Proposals with Multiple Principal Investigators

Federal research agencies have policies and procedures to formally allow more than one Principal Investigator (PI) on individual research awards. For investigators seeking support for projects or activities that clearly require a “team science” approach, the multiple PI model may be considered. The multiple-PI option is intended to supplement, and not to replace, the traditional single PI model. 

Principal Investigators

Allocation of funds among the PIs

Agency-specific instructions

UMB proposal process


Principal Investigators

Each proposed Principal Investigator must have an appropriate level of authority and responsibility to direct the project or program supported by the grant. The presence of more than one identified PD/PI on an application or award diminishes neither the responsibility nor the accountability of any individual PD/PI. Each PD/PI is responsible and accountable to the applicant organization, or, as appropriate, to a collaborating organization, for the proper conduct of the project or program including the submission of all required reports.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has established review criteria to evaluate investigators. Peer reviewers are asked to consider the following in proposal review:  Are the PD/PIs, collaborators, and other researchers well suited to the project? If Early Stage Investigators or New Investigators, do they have appropriate experience and training? If established, have they demonstrated an ongoing record of accomplishments that have advanced their field(s)? If the project is collaborative or multi-PD/PI, do the investigators have complementary and integrated expertise; are their leadership approach, governance and organizational structure appropriate for the project?

To facilitate communication with the NIH, a “Contact PI” is identified at the time of application. The contact PI is analogous to a corresponding author on a publication. The Contact PI will be responsible for relaying communications between all of the PIs and the NIH. Being named Contact PI does not confer any special authority or responsibility for the project. It is possible, and may be desirable, for UMB 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 at UMB on an annual basis at the time of grant renewal. The Contact PI must be located at the institution submitting the application.

The NIH requires a Leadership Plan to describe: the roles and areas of responsibility of the named PIs, the process for making decisions on scientific direction, allocating resources, and resolving disputes that may arise. The peer reviewers will consider the quality of the Leadership Plan as part of the assessment of scientific and technical merit.

Allocation of Funds Among PIs

If budget allocation among UMB PIs is planned, the distribution of resources to specific components of the project or the individual PIs should be delineated in the proposal.

For NIH proposals, the allocation must be described in the Leadership Plan. In the event of an award, the requested allocations will be reflected in a footnote on the Notice of Grant Award that indicates the allocations requested. 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.

For NIH proposals, if one of the PIs is at another institution, the proposal should include a subcontract proposal for the other institution, and the funding allocation will be administered through a subcontract.

NSF’s proposal preparation requirements accommodate the ability to identify Principal Investigators located at different institutions through use of the collaborative proposal process. Collaborative proposals may be submitted to NSF in one of two methods: as a single proposal, in which a single award is being requested (with subawards administered by the lead organization); or by simultaneous submission of proposals from different organizations, with each organization requesting a separate award. In either case, the lead organization's proposal must contain all of the requisite sections as a single package to be provided to reviewers.

Agency-specific Instructions

Multiple PI Implementation Strategies for Federal Agencies

National Institutes of Health Multiple Principal Investigators

NIH Notice NOT-OD-07-017, Establishment of Multiple Principal Investigator Awards for the Support of Team Science Projects

UMB Proposal Process