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:
- 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.