Contact Information

For questions related to or for confirming Principal Investigator Status, please contact Kamala Upadhyaya in the Office of Sponsored Programs at ukamala@vt.edu or via mail code 0170.

Principal Investigator Guidelines

A principal investigator (PI) is a member of the academic or research faculty who bears responsibility for the intellectual leadership of a project. The principal investigator accepts overall responsibility for directing the research, the financial oversight of the award's funding, as well as compliance with relevant university policies and federal regulations as well as sponsor terms and conditions of an award.

Only individuals holding permanent faculty rank above instructor, or those in research scientist/project director or higher positions, may normally accept the role of a principal investigator. If the faculty member is a lecturer with an instruction or public service type of proposal, the department head/director will need to serve as the principal investigator.  

Detailed information about faculty positions eligible for PI status can be found in the "PI Eligibility Criteria" section below.

1) PI Request (current employees)
Normally, all faculty at the rank of assistant, associate, and full tenured and tenure-track faculty, as well as research faculty in the ranks of research scientist, senior research scientist, project director, research assistant, research associate, and full professor are automatically eligible for PI status.

Faculty professionals and research faculty ranks not listed above may be considered for approval for PI status by submitting a completed Principal Investigator Status Request (PDF).

The request may be made for continuous PI status of an active employee or approval of PI status for a specific proposal submission. Duration of the request should be indicated on the form.

In the event that a current faculty employee with PI status separates from the university and the department desires the faculty employee to retain PI status following separation, the department should request continuation of PI status as a non-paid affiliate.

2) Non-Paid Affiliate PI Request
An individual who is not an employee but who wishes to obtain approval as a principal investigator, following endorsement from the department head or institute director and dean or vice president, must follow the instructions described below for a Non-Paid Affiliate (P-85) (PDF).

Duration of the request must be provided on the form. The initial request may be up to three years. Extension requests may be made with departmental and college or vice president approval not to exceed a three-year term.

Individuals who may apply for Non-Paid Affiliate PI status include the following:

  • A separated employee who wishes to retain PI access
  • A future employee who wishes to have PI access prior to the start of their appointment
  • A non-employee collaborating with the current PI who wishes to obtain PI access

 

An individual who wishes to obtain approval as a principal investigator should follow these procedures:

  1. When a faculty member without one of the above listed ranks considers submitting a proposal as a principal investigator, a Principal Investigator Status Request (PDF) must be prepared to provide a rationale for the individual to serve as principal investigator. The request must include a current CV for the proposed PI, and must be endorsed by the appropriate department head or institute director.

    – Or –

    To request PI status simultaneously with a non-paid affiliate, a Non-Paid Affiliate (P-85) Form must be prepared selecting the PI request box. The request must include a current CV for the proposed PI, a letter from the requestor stating the relationship between the requestor and non-employee and the benefit to the department, and the end date of the engagement. The appropriate department head or institute director must endorse the request.

  2. This request is to be submitted to the dean’s or VP’s office for endorsement.

  3. Following approval from the department head or institute director and dean or vice president, the PI request packet and supporting documents as requested should be forwarded to the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP).

  4. Upon review of the PI request, OSP will confirm request approval or denial with the requesting department. If approved, PI status request will be provided to the pre-award team to update in Summit and to establish an e-file.

  5. For approved Non-Paid Affiliate requests including PI status, the approved request form will be submitted to the Department of Human Resources for processing, with a copy sent to the department contact, department head, and requestor. PI status will be provided to the pre-award team to update in Summit and to establish an e-file. Denied PI status requests for non-paid affiliates will be returned to the department.

Occasionally a PI status request may be submitted on behalf of an employee by another department. If the PI activities are to credit a department outside the home department, signature authority should include leadership of the department to which PI activities will be credited.   

To be eligible to qualify for PI status, an individual must demonstrate or possess the following:

  • A doctorate or master’s with substantial related experience
  • Evidence of scholarship
  • Direct benefit to the university
Rank Can Serve as PI? Can Serve as Co-PI?

Retired faculty member

Yes *

Yes

Research assistant professor

Yes

Yes

Research associate professor

Yes

Yes

Research professor

Yes

Yes

Project associate

No

Yes

Senior project associate

Not eligible but exceptions may be approved by the VP for Research and Innovation

Yes

Project director

Yes

Yes

Research associate

No

Yes

Senior research associate

Not eligible but exceptions may be approved by the VP for Research and Innovation

Yes

Adjunct faculty member

Not eligible but exceptions may be approved by the VP for Research and Innovation

Yes

Postdoctoral associate

with approval of department head, dean, and VP for Research and Innovation

Yes

Research scientist

Yes

Yes

Senior research scientist

Yes

Yes

Instructor / lecturer

No

Yes

Administrative/professional
faculty member

Yes

Yes

Visiting Pprofessor

Yes

Yes

Graduate student

No

No

* A retired faculty member may continue to conduct research and serve as a co-investigator on a sponsored program if the principal investigator is a regular faculty member. A retired faculty member may serve as a principal investigator if the following conditions are met:

  1. Faculty member must be awarded emeritus status

  2. Faculty member must have the concurrence of his/her department head. The department head will consider such items as available space and importance of the research program to the department.

  3. The department head must agree to be responsbile for both the fiscal and technical aspects of the research effort should the retired faculty not perform in accordance with the sponsor requirements. The department head may be required to sign a statement to this effect each time a retired faculty member submits a proposal.

  4. The retired faculty member, if required by the department head, must report to the department annually on the work accomplished during the past year.

  5. The rate of pay a retired faculty member may charge a sponsor is limited to the rate of pay received at time of retirement. This base rate will be adjusted by the average faculty salary increase each year in which faculty receive increases. Annual compensation cannot exceed the base salary.

Not eligible for PI status:

  • Staff and wage appointments
  • Collegiate faculty since those appointments are designed for teaching activities only