Columbia University

Faculty of Arts and Sciences

Research Appointments

This section focuses on Officers of Resarch and outlines the various titles under which a faculty member can be appointed, faculty search best practices and the forms that support this process. 


Officers of research hold a doctorate or professional equivalent and perform research in the area of their training and carry the following titles:

  • Professional officers of research
    • Senior research scientist
    • Research scientist
    • Associate research scientist
  • Postdoctoral
    • Postdoctoral research scientist
    • Postdoctoral research fellow
    • Postdoctoral clinical fellow (simultaneously hold an appointment at NYP or other affiliate)
    • Postdoctoral residency fellow (simultaneously hold an appointment at NYP or other affiliate)
    • Senior staff associate
    • Staff associate
  • Staff Officer of Research

Professional research appointments may be made in a visiting or adjunct capacity, subject to the conditions described in the Faculty Handbook.

Search Process

Once external funding for the position has been secured either by a grant or other financial support, recruitment may begin. The SSEP provides the basis for the creation of the templates that the unit uses for on-line postings in RAPS.

The Standard Search and Evaluation Procedures (SSEP) describe the standard procedures used to recruit full-time officers of instruction and research. Each department, school, institute and center ("the hiring unit") that makes appointments in one of these categories must have an approved SSEP on file in the Office of the Associate Provost for EOAA. These must ensure a wide solicitation of qualified applicants and a thorough examination of their comparative qualifications. 

RAPS is an application management system as well as a recruiting and EOAA clearance and reporting system. It is used by applicants for submission of documents, by reference providers for submission of letters and by search committees for the evaluation of applications and selection of candidates. Support for the use of RAPS is available from the Office of Academic Affairs. 

To log-in to RAPS, administrative staff go to MyColumbia at or directly to First, a requisition for search plan approval containing information about the search committee, external advertising, and the text of the on-line posting is submitted via RAPS. The requisition is then approved by the appropriate Divisional Dean and the search is opened in RAPS. At a minimum, a unit must advertise openings in the venue(s) listed in its SSEP. Once the online posting is approved, advertising text may be sent to external agencies/publications. The search is then conducted and potential candidates are identified. 

Instructions for completing the SSEP can be found here

Instructions for completing the SSEP cover page are here

A sample SSEP form can be found here

Guidelines for submitting a selectee for clearance in RAPS are here.

Guidelines for submitting a waiver request in RAPS are here

For questions or more information, please contact Durelle Hill, Assistant Director,, Phone: (212) 854-6816 or Jamie Bennett, coordinator, Academic Affairs,, Phone: (212) 851-2445. 


This text is a compilation of best practices and resources for search committees*. It is meant to provide some guidelines to search committees to better carry out their searches keeping in mind the need to include women and minorities. The document also aims to shed light on the sort of unconscious biases that exist among both men and women in academic settings. Section I provides information on some of the common biases that are prevalent in the workplace. Section II provides some guidelines on conducting an effective search that would include women and minorities in the applicant pool. This material should be reviewed carefully before evaluating applicants.

*Prepared by the ADVANCE program at the Earth Institute

Section I: Evidence of Bias in Academic Settings

Unconscious Bias:

Both men and women hold unconscious biases that are rooted in gender constructs, stereotypes, and gender schemas (Valian, 1998). Cognitive science and psychology has shown that the brain employs these biases to make sense of complex situations (Freedman & Phillips, 1988). These biases disproportionately affect minorities and are apparent in the following: 

• Curriculum Vitaes: Even psychologists are more likely to hire a male job applicant than a female job applicant with an identical record. Steinpres et al. (1999) presented 238 psychologists with CVs from actual scientists; only the names were changed. Female tenure candidates were four times as likely to receive cautionary comments such as “we would have to see her job talk” and “I would need to see evidence that she had gotten these grants and publications on her own.”

• Stereotyping: Evaluators who are busy, distracted, or under time pressure give women lower ratings than men for the same written evaluations of performance (Martell, 1991). In such circumstances, evaluators are more likely to rely on stereotypes. Success is more frequently attributed to “skill” for males and “luck” for females, even when the evaluators are presented with evidence of equal success for both genders (Deaux & Emswiller, 1974). Women are also less likely to have demonstrated leadership experience. Because of the negative stereotype of aggressiveness associated with a women leader, women often use a preemptive strategy of avoiding leadership opportunities to sidestep the spotlight of this stereotype (Davies, 2005).

• Funding Success: Analysis of 128 applicants for a prestigious grant in Europe found that differences in male and female success rates depended on the discipline. Gender disparities were especially pronounced in Biology and the Earth Sciences (Brouns, 2000). During 2001-2003 female applicants for NIH grants received only 63% of the funding that male applicants received (RAND, 2005).

• Salaries: Recent data indicate there is still a statistically significant differential (2.9% - 8.4%) in starting salaries for men and women faculty with comparable experience and rank (Toumanoff, 2005). Studies also show that salaries for women don’t progress as quickly as salaries for men (Valian, 2005). Also, there is widespread evidence that women ask for less than their male colleagues (Babcock & Laschever, 2003). Research has also shown that women tolerate lower salaries because they are more likely to compare themselves with other women (Major, 1994).

• Small Numbers: Research has shown that women and minorities are judged more fairly when they are at least 30% of the applicant pool (Sackett et al., 1991; Heilman, 1980).

• Letters of Recommendation: A study of over 300 recommendation letters for successful medical faculty applicants found that letters for females were shorter, placed less emphasis on research, more emphasis on teaching, contained more “grindstone adjectives” such as “hardworking” and “diligent,” contained twice as many doubt-raisers, and were less likely to include stand-out adjectives such as “brilliant” and “superb” (Trix & Psenka, 2003).

• Performance Evaluation: Social psychology research has shown that both men and women are more likely to vote to hire a male job applicant than a female job applicant with an identical record (Steinpres et al., 1999). Beginning in the 1970s symphony orchestras started requiring “blind auditions” or musicians auditioning behind screens. A study done in 2000 shows that since that time, the number of women hired has increased fivefold and the probability that a woman will advance from preliminary rounds has increased by 50%. Researchers maintain that blind audition procedures alone accounted for a significant increase in the proportion of women musicians hired into top-tier American symphonies (Goldin and Rouse, 2000).

• Publications: A study of postdoctoral fellowships awarded in Sweden found that peer reviewers gave female applicants lower scores than male applicants who displayed the same level of scientific productivity (Wenneras and Wold, 1997).

Race & Ethnicity Bias:

• Callback for Interviews: A significant racial gap has been identified in the rate of callbacks  for interviews; when resumes have traditionally white names they elicit 50% more callbacks than when they have black names (Bertrand and Mullainathan, 2002). 

• Verbal Skills: When asked to rate the quality of verbal skills as indicated by vocabulary definitions, evaluators rated the skills lower if they were told that an African American provided the definitions than if they were told that a white person provided them (Biernat et al., 1991).

• Treatment of Ambiguity: A 2000 study found that evaluators of candidates with ambiguous qualifications (i.e., unclear as to whether qualified or not) indicated stronger support for white applicants than for equally qualified African American applicants (Dovidio and Gaertner, 2000).

Section II: Guidelines for Search Committees

Pool Development:

• Search Definition: Broad search definitions produce diverse applicant pools.[1] Language matters. The description should not just encourage women and minorities to apply. More assertive language could include, for example, “The search committee is especially interested in qualified candidates who can contribute, through their research, teaching, and / or service, to the diversity and excellence of the academic community.”[2]

• Expansion of sources: Expanded recruitment sources also produce diverse applicant pools. Active search committees will identify and contact graduate programs with high numbers of women and minority Ph.D. candidates and utilize databases and fellowship directories that identify outstanding and diverse candidates. (A list of potential advertising resources to attract women and minorities has been included in the dossiers given to your Associate Director and Division Administrators; you are strongly encouraged to refer to them).

Candidate Selection:

• Multiple lists: Make multiple lists of candidates, using different criteria for each list. This will remind search committees that many different talents are important to science and candidates will rank differently on each criteria (Georgi, 2000).

• Evaluation Form: Use a candidate evaluation form. Discuss these forms in search committee meetings. Rater accountability has been shown to increase the accuracy and objectivity of ratings (Mero & Motowidlo, 1995).

• Group Discussion: Encourage a discussion format that requires contributions from all members. Asking each member of the committee to comment on a candidate ensures that a vocal minority does not dominate the discussion. This format also provides an incentive for everyone to “do their homework.”

• Eliminations: Do not eliminate a name from the list for personal reasons (e.g., dual-career needs) until you have actively tried to recruit the candidate. Often, qualified potential candidates are struck from the list based on assumptions about their personal life.[3]

• Targeted Questions: When asking colleagues at other schools about potential applicants, follow-up with a second question of “do you know any good women or minorities?” This often introduces an entirely new set of qualified candidates.


Babcock, L. and Laschever, S. (2003). Women Don't Ask. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

Bertrand, M. and S. Mullainathan. (2002). Are Emily and Brendan more employable than Lakisha and Jamal?: A field experiment on labor market discrimination. Available online at: .

Biernat, M., Manis, M. and Nelson, T. (1991). Stereotypes and Standards of Judgment. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 60, 485-499.

Brouns, M. (2000). The gendered nature of assessment procedures in scientific research funding: The dutch case.” Higher Education in Europe, 25, (2), 193-199.

Davies, P.G., Spencer, S.J., and Steele, C.M. (2005). Clearing the air: Identity safety moderates the effects of stereotype threat on women’s leadership aspirations. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 88, 276-287.

Deaux, K. and Emswiller, T. (1974). Explanations for successful performance on sex-linked tasks: What is skill for the male is luck for the female. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 29, 80-85.

Dovidio, J.F. and Gaertner, S.L. (2000). Aversive racism in selection decisions: 1989 and 1999. Psychological Science, 11, 315-319.

Freedman, S.M. & Phillips, J.S. (1988). The changing nature of research on women at work. Journal of Management, 14, 231-251.

Georgi, H. (2000). Is there an unconscious discrimination against women in science? APS News, January 2000, available

Goldin, C., and Rouse, C. (2000). Orchestrating impartiality: The impact of ‘blind’ auditions on female musicians.” American Economic Review 90, (4), 715-741.

Heilman, M. E. (1980). The impact of situational factors on personnel decisions concerning women: Varying the sex composition of the applicant pool. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance, 26, 286-295.

Major, B. (1994). From social inequality to personal entitlement: The role of social comparisons, legitimacy appraisals, and group memberships. Advances in Experimental Social Psychology, 26, 293–355.

Martell, R. F. (1991). Sex bias at work: The affects of attentional and memory demands on performance ratings for men and women. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 21, 1936-1960.

Mero, N. P. and Motowidlo, S. J. (1995). Effects of rater accountability on the accuracy and the favorability of performance ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 80, 517-524.

RAND Corporation. (2005). Gender differences in major federal external grant programs. Available online at:

Sackett, P. R., DuBois, C. L., Cathy, L., & Noe, A. W. (1991). Tokenism in performance evaluation: The effects of work group representation on male-female and white-black differences in performance ratings. Journal of Applied Psychology, 76, 263-267.

Steinpreis, R.E., Anders, K.A., and Ritzke, D. (1999). The impact of gender on the review of the curricula vitae of job applicants, Sex Roles, 41, 509-528.

Toumanoff, Peter. (2005). The effect of gender on salary-at-hire in the academic labor market. Economics of Education Review, 24, (2), 179-188.

Trix, F. and Psenka, C. (2003). Exploring the color of glass: letters of recommendation for female and male medical faculty. Discourse & Society, 14, 191-220.

Valian, V. (1998). Why So Slow? The Advancement of Women. Boston, MA: MIT Press.

Valian, V. (2005). Sex Disparities in Advancement and Income. Available online at:

Wenneras, C. and Wold, A. (1997). Nepotism and sexism in peer review. Nature, 387, 341-343.

[1] See, e.g., CU Presidential Advisory Committee on Diversity Initiatives Working Paper, 2005; Smith et al., 2004

[2] Excerpt from the University of Michigan Faculty Handbook, 2004-2005

[3] See, e.g., American Physical Society Best Practices for Recruiting Women