I understand that it is usually not difficult for PI to find another professor in the same campus or city for collaboration on a multi-field project (e.g. computational chemistry). However, when the demand of long term collaboration is not huge, would PIs consider to hire some outsiders or consulting companies to do the work? And is it allowed under NIH funding systems?

(For example, a task may only require a few hundreds line of coding, which can be done by an experienced programmer in the field. The work may be a bit too lack of rewards for a new collaborator. Wouldn't it be cheaper and more realistic for a chemistry PI to hire a consultant in this case, than getting a new PhD student or post-doc in programming? )


  • This absolutely happens. However, the funds may have to be classified in a certain way. Setting up work-study for a student with programming skills is a very different bucket of money than hiring an outside consultant, so check whether the grant restricts or earmarks amounts for certain purposes. – Ben Voigt May 11 '16 at 0:31
  • In my field, we call these subcontractors, and, yes, PIs do hire subcontractors to do all kinds of work. – Mad Jack May 11 '16 at 0:32
  • Thank you @BenVoigt and MadJack for the quick reply. I will look into the terms:) – Helene May 11 '16 at 0:40

Do you exclusively mean non-academics? Sometimes a collaborator is included in another department or another academic institution to bring in such expertise. This can have it's downsides depending on which agency you are including since there may be costs to subcontracting or collaborating with another entity. It's possible that a Computer Scientist or Engineer down the hall or across campus has the student that can do the work without having to write in a professional contractor, though it is certainly possible to use a contractor. My wife works for a web firm and is currently responding to an RFP from a university to do user experience work for a web-based NSF project.

  • I have no experience with NIH R01 grants. Ask your local sponsored research office or NIH. – Bill Barth May 11 '16 at 1:27
  • Ah I happened to delete my comment, but again thanks so much for your reply. – Helene May 11 '16 at 18:20

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