Together with a senior researcher acting as the P.I., we were recently funded a research project. I wrote 75% of the application, including the whole research hypotheses and design. The Representative of Good Scientific Practice states that the success of the grant proposal could be obtained only by the collaboration of all authors.

I originally wrote the research application for a post-doc position in which I would figure as the P.I., and gave the title of P.I. to the actual principal investigator after he proposed to provide additional funding for a Ph.D. student without scholarship.

The part that gets interesting consists in the fact that the original proposal I wrote and we submitted presented a certain innovative hypothesis at the core of the project, which had to both define my intended research path and a series of operations during the project. When the project started, the P.I. removed those hypotheses from our plan, considering those hypotheses wrong in themselves and unrelated to our research questions, demoting me from the leadership that we previously agreed and excluding me from the decision-making process. The new project is not anymore informed by the original hypotheses written in the proposal - so it is a project similar in methodology, but different in theme of inquiry. It is important to highlight that the hypotheses were abandoned after just 2 months from the starting.

This made me think: if the proposal was successful only because of the contribution of all authors, is it correct for a designated P.I. to change the nature of the project without the consent of the other authors?

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    How does the order of authors relate to who is PI, co-PI, or any other specified role on the project? May 6 at 19:41
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    Separately, what is your career position? It may simply be that, for example, graduate students or postdocs are not allowed to be PIs on the grants you are applying for. May 6 at 19:42
  • Some changes might require authorization from the funders, but some changes in the hypotheses may not be enough. But the details would matter.
    – Buffy
    May 6 at 19:43
  • @Buffy, there is no change in the hypotheses. The grant proposal was developing on the notion of "entropy", which was the innovative approach for my field. After excluding me and saying that the approach was wrong (at month 2 out of 36), that notion is not present in any document after my demotion. May 6 at 19:45

1 Answer 1


If your granting agency has rules about how changes to the project need to be communicated to them, follow those rules.

However, it's normal in my experience that proposed research projects are not followed exactly. It's necessary to learn and adapt as you go.

The "principle" in "PI" makes that person fundamentally responsible for the grant; they're the boss. It's ultimately up to them to certify that the funds are being used productively, which would include deviating from the original plan if necessary.

The best approach would be for the people working on the project to come to a joint agreement on the direction. If you can't, you may have options at your institution to help mediate your interpersonal conflict, but I have to say that they are likely to side with the PI if their path is reasonable.

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