Multiple Principal Investigators

Below is information to learn about NIH definitions, policies, and awards available to apply for support using the Multiple Principal Investigator (PI) model that supports team science. Answers to FAQs are included.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What are the most common grant mechanisms used by EGRP-supported investigators for the Multiple PI model?

A. The most commonly used grant mechanisms are the Research Project Grant (R01), Small Research Grant (R03), Exploratory/Development Grant (R21), and the Research Program Project Grant (P01). In addition, all grant mechanisms that use the electronic submissions process are acceptable. View NIH's complete list of eligible grant mechanisms.

Q: Can a grant with a single PI add an additional PI during a non-competing year to become a Multiple PI project?

A:Yes. A request to change an active award from a single-PI to a multiple-PI model, or from a multiple-PI model to a single-PI model, during the non-competing year, must be made by the grantee organization and should be based on the scientific needs of the project as described in NIH-NOT-OD-11-118.

Q: My grant is currently a single PI grant, and I'm applying for an administrative supplement. Can I add PIs as part of the administrative supplement request to convert this to the Multiple PI approach?

A: No. Changing a grant from a single PI to multiple PIs requires competitive peer review. Administrative supplements receive only an NIH Institute/Center staff review and thus cannot be used.

Q: I never had an R01. Will I lose my eligibility to be considered a "New Investigator" if I am part of a grant with the Multiple PI approach?

A: Yes. You will no longer be classified as a New Investigator unless all the PIs are also New Investigators.

Q: Is the "Contact PI" on a Multiple PI grant the "Lead PI"?

A: No. When multiple PIs are proposed, NIH requires identification of one PI who will be designated as the "Contact PI." This person will be responsible for communication between the PIs and NIH, but has no special authorities or responsibilities within the project team. In many ways, a Contact PI is analogous to a corresponding author on a publication.

The Contact PI must serve as a real PI and must meet all eligibility requirements for PI status. Where there is an identified project coordinator, the coordinator could serve as Contact PI or that role could be assigned to another PI. It will be possible, and may be desirable, for the grantee institution to periodically designate a change in Contact PI. For example, it may be desirable to rotate the role of Contact PI among the multiple PIs on an annual basis at the time of grant renewal.

All PIs have equal responsibility and accountability for leading and directing the project. The structure and interaction of the PI team will be left up to the PIs and the applicant institution. All PIs must be qualified to serve as PIs and will share responsibility for the project.

Although the PIs may identify a leader of the project or a coordinator of the overall team, that role is not formally acknowledged by NIH. Smaller teams composed of PIs of equal rank within the institution may function best as an equal partnership without an identified coordinator. If any team believes it necessary to identify a spokesperson or coordinator responsible for organizing the leadership team of a particular project, that role and rationale should be explained in the Leadership Plan.

PIs must meet the definition of a PI as determined by their institutions. Only the applicants' institutions can decide who should be a PI. Peer reviewers will consider whether the designated PI has the appropriate training and experience to carry out the proposed research, which is standard practice in peer review.

Q: Is it possible for a set of linked R01s to be submitted as a single Multiple PI application when submitting the competing renewal application?

A: Yes, investigators can submit their competing renewal as a multi-PI application using one of the previous grant numbers from the linked R01 grants, if the original submission was not in response to an RFA. The investigator(s) should note in the cover letter as well as the introduction, in the competing renewal application, the reason for the change.

View more questions about the NIH Multiple PI approach.

For any unanswered questions, contact BRP staff.