Grants for the NSF/NIH/many other government agencies often only allow people who are in "faculty-level" academic positions to be PIs and co-PIs*. When this is true, what is the best way of acknowledging a postdoc/student's contribution to the grant if they wrote large portions of it or made significant intellectual contributions? In addition, sometimes a postdoc/student has significant relevant experience that a PI lacks. What is the best way to highlight this, both to credit the postdoc and prevent reviewers from raising this as an issue? (I'm most interested in NSF here, but NIH/others would also be interesting.)

Possible answers:

    - including the postdoc on the grant as a co-author, but not a co-PI (I believe this is possible for NSF)
    - Highlighting the postdoc's skills in the proposal itself/including postdoc's bio.
    - Adding a "letter of collaboration" from the postdoc. (If, for instance, the postdoc is in a somewhat independent position and can't be listed as personnel.)

(* This of course depends on the agency, the institution, probably even the type of grant.)

This question is essentially the PI-side version of this one: What to do when an advisor takes credit for a grant proposal?

  • Perhaps this can be generalized to other not-PI-eligible contributors, e.g. students, in addition to postdocs.
    – ff524
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 0:38
  • Fair enough - edited it. I think this is more common with postdocs, but definitely can happen with grads, too.
    – AJK
    Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 0:50

1 Answer 1


Regarding "sometimes a postdoc has significant relevant experience that a PI lacks", I have been referred to by name in (successful) NSF proposals I have co-authored to highlight some expertise I bring to the project, e.g.

ff524, a PhD student whose efforts have contributed to the research component of the project, will also be engaged in X. [insert my impressive background in X here]


This interdisciplinary collaboration is facilitated by ff524, a PhD student in Department A who has previously worked with PI X in Department A as well as with PI Y in Department B.

Presumably one could do the same with postdocs.

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