A Senior Scientist is a NIH employee on either a permanent (Title 5 or Commissioned Corps) or indefinite appointment (Title 42(f) after Title 5 exhaustion has been certified) who has been selected via a Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR) -approved national search. The individual is a manager of a large Institute or Center (IC) research program/department with responsibility for substantial resources (≥$2M budget including personnel and space). A Senior Scientist may be granted independent research resources, which are subject to review by the IC Board of Scientific Counselors (BSC).
A Senior Scientist must posses at least two or more of the following qualifications, where appropriate:
- Recognized as an international expert in area of scientific mission
- Demonstrated expertise in managing a complex, outstanding program of laboratory and/or clinical research
- Outstanding clinical skills and expertise
- Exemplary skills in and innovative approaches to the latest technologies required
- Evidence of recognition of senior scientific status by peers (i.e., tenure, grant support, awards, other scientific recognition)
A Senior Scientist is a Full-Time Equivalent Employment (FTE) position.
A DDIR-approved search process must first be established when hiring a Senior Scientist. Working with the Office of Intramural Research (OIR) and the Office of Human Resources (OHR), the position must first go through the Title 5 exhaustion process, with participation of the DDIR-approved search committee. If a suitable candidate is selected, then the individual must be reviewed and recommended by the Senior Scientist/Clinician Review Committee (SSCRC) and approved by the DDIR. If a suitable candidate is not selected through the Title 5 exhaustion process, as certified by OHR and approved by the NIH Principal Deputy Director, then the national search for a Title 42(f) candidate can continue. All Title 42(f) Senior Scientist candidates must fulfill the following HHS-required criteria:
- Recognition as a national or international expert in the field, such as: specific experience; invited manuscripts, presentations and/or consultations; receipt of honors and awards or other recognition for noteworthy performance of contributions to the field
- Original clinical, scientific, or scholarly contributions of major significance in the field
- Leadership in the field (e.g., member of institutional committee such as Institutional Review Board (IRB))
- Special knowledge and skills of benefit to the IC or NIH (e.g., high programmatic demand at NIH for the medical specialty)
Once a candidate is selected, the individual must be reviewed and recommended by the SSCRC and approved by the DDIR. Additional approvals may be required for salary levels under specific appointment mechanisms, including Title 5, Title 5 with Title 38 Pay, Title 42, and Commissioned Corps.
Additionally, a Senior Scientist’s resources must be reviewed on a 4-year cycle that includes both science and, when appropriate, programmatic needs. Each IC can decide what committee to use for the review, either a special subcommittee of the BSC or a specific management team. However, all independent research resources must be reviewed by the BSC.
Senior Scientists are appointed using one of the following mechanisms:
Check Sheets / Checklists
Below are the check sheets and checklists that have been developed and approved by the DDIR for the Senior Scientist designation.
Individual ICs may have additional requirements and check sheets. Please contact your Administrative Officer (AO) or HR Specialist for additional guidance. For examples of IC-specific check sheets and checklists, please visit:
Intramural scientists at the NIH, as is true for all scientists, should be committed to the responsible use of scientific tools and methods to seek new knowledge. While the general principles of scientific methodologies are universal, their detailed application may differ in various scientific disciplines and circumstances. All research staff in the Intramural Research Program should maintain exemplary standards of intellectual honesty in formulating, conducting, presenting, and reviewing research, as befits the leadership role of the NIH.
Within the NIH IRP, the ethical conduct of researchers is governed by the following three disciplines:
Ethics information may also be available through your specific IC. Please contact your Ethics Counselor for additional guidance.
Pay / Compensation
Pay and compensation for a Senior Scientist is contingent on the specific appointment mechanism.
After initial appointment, any increases/promotions will occur at various intervals, and are again dependent on the appointment mechanism. For pay decreases (i.e., poor reviews, less than satisfactory performance, etc.), the IC should work closely with OIR leadership and the OHR Employee Relations to determine the correct changes.
Recruitment Process / Appointment Mechanisms
A DDIR-approved search process must first be established when hiring a Senior Scientist. Working with the Office of Intramural Research (OIR) and the Office of Human Resources (OHR), the position must first go through the Title 5 exhaustion process, with participation of the DDIR-approved search committee. Please consult the Title 5 exhaustion requirements identified in the Approvals (Process) section above for additional information.
Senior Scientists are traditionally appointed using one of the following mechanisms:
For additional information regarding search processes and appointment mechanisms, please visit:
- Search Process for Senior Investigators, Tenure-Track Investigators, Senior Clinicians and Senior Scientists
- Intramural Professional Designations and Appointment Mechanisms Matrix
Below is a sample memo that has been developed and approved by the DDIR for the Senior Scientist designation:
A Senior Scientist may either be in a Title 5-term or permanent appointment or a Title 42(f) indefinite appointment, per the process described above. Renewal details are based on the appointment mechanism used.
A Senior Scientist is a manager of a large IC program/department with responsibility for substantial resources and can be granted independent research resources (salary, operating budget, personnel, and space) by their Institute, at the discretion of the SD. The amount of independent research support, however, must depend on the quality of science as determined by the BSC and other reviews. Based on these and other reviews (assessing the productivity and quality of work), resources may be adjusted up or down by the IC. All Senior Scientist reviews are on a 4-year cycle that includes reviews of both science and, when appropriate, programmatic needs. Each IC can decide what committee to use for the review, either a special subcommittee of the BSC or a specific management team. However, all independent research resources conducted must be reviewed by the BSC.
Termination of a Senior Scientist appointment must follow the policies and processes appropriate to the specific appointment mechanism.
This page was last updated on Monday, August 9, 2021