Principal Investigator (PI) Eligibility Administrative Procedures

Faculty and authorized professional research staff are encouraged to seek external financial support for specific projects undertaken to further the mission of the University in teaching, research, and public service. The purpose of University research is the discovery and dissemination of new knowledge. Sponsored projects enhance and expand the educational opportunities available to undergraduate and graduate students at the University, promote research, scholarly inquiry, and the development of new knowledge, contribute to the academic achievement and stature of the institution, and assist the university in fulfilling its responsibilities to the state and the nation.

Upon submission of a grant or contract to an external sponsor, the University assumes responsibility for the proper performance of the stated project, the fiscal management of the funds received, and accountability to the sponsor. Much of these obligations are vested in the principal investigator (PI) by the University. For this reason, it is essential that the University identify which ranks and appointments are entitled to the privilege of serving as PI.

A principal investigator (PI) is the lead scientist for a particular well-defined science or other academic project, who takes direct responsibility for the overall design, conduct, and reporting of the research or other externally funded sponsored activity. In addition, the PI is responsible for all regulatory requirements and review.

The Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP) serves as the coordinating office for externally funded research and sponsored projects at The University of Texas at Austin. The goal of OSP is to assist faculty and professional research staff in their efforts to secure and ensure proper stewardship of external funding by conducting proposal review, authorization and submission; award negotiations and acceptance; account management; close-out, reports, audits, collection; professional development and education; and export control and research compliance.

A PI is authorized to apply for research funding through OSP, and to conduct research in an ethical manner after the University has accepted the award on his/her behalf.

A PI or Co-PI is not authorized to submit a proposal directly to a sponsor without OSP approval, accept an award on behalf of the University, or to sign contracts/agreements on behalf of the University. Any negotiations associated with an award must be conducted by the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP).

Automatic PI status is granted to tenured or tenure-track faculty, who hold the following titles (Regents’ Rule 31001):

  • Professor
  • Associate Professor
  • Assistant Professor

Other non-tenured professional research titles may also qualify for automatic PI status (see HOP 7-1020 – Research Titles), provided the individual is a paid employee (see Table 3.1.A. below for a list of titles with automatic PI status).

For those who have automatic PI status, please submit an ERA Help Ticket to obtain access to the Research Management System (RMS). Individuals must provide the department name to which their awarded grants will be credited to ensure an accurate unit code is created.

Exceptions to serve as PI or Co-PI must be requested for:

  • Non-tenure track faculty
  • Employees holding titles not eligible for automatic PI status
  • Non-employees
  • Emeritus faculty
  • Newly hired faculty/researchers

To request a PI Status Exception please submit an ERA Help Ticket.

Principal Investigator requests solely for protocols reviewed by the Institutional Review Board (IRB), the Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee (IACUC), or the Institutional Biosafety Committee (IBC) on studies that are not externally sponsored or funded should be directed to the Office of Research Support and Compliance.

Table 3.1.A. The following university non-academic titles are eligible for automatic PI status provided the individual is a paid employee:

Other Research, and Administrative Titles with Automatic PI StatusJob Code
Senior Research Scientist0701
Research Scientist0702
Senior Research Engineer0703
Research Engineer0704
Research Associate0708
Dean0335
Vice Dean0338
Associate Dean
Assistant Dean
Vice President
Associate Vice President
Assistant Vice President0313
Vice Provost0319
Associate Vice Provost0321
Assistant Vice Provost0323
Executive Director of a Unit0457
Director of a Unit0379
Director of a Program0382
Director of an Academic Program0362
**Director titles outside of Director 0379, 0382, 0362 or 0457 job code must request PI/Co-PI status exception

Persons holding the titles listed below in Tables 3.2.A through 3.2.C are not automatically granted PI status and must submit an Exception Request for PI/Co-PI status. Titles listed in Table 3.2.D are not eligible for PI status. Exceptions may be granted on a multiple submission or project-specific basis:

  • Project-specific: Request for PI/Co-PI status for a specific project will endure for the life of the project.
  • Multiple submission:
    • Annual authorizations are approved through August 31 and require a request for renewal each year on or before September 1 (Please note: OSP does not issue annual renewal reminders), or
    • Position-specific authorizations can be approved for multiple years as long as the individual holds the same appointment at the University. In this case, it is incumbent on the requesting department to inform OSP if there is a change in the status of employment requiring rescission of PI or Co-PI status.

Considerations for exceptions will include whether or not the sponsored activity will have at least one PI who is a paid employee of the University over the entire performance period of the proposed or granted awards.

Exceptions to serve as a PI are generally not granted to individuals holding without-compensation, affiliated appointments. However, research title holders at a 0% or research affiliate appointment may submit proposals as PI without a Co-PI if the submission is accompanied by a written assurance from the unit head that the individual will hold a paid appointment during the award performance period.

Newly hired faculty/researchers may request temporary PI status and may submit proposals/transfer applications without a UT Co-PI as long as the project’s start date is after their official start date. After their official start date, PI status becomes automatic.

Retired/Emeritus Faculty do not receive automatic PI approval even if PI status was held before retirement. Exceptions for emeriti will be granted on a project-specific basis. Please specify faculty type as “Emeritus” when submitting a PI Exceptions Request.

To ensure that all agency requirements are met throughout the lifetime of the project, a Co-PI must be identified who can step-in as PI for projects led by emeritus faculty should the emeritus faculty become disengaged from the project due to incapacity or absence from the University for an extended period of time. A Co-PI must be a UT employee who is PI-eligible (refer to the section titled 3. Eligibility above) and who can be actively participating in the project, a knowledgeable colleague, the PI’s Department Chair, or Associate Dean for Research for the PI’s College.

Postdoctoral fellows may serve as Co-PIs on sponsored projects, but may not serve in the role of PI. Postdoctoral fellows and adjunct faculty must seek a sponsoring PI who will submit necessary proposal documentation to OSP for review and endorsement. Should the proposal be funded, the sponsoring PI will assume budgetary and reporting responsibilities at the university level on behalf of the postdoctoral fellow or adjunct faculty member.

There are times when it is a sponsor requirement that a postdoctoral fellow serve as PI on a project, or it is most appropriate for the postdoctoral fellow to serve as PI on a project to help further their career. In cases such as these, please refer to the section titled 4. Other Consideration – PI of Record on this page for additional information. An adjunct faculty member may not be recognized as PI with a sponsor or PI of Record.

Adjunct faculty may serve as Co-PIs on sponsored projects, but may not serve in the role of PI at the University or with the sponsor. An adjunct faculty member may not serve as PI of Record, i.e. be recognized as PI on a project by a sponsor. Outgoing faculty members may keep a grant at the University, however a new PI at the University with active PI status must be appointed to the project with notification to the sponsor of the change in PI.

If a title is not listed below please submit a PI/Co-PI Exceptions Request for additional guidance from The Office of Sponsored Projects.

Table 3.2.A. Titles listed below are generally considered for PI/Co-PI status on a multiple submission basis:

Titles that may request PI status for multiple submissionsJob Code
Clinical Professor0013
Research Professor0017
Clinical Associate Professor0024
Research Associate Professor0027
Clinical Assistant Professor0034
Research Assistant Professor0037
Lecturer0050
Engineering Scientist4204
Instructor0040
Instructor (Medical)0240
Instructor in Clinical Nursing0041
Instructor in Clinical Pharmacy0042
Instructor of Medicine (Clinical Scholar)0244
Instructor of Medicine (Clinical Educator)0243
Professor of Instruction0007
Associate Professor of Instruction0023
Assistant Professor of Instruction0038
Professor of Practice 0014
Associate Professor of Practice0023
Assistant Professor of Practice0033
Senior Research Fellow0705
Research Fellow0706
Senior Engineering Scientist0707
Engineering Scientist Associate4205
Research Engineering/Scientist Associate V (E)4207
Research Engineering/Scientist Associate IV E4208
Research Engineering/Scientist Professional (Part Time)4223

Table 3.2.B. Titles listed below generally considered for PI/Co-PI status on a project-specific basis:

Titles that may request PI status on a project-specific basisJob Code
Research Affiliate - Sr. Research FellowA012
Research Affiliate - Research FellowA011
Program Director0381
Program Manager0367
Program Coordinator8105
Project Director0371
Project Manager0361
Project Manager9109
Project Coordinator0489
Professor Emeritus0000
Professor Emeritus (Medical)0200
Professor of Instruction Emeritus0006
Professor of Practice Emeritus0005
Associate Professor Emeritus0018
Associate Professor Emeritus (Medical)0218

Table 3.2.C. Titles listed below may request Co-PI status on either a multiple submission or project-specific basis:

Titles that may serve as Co-PI onlyJob Code
Adjoint Professor0019                               
Adjoint Associate Professor0029
Adjoint Assistant Professor0039
Adjunct Professor0015
Adjunct Associate Professor0025
Adjunct Assistant Professor0035
Researcher0710
Research Affiliates - PostdoctoralA010
Researcher Fellow0711
Postdoctoral Fellow0712
A&P Hourly Employment0520
Research Engineering/Scientist Associate III E4209
Research Engineering/Scientist Associate II E4210
Research Engineering/Scientist Assistant4222

Table 3.2.D. Titles listed below may NOT be considered a PI or Co-PI:

Titles that are not eligible to serve as PI or Co-PIJob Code
Visiting Researcher/ScholarA006
Visiting Professor0012
Visiting Associate Professor0022

The individual’s department (Dean, Associate Dean for Research, Department Director or Chair) must submit a PI/Co-PI Exception Request to OSP.

The following requirements will be necessary to obtain a PI/Co-PI Status Exception:

  1. Acknowledgement that the proposed PI/Co-PI has read and agrees to abide by Researcher Responsibilities.
  2. The individual seeking PI status will also need to be compliant with the University’s policy:
    1. Complete Conflict of Interest training
    2. Submit their Financial Information Disclosure (FID) form
  3. Written assurance from the unit head that the individual will hold a paid appointment during the award performance period will be required on requests for individuals with 0% or research affiliate appointments.

The request as recommended by the appropriate unit head is reviewed and approved by the Office of Sponsored Projects.

Additional Department-Specific Exception Request Requirements May Be Necessary for the Following Colleges:

Cockrell School of Engineering PI Exceptions requests must be routed through the Dean's office via Reggie Crim, Senior Grants and Contracts Specialist (reggiecrim@austin.utexas.edu; 512-471-2890) and Joey Walker, Senior Grants and Specialist (walker@mail.utexas.edu; 512-471-5450), Cockrell School of Engineering prior to contacting OSP.

College of Liberal Arts requests must be routed through the relevant department chair, and then the College’s Research and Graduate Studies Office  (laresearch@austin.utexas.edu) prior to forwarding to OSP.

Dell Medical School PI Exceptions requests must be routed through Lindsey Demeritt, Associate Director of Sponsored Research, Dell Medical School (lindsey.demeritt@austin.utexas.edu; 512-495-5500) prior to contacting OSP.

College of Pharmacy PI Exceptions must be routed through the Office of Research and Graduate Studies via Jennifer Bindel, Senior Grants and Contracts Specialist, (pharmacyresearch@austin.utexas.edu; 512-232-7511) prior to contacting OSP.

College of Education requests must be routed through the appropriate COERA staff member (see COERA wiki for contacts). They will assist in preparing the exception request and then route to the COE Associate Dean for Research for documented approval. COERA will then submit to OSP and include ADR’s approval email along with other necessary documentation.

Certain sponsors and program guidelines require a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow to act as a Principal Investigator (PI) (i.e., NIH, HRSA, etc.) and will be recognized as such in the sponsor’s proprietary system, such as NIH eRA Commons.

This is meaningful to the student / postdoctoral fellow because the official sponsor record and award documents will reflect the graduate student or postdoctoral fellow as the project PI and will show that the graduate student or postdoctoral fellow has agreed to conduct the proposed research as required by program guidelines. Under these circumstances, OSP refers to the graduate student or postdoctoral fellow in the University’s internal systems as PI of Record and requires a faculty mentor to shepherd the proposal and award through internal systems. All internal records will reflect the faculty mentor as the primary PI; the faculty mentor PI is ultimately responsible to the University for the technical and fiscal oversight of the project. A formal request for exception is not necessary to be listed as PI of Record on internal records.

An adjunct faculty member may not serve as PI of Record or be recognized as PI on a project by a sponsor.