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Becoming a Principal Investigator

PI Status and Research Scientist Qualifications and Procedure

PI Status Qualifications and Procedure


Principal Investigator (PI) status is granted using the following guidelines:

  • PI status is automatically granted for individuals holding the following titles, provided the individual is a salaried, regular faculty member having at least a 50 percent appointment.
    • professor; associate professor; assistant professor
    • research professor; research associate professor; research assistant professor
    • professor; associate professor or assistant professor of (clinical discipline)
  • Persons holding the following university non-academic titles may request and be granted principal investigator status for projects directly related to the mission and responsibility of their office:
    • director; associate director; assistant director
  • Persons holding the titles listed below are not eligible for PI (or co-PI) status, unless a formal request is made in writing and an exception granted by the university senior associate vice president for research. (Requests for co-PI status follow the same process as for PI status.) Granting of co-PI status requires that a regular faculty member serve as PI and assume responsibility for the project. (College of Medicine clinical faculty - email for information specific to COM PI requirements).
    • emeritus professor
    • lecturer; instructor
    • clinical professor; clinical associate professor; clinical assistant professor
    • professor – clinical; associate professor – clinical; assistant professor – clinical
    • professor – practice; associate professor – practice; assistant professor – practice
    • adjunct professor; adjunct associate professor; adjunct assistant professor; adjunct instructor
    • visiting professor; visiting associate professor; visiting assistant professor; visiting lecturer
    • senior research associate; research associate; research assistant
    • research scientist (unless permission was granted in initial appointment letter)
    • postdoctoral researchers or doctoral students

Procedure to Request PI (or co-PI) Status:

  • a letter requesting PI (or co-PI) status must be written (on department letterhead) by a candidate’s dean, chair or director
  • the individual’s CV must accompany the request letter
  • if College of Medicine, submit the request letter and CV to
  • if other colleges, submit the request letter and CV to the associate dean for research of the candidate’s college for approval
  • the college associate dean for research will forward their approval and all documentation to the Office of Research for final approval

Research Scientist Qualifications

To qualify as a Research Scientist, the candidate must have earned a doctoral degree in an appropriate field and have previous research experience. They should have authored publications, made presentations of papers to professional societies, and/or will have contributed inventions, new designs or techniques that are of material significance in the solution of important applied programs. A typical candidate would have served in a postdoctoral position for at least two full years, have demonstrated productivity and would be competitive for an RO1 grant from the NIH. They should have demonstrated a level of experience and productivity beyond that of a postdoctoral fellow.

Rights and Responsibilities

Research Scientists and Senior Research Scientists are expected to secure external funding for their salary and to support their research program. They may direct undergraduate research and advise graduate students subject to the approval of the departmental graduate studies committee and the Graduate School. They may also train postdoctoral fellows. If the letter of support from the department chair acknowledges that it is his/her understanding that as a Research Scientist this individual will have Principal Investigator (PI) status, then PI status is effective the date of the Research Scientist appointment. If this is not included in the department chair’s letter of support, a separate request for PI status and a curriculum vitae must be sent to

Appointment Procedures

Research Scientists and Senior Research Scientists may be appointed in a department, division, center, institute, or laboratory. The request for the appointment may come from any faculty member (sponsor) or the department chair. All requests must include:

  • a letter of support from the department chair (on department letterhead)
  • approval from the associate dean for research, or vice dean (or dean) of the college. (This approval can be in the form of a separate letter, an e-mail, or anotation made on the letter of request)
  • the individual’s CV
  • a position description

Request letters and all supporting documentation for College of Medicine appointments can be sent to All other colleges documentation can be sent to the Office of Research to Please direct any questions regarding the review and appointment procedures to Sarah Campbell at or 614-247-9006.

An individual should not be offered a Research Scientist or Senior Research Scientist position until the credentials have been reviewed and recommended by the department chair, and approved by the Office of the Vice President for Research. A department has the option of involving the Appointment, Promotion and Tenure Committee in the review process, if it chooses.

For newly created or vacant Research Scientist and Senior Research Scientist positions, a copy of the individual’s CV, a letter of support from the chair and approval of the associate dean for research, or vice dean (or dean) of the college should be sent to the Office of Research before the information is entered into the Human Resources (HR) system. All actions for Research Scientists and Senior Research Scientists in the HR system are routed to the Office of Research for review and/or approval.

If an individual is being considered for the position, the credentials may be reviewed concurrent with or subsequent to the position posting approval. An individual holding a regular appointment at the university may be reclassified to a Research Scientist or Senior Research Scientist position. Reclassification requests submitted to the Office of Research for review and approval should include a letter from the chair, approval of the associate dean for research, or vice dean (or dean) of the college, a position description, and a CV. Any individual in a temporary or term appointment is considered an external candidate and is not eligible for reclassification. Research Scientist and Senior Research Scientist positions are in the Senior Administrative and Professional category and the 00 Pay Range. Qualified persons may be appointed for indefinite periods of time and renewals of appointment are contingent upon satisfactory performance as determined by the supporting unit and the department chair.

The level of compensation (salary plus benefits) for the Research Scientist or Senior Research Scientist will be negotiated by the candidate and the assigned unit. The amount of compensation established at the time of appointment should be comparable to salary levels for tenure-track faculty or equivalent rank in the appointing unit.

Persons in these positions are not eligible for professional leave. They accumulate vacation at the rate of 176 hours/year and sick leave at 10 hours/month.

Senior Research Scientists

For promotion from Research Scientist to Senior Research Scientist, a candidate must have demonstrated the ability to obtain extramural funding and have authored a significant number of publications. The overall productivity of the candidate should be equivalent to the requirements for promotion to full professor status in an academic unit. The department’s Promotion and Tenure Committee, at the request of the department chair, should generally perform this evaluation. Outside letters of recommendation are required. The candidates should not solicit their own outside letters and the reference letters should speak to and support the research experience and qualifications of the individual. Please forward the recommendation of the unit to the office of the Senior Associate Vice President for Research for final approval.

Adjunct Faculty

The department chair has the option of requesting that an individual with a Research Scientist or Senior Research Scientist title be appointed as an adjunct assistant/associate/full professor. This request must be submitted to the Office of Academic Affairs for approval.

Departmental Administration

Classroom teaching is not required as part of the normal duty of a Research Scientist or Senior Research Scientist. However, if a Research Scientist or Senior Research Scientist wishes to participate in a course, he/she may request involvement with the approval of the department chair. There will be no additional compensation for any voluntary teaching duties. Research Scientists or Senior Research Scientists may be eligible to attend faculty meetings and may be allowed to vote and serve on committees within the unit subject to the guidelines of the unit. However, a Research Scientist or Senior Research Scientist may not participate in promotion and tenure matters of the regular faculty. Research Scientists and Senior Research Scientists who hold graduate faculty status are eligible for election to the Council on Research and Graduate Studies.

Classification Specifications

The Ohio State University job classification specifications can be found using the classification title search application. Use keywords “research scientist” or “senior research scientist” in the title or keyword search form field.