I am a junior faculty (research assistant professor) in a full professo's lab. I was a postdoc in this lab and got promoted to Asst. Prof. due to the grants I brought in to the lab. Oct 2017 I wrote an NIH R01 grant (the whole grant - people from USA would know this) - the full professor just looked at it briefly and suggested very minor changes, basically did not have time to look at it. I was the key senior person and the prof was PI. Though being Assistant professor, I was not allowed to be co-PI as the prof mentioned I might lose early investigator status.

We got the good scores in Feb/March (not fundable) and around same time I got a tenure track faculty position in another university that I will be joining in Jan 2019. Meanwhile, for the resubmission of the R01, I asked the full professor if I can be co-PI instead of key personnel as I was the lead on the project and wrote the whole grant. However at the point the prof mentioned that I was very junior and it would not look good on an RO1 to have my name as co-PI. Furthermore, the prof said if the grant was funded there could be a subcontract given to me at this new unviersity. So I wrote the grant (with revisions etc.) and submitted it as key person. Now we got the grant funded.

Two main questions:

  1. The prof has announced that I will be managing the grant even after I move to my new position at a faculty meeting, but "managing" can mean getting free work done. I have been subservient to the professor many times but now how do I ask my share? or should I just give up the project and look after my own tenure etc.

  2. If my professor agrees for a subcontract (I dont know if this will happen) on this grant will I lose early investigator status?

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    What are R01 and "early investigator status"? Are they specific to some country or funding scheme?
    – Tommi
    Nov 29, 2018 at 9:12
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    R01 is a National institute of health grant ~1 million -2.5 million direct costs. This is in USA
    – s.huang
    Nov 29, 2018 at 11:05
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    Thanks. You might want to specify the country in the question, or perhaps replace the postdoc tag with USA tag. I believe this would improve the question and help it to find its audience.
    – Tommi
    Nov 29, 2018 at 11:41
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    Relevant but not an answer: NIH has policies for faculty who change institutions. I include links in an answer to another question. academia.stackexchange.com/questions/119309/… Nov 29, 2018 at 21:36
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    I would discuss this with the sponsored research office at your new institution and the chair or whoever the chair recommends as a research mentor there. That would preferably be someone with both EI and R01 experience. The office will handle the subcontract, which is very routine. You should not be working for free on this.
    – Elin
    Nov 30, 2018 at 8:52

1 Answer 1


In my experience, PIs are generally not very up on the specifics of policies. Much of what they know is based on what others have told them (as we see here). Amazingly, much of it can be remedied by a Google search, as you can see here:


The definition of an ESI (Early Stage Investigator) is limited to the position of PD/PI (Program Director/Principal Investigator). If you are included as Co-I, that will not affect your status. This would have been the appropriate status for you, as you have a significant role in the research, and were possibly going to be given a sub later, where you will need to have co-I/co-PI status. [This is of course subject to whether your institution grants you PI rights in the first place.] Had you applied for this R01 as a PD/PI and gotten the award, you would have lost your ESI status. You got the award, so it's no big deal, and it will help you going forward.

In fact the FAQ on NIH's site has the following info as well:

  1. If I become a lead PI of an R01 due to a change of investigator action (e.g., the lead PI retired and the institution received approval from NIH that I become the lead PI, am I still eligible to qualify as an ESI since I did not compete for funding?

Yes. The definition of ESI states that the individual must not have “previously competed successfully as PD/PI for a substantial NIH independent research award.” Therefore the individual may still qualify if all other aspects of the ESI definition are met.


So because you didn't compete as a PD/PI, you still have ESI status.

The lesson here is understanding what topics your fellow researchers are well-versed in and when to seek advice elsewhere. Administrative policies of sponsors are not usually their strongest suit, as policies update on a regular basis, often unbeknownst to them. Your research administrator and sponsored programs folks should be trained to assess if your role is appropriate without knowing your science. Your PI was not entirely wrong, but wasn't entirely honest either. You should have been made a co-I, not senior personnel. This blog post at NIA from 2015 has an interesting perspective on the composition of research teams on R01s:

That started me chasing another thought. How many investigators does it take to write an R01? I looked at the 100 top-scoring R01 applications across NIH in January 2015 and compared them to a similar set from January 2005. R01 applications have been bulking up! In 2005, more of the top scoring applications had a single principal investigator listed as the faculty on that application—just Professor X and the students and postdocs—than had two faculty, or three faculty or any other number. By 2015, Professor X needed more help. Now, three faculty is the most common number of faculty members on an application. By 2015, the “average” top-scoring R01 at NIH had more than four faculty listed as participating on it.


Investigator status is a particular question that affects other policies, such as financial conflict of interest (FCOI). Because the FCOI policy is driven by PHS, of which NIH is a part, many institutions that accept PHS funds make admins declare if each person named on the grant is an investigator or not, so admins should know how to define an investigator.

Going forward, start by researching the NIH grants policy statement (which is long, but can give you better answers) and talk to your research administrator. Over the years, many faculty have come to me with a situation in which I need to be the impartial arbiter (discretely of course). Here's the definition of co-I. Does this sound like you?

An individual involved with the PD/PI in the scientific development or execution of a project. The Co-Investigator (collaborator) may be employed by, or be affiliated with, the applicant/recipient organization or another organization participating in the project under a consortium agreement. A Co-Investigator typically devotes a specified percentage of time to the project and is considered senior/key personnel. The designation of a Co-Investigator, if applicable, does not affect the PD/PI's roles and responsibilities as specified in the NIHGPS, nor is it a role implying multiple PD/PI.


Here's how you argue getting salary on the subcontract from an administrative point-of-view. If you have committed effort on this grant, but no salary was appropriated, the institution you submitted under has committed cost share. While your PI may be able to grease wheels at your current institution to get this approved, that is not going to be possible at another institution without approval. If you speak to the sponsored research folks at your new institution, ask them about their cost share policy. Odds are very good that they will tell you to ask for the money--use their answer to help ask for the money. You should google it first, btw-- they probably have much of it publicly posted.

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