What is Senior Fellow Research?

Carol Francois

A senior fellow research position is typically found in a university or research institution. The title is used to indicate an academic staff member who is dedicated to research in his or her field. Although many senior fellow research officers work in the sciences, this position is also found in the humanities as well as the social sciences.

Woman holding a book
Woman holding a book

There are two common organizational structures that include a senior fellow research position. The most common structure is found within a laboratory environment. The principle investigator is the head of the research team and determines the area of research. The senior fellow research position reports directly to the principle investigator. This person typically avoids responsibility for other staff, but is focused on the actual research.

In the humanities or social sciences, the senior fellow research incumbent often works independently, without reporting to a principle investigator. His or her research topic does not have to be reviewed or approved by others before work can begin. Instead, they can explore and publish in their own right. Working in the research industry requires a combination of self discipline, focus, and academic expertise. There is very little public recognition of research breakthroughs, and people who need this type of response would be better suited to careers in another field.

In order to qualify for this type of position, candidates are required to have completed a doctoral degree in their field of study. This process takes between six to 10 years of full-time university study to achieve. During this time, all doctoral candidates are required to complete unique research, publish a book of their findings, and defend their assertions to a committee of subject matter experts.

In the United States, this position is considered a stepping stone to become a full researcher or professor. A researcher is funded so he can dedicate his time completely to research. A professor has teaching duties, in addition to research projects and publication expectations. Senior fellow researchers must determine which career path they want to follow.

The employment opportunities available vary widely, based on the area of research, quality of output, rate of publication, and acceptance by the broader academic community. Almost all scientific research projects or studies are written up and published in an academic review. The purpose of this process is to share knowledge, and to increase the profile of the author. A senior fellow research position can also be found in a dedicated research institution, where publication is typically expected as part of the employment contact.

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