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PI Eligibility and Requesting Exceptions

PI Eligibility

Faculty members and research or fixed-term faculty employees of the University with a paid appointment and rank of assistant professor or higher, may be identified as the sole or co-principal investigator* on proposals seeking support for a sponsored research, education, or service project.

Individuals with other appointment titles, such as, research associates, specialists, postdoctoral fellows, or visiting and adjunct faculty, must request exception approval in order to serve as the sole/co-principal investigator on a proposal.  However, they can serve as a co-investigator/key person with another MSU faculty member (with a paid appointment and rank of assistant professor or higher), without requesting approval.

*principal investigator and co-principal investigator definition: Both of these roles have the same level of authority and responsibility to direct the project or program being proposed.

Classification Can serve as a Principal Investigator / Co-Principal Investigator without requiring an exception Can serve as an Co-Investigator / Key Personnel without requiring an exception
Faculty with the rank of assistant professor or higher Yes Yes
Research or Fixed-term faculty with the rank of assistant professor or higher Yes Yes
All other appointment titles, such as, research associates*, specialists, staff, postdoctoral fellows*, or visiting and adjunct faculty No – exception approval required as indicated below Yes

Steps for requesting exception approval:

  1. Prepare a memo requesting approval to submit as a PI/Co-PI on a proposal, and have the memo signed by the chairperson and associate dean for research.  The request should specify if it is for a specific proposal or a request for blanket approval for this and all future proposals.
  2. Prepare a draft Proposal Development document and indicate in the notes section, that OR&I approval is being requested.  This allows the Proposal Development document to be routed while you are waiting for the PI exception approval by OR&I.
  3. Email the request to, indicating the application number from the Proposal Development document prepared in step two and request the review and approval for this exception by the Office of Research and Innovation.

NOTE:  The OR&I will need to receive the exception request by email at least three days prior to the intended submission date.  

  1. If approved or disapproved, the OR&I will email the decision to the person who submitted the request with a copy to the OSP administrative assistant.

* Pre or Postdoctoral fellowship candidates do not have to receive PI exception approval as noted above, if the fellowship solicitation limits eligibility to graduate students or postdoctoral researchers. Generally, these sponsors consider the predoctoral or postdoctoral fellow the Principal Investigator.  Please note that a mentor should be included on the Proposal Development document to oversee the project if awarded.


Are future faculty eligible to apply on behalf of MSU?

Yes, as long as they are appointed with an approved role under MSU’s eligibility policy once at MSU. The following items should be addressed prior to proposal submission:

  • A copy of the signed offer letter must be sent to the appropriate OSP proposal team.
  • The project start date must be after the individual’s official MSU start date.
  • If the future faculty member’s start date is more than 6 months out, we must ensure that MSU can address regulatory and ownership issues. To confirm that the faculty member does not have obligations to their current institution for what is included in the proposal, a superior at the future faculty member’s current institution needs to provide approval of the submission through MSU. Email approval is sufficient. Please forward the approval to the appropriate OSP proposal team.
  • Future faculty members must disclose their employment status with MSU and the name of their current employer within the proposal. We recommend including the information in the budget justification.
  • Must have the ability to turn down the award if the future faculty member does not end up successfully transferring to MSU. Therefore, certain solicitations, that include language stating that the award is not negotiable (e.g. award without discussion), would not be eligible for submission.

Click here for KR procedures to add the PI to the system.

Please contact your Proposal Team with any questions.

Retired Faculty Member: Can a retired PI submit a proposal?

Yes, a Chair can approve a retired/Emeritus PI to submit a proposal.  The PI should obtain an appointment commitment letter from their Chair addressing salary and any needed resources (e.g. office space, etc.), and process a Proposal Development document before the proposal is submitted. Please note to be the PI/Co-PI on an awarded project as a retired/Emeritus faculty member, the Emeritus faculty member must have an active paid appointment for the period for which the award is active. This appointment can be less than 100% and as small as 1%, but has to be for the time period of the project and has to represent at least the percent of effort on the sponsored program. Also, rate of pay charged to the project has to be consistent with the rate of pay at retirement.

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