Serving as a Principal Investigator

Every faculty member, principal investigator (PI), co-PI, project director and laboratory supervisor at UT is responsible for fostering an environment that enables the highest level of academic inquiry, while simultaneously complying with rigorous federal, state and University regulations, requirements and policies. PIs must review and communicate the obligations outlined herein with all new co-workers and individuals engaged in research, and ensure that annual reminders are acknowledged by all pertinent parties.

The University of Texas at Austin endorses Responsible Conduct in Research (RCR) and provides further information on Misconduct in Science and Other Scholarly Activities in the Handbook of Operating Procedures 7-1230 and on the University's research misconduct website.

If you have any questions concerning these requirements please contact your Dean, Department Chair or the Office of University Compliance Services.

Researcher Responsibilities

Review and acknowledge the list of Researcher Responsibilities pertaining to research conducted at UT Austin.

PI Eligibility Guidelines

The principal investigator (PI) is the individual with ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the activities of a well-defined science or other academic project, including all regulatory compliance requirements, review and reporting of the research or other externally funded sponsored activity.

A PI is authorized to apply for research funding through the Office of Sponsored Projects (OSP). A 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 OSP.

See the PI Eligibility Table (PDF) for specific roles at UT and eligibility to serve as a PI.

Eligibility for PI Status

Newly hired faculty/researchers

May request temporary PI status and may submit proposals/transfer applications without a UT Co-PI if 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. A co-PI must be identified and must be a UT employee who is PI-eligible (refer to the table above) and who is able to actively participate in the project. Please specify faculty type as “Emeritus” when submitting a PI Exceptions Request.

Postdoctoral fellows

May not serve in the role of PI. Postdoctoral fellows 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.

Adjunct faculty

May not serve in the role of PI at the University or with the sponsor. Outgoing faculty members may keep a grant at the University, with the appointment of a Co-PI at the University who has active PI status and with notification to the sponsor.

Animal Research Projects - Eligibility to Serve as a Principal Investigator

In general, the use of animals in research and/or teaching at The University of Texas must be under the direct supervision of a tenured, tenure track or research faculty with assigned research space at The University of Texas at Austin. The faculty member shall be considered the Principal Investigator (PI) and should be listed as such on the IACUC submissions.

For more details on being a PI for animal research, download the IACUC Policy.

For more information on the Animal Care and Use, see the Animal Care and Use page.


Human Research Projects - Eligibility to Serve as a Principal Investigator

The principal investigator of a human research study is the individual with ultimate responsibility for the conduct of the activities described in the IRB submission and for protecting the rights and welfare of human participants involved in the research. The principal investigator must be available to devote adequate time and attention to the study to ensure its responsible conduct.

For more information on PI Eligibility in human research studies, please see Human Subjects Research.


Procedures to Request Exceptions for PI Status

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

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

  1. Acknowledgement that the proposed 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 COI policy.
  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. Some colleges or departments may have more restrictive policies for obtaining PI status. Please confirm with the department or unit head for additional guidance.


Faculty Leave and Eligibility to Serve as a PI

A Leave of Absence/ Leave Without Pay (LWOP)/ Unpaid Time Off by a faculty member during the academic year requires submission of the Faculty Request for Leave (FRL) form and approval by the Chair/Director and Dean. The request for leave form addresses the type of leave, duration of leave and if it is a partial leave or a full disengagement.

A full leave of absence longer than three months usually means the faculty cannot retain PI/key personnel status during the absence period. Uniform Guidance requires prior approval in instances where there has been “disengagement from the project for more than three months, or a 25% reduction in time devoted to the project, by the approved project director or principal investigator”.

Please reach out to the OSP Assistant Director of Grants at as early as possible with a copy of the FRL to discuss the potential impact on the sponsored project(s) and next steps. For more details, see UT Austin HOP 2-2210.