Policy Steward:  Vice President for Research, and Corporate Controller


  • Purpose
  • Guideline
  • Further Information
  • Cross References


    To identify the criteria for serving as a Principal Investigator (PI) or Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) on a sponsored project. 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 Senior Research Assistant 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: http://www.research.psu.edu/patents/ip-agreement-forms.

    Table of who may accept the role of Principal Investigator
    Rank Can Serve as PI Co-PI
    Professor Yes Yes
    Associate Professor Yes Yes
    Assistant Professor Yes Yes
    Senior Scientist Yes Yes
    Senior Research Associate Yes Yes
    Research Associate Yes Yes
    Librarian Yes Yes
    Associate Librarian Yes Yes
    Assistant Librarian Yes Yes
    Retired Faculty With Dept Head and Dean approval* Yes*
    Senior Research Assistant With Dept Head and Dean approval Yes
    Research Assistant 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
    Senior Instructor/ Senior Lecturer With Dept Head and Dean approval (e.g., teaching grants) Yes
    Instructor/Lecturer With Dept Head and Dean approval (e.g., teaching grants) Yes
    Adjunct Faculty No 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.
    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 research awards administered in Defense Related Research Units (ARL and EOC). Yes**

    *Service of emeritus or retired faculty as either a principal investigator or co-investigator is subject to adherence to RAG03 "Processing Sponsored Projects Involving Retired Faculty Participation" and HR45 "Rehire of University SERS and TIAA/CREF Annuitants."

    **With Department Head and Dean approval


    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.


    For questions, additional detail, or to request changes to this policy, please contact the Office of the Vice President for Research, or the Office of the Corporate Controller.


    HR45 - Post-Retirement Appointments

    RAG03 - Retired Faculty Participation (Formerly RAG09, Processing Sponsored Projects Involving Retired Faculty Participation)

    Effective Date: February 26, 2016
    Date Approved: February 22, 2016
    Date Published: February 26, 2016

    Revision History (and effective dates):

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