions of the existing promotion and tenure document of the college or school shall be applied insofar as they do not conflict with the present policy, and in particular excluding all reference to the granting of tenure.