I've written 14 grants for my principal investigator (PI), from conception to writing the entire thing, which has resulted in over $10 million in funding for my PI.

I refused to write any more grants for him; however, he threatend to fire me if I didn't. I was fine with that, at which point my boss told me that if I wrote the 14th grant and we got it, I could take it with me.

Well, I did and we did get it. Now he's refusing to give it to me, threatened to fire a technician/friend of mine, and has insisted that we got the grant because of his name (not the idea/grant itself). He knew his name was there from the beginning — how can he argue that at this time? This grant would have been submitted as a K99 for myself, but instead I had written another, independent grant thinking I'd have two shots to get a grant. I didn't get the K99, but the other grant should be mine.

This is/was my key to obtaining a faculty position. I also have previously filed an initial patent form indicating that the idea was conceived and developed by me. I'm on the grant as co-investigator (my boss said I cannot be listed as a Co-PI since I work in his lab) but no budget has been given in my name.

What should I do?

  • 4
    I ask because I fear that this is a case of "he said/she said", as unless you have some kind of documented proof that you are responsible for part of the funds in the grant, it will be hard to "give" you money from the grant - especially if you're going to another institution. I fear that, because you have no part as a co-PI, you're not entitled to any of the funds in the grant, but I'm not intimately familiar here.
    – Irwin
    Dec 30, 2013 at 19:57
  • 4
    There are two options: to fight and to get as far away from this job as possible. Since you worked as his slave 14 times and even after that had strong faith in his words, I suspect the first option is not for you (in legal matters being right is secondary to having strong stamina and lots of money at best). So, just look for a new job far and wide.
    – fedja
    Dec 31, 2013 at 1:56
  • 16
    Everybody say it with me: Don't walk. Run. To a lawyer's office if possible, but in any case out.
    – JeffE
    Dec 31, 2013 at 6:37
  • 2
    @daaxix K99 grants are for postdocs, so OP must be a postdoc.
    – ff524
    Sep 11, 2015 at 20:15
  • 11
    You have gotten your PI 14 grants in 3.5 years? What are you some kind of superhero?
    – neuronet
    Apr 22, 2016 at 13:17

1 Answer 1


I believe that you need to obtain qualified and competent legal advice, not just anonymous advice from a Stack Exchange site.

However, there are some obvious things you can do:

  • Make sure you have meticulous records of everything you claimed, including the previous grant proposals, showing that you were the one responsible for their execution.
  • You really need to have some form of hard evidence that the PI promised you could keep the grant you earned.
  • Make sure everything you do from here on is also documented.

But this is a tough situation, and I'm not sure what your options outside of the legal system will be. You might also want to contact the grant sponsor to see what your options are.

  • 4
    ok - I think I will approach the director of the division for which I am in first, to see what he has to say (that way the institute shares responsiblity in either protecting my PI or helping me out). Can't let this one go - I was planning to base my career on this grant.
    – youns
    Dec 30, 2013 at 19:42
  • You may also want to talk to your Office of Sponsored Programs as well as your local union/association if available (ex: a postdoc association, staff association, etc.).
    – Irwin
    Dec 30, 2013 at 20:00
  • 2
    Excellent answer. I would add that the NIH is very motivated to maintain high ethical standards, and it's easy to find contacts to this end. So I would start with treating this as a departmental grievance, escalate to the faculty level, and around that point, also contact the NIH. Although I agree you shouldn't let this go, I also think you're too successful to let a failure to get a K99 undermine the base for your career. You should do the right thing, and you'll probably also land on your feet.
    – Ryan
    Dec 31, 2013 at 3:14
  • 2
    Appreciate the encouragement. We'll see what happens...
    – youns
    Dec 31, 2013 at 17:18
  • Be cautious going to faculty in your department. Your advisor likely has many friends there.
    – neuronet
    Apr 22, 2016 at 13:19

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