University of Delaware
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Are You Eligible to Be a Principal Investigator (PI)?

Principal Investigators and Co-Principal Investigators have primary institutional responsibility for providing scientific/technical leadership and administrative and financial management of sponsored projects. As such, the University has designated the following personnel as eligible to serve as Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on sponsored projects*:

* Principal Investigator/Co-Principal Investigator status may be rescinded for cause.
*A PI approval form is required to permit postdoctoral fellows to serve this role


If an exception is made to make someone an eligible PI and that person isn't a full-time University employee, the chair or dean must be a co-PI on all proposals for that person.

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Retired Faculty Serving as Principal Investigators

Some faculty members wish to continue their research programs after retirement from the University, but do not qualify for status as principal investigators because they are no longer full-time UD employees. Retired faculty members may apply for PI status using the existing Research Office PI approval form.

If the request is approved, retired faculty members may serve initially as co-PIs on proposals with a full-time faculty member as PI (this would typically be the department chair or another senior faculty member). If the proposal is funded and the retired faculty member is hired to work on that grant, he or she may then serve as the PI during the life of the grant. At the time of hiring, the retired faculty member may be appointed to an appropriate professional staff position (such as, for example, senior research fellow), but under no conditions may be re-hired on the faculty (as, for example, a research professor).

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Graduate Students as Principal Investigators

The Research Office acknowledges the importance of permitting graduate students to lead sponsored projects where appropriate. There are several sponsors who offer pre-doctoral grants whereby the work is conceived of and carried out entirely by a graduate student. In these cases, a faculty member is identified as a mentor and oversees the project nominally. (examples: NASA: Harriett G. Jenkins Predoctoral Fellowship Program (JPFP), NIH: Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards for Individual Predoctoral Fellowships (F31) to Promote Diversity in Health-Related Research, NIH: Predoctoral Training at the Interface of the Behavioral and Biomedical Sciences, DOE: The National Methane Hydrates R&D Program - Graduate Fellowship Program).

To that end, the eligible PI approval form may be used at the time of proposal routing to permit the graduate student to have this role. Also, please have the department administrators ensure the graduate student’s supervisor code is associated with a chair and dean code. This will allow the proposal approval web form to be routed appropriately. The required completed form must be sent to the Research Office at least ten (10) working days before the deadline for submittal of the proposal to the funding agency.

There are still other sponsors for whom the need for submission and approval from an Authorized Representative of the University is not required. The student may submit these applications directly to the sponsor without coordination with the Research Office or a PI eligibility form (examples include: NSF Fellowship, Ford Foundation Diversity Fellowships for Achieving Excellence in College and University Teaching).

If there are questions concerning which type of funding the grad student is applying, contact the Research Office for guidance.

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