A research assistant, or RA, is a researcher employed, often on a temporary contract, by a university, a research institute or a private held organization, for the purpose of assisting in academic or private research. Research assistants are not independent and responsible to a supervisor or principal investigator and usually are not directly responsible for the outcome of the research. However, in Malaysia, research assistants can be the main contributor to the outcome of the research. Research assistants are often educated to degree level and might be enrolled in a postgraduate degree program and simultaneously teach.
Although a research assistant is normally appointed at graduate level, undergraduates are also sometimes appointed to support research.
Similarly, someone who has recently been awarded a doctoral degree may hold a temporary appointment as a postdoctoral research assistant.
A clinical research assistant is employed by a hospital or medical research centre, who is involved in the administration of clinical trials. He or she may assist a senior investigator with recruiting and enrolling research subjects, as well as with correspondence and grant applications.