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NIH Multi-PI Applications

Beginning with research grant applications submitted for February 2007 receipt dates, the NIH has allowed applicants and their institutions to identify more than one Principal Investigator (PI). The Multiple PI option has been extended to most research grant applications submitted electronically through using the SF424 R&R application package.

The decision to apply for a multiple PI grant is the responsibility of the investigators and the applicant organization. Those decisions should be consistent with and justified by the scientific goals of the project. As described by the NIH notice, NOT-OD-07-017, and on the Multiple Principal Investigator website, the NIH expects the availability of the Multiple PI option to encourage interdisciplinary and other team approaches to biomedical research.

We urge our investigators to discuss their plans for submission of Multi-PI Investigator applications as soon as possible with their assigned OSPA Sponsored Programs Officer. Investigators should provide the PA or RFA in which they are interested, and as importantly, verify the allowability of Multi-PIship.

A sample leadership plan is available in our boilerplate section. You may use the text as a starting point in writing your own plan.

Special Features and Requirements

Application Format
As outlined in the specific PA or RFA.

Distribution of Credit

PIs on a project should receive proper credit from their institution.

Allocation of Funds
  • If all PIs are from the same institution, awards may be linked and funds may be allocated per PI (as program projects, for example). If awarded, the respective allocations will be acknowledged in the NOGAs. Unless limited by a specific term of award, the acknowledgment of the requested allocation will not limit institutional authority to manage the funds nor will it impose additional prior approval requirements. (See NOT-OD-07-017)
  • At present, if PIs from other institutions are involved, funds will be allocated via subcontract. The NIH estimates that systems to manage linked awards across institutions will be available in the near future.
Contact PI
  • The first PI listed must be affiliated with the institution submitting the application and will serve as the Contact PI.
  • The Contact PI will be responsible for communication between the NIH and the rest of the leadership team. Note that per NIH, "It is also possible, and may be desirable, for the grantee institution to periodically designate a change in Contact PI" (see Multiple Principal Investigators, section on "Application Format and PI Authority and Responsibilities".)
  • Being named Contact PI does not imply any particular role within the leadership team.
  • If/When requested by the submitting institution at the time of a non-competing application, another member of the leadership team may assume the role of Contact PI.
  • It is not anticipated that serving as Contact PI will entail additional effort, but that may vary from project to project.
'New' Investigators
  • NIH policies related to New Investigators will be applied to applications only when all PIs involved in a multi-PI application are classified as New Investigators.
  • For the purpose of classification as a New Investigator, serving as a PI on a multiple PI grant will be equivalent to serving as a PI on a single PI grant.
Leadership Plan
  • For applications designating multiple PD/PIs, a leadership plan must be included. A rationale for choosing a multiple PD/PI approach should be described. The governance and organizational structure of the leadership team and the research project should be described, including communication plans, process for making decisions on scientific direction, and procedures for resolving conflicts. The roles and administrative, technical, and scientific responsibilities for the project or program should be delineated for the PD/PIs, including responsibilities for human or live vertebrate animal subject studies as appropriate.
  • The reviewers will assess the impact of deficiencies as they relate to the research objectives and to the goals of the project. For example, a poor leadership structure or description will negatively affect both single and multiple PI projects especially where strong collaboration and communication is necessary.

If budget allocation is planned, the distribution of resources to specific components of the project or the individual PD/PIs should be delineated in the Leadership Plan.

A basic principle of the multiple-PI model is that each named PI is equally responsible and accountable for the research project. Re-allocation of funds must be via a joint decision of the PIs, and the process for re-allocation should be included as part of the approach described in the Leadership Plan.
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