Research Administration Policies
RA03 Eligibility to Serve as Principal Investigator (PI)
Subject Matter Expert:
Policy Steward:Senior Vice President for Research and the Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance>
To identify the criteria for serving as a Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) any agreement processed through the Office of Sponsored Programs, the Office of Research Affairs (College of Medicine), or the ARL Business Office. Although the University is legally responsible to the sponsor as the actual recipient of a grant or contract, the PI is held accountable for the proper fiscal management and conduct of the project.
Only individuals holding full-time faculty rank above that of Assistant Professor may normally accept the role of a Principal Investigator. In all cases, eligibility to serve as PI also will be subject to any applicable sponsor-imposed rules or guidelines. All individuals, regardless of rank, must sign an appropriate Intellectual Property Agreement prior to serving as PI or Co-PI on a sponsored project.
|Rank||Can Serve as PI||Co-PI|
|Associate Research Professor||Yes||Yes|
|Assistant Research Professor||Yes||Yes|
|Associate Clinical Professor||Yes||Yes|
|Assistant Clinical Professor||Yes||Yes|
|Associate Teaching Professor||Yes||Yes|
|Assistant Teaching Professor||Yes||Yes|
|Professor of Practice||
With Dept Head and Dean approval
|Retired Faculty||With Dept Head and Dean approval*||Yes*|
|Researcher||With Dept Head and Dean approval||Yes|
|Visiting Professor||With Dept Head and Dean approval||Yes|
|Postdoctoral Scholars or Fellows||With Dept Head and Dean approval||Yes|
|Lecturer||With Dept Head and Dean approval (e.g., teaching grants)||Yes|
|Clinical Lecturer||With Dept Head and Dean approval||Yes|
|Graduate Student||No (except for programs specifically designated for graduate students, e.g., NSF DDIGs). Graduate students may be listed as PI on sponsor forms as appropriate, but the student's advisor will be listed as PI in SIMS.||No|
|Staff||Cannot normally serve as PI on research awards. May serve as PI on non-research awards (instruction, outreach) with approval of Dean and/or administrative unit head. May serve as PI on ARL and Cooperative Extension awards.||Yes**|
**With Department Head and Dean approval
***Collaborators from other institutions may sometimes be listed as Co-PIs on certain proposal documents (face pages, key personnel listings) if permitted under sponsor rules. Prior to listing a non-PSU collaborator on a proposal, Penn State must secure all required representations and certifications from the collaborator's institution.
NOTE 1: The Office for Research Protections uses the term "Principal Investigator" to refer to the individual responsible for managing a research protocol (as in the case of human subjects research). The rules identified above are not intended to establish the criteria for serving as a PI on such protocols.
NOTE 2: The College of Medicine continues to use certain academic titles no longer listed in AC21 Definitions of Academic Ranks. Research Associates and Senior Research Associates at the College of Medicine may continue to serve as PI and Co-PI on sponsored projects. Instructors, Senior Instructors, and Clinical/Adjunct faculty members at the College of Medicine may serve as Co-PI and, with the approval of their Department Head and Dean, as PI.
For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Senior Vice President for Research or the Office of Budget and Finance.
- July 11, 2023 - Editorial changes:
- References to the Corporate Controller changed to Associate Vice President for Budget and Finance
- References to the Office of the Corporate Controller changed to the Office of Budget and Finance
- September 18, 2019 - Changed Vice President for Research to Senior Vice President for Research
- December 4, 2018 - Updated faculty ranks to harmonize policy with AC21 Definitions of Academic Ranks
- September 11, 2017 - Noted eligibility of Cooperative Extension staff to serve as PI
- February 26, 2016 - New Policy
Date Approved:November 30, 2018>
Date Published:December 4, 2018>