Navigation Menu+

Research Associate Guide

Guide for

Research Associates

at the Smithsonian Institution

The Title of Research Associate is a title offered to provide a formal scholarly affiliation with the Institution.

The terms of appointment are governed by the appointment letter. Research Associates are not employees of the Smithsonian. In certain circumstances, however, research associates may provide a service to the Institution similar to that which would be provided by an employee, in which case certain legal protections may apply.

The staff of the Office of Fellowships can assist you with questions or problems about your appointment. Our staff includes: Pamela Hudson Veenbaas, Fellowships Manager; Christian Kameni, Program Specialist; and Christopher Wu, Program Assistant.

We hope the following information will be of use to you as you prepare to come to the Smithsonian for your appointment, as well as during your tenure here.


Table of Contents

Smithsonian Sponsor. 2

Unit Appointment Coordinator. 2

Prevention of Workplace Harassment (POWH) Training -Required. 2

COVID-19 Awareness Training -Required. 2

Standards of Conduct. 3

Media Release 4

Intellectual Property. 4

Publications 4

SI Identification Badges, Network accounts and Background Checks (if applicable) 5

Visas. 6


Smithsonian Sponsor

Your Smithsonian sponsor will be of primary assistance in acquainting you with the resources relevant to your research.

Unit Appointment Coordinator

Your unit appointment coordinator will assist you with your background check and in obtaining your Smithsonian identification badge (if needed), and in providing other necessary information. This person is identified in your appointment letter.

Prevention of Workplace Harassment (POWH) Training -Required

All Smithsonian (SI) academic appointees (Interns, Fellows, Research Associates) in residence with a SI program are required to complete the Smithsonian’s online Prevention of Workplace Harassment (POWH) Training – EEO 300 course.

After taking EEO 300, the system will email you a certificate verifying that you have successfully completed the course. To meet your training requirement, you should forward a copy of this certificate to you unit’s academic appointment coordinator no later than 30 days after the start of your SI appointment (please note, your unit may require completion of this course < 30 days).

The online Prevention of Workplace Harassment (EEO 300) training course is available through SI External Learning, especially for individuals who may not yet have started their appointment, do not (yet) have a Smithsonian email account, and/or are off-site. We encourage you to complete the course now so you will have this requirement all taken care of before you even arrive at SI.

SI External Learning

Register for an SI External Learning account:

Login to SI External Learning:

The enrollment key is: oeema (this key is required for external SI network access)

Select POWH Refresher for Non-Supervisors (EEO 300) from the training page:

Additional guidance about accessing the system can be found here, and for questions regarding the course

COVID-19 Awareness Training -Required

Please note, during the COVID-19 response, all SI academic appointees (Interns, Fellows, Research Associates) are required to complete the online COVID-19 Awareness Training before entering an SI facility. Use the account registration instructions ( to create your Moodle account, then go to the course link ( and log into Moodle with your username and password. If the above course link does not work, copy and paste this link into your browser: When prompted for a course enrollment key, enter: covid19.

Standards of Conduct

 It is the responsibility of research associates to conduct themselves in compliance with the general principles and specific provisions of these standards. If there is any doubt as to whether their activities or planned activities are in compliance, the research associate should immediately seek the advice of his or her sponsor.

Failure to comply with the following standards is cause for revoking the research associate appointment.


Research associates must

  • follow standards for conducting research in the discipline, such as those for collecting, obtaining import permits and using live animals or human subjects (see SD 604, Misconduct in Research; SD 605, Animal Care and Use; SD 606, Research Involving Human Subjects; SD 607, Responsible Conduct of Research Training; SD 608, Financial Conflict of Interest for National Science Foundation [NSF]- and Public Health Service [PHS]-Sponsored Projects); and SD 611, Export Compliance and Trade Sanctions Related to Research, Export and Museum Activities
  • adhere to the funding source disclosure requirements otherwise applicable to SI staff in SD 103, Smithsonian Institution Standards of Conduct, Section 9(b), when the RA is publishing research findings under the Smithsonian RA affiliation;
  • adhere to SD 103, Smithsonian Institution Standards of Conduct, Section 13(c), and provide an annual and any ongoing disclosures required by the SI Form 1085 if the RA is a PI or co-PI on an SI grant;
  • adhere to applicable Smithsonian policy and/or written agreements between the RA and the Smithsonian regarding ownership and use of intellectual property generated as a result of the RA’s position, and be familiar with the provisions and processes set forth in all applicable directives, such as SD 102 , Disclosing, Protecting, and Commercializing Inventions, and SD 609, Digital Asset Access and Use;
  • adhere to SD 118, Privacy Policy, to ensure the protection of personally identifiable information (PII) and SD 119, Privacy Brea102ch Notification Policy, when reporting any suspected or confirmed breaches of PII;
  • adhere to the rules set by the Smithsonian Institution Libraries and unit libraries when using their resources and facilities;
  • be aware of and guided by the generally accepted professional standards and codes of ethics applicable in the RA’s professional field(s);
  • exhibit appropriate professional conduct and behavior, respect others, and cooperate in the enforcement of the prevention of workplace harassment as set forth in SD 214, Equal Opportunity Handbook; and
  • adhere to the SI Scientific Diving Policy (SD 120) when applicable.


Research associates must not

  • misrepresent their relationship with the Smithsonian, particularly in any way representing themselves as employees of the Smithsonian;
  • directly or indirectly profit from, or permit others to profit from, information obtained through their Smithsonian appointment, which is or would be unavailable to external scholars or the general public;
  • solicit or accept any gift that is or appears to be offered because the RA holds a Smithsonian academic appointment or may have influence within the Smithsonian;
  • use official Smithsonian letterhead and similar materials, mailing privileges, or equipment, or supplies for anything not related to official SI business;
  • solicit or promote the sale of any goods or services on Smithsonian premises through the use of Smithsonian resources or facilities, including email;
  • operate Smithsonian motor vehicles or off-road equipment unless the host unit determines that such use qualifies as official Smithsonian business as described in SD 421, Mobile Asset Fleet Management, which provides that authorized operators may drive a motor vehicle or off-road equipment on Smithsonian official business only;
  • reproduce copyrighted material (owned by the Smithsonian or a third party) in the absence of specific approval to do so from the rights-holder(s) unless permitted by fair use; and
  • receive, spend or commit funds, such as grants or contracts to the Institution or grants from within the Smithsonian, without the approval and active fund management of the host unit’s administrative staff.

An individual with access to collections should be aware of the issues addressed in the respective unit’s collections management policy and SD 600, Collections Management. Access to and use of collections must be approved in advance by the appropriate unit staff member in accordance with established policy and procedures. An RA working directly with Smithsonian collections must disclose any personal activity that may create or seem to create conflicts of interest, such as collecting or dealing in similar objects, materials, or specimens.


Media Release

As a research associate, you give permission to the Smithsonian Institution to use, and to authorize the Smithsonian’s donors, funders, supporters and collaborators permission to use, materials that may include your name, image, voice, likeness and work product produced by you as part of your Smithsonian academic appointment, in brochures, publications, online and other formats for educational and museum purposes.


Intellectual Property

As a research associate, you may generate original research and related content (e.g., text, images, videos,

graphs, databases, etc.) that is based on or derived from the collections, resources, equipment, facilities,

property, data (including but not limited to data generated by Smithsonian equipment), and staff expertise of the Smithsonian. You own copyright only in original research and related content created as a research associate, subject to Smithsonian’s ownership rights in the underlying Smithsonian content. When your research is published, you agree to provide appropriate credit to the Smithsonian and those who you have collaborated with.


We cannot offer any financial assistance for the publication of manuscripts, even those produced while actually in residence at the Smithsonian. It is requested, however, that the Smithsonian Institution be acknowledged in any publication resulting from the research conducted under this appointment, and we would appreciate receiving copies or citations of such publications.

SI Identification Badges, Network accounts and Background Checks (if applicable)

Authorization for research associate’s Smithsonian identification badges and security cards comes from the research associate’s host unit, not OF. You should consult your host or advisor soon after you arrive, to obtain the appropriate form(s) to take to the Office of Protection Services (OPS) to apply for your ID badge. New security measures require that OPS issue research associate’s ID’s contingent upon successful clearance of the research associate through a background investigation. When you go to the OPS Washington, DC Office for the ID you will be asked to complete a Form OF306 (Declaration for Federal Employment…although research associates are not employees of the Smithsonian) and a SF87 Fingerprint Chart. Research Associates need to take a copy of their OF award letter with them, and a photo identification. Non-U.S. citizens also need to take their passports. Please contact your Unit Academic Appointment Coordinator for more information.

If your appointment is not based in the Washington DC area, the information below does not apply. Please contact your Unit Academic Appointment Coordinator for more information.

If your appointment is based in the Washington DC area, please read the information below about obtaining an ID badge.

Any research associate who is in residence at the Smithsonian Institution for 30 days or longer, or who requires unsupervised access to staff-only Smithsonian areas, is required to obtain an ID badge. To do this, you must undergo a background investigation through the Smithsonian’s Office of Protection Services (OPS), Personnel Security and ID Office (PSIO).

The Smithsonian requires that everyone complete a favorable background check prior to obtaining access to Smithsonian network systems.


Paperwork for Background Investigation

PSIO will need to receive a copy of your offer letter (tentative or official), your completed SI-4008 and OF-306 forms (available from your academic appointment coordinator.


Fingerprints and Photo

If you are outside the DC area and wish to begin the badge process before you arrive in DC, you will be sent a SF-87 or FD-258 fingerprint card and instructions in the mail. Take this card to your nearest law enforcement agency, courthouse, notary with fingerprinting authority, or campus protection services to be fingerprinted. Once you arrive in DC, make an appointment at PSIO to be photographed. Please bring two forms of ID to your appointment.

If you are located in the DC area or wish to begin the badge process after you arrive in DC, make an appointment at the Personnel Security and ID Office (PSIO) to be fingerprinted and photographed. Please bring two forms of ID to your appointment.


General ID Office Contact Info

*Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the ID Office is currently only open on Monday through Friday by appointment only ( No walk-ins will be accepted.


Hours of Operation

8 a.m. to 3 p.m

Monday through Friday: By appointment only

Closed on federal holidays & and accordance with OPM’s operating status for the DC area.


Office Location

Capital Gallery, 4th Floor (Suite 4310)

600 Maryland Ave, SW, MRC 504

Washington, DC 20024



T: (202) 633-1598

F: (202) 633-5664



Pick Up Badge

Your Unit Coordinator will be notified when your background investigation is complete. You can then go to the PSIO to pick up your badge. If your official letter was not submitted for the background investigation, you must bring it with you to pick up your ID Badge.


When a foreign national is awarded a Smithsonian appointment to come to the United States for research, they are usually eligible to apply for a visa as an exchange visitor (category J-1). Even if it would otherwise be possible for a foreign visitor to enter the U.S. without this type of visa, it is the most appropriate category for research visits.

The Smithsonian’s Office of International Relations (OIR) will provide an enabling document used to apply for the visa, called a DS-2019, for foreign nationals on Smithsonian research appointments. You must request this form as far in advance as possible (up to six months in advance) by completing and returning to the Office of Fellowships the enclosed “Foreign National Request Form.” The DS-2019 will then be mailed to you by the OIR, to be used to apply for the visa at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate nearest you (The DS-2019 form cannot be faxed or emailed because only the original document will be accepted with your application). Timely processing of the visa certificate cannot be assured unless the request is received AT LEAST 8 WEEKS IN ADVANCE either at the beginning of your appointment or by the date you expect to depart your home country. 

Foreign nationals already in the U.S. on visas obtained through sponsorship by other institutions should provide the following: a copy of the visa, a copy of the I-94, a copy of the enabling document (ex. IAP-66, DS-2019 or I-20, I-797, etc.) and a copy of any other documentation which is relevant to the visa. We will consult the OIR to determine if renewal, extension or transfer procedures will be necessary.

Important: Visitors with J-1 visas must enter the U.S. no sooner than 30-days before their appointment at the Smithsonian begins. They must also attend an OIR orientation and check-in on or before their first day. Upon entering the U.S., foreign visitors with J-1 visas have their arrival recorded in the U.S. government’s ‘SEVIS’ visitor database. If a visitor with a J-1 visa does not then check in with the OIR within the allowable period, their authorization to stay in the U.S. can be canceled and their Form DS-2019 invalidated. Therefore, be sure to email OIR ( to arrange an appointment to verify your visa and citizenship status as soon as possible after you arrive to start your appointment.

All “J” visa holders are required to have insurance with specific medical coverage while in the U.S. Detailed information on these insurance requirements will be mailed to you with the visa certification.


If you have questions, concerns, or problems regarding any matter related to the appointment, please do not hesitate to call on the staff of the Office of Fellowships. We look forward to welcoming you to the Smithsonian.