Principal Investigator Eligibility

For each sponsored award, it is customary to designate as PI one person who bears ultimate responsibility for academic decisions as well as for financial, administrative, and compliance matters relating to the project.  Only  teaching members of the Faculty and a select number of other academic appointees are accorded Principal Investigator rights and may seek external research support on a continuing basis. 

Principal Investigator eligibility, on a continuing basis, for research projects and scholarly conferences administered through FAS is limited to

  • Professors (including Professors Emeriti)
  • Associate Professors
  • Assistant Professors
  • Research Professors
  • Professors of the Practice
  • Senior Lecturers
  • Benjamin Peirce Lecturers
  • Junior Fellows in the Society of Fellows, with the approval of the Chairman of the Society of Fellows
  • Bauer Fellows at the Center for Systems Biology, with the approval of the Director of the Bauer Fellows Program
  • Rowland Junior Fellows at the Rowland Institute, with the approval of the Director of the Institute
  • Individuals with PI rights at other Harvard schools (with documented notification to the appropriate Divisional Dean)

PI Eligibility with Limitations

Others who are eligible to serve as Principal Investigators for specific other types of sponsored projects include

  • Senior Research Fellows – limited to the area of expertise specified in that individual’s letter of appointment
  • Directors, Executive Directors, Associate Directors, and Assistant Directors in FAS Affiliates — on grants for general operations, permanent endowment, physical plant, administrative projects, and outreach and continuing education programs for the general public
  • Curators — on projects relating directly to museum and botanical collections, e.g., conservation or exhibition of collections
  • Senior librarians and curators, with the approval of the Harvard College Librarian— on projects directly related to defraying the costs of caring and /or digitizing collections
  • Directors of specialized non-degree instructional programs in Continuing Education such as the Dance Program — on grants for the support of their programs
  • Directors of Centers — on equipment/fabrication grants and conference projects related directly to the mission of the center
  • Graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, on fellowships, such as the NIH Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Awards and the NIH Scientist Development Awards–K Series which require their being listed as PI or Co-PI and require that a faculty member be named in a mentoring or supervisory role

PI Rights Requests

Harvard appointees who are not otherwise PI-eligible may on occasion be authorized to serve as PI with approval by the appropriate Divisional Dean. The department chair or center director can submit such requests using the PI Rights Questionnaire form, and the justification must be compelling.

Co-Investigator and Co-PI

Other individuals with significant involvement may be listed as “Co-Principal Investigator” (if PI-eligible) or “Co-Investigator” (if not PI-eligible). Note that individuals appointed as Research Associates may be listed Co-PI on proposals that have a PI-eligible faculty member as Principal Investigator. 

Co-PI Status for Non-Harvard Faculty

The University does not delegate PI or Co-PI responsibilities to individuals over whom it has little or no authority. Exceptions are made only if sponsors stipulate that individuals without Harvard PI rights be designated as PIs. For instance, the NSF GOALI (Grant Opportunities for Academic Liaison with Industry) program requires that the Co-PI from industry be listed as a PI on the project. If you are responding to such a sponsor requirement, please contact RAS as early as possible in the application process.