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Research Visitors Framework

Northwestern University values research visitors and their contributions to the research enterprise. The Office of the Provost Research Visitors Framework provides guidance to schools on establishing local oversight of research visitors, within the context of the institutional Research Visitors Policy. As the framework articulates, it is the expectation of the Office of the Provost that all Northwestern schools that host research visitors will have written research visitor policies and standard processes for carefully vetting all invitees prior to approving a visit. See Research Visitors Framework (below) for more information on the expected elements for these policies.  

The Office for Research (OR) maintains the institutional Research Visitors Policy to ensure that research visitors can engage in research and related activities openly and in compliance with all University regulations. This policy includes information on appointing foreign nationals, background checks, medical insurance, benefits eligibility, research and laboratory safety, human and animal research, and compliance with Northwestern policies. Schools should refer to and follow these institutional policies, in addition to their individual school-based policies.

Research Visitors Framework

The Office of the Provost expects research visitor policies to include three elements:

  • Goals
  • Review process
  • Expectations and termination

Policies also should address the sub-elements included in the framework below (e.g., role of faculty).

Schools should clarify which categories of researchers are covered in their research visitor policy (i.e., visiting predoctoral fellows, visiting postdoctoral fellows, visiting research collaborators, and visiting scholars). The school-level framework is most appropriate for visiting scholars. Refer to the institutional Research Visitors Policy for more detail on types of visitors.

Example Framework

The framework establishes the elements that must be addressed and provides sample language that may be included in a policy. Schools have the flexibility to adjust the language as needed to reflect the culture, priorities and distinctive attributes of their schools.

Goals for Research Visitors

  • Our school values research visitors and their contributions to the research enterprise, including collaboration and training as well as enrichment of the experiences of students, faculty and staff.
  • Our school aims to promote an accessible and free academic environment. We welcome diverse points of view and open discourse, including research visitors who challenge us.

Review Process

  • Role of faculty sponsors
    • Research visitors should have a faculty sponsor in their department or school. The role of the faculty sponsor is three-fold: to review the qualifications and credentials of a proposed research visitor, to agree with the visiting appointment and research plans, and to help facilitate visitor engagement within and across schools and other University communities.
    • Faculty sponsors play an upfront role in reviewing research visitor materials and doing due diligence to ensure that a research visitor will enhance, and not detract from, our reputation as a school and a university.
    • Faculty sponsors help visitors specify objectives for their visit and develop and approve plans for when, where and how the department/school will accommodate the visitor.
  • Evaluation criteria and application materials
    • We expect faculty (and others) to review application materials of proposed research visitors. Ultimately, school faculty should feel confident that a visit will be consistent with school values, including academic excellence, collegiality, respect for others and commitment to diversity.
    • Application materials typically include some combination of the following: a CV, a research plan, a letter of support from the visitor’s home institution, and other letters of recommendation as appropriate.
    • In the case of more complex visits (e.g., high-profile visitor, lengthy visit, complex funding), a school may request additional input from other faculty, possibly through ad hoc committee serving in an advisory role.
  • Final approval
    • Final approval of and accountability for visiting appointments rests with, in order, the department chair (or equivalent), the dean and the vice president for research.
    • Northwestern’s institutional policy for research visitors rests with the Office for Research.

Expectations and Termination

  • Expectations
    • We expect visitors to conduct themselves in a manner consistent with Northwestern’s Civility Policy.
    • Visitors should abide by school and University policies on safety, research integrity, intellectual property (e.g., patents and inventions) and diversity.
  • Termination
    • The dean has the authority to terminate the appointment of any research visitor in situations where our school finds that a visitor’s behavior is in violation of Northwestern policy. The dean, in consultation with others including the provost and the vice president for research, may decide to terminate the appointment immediately, and the decision to terminate is final.

Responsible Office: Office of the Provost

Who Needs to Know This Policy: All Northwestern faculty members


If you have any questions about this Framework, contact Associate Provost for Strategy and Policy Roma Khanna.

Dated: January 23, 2023