Cornell University policy is that only full-time faculty members may routinely serve as Principal Investigators or Project Directors on sponsored programs. Certain other titles are allowed to serve as Principal Investigators as described below.
Principal Investigator Eligibility Requirements (formerly Form 5) Criteria and Approval Process for PI Eligibility by Exception
Go to Eligibility Requirements by Position Title Table | Go to PI Eligibility by Exception Summary Table
Only members of the tenured and tenure track University Faculty (faculty) and non-professorial academic research positions of similar stature listed below may routinely serve as Principal Investigators (PI), Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI) or Project Director (PD) on sponsored projects.
- Professor, tenured/tenure track (all ranks)
- Research Professor (all ranks)*
- University Professor
- Senior Scholar
- Senior Scientist, Principal Research Scientist, Research Scientist*
- University Librarian
PIs, Co-PIs, and PDs** are responsible for the conduct of a sponsored project, including intellectual direction, resource allocation and fiscal stewardship, representing the project to the sponsor, administrative and personnel oversight, adherence to relevant policies and regulations, and meeting the terms of the award. Faculty have the responsibility and authority to set the direction of future Cornell research, outreach, and extension; make decisions on critical administrative matters, such as allocation of human, financial, and facility resources under their control; and to direct the activities necessary to meet sponsor obligations.
*In accord with the Resolution 109 Enabling Legislation of the University Faculty, the Research Professor title is intended to replace the Senior Scientist, Principal Research Scientist, Research Scientist titles.
**Co-Investigators are designated as key personnel on a project. They do not need to meet the qualifications of PI under this policy.
Criteria and Approval Process for PI Eligibility by Exception
The designation of PI, Co-PI or PD for individuals who are not listed above is limited to certain titles under limited circumstances. Individuals must meet the requirements for eligibility by exception for their specific title. Documentation that eligibility criteria have been met, and will continue to be met for the duration of the individual’s appointment and/or sponsored project, must be kept on file in the unit. Confirmation is provided via signature in RASS by the Department Chair/Director or Research Center Director (Chair, Director), Vice President/Vice Provost (VP) if in an administrative unit, and the College Dean or Senior Associate/Associate Dean for Research. This signature cannot be delegated.
Exception approvals by Department Chair/Director, Center Director, and VP
The individual’s Department Chair/Director or Center Director, and VP if in an administrative unit, with no delegation, must approve exceptions for the following position types:
New Tenured / Tenure Track Professor Prior to the Appointment Start Date
- May serve as PI, Co-PI or PD on proposals submitted through Cornell provided that the project start date is later than the appointment start date for positions formally offered and accepted.
- May be appointed at Cornell in a Visiting or Adjunct academic title
- An award cannot be accepted until tenure/tenure track appointment has begun
Departing Tenured/Tenure Track Professors
- Tenured professors may remain PI, Co-PI, or PD on awards residing at Cornell for up to 24 months from the end date of their tenured appointment, inclusive of any final leaves of absence, on the condition that they are appointed in an Adjunct or Visiting Academic title at Cornell. This exception is not applicable to non-tenured/tenure track professors.
- If faculty member’s tenure recommendation at Cornell has been denied, he/she may remain as PI, Co-PI or PD for the duration of their final employment year and continue to hold the grant for that period of time (no extensions permitted)
- Contact the Office of Sponsored Programs for support with other scenarios (transfer/termination of the award, change in PI, etc.)
Select Other Academic Positions (See table "Eligibility Requirements by Position Title" below)
Individuals in this class of titles may be authorized to serve as PI, Co-PI or PD within the limitations determined by the Department, Center, Administrative Unit or College and under the conditions stated below.
- Professor of Practice (all ranks)
- Clinical Professor (all ranks)
- Senior Research Associate
- Senior Extension Associate
- Senior Lecturer
- Director, Botanical Gardens
- Director, Johnson Museum of Art
- Associate Librarian
- Emeritus Faculty
Postdoctoral Associates/Postdoctoral Fellows (See table "Eligibility Requirements by Position Title" below)
Postdoctoral Associates (PDA) and Postdoctoral Fellows (PDF) may in exceptional cases serve as PI, Co-PI, or PD, where a sponsored program has as its purpose the support of postdoctoral education or research or where the stated purpose is to advance the individual’s scientific career through a PDA or PDF initiated project. Note: PDFs may only write proposals and serve as a PI, Co-PI or PD if proposal preparation, and serving in such a role and the associated appointment status, is allowed by the terms of the fellowship.
Graduate and Undergraduate Students (See table "Eligibility Requirements by Position Title" below)
Graduate students, and in rare cases undergraduate students, may be approved by exception to serve as PI, Co-PI or PD only for a project where the stated purpose is solely to support a student’s education or the student’s individual research. This is typically through a thesis or fellowship award.
Other Academic Titles (additional approval by the Dean is required)
- Modified Titles: With the exception of new or departing faculty (see section above) modified academic titles such as “acting,” “adjunct,” “courtesy,” or “visiting” are not eligible to serve as PI, Co-PI, or PD.
- Other academic titles not covered above may, at the discretion of the department, center, VP, and Dean, serve as PI, Co-PI, or PD within the limitations established by each unit and college and under specific conditions.
Full-time regular exempt non-academic staff with management or leadership responsibilities may serve by exception as PI, Co-PI or PD on a project aligned with their administrative responsibilities. The administrative department director and the VP to which the department reports must approve the request and assure that the individual has the necessary experience and qualifications to independently and successfully direct the project. The administrative unit must provide the facility, financial, supervisory, and administrative support infrastructure and resources necessary for the scientific or managerial conduct of the project and to assure adherence to relevant regulations, sponsor terms, and Cornell policy.
Eligibility Requirements by Position Title
(Documentation that requirements are met must be retained by the unit)
|Select Other Academic Positions||Postdoc Fellows / Associates||Graduates / Undergrads||Other|
|Project related to official job duties*||◉|
|The appointment extends through the life of the project or is eligible for renewal||◉||◉||◉||◉|
|The equivalent of actual time spent, but not less than 2 weeks, of annual salary per proposal charged to non-sponsored funds during proposal writing** (N/A for Emeritus faculty)||◉||◉||◉||◉|
|Minimum 5% of salary charged to non-sponsored funds for the duration of the project if the individual is performing any duties not allowed as direct costs to a sponsored project, in addition to proposal writing above*** (N/A for Emeritus faculty)||◉||◉||◉
(graduate students only)
|A full-time tenured faculty member with sponsored research/extension experience related to the intellectual scope of the project must serve as Faculty Sponsor and official PI on the project and PDA/PDF named as Key Personnel****||◉||◉|
|Faculty Sponsor (see above) must oversee some or all aspects of the project and provide signature in RASS||◉||◉||◉|
|Faculty Sponsor must commit the use of lab and other infrastructure necessary to conduct the project||◉||◉|
|Project's stated purpose is solely to support a student's education or the student's individual research||◉|
*Official duties are those duties specified in writing at the time of appointment or subsequently modified in writing.
**Unless proposal writing is explicitly allowed by the terms of the award.
***Duties not allowed as direct costs include general administration; committee, department, or other non-project work; advising, hiring/supervising students/individuals not supported by the project; teaching credit or non-credit courses; curriculum development; proposal preparation; departmental (e.g. not sponsored) research. See University Policy 3.11 for further details.
****If required by the sponsor, the Post-Doctoral Associate (PDA) or Post-Doctoral Fellow (PDF) may be named as PI on the proposal with Faculty Sponsor as Co-PI, Faculty Sponsor, or Key Personnel, sponsor rules permitting.
Principal Investigator (PI)* Eligibility Requirements
Criteria for PI Eligibility by Exception Summary (formerly Form 5)
(See Policy Above for Details)
|✅ = Allowed (with one-time approval)
⭐ = Allowed for fellow/career awards (approved for each proposal)
❌ = Ineligible for exception
|PI Eligibility Authorized by Policy||PI by exception if approved by Department Chair, Center Director or Administrative Unit Vice President / Vice Provost||Additional Approval Required by Dean or Senior Associate / Associate Dean for Research|
|Professor Tenured/Tenure Track (all ranks)||✅|
|Research Professor (all ranks)**||✅|
|Senior Scientist, Principal Research Scientist, Research Scientist**||✅|
|New tenured / tenure track professor prior to the appointment start date||❌||✅|
|Departing Tenured/Tenure Track Professors||❌||✅|
|Professor of Practice (all ranks)||❌||✅|
|Clinical Professor (all ranks)||❌||✅|
|Senior Research Associate||❌||✅|
|Senior Extension Associate||❌||✅|
|Director, Botanical Gardens||❌||✅|
|Director, Johnson Museum of Art||❌||✅|
|Postdoctoral Associates/Postdoctoral Fellows***||❌||⭐|
|Modified Academic Titles (acting, adjunct, courtesy, visiting)****||❌||❌||❌|
|All other academic titles||❌||✅||✅|
|Non-Academic (full-time, regular exempt, managerial or leadership responsibility)||❌||✅||✅|
*PI = Principal Investigator, Co-Principal Investigator, Project Director
** In accord with the Resolution 109 Enabling Legislation of the University Faculty, the Research Professor title is intended to replace the Research Scientist, Principal Research Scientist, and Senior Scientist titles.
***Only for awards where the stated purpose is to support Postdoctoral education, research, or career development or specifically for a student’s individual education or individual research. Ineligible for blanket approval.
****Exception only for new and departing professors who hold a modified title.