Suppose I submit a grant application with other investigators. The application form has one "PI" and some more "co-PI"-s.

Is it important who of us is the "PI" and who is the "co-PI"? E.g., is being a "PI" like being a first author on a paper, which (in some disciplines) is considered more highly than being a second author?

Is there a common way to decide who gets to be the PI and who the co-PI, e.g., by alphabetic order of surnames (like the author order in some disciplines)?

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    The answer likely depends a lot on the field and the particular funding source. – Bryan Krause Nov 27 '18 at 18:50
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    I have no documentation for this, but in my fields a "PI" is considered to be a much more important position than a co-PI. The PI is the person who "really" has the grant, and the co-PIs are there for support in specialized parts of the project. At least that's how I've seen it (I'm co-PI on some multi-million dollar grants that I haven't seen a penny from). – iayork Nov 27 '18 at 19:53
  • The only people competent to answer this question are the admin people at the institution attributing the grant. – Cape Code Nov 28 '18 at 15:29

There are some significant issues that may influence the selection of a PI versus a co-PI or co-I. There are grants where eligibility requirements may vary, depending on whether someone is a PI versus a co-I. For instance, some programs may have a requirement that an investigator may apply for only one grant as a PI, but could act as a co-investigator on multiple proposals.

In addition, the PI will likely have additional reporting requirements or be responsible for ensuring the coordination of reporting for the entire team.

There might also be "programmatic" reasons for selecting the PI—for instance, if the program is designed to particularly support a particular kind of institution, having someone from that kind of institution as PI could be useful.

But, in general, there are so many different programs that, in the absence of more specific information about the program, it's hard to give any kind of general guidance about how to select a PI.

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At my institution, when they are calculating your research income for the purposes of probation (i.e. tenure), promotion, or just hitting your targets, they only count grants that you are PI on. co-I do get subjective credit, but they hard number at the end is determined by PI.

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  • This is an important consideration. I asked at my university and it seems to be similar here. Problem is, it may cause disputes between the investigators, as each one will want to be the PI... – Erel Segal-Halevi Nov 29 '18 at 8:03

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