Skip to main content

Academic Researchers


Throughout the entire university system, the University of California employs almost 5,000 academic researchers who are represented by the UAW 5810 bargaining unit.

Research Scientists, Project Scientists and Specialists, known collectively as Academic Researchers, are appointed at UC San Diego either as a career development from a postdoctoral title or as a new recruitment.   

Research Scientists

The Professional Research series is used for appointees who engage in independent research equivalent to that required for the Professor series. Appointees in the Professional Research series (referred to as the Research Scientist series at UC San Diego) function as independent investigators, have complete responsibility for their research programs, and are leaders or have the potential for leadership in their fields. The ability to sustain an independent research program is a necessary but not sufficient criterion for appointment as a Research Scientist. Appointees with Professional Research titles do not have teaching responsibilities. Appointments in this series may also be made to individuals who are not Principal Investigators, if they meet the research qualifications and demonstrate the accomplishment and the independence of research equivalent to that required for the Professorial ranks.  For example, these individuals may be funded from a large center or collaborative program grant on which many independent investigators are working, or they may hold a Visiting title. Assistant Research Scientists also may be funded as Co-Principal Investigators on grants. They should demonstrate strong potential to become independent and distinguished researchers and should work independently on grants. A Research Scientist funded entirely from extramural funds is not permitted to be an officer of instruction on a regularly scheduled course. In order to engage in formal instruction and/or significant participation in the instructional program, the individual must be appointed in a salaried instructional title paid from state funds for the proportion of time spent on teaching. The combined percentage of appointment cannot exceed 100%. Appointees also may be appointed to perform services in a non-salaried instructional title. For example, a non-salaried instructional title may be accorded for an occasional lecture or seminar dealing with the research being sponsored by the funding agency. A non-salaried instructional title also is required for a Research Scientist to supervise a doctoral thesis, and the thesis should be related to the investigator's line of research. 

Project Scientists

At UC San Diego, Project Scientists and Specialists make significant and creative contributions to research projects. Project scientists perform research, provide technical support, or lend other types of technical expertise to assist with a project. They may develop and enforce testing and research guidelines, protocol, and procedures. An appointee in the Project Scientist series may not serve as a Principal Investigator but may serve as Co-Principal Investigators with members of the Professor or Research Scientist series. For Project Scientists who demonstrate strong potential for independent research, the Vice Chancellor for Research Affairs will consider requests from department chairs for exceptions to the Principal Investigator eligibility policy. As they gain more independence, they may be proposed for another suitable series. 


The Specialist series is used for academic appointees who are engaged in any specialized research, professional activity, and University and/or public service and who do not have any formal teaching responsibilities. Specialists are expected to use their professional expertise to make scientific and scholarly contributions to the research enterprise of the University and to achieve recognition in the professional and scientific community. Specialists may participate in university and/or public service depending upon funding source and the duties required by the job description for the position. A terminal degree is not required for appointment to this series.

The Specialist may work without direct supervision, but usually not independently. They provide a service to a supervisor, a group, or the institution. Specialists may not serve as Principal Investigators but may serve as Co-Principal Investigators by exception and with a member of the Professor or Research Scientist series. 

Appointment and Review Academic Review File Materials

As an Academic Researcher you are required to go through an appointment process and submit a file that includes the following material:    

  • Candidate Self-Assessment   
  • UCSD BioBib 
  • Letters of evaluation   
  • PI or Sponsor letter with a completed file to include the above materials (not needed for Research Scientists)

Links to Series Criteria: