New Procedures for Faculty and Officers of Research Who Take Unpaid Leaves

Dear Colleagues,

We hope the new academic year is off to a good start.  We are writing to all of you, who have a role in the academic personnel leave process, to let you know about a new requirement for faculty and officers of research who plan to take an unpaid leave from the University with a duration longer than three months.  

Funding agencies, and Columbia policy, require the principal investigator and other senior/key persons to obtain prior approval from the agency before disengaging from a project for more than three months. When faculty or officers of research take an unpaid leave from Columbia, they typically will receive full salary from another entity. If that is the case, the presumption is that they must disengage from their Columbia research projects. In such cases, the University may need to notify the agencies and seek prior approval for an interim principal investigator or request effort adjustments for other senior/key persons. Even if there are multiple principal investigators already on a given project, if they plan to assume responsibilities held by the faculty/officer of research taking the unpaid leave, the agency still must grant prior approval before such changes are implemented.

To ensure that the University obtains all necessary prior approvals from the funding agency, principal investigators and other senior/key persons on sponsored projects who plan to take unpaid leaves from Columbia must complete a new form. The form asks the faculty or officer of research to describe their proposed plan for ensuring the project continues to progress appropriately during the period of their unpaid leave.

The Provost’s Office will not approve unpaid leaves for individuals with sponsored research unless this form is completed.

In contrast with an unpaid leave, during sabbatical, faculty members who have sponsored projects are expected to remain engaged in such research during the sabbatical unless they have prior agency approval to disengage. This means that while on sabbatical, the faculty member must continue to expend the appropriate amount of effort on their sponsored projects, and receive an appropriate amount of Columbia salary.

More information about handling the short-term or long-term leaves of absence of a principal investigator is available in the Sponsored Projects Handbook, chapter IX.C.3.

Please feel free to contact Bill Berger, Naomi Schrag or Eugenia Lean with questions about this process.  Thank you.

William Berger
AVP for Sponsored Projects Administration

Eugenia Lean
Vice Provost for Faculty Affairs

Naomi Schrag
Vice President for Research Compliance, Training and Policy

September 11, 2023