What is a Principal Investigator (PI) and who is eligible?

What is a Principal Investigator (PI)?

A Principal Investigator or PI is the individual responsible for the preparation, conduct, and administration of a research grant, cooperative agreement, training or public service project, contract, or other sponsored project.

Who is eligible to be a Principal Investigator?

Before you begin to develop a proposal, it is important to be sure you are eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator at UMass Amherst.

Anyone holding the following positions may be designated as PIs in applications for sponsored projects:

  1. All tenured and tenure-track Assistant, Associate, and Full Professors and Librarians

  2. All Research Assistant Professors, Research Associate Professors, Research Professors, Extension Specialists, and Clinical Professors

  3. All Adjunct, Visiting, Emeritus, Lecturers or other faculty at UMass Amherst who have the approval of their Department and the approval of the Dean of the relevant School or College.​​​​ PIs in this category should either include a Co-PI from appointment types described in 1 and 2 above; or provide a signed memo where the Chair and Dean shall accept full fiscal and administrative liability and responsibility for the actions of the Principal Investigator included in this category.

  4. All Post-Doctoral Fellows who have the approval of their Department and the approval of the Dean of the relevant School or College. The Post-Doctoral Fellow’s mentor must be included as a Co-PI.

  5. All Professional Staff who are not also students with the approval of their Department and the approval of the Dean of the relevant School, College, or Vice Chancellor.

Who is eligible to be a Co-Principal Investigator?

Any UMass researcher who is eligible to be a PI is also eligible to be a Co-PI. Collaborators from other institutions who do not hold appointments at UMass Amherst may nominally be listed as Co-PIs of a particular sponsored project if they serve as PI of a subcontract; however, non-UMass faculty or staff would not be considered to be co-PIs of UMass. Individual collaborators from other institutions may also serve as consultants on sponsored projects, when appropriate, without PI or co-PI status.

What about Undergraduate and Graduate Students?

Undergraduate and Graduate students may not be designated as PIs. However, when a Sponsor’s guidelines require a student to be listed as PI in the proposal, the student’s mentor/advisor will be the PI of record in the University's electronic research administration system and will be responsible for the conduct and oversight of the project.

*Please note that the information above is intended as an FAQ only and may not be exhaustive. Please read Roles and Responsibilities of Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators, as approved by the Research Council and the Faculty Senate, for more information. The Office of Pre-Award Services (OPAS) staff is available to assist with proposal development and review.