I’m fairly new to the research world and currently working with a university research institute. My PI put me on a project for a lab he is collaborating with from another research institute. The work I’m doing is going on her grant that she is working on, and my PI is writing a portion of it. He told me I was going to be on her grant and payroll for my contribution. He also said she will be paying 20% of my salary when her grant gets approved.

I’m confused about what this means and how grant salaries work in regards to collaborations. Do they just pay a percentage of my institutional base salary (IBS) to make up for the total salary? Or is this in addition to my current IBS that I get from my PI?

I have asked him to clarify, but perhaps I’m still not understanding how this works, and I don’t think I got a clear answer.

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    I'm afraid I highly doubt you are getting more money. I just think it's an accounting device to say where your salary is coming from. Feb 2 at 13:12
  • 1
    Are you an employee or a student? Feb 2 at 20:34

2 Answers 2


It's most likely that you will be working 80% on your advisor's grant and 20% on the collaborator's grant and that your salary won't change.

There are pros and cons to such an arrangement for the student:


  • You'll get to work with and learn from another researcher.

  • You may get additional opportunities to publish.


  • You'll be working for two different bosses who may have different expectations.

  • Working on two different projects at the same time will require more mental effort to keep track of both projects. For example, you might have to read and absorb twice as many journal articles as before.

I've had some advisees work 10 hours per week as TAs and 10 hours per week as RAs, but I'd avoid asking a student to work on two different research projects for 10 hours per week because of the difficulty of keeping track of two separate projects.


This professor is not saying that the other PI will be putting you on their payroll. When collaborators receive a grant, there is often a primary PI (seems to be the person from the other institute) and co-PIs or secondary PIs. These folks typically receive sub-grants or secondary grants. This could be from the primary PI's institution or directly from the grantmaker - in this case it seems that the former is happening, so your professor is saying that the other PI is "paying your salary." This is true in some sense, but, the important point is that the funds end up in your PI's account and from your perspective you are paid as usual.

The point the professor was probably trying to make with the comment is that you will be spending 20 percent of your time on the project in this proposal if it gets funding.

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