Multiple Principal Investigator Projects

In October of 2007 the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) announced a final government-wide policy aimed at giving credit where it’s due in an era of increasing scientific collaboration and small and large-team research.

The OSTP Policy states that all federal research agencies will recognize Multiple Principal Investigators (PIs) on research projects (grants and contracts).

This policy does not replace the use of a single Principal Investigator when that is most appropriate for the project.

OSTP emphasizes that the applicant institution has sole discretion when it comes to naming multiple PIs for a proposed research project but only when those individuals share the major authority and responsibility for leading and directing the project, intellectually and logistically.

OSTP instructed each federal research agency to post its own plan for implementing the policy, beginning Jan. 1, 2008.

  1. Responsibility of Multiple PI’s – The decision to utilize the Multiple PI option is the responsibility of the investigators and should be determined based on the scientific goals of the project. Each multiple PI will have equal responsibility for leading and directing the project; each is equally accountable for the proper conduct of the program including fiscal oversight and submission of all required reports.
  2. At the time of Proposal Submissions – For all UF applications that propose a Multiple PI Project, the following criteria must be met prior to submission:
    1. All proposed UF PIs must have PI status as defined in UF’s PI Eligibility Policy.
    2. All proposed non-UF PIs must have PI status as defined by their home institution. UF will treat non-UF PIs and their home institutions as subrecipients.
    3. All UF proposals must identify a UF PI as the Contact PI. The Contact PI will be responsible for relaying communications between all of the PIs, University Officials and the Sponsor, where appropriate.
    4. The allocation of funds for each PI should be detailed in the grant application.
    5. The proposal is submitted thru one lead unit where dept and College sign-off on the proposal. All other UF PI’s must provided the federal assurance by signing-off on the proposal submission using UFIRST ad-hoc approval.
    6. All other normal proposal information is still required, for example subrecipient proposal, conflict of interest forms, cost sharing documentation.
  3. At the time of Award – When a Multiple PI Project is funded, the following will occur:
    1. For each UF PI a separate project will be established using UFIRST for their allocation of funds (directs and indirects).
    2. If separate allocation of funds were not detailed in the grant application the Contact PI must provide this information to DSP prior to release of the UFIRST-Award..
    3. For non-UF PIs a subcontract will be issued to their home institution in support of the scope of work and funding allocation.
    4. All other normal award information is still required, for example IRB and or IACUC approvals.
  4. NIH Implements Multiple PI Option – The NIH has implemented and continues to refine policies and procedures to formally allow more than one Principal Investigator (PI) on individual research awards.  This multiple Principal Investigator (PI) model will supplement, and not replace, the traditional single Principal Investigator (PI) model.  The decision to utilize the multiple PI option is the responsibility of the investigators and should be determined based on the scientific goals of the project.  Each multiple PI will have equal responsibility for leading and directing the project; each is equally accountable for the proper conduct of the program including fiscal oversight and submission of all required reports.   For proposals utilizing the multiple PI option, NIH guidelines require that the Research Plan include a separate Leadership Plan.  The Leadership Plan must detail the governance and organizational structure of the leadership team and the research project, communication plans, process for making decisions on scientific direction, and procedures for resolving conflicts.  The purpose of the Leadership Plan is to facilitate and enhance scientific productivity and protect the project in the case of disagreements.  Peer review of the Leadership Plan will affect the application’s priority score.
  5. In addition, one PI must be designated as the primary point of contact (Contact PI), serving as a liaison between NIH and the rest of the leadership team. There cannot, however, be a ‘lead PI’ within the multiple PI model. All PIs are equally responsible for their projects; there is no PI hierarchy. According to NIH, “Inclusion of a ‘weak’ or inappropriate PI will reflect negatively on both the ‘Approach’ and ‘Investigators’ review criteria.”If planning a NIH Multiple PI project please visit NIH’s excellent Multiple PI Guidance Web Site.NIAID also has an excellent tutorial on Multiple PI Projects.

    Examples of the required Project Leadership Plans for Multiple PI Grant Applications.

  6. Federal Agencies Implementation Guidance OSTP instructed each federal research agency to post its own plan for implementing the policy, beginning Jan. 1, 2008.