PI Eligibility for Sponsored Projects

Updated 3/14/2024

The University limits the eligibility of persons who may serve as Principal Investigators (PIs).  The following information can also be found in the Sponsored Projects Handbook.


For each sponsored project, one investigator is typically designated as the PI. The PI bears ultimate responsibility for academic decisions as well as for the project’s financial, administrative and compliance matters. Other individuals with significant involvement may be listed as “Co-Principal Investigator” or “Co-Investigator”.

Federal agencies permit more than one PI on a project. This presents an important opportunity for investigators seeking support for projects or activities that clearly require a “team science” approach. As the rules differ from agency to agency, for more information about the multiple PI model, please refer to the website for the particular agency to which you are interested in submitting a grant application.

In order to maintain academic standards and in recognition of the University’s assumption of liabilities under sponsored projects, the University limits the eligibility of persons who may serve as PIs.

A PI normally must have a full-time appointment and must be an:

  • Officer of Instruction in the rank of:
    • Professor
    • Associate Professor
    • Assistant Professor
    • Instructor (a limited term appointment for a maximum of two years when someone has been offered a position as an assistant professor, but has not completed the educational requirements before assuming the appointment)

or an

  • Officer of Research in the rank of:
    • Senior Research Scientist/Scholar
    • Research Scientist/Scholar
    • Lamont Research Professor
    • Lamont Associate Research Professor
    • Lamont Assistant Research Professor

Persons with appointments carrying other titles, including those in a visiting or adjunct grade, may act as co-PIs with officers in one of the instructional or research grades cited above. However, individuals who do not meet the above criteria may not serve as the sole PI without the approval of the appropriate Chair and Dean (or equivalent officers).

The Provost has delegated the authority to make such exceptions as follows:

  • For those holding appointments at CUIMC, the Executive Vice President for Health and Biomedical Sciences (EVPHBS);
  • For those holding appointments at Lamont, the Director; and
  • For those holding appointments elsewhere in the University, the EVPR.

Any investigator who plans to conduct his/her research through the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute (ZMBBI) must also seek an exception through the EVPR, regardless of where his/her primary academic appointment is held.

Investigators seeking an exception should submit a letter signed by the appropriate Chair and Dean (or equivalent officers) addressed to the applicable office listed above that has been delegated the authority to make exceptions. In the case of ZMBBI investigators, the letter should be signed by the Chair of the Department where the investigator has his/her primary appointment and the Executive Director of ZMBBI. The letter should be forwarded to the applicable SPA project officer.

The letter must include an acknowledgement that the applicable Department and School (or equivalent institutional units) will bear financial, managerial and programmatic responsibility for the project and will provide any required oversight of the conduct of the project. The letter must also include confirmation that appropriate non-sponsored support will be provided to cover proposal writing and other non-sponsored activities of the investigator for whom the exception is sought. The investigator’s CV and an abstract of the project covered by the exception should accompany the letter.

All investigators seeking an exception must complete the Rascal online course TC5900: Introductory Training for Principal Investigators. See more information about the training below.

Exceptions are granted only on a project by project basis or, in certain unusual cases, for a limited time period. Blanket exceptions are never granted at CUIMC and are only granted in truly exceptional cases elsewhere at the University.

Note: For non-sponsored research studies involving human subjects or vertebrate animals, a similar waiver request must be submitted to the HRPO or the IACUC if the PI on the protocol does not meet the qualifications indicated above. Such requests will be routed for approval as described above for sponsored projects.

All investigators seeking an exception in order to serve as a sole PI must complete the Rascal online course TC5900: Introductory Training for Principal Investigators, which outlines PI responsibilities, the proper conduct of a research study, financial management of a study and other important topics directly relevant to work as a PI. Passing a multiple-choice quiz with a minimum score of 85% is required to receive credit. Refresher training is not required.