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Principal Investigator Eligibility and Waiver Request Process

The Board of Trustees (BOT) of North Carolina State University has established criteria for the appointment of faculty and others to the positions of principal investigator (PI) and co-principal investigator (co-PI) on sponsored research or other scholarly projects, including teaching and extension.  The purpose of this document is to provide College of Natural Resources guidance with respect to determination of PI eligibility on sponsored or scholarly projects.  This guidance supplements existing NCSU policy located at the following link.


Principal Investigator (PI):  The individual (or in the case of some NIH projects, the individuals) designated by NC State University, and approved by the sponsor, who will be responsible for the scientific or technical direction of the project.

Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI):  An individual designated by NC State University and approved by the sponsor who has substantively complementary responsibility for the scientific or technical direction of all or a portion of a project.

Co-Investigator (Co-I):  An individual involved in the scientific development or execution of a project. A Co-I typically devotes a specified percentage of time to the project and is considered senior or key personnel.

CNR PI Eligibility Waiver Matrix

The following table summarizes common situations where non tenure track faculty may hold PI status and the procedure necessary to secure approval.

HR StatusDeemed eligible (No waiver) With TTF Co-I  (No waiver)Eligible with approved waiverRarely eligible Not eligible
Tenure/ Tenure Track Faculty1    
Non Tenure Track Faculty  4  
Adjunct Faculty (paid appointment) 3   
Emeritus Faculty2    
EHRA Non Faculty employee  5  
SHRA employee    8
Postdoctoral Associate   6 
Student   7 

CNR Summary Policy on Principal Investigator Eligibility

Individuals not deemed eligible under existing BOT policy can serve as PI/Co-PI if a PI Eligibility Waiver is approved during the proposal development phase.  The following is a representative list of common scenarios; other circumstances may arise.

Scenarios not requiring a PI Eligibility waiver:

  1. All tenure and tenure-track faculty members are eligible to serve as principal investigator on sponsored projects. 
  2. Emeritus faculty members are eligible to serve as principal investigator on sponsored projects. 
  3. Adjunct faculty on paid termed appointment may be considered for Principal Investigator status provided there is a co-Investigator from the tenured or tenure-track faculty rank of the institution

Scenarios requiring a PI eligibility waiver:

  1. Non-tenure-track faculty may serve as Principal Investigator with prior approval of their Dean and the Vice Chancellor for Research or designees. 
  2. Postdoctoral associates are trainees and generally not eligible for an exception unless 
    • The program to which the institution is applying specifically requires that such an individual serve as the principal investigator, such as postdoctoral fellowship programs.
    • May serve as a co-PI on projects where the Department Head/Center Director and dean’s office have determined that the substance of the contribution to the proposed work, the anticipated contribution to the conduct of the work, and the expected duration of the postdoctoral associate’s appointment and the project are congruent.
  3. EHRA employees may serve as Principal Investigator provided the duration of the termed appointment is congruent with that of the proposed research project.
  4. Students, including those on an assistantship, are not eligible for an exception unless the program to which the institution is applying specifically requires that the student serve as the PI, such as on certain graduate student fellowship applications.

No waiver option available:

  1. SHRA employees are generally not eligible for PI status.

CNR Procedure to Request a PI Eligibility Waiver 

Requests for a PI Eligibility Waiver are initiated by the individual seeking PI status 

  1. Requests are forwarded via email to the Department Head or Center Director and include the following supporting documentation:
    1. Scientific rationale for the request, including any requirement denoted in the FOA
    2. Current CV of individual seeking waiver
  2. Department Head/Center Director (DH/CD) will evaluate the request.  If approved, DH/CD will forward the following to the Associate Dean for Research (ADR) 
    1. Approval of waiver request
    2. Supporting documentation compiled in Step 1
    3. Statement that the individual is expected to be employed by NCSU for the duration of the project
  3. ADR will evaluate the request, and, if approved, will forward approval to CNR Preaward Team at
  4. CNR Assistant Director for Pre Award will forward the request, including all supporting documentation and approvals, to SPARCS at for institutional approval
  5. SPARCS will evaluate the request and notify Pre Award team of decision via email to
  6. If approved, PINS tables will be updated by SPARCS and name will be available for the current and subsequent PINS records.