Identifying Principal and Co-Principal Investigators

This document is intended to clarify the internal practice of identifying who is eligible to serve as Principal (PI) or Co-Principal (Co-PI) investigator on sponsored research projects. It is important to remember that all sponsored projects submitted through Michigan Tech are awarded to Michigan Tech, not to individual investigators.

Definition

Principal Investigator

An individual designated by the recipient (Michigan Tech) to direct the project or program being supported by the grant. He or she is responsible and accountable to recipient organization (Michigan Tech) officials for the proper conduct of the project or program. The organization (Michigan Tech) is, in turn, legally responsible and accountable to the SPONSOR for the performance and financial aspects of the grant-supported activity.

Co-Investigator

An individual involved with the principal investigator in the scientific development or execution of a project. A co-investigator typically devotes a specified percentage of time to the project and is considered "key personnel." The designation of a co-investigator, if applicable, does not affect the principal investigator's roles and responsibilities as specified in this policy statement.

By signing the transmittal form, Chairs and Deans assume the responsibility of assuring the completion of Michigan Tech's obligations under the agreement with the sponsor. The Sponsored Programs Office will normally not question the designation of individuals as PIs or Co-PIs (as defined) under the conditions identified below. The Sponsored Programs Office may follow-up with the Chair or Dean in unusual circumstances.

  • Academic Tenure-track Faculty, Research Scientists/Engineers, Research Faculty and other regular employees can all serve as PIs or Co-PIs on sponsored projects.
  • Employees with term appointments (e.g., Lecturers, Instructors, Post-Doctoral Associates, etc.) may serve as PIs or Co-PIs on projects at the discretion of their supervisor or Chair (Dean if a school) as indicated by signatures on transmittal forms. In most cases, term employees that submit proposals as PIs will include an academic tenure-track faculty, research faculty, or research scientist/engineer as a Co-PI, especially for projects that may extend beyond the end of the term of appointment.
  • Adjunct, Retired, or Emeriti Faculty may serve as PIs or Co-PIs on projects at the discretion of their Chair or Dean as indicated by signatures on transmittal forms. Normally, faculty in these categories that submit proposals as PIs will include at least one member of the academic tenure track or research faculty, or a research scientist/engineer as Co-PI. Adjunct Faculty who are employed full-time at another institution, corporation, or agency should not be PIs on proposals submitted through Michigan Tech. If they cannot be Principal Investigators, then they also cannot be financial managers on the institutional research and development indexes that receive the returns.
  • Graduate students can serve as Co-PIs on sponsored projects as long as an academic tenure-track faculty, research faculty, or research scientist/engineer is listed as the PI. If a fellowship program requires a graduate student to submit an application through the university as PI, our internal practice will be to list an academic tenure-track faculty, research faculty, or research scientist/engineer as Co-PI; the graduate student will not be the account custodian if funding is received by the university following a successful fellowship application.
  • Undergraduate students cannot be identified as PIs on sponsored projects. They may be identified as Co-PIs on certain fellowship applications as required.