Responsibility for setting the course of research at the University of Chicago is vested with the faculty. A principal investigator is a member of the academic staff or faculty who bears responsibility for the intellectual leadership of a project. The principal investigator accepts overall responsibility for directing the research, the financial oversight of the award's funding, as well as compliance with relevant University policies and federal regulations as well as sponsor terms and conditions of an award.
Full time, salaried academics with the titles Professor, Associate Professor, Assistant Professor, Instructor, Senior Research Associate, Research Scientist, Research Assistant Professor, Research Associate Professor, and Research Professor are eligible to serve as principal investigator on proposals submitted to any outside funding agency in support of research, training, or other sponsored activities.
In those rare occasions when one of the above titles is held by someone who is not or is no longer employed by The University, automatic PI eligibility is not granted. An individual who is not an employee but wishes to obtain approval as a Principal Investigator must follow the Procedure instructions described below.
Individuals without the titles listed above, including those with "Clinical" as part of their appointment title (e.g., Assistant Clinical Professor, Clinical Assistant Professor, etc.), and individuals not full time salaried academics at the University, are not eligible to serve as principal investigator except under the following conditions: (1) as co-investigator with an individual of appropriate rank, or (2) with approval from the Office of the Vice President for Research and Argonne National Laboratories. Principal investigator status is not afforded to Postdoctoral Researchers except in cases where a sponsoring agency expects it and a faculty mentor is named to monitor project progress.
Special Eligibility Situations
1. Emeritus Faculty: Faculty may retire at age fifty-five. A Faculty member who retires from a position on indefinite tenure or who retires from a Faculty position after serving as a Faculty member for twenty years shall be designated a Member Emeritus of the faculty. [Statute 16]
Upon suitable documentation having been presented to the Dean and Provost, a Faculty Member Emeritus may be approved for a post-retirement appointment at the University after his/her effective date of retirement, for a term not to exceed one year, and at a level of effort not to exceed 40%. [Provost's policy]
Principal investigator status should then be requested according to the procedure outlined below.
2. Argonne National Laboratory: Principal investigator status is automatically granted to Argonne scientists with Joint Appointments to UChicago, PI status at Argonne, and a position at Argonne that is equivalent to:
- Research Development Individual Contributor (job levels 2 and above)
- Research Development Leader (supervisor through level five).
3. Computation Institute: Senior Fellows and Fellows are eligible to serve as principal investigators.
4. Certain units which are securing funds on a regular basis and where there is no faculty appointment may request long-term principal investigator status for the Director of the unit (for example, the Smart Museum of Art, the Reva and David Logan Center for Creative and Performing Arts)
5. Clinical Instructors in the BSD appointed in accordance to the Guidelines for Instructor Appointments in the Biological Sciences Division.
Procedure to Request Principal Investigator Status
An individual who wishes to obtain approval as a principal investigator from the Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories should follow these procedures:
1. When an academic staff member without one of the above listed ranks, or when an individual who does not fall under one of the above special eligibility situations, considers submitting a proposal as a principal investigator, a Request for PI Status Form must be prepared to provide a rationale for the individual to serve as principal investigator. When you download the request form, you will automatically receive and should retain for your records the “Principal Investigator (PI) Responsibilities at the University of Chicago” document and the “Compliance Responsibility Matrix”. The request, including a current C.V. for the proposed PI, must be endorsed by the appropriate department chair or equivalent. If the individual has no prior experience as a principal investigator, the memo should address how and by whom the person will be mentored in the technical and project management duties of a PI. Further, the recommending department or unit should confirm by name the appropriate administrative and fiscal support staff and services available to the PI. Note: Requests for early Principal Investigator status (for current employees who are expected to be promoted to a PI-eligible position in the near future, or anticipated new employees who will automatically be PI-eligible upon arrival at the University) must be accompanied by a conditional letter of offer.
2. This request is to be submitted to the Dean's/Director’s Office for endorsement - signature.
3. Please note that no delegation of Chair’s or Dean’s/Director’s authority is permitted.
4. After obtaining the Dean's/Director’s approval, the memorandum (PDF versions are acceptable) should be forwarded to University Research Administration at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by hard copy to 6030 S. Ellis Avenue, Room 114. Only the Request Form should be routed for endorsement/approval. Requester should keep the PI Responsibility and Compliance Matrix. URA will obtain the approval of the Office of the Vice President for Research and National Laboratories and applicant will be notified of request outcome.