Research FAQ

The items below are provided to assist faculty researchers with a few areas that have commonly asked questions regarding how to proceed. These are not meant to be the definitive policies, but rather guide people to use the existing processes, and point to where the official documentation is housed at other places on SMU’s website. Please feel free to follow-up and ask more questions regarding any of these items to the Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research by emailing to


Research Associate vs. Research Assistant vs. Post Doc

When hiring a person from a research grant/contract to support research activity, the individual can either be hired as a Casual Employee or through an employment contract:

  • Casual Employees hired to support research are often students (undergraduate or graduate) – although that is not a requirement – and who will be engaged for a duration normally shorter than 6 months.
  • Contract employees hired to support research will normally be for positions with a longer engagement period and with a more defined set of required expertise. These may be full time (35 hours/week), or part time.  Our most common categories are:
    • Postdoctoral Research Fellow (“Postdoc”) – normally for an individual who has completed their PhD within the last 5 years at time of hiring.
    • Research Associate – reserved for individuals with more experience than a Postdoc.
    • Research Assistant – reserved for individuals with less experience than a Postdoc.
    • Other – for example: Research Coordinator, Research Manager

Process for hiring Contract Employees for Research Support:

  • If you wish to hire an individual as a Casual Employee, please refer to the other section of this FAQ page.
  • Hiring an individual into a research support contract position needs to be done with the process outlined here – this ensures that Saint Mary’s University’s People & Culture provide the employment offer with all the necessary details regarding responsibilities, benefits, etc.
  • Once a preferred individual has been identified that is wished to be hired into a contract position, complete the FGSR Hiring Authorization Form (FGSR HAF). On the FGSR HAF:
    • pay attention to the boxes beside “salary”: contract employees are eligible for some benefits immediately upon starting their role (e.g. accrual of vacation time, access to health benefits), with other benefits becoming available after longer services (e.g. access to retirement plan).
    • the SMU fund which is identified to pay the employee’s salary (associated with the research grant/contract) will be charged the employer-contribution for these and other employment benefits (e.g. CPP, EI) – therefore, it is best to budget an additional 18%-of-salary charge to your fund (so that the total charge to your research fund will be approximately 1.18 times the indicated salary)
    • on the salary box, please indicate the Annual Full-Time Salary. This is calculated based on the assumption of 35 hours/week and 52 weeks per year; if you are choosing a part-time contract, the salary paid will be based on a proportion of this Annual Full-Time Salary, with the proportion equal to the ratio of hours/week required compared to 35.
  • Email the completed FGSR HAF to, along with a C.V. of the identified person, and a short description of the job to be done (along with any minimum education and/or experience/skills required for the job)
  • If the individual to be hired is not a Canadian citizen or a Permanent Resident of Canada, they will require a valid Work Permit – SMU People & Culture will support the process of the person securing a Work Permit by generating an Employment # through IRCC, and will provide it to the individual for their use i for applying for the Work Permit. 
    • Such individuals may not start their role until they’ve received a Work Permit, and have physically arrived in Canada (so they can get their SIN, which must be done in person), so please set the start date a couple weeks in the future. 
    • If it takes longer to get the Work Permit than allowed for, this can be managed ... but the individual still may not start the role until the Permit is obtained.

 What account # should I use when hiring a Postdoc or Research Associate?

  • The account number to use for “Salaries Postdoctoral Fellows – Non Student” is 60033.
  • The account number to use for “Salaries Research Associate” is 60034.


  • Casual Employee Action and Change Form (CEAC)
  • Bi-Weekly Pay Form OR   Fixed Remuneration

Process for hiring Casual Employees for Research Support:

The most common method faculty researchers will use to hire research assistants is to use “Casual Employment”.  This method can be used to hire individuals to assist in your research activity based either on a planned “full time period of work” (e.g. a summer student position designed to be full time – 35 hours per week, at SMU – for a 12 week period), or for a part-time work “as able” over a period (and submitting hours-worked forms along the way).   While, most frequently, professors will hire SMU students, this is not a necessary requirement.

To set up an assistant to be paid via this Casual Employment route, you will need to complete a “Casual Employee Action and Change Form”.   And then the payment schedule can be done by either setting up a fixed pay schedule over a period using the “Fixed Remuneration Form”, or for variable on-the-go hours use the “Bi-Weekly Time Report”.   These forms can all be found, with explanations, here (you will need to login to SMUPort to gain access):

These forms all get submitted to once completed. 

Other notes: 

  • casual employees don’t get vacation time, but rather get 4% extra pay in lieu – therefore, the pay-rate we use on these pay forms already includes this 4% ... so this means that actual minimum hourly wage which we can use via casual employment is the current Nova Scotia minimum wage plus 4%.
  • the charge to your research account includes an additional approximately 10% charge to account for the employer contributions to EI and CPP.

What account # should I use when hiring a Casual Employee research assistant?

The account number to use depends on whether the assistant being hired is a student (then, undergraduate or graduate ... domestic or international), or not ... Here are the most relevant account numbers:

  • 60101: Wages Graduate Student Canadian
  • 60102: Wages Graduate Student International
  • 60103: Wages UnderGraduate Student Canadian
  • 60104: Wages UnderGraduate Student International
  • 60034: Salaries Research Associate (for non-students)

Research Purchasing

Please visit:

How to Purchase ​​​​​​​​​​Computer Equipment with Research Funds

Please visit

If students, faculty, or other researchers from outside of Saint Mary’s University are coming to conduct research with a SMU faculty member (without any payment from/through SMU), these external researchers should be formally established as a Visiting Researcher or Visiting Research Student – this requirement is outlined in the SMU Visiting Scholars Policy
Please contact the Research Grants Officer for information about the process to formally appoint a Visiting Researcher or a Visiting Research Student – this process, when completed, will allow such Visitors to have official status at SMU for the period of their visit (e.g. ability to secure a SMU A# and Office365 and Library access, as needed) as well as providing the documentation needed for international scholars to secure an appropriate Visa to visit Canada through IRCC.

The Research Grants Officer will gather the needed details and other information, and prepare a formal Letter of Invitation from the Associate Vice-President Research to send to the planned visitor – the visitor is then asked to sign and return the formal Letter, indicating their acceptance and agreement to follow SMU policies during their visit.

Note that for international scholars to secure the needed Visa to enter Canada, other material will need to be provided to the Research Grants Officer (in addition to the signed acceptance of the Offer) –the Grants Officer then provides all information to People & Culture to allow them to secure the official IRCC “Employment Number” needed (even for an unpaid Visitor): 

  • Signed copy of the invitation letter
  • Scan of passport picture page
  • Main duties and activities of job/main reason for visit
  • Minimum education requirements of the job/visitor’s education
  • Experience/skills requirements of the job
  • Address for physical job location