Principal Investigator Eligibility

Important Update to the PI Eligibility Guidelines:

Effective July 6, 2020, individuals who are automatically granted continuous or limited PI Rights (see PI Eligibility on a Continuing Basis and PI Eligibility with Limitations below) who have not already taken the FAS and SEAS Update for Faculty and Principal Investigators on-line course in the Harvard Training Portal must take the course prior to the submission of new or competitive renewal proposals, the acceptance of new or competitive renewal awards, or the establishment of new at-risk accounts by OSP. 

Individuals who wish to apply for exceptional PI Rights are required to take the FAS and SEAS Update for Faculty and Principal Investigators on-line course in the Harvard Training Portal before submitting a completed PI Rights Questionnaire to their FAS divisional dean or SEAS dean for consideration.  Please be advised that a Harvard University ID (HUID) is needed to access the Harvard Training Portal.  Once the course has been successfully completed, a certificate of completion will be generated, and a copy of that certificate must accompany the PI Rights form.


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. 

PI Eligibility 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
  • John Harvard Distinguished Science Fellows in the Division of Science, with the approval of the Director of the JHDSF program
  • Rowland Junior Fellows at the Rowland Institute, with the approval of the Director of the Institute
  • Bauer Fellows at the Center for Systems Biology (program retired)
  • 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

If a Harvard employee whose appointment type is not listed among those on the PI Eligibility policy page wishes to serve as PI, his or her Department Chair/SEAS Area Chair must submit a request to the appropriate Divisional Dean or SEAS Dean using the PI Rights Questionnaire, 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.