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Staffing Your Project

Most Federal grants or contracts involve a few key players on the proposal team:

1.  Principal Investigator

(PI): The PI is the person responsible for directing the study or project and is accountable to the funding institute for proper conduct of the study. The PI typically has experience doing similar types of research as the proposed study. You can have Co-Principal Investigators (or senior advisors), although the NIH officially recognizes only one PI and will direct all correspondence to this person. The PI is the only required staff position. He or she should have a meaningful role and involvement in the project.

What makes a good PI? Here are some general criteria:

  • Recent publications in peer-reviewed journals related to the proposed research area;

  • Prior supervision of research team members;

  • Prior position as a key member of a NIH-funded research team;

  • Receipt of prior funding for grants/contracts in the proposed research area;

  • Membership in scientific societies; and

  • Preferably a doctoral degree but sometimes a terminal degree with significant clinical and research experience in the proposed area.
Who is your proposed PI?

2.  Project Director

(PD): Although the NIH requires only one key staff person (PI), often the project requires a research team that usually is headed up by a PD or Project Coordinator. The PD responsible for the day-to-day operations of the project or program, thus allowing the PI to assume a leadership role. As with all key staff, the PD should have a strong research or clinical background in your field of research and should have managerial experience.

Who is your proposed PD?

3.  Other Staff:

Other proposed project staff might include a research associate, statistician, research assistants, technical support personnel (data manager or programmer), and secretarial or administrative support personnel. Make a reasonable estimate of the expected workload and staff accordingly.

Who are your proposed “other staff”?

If you are proposing a project that involves a large staff or multisite collaboration, it is often helpful to draw up a staffing chart. A staffing chart will often clarify individuals' roles on the project and can identify where more or less assistance is needed.



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Last updated: August 12, 2003.