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Summary: Grant (sponsored projects) and fellowship applications submitted through sponsored programs at the University of Missouri with the postdoctoral fellow as the principal investigator should show the postdoctoral fellow as the principal investigator or co-principal investigator in the PeopleSoft Grants Module. Postdocs should be made “PI eligible” to reflect accurately their association with and authorship of the fellowship or grant submission.


  • Definition: Grants are one type of sponsored project. Sponsored Projects are activities funded by an entity outside the University of Missouri for a specific purpose, including, but not limited to, research, scholarly, instructional, travel, conference, training, or public service activity. They require approval from MU’s Sponsored Programs Administration before submission (SPA’s sponsored project definition). Before anyone applies for external funding, they must reach out to their divisional research administrator(s) via their mentor to evaluate the opportunity and determine if it is a sponsored program or something else.
    • Note: This document uses the generic term Principal Investigator or PI as the role in the PeopleSoft Grants Module (PSGM), which recognizes only one lead investigator on a proposal and the generic term Co-Principal Investigator or co-PI as all other investigators listed in the PSGM. We acknowledge that PSGM’s capabilities do not align with sponsor systems that allow multiple co-investigators or use alternate vocabulary such as project director.
  • Need: The campus needs to increase the number of postdocs at Mizzou and increase the funding and funding metrics of these scholars. Finding and applying for external funding is a key skill postdoctoral scholars need to develop, both to demonstrate to potential employers that they can acquire external funding and to prepare for a career as successful independent investigators. Currently, policies and practices across campus vary widely. In some instances, postdoctoral fellows are mistakenly discouraged from submitting grants as the principal investigator, even when the sponsor allows or encourages this practice. Further, postdoctoral scholar submissions are often missed in PeopleSoft due to data collection practices, negatively impacting funding metric assessment at the department, unit, and institutional levels.
  • Solution: Develop a cohesive policy, establishing how postdoctoral scholars can pursue independent funding as principal investigators (PIs) and streamline Peoplesoft Data collection processes to align with the new policy.
  • Benefits:
    • Improve research quantity and quality coming from postdocs at MU
    • Improved Campus Metrics
      • Departments/divisions are evaluated on sponsored activity
      • Institutional data is collected at campus and unit levels, which drives promotion and tenure, and distribution of research incentive funds
    • Benefits to Mentors
      • Mentoring postdoctoral fellows to write and submit grant proposals enhances faculty mentoring portfolios and
      • By improving the postdoctoral fellow experience at MU, it is easier to recruit talented postdoctoral fellows to MU
    • Benefits to Postdoctoral Fellows
      • Learn how to prepare grant documents, identify appropriate funding mechanisms, and navigate funding agencies/sponsors
      • Learn fiscal responsibility for managing a grant under the guidance of a faculty mentor
      • Postdoctoral fellows gain access to MU-affiliated resources and support associated with grant management (administrative, financial, legal, etc.)
      • Conduct independent research
    • Considerations:
      • Postdoctoral Fellows should consider sponsor regulations, expectations, and future career impacts before determining whether they should be the PI, in consultation with their mentor.
        • Some sponsors may expressly disallow people in postdoctoral positions to serve as PI.
        • Some sponsors may not expressly disallow people in postdoctoral positions to serve as lead investigators on a proposal, however, sponsor norms indicate that postdoctoral scholars would find limited success (i.e., the sponsor has not funded any proposals led by postdoctoral scholars in the last five years, or includes in their review guidelines notes about what the sponsor considers qualifications that are not associated with a postdoctoral scholar)
        • Postdoctoral fellows should also consider whether applying for a grant as the lead PI may later impact their ability to apply as a “new investigator” under that sponsor’s rules. Some common federal sponsor regulations are cited below:
          • National Institutes of Health (NIH): A new investigator is an investigator who has not yet received a substantial, independent NIH research award, such as an R01 or R01 equivalent.
          • National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER: An eligible principal investigator must hold at least a 50% tenure-track (or tenure-track-equivalent) position as an assistant professor (or equivalent title), be untenured, and have not previously received a CAREER award. Prior or concurrent federal support for other types of awards for non-duplicative research does not preclude eligibility.
          • National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) AFRI: A project director may only claim new investigator status if they are in the first five years of their first career-track position, have a limited publication record, and have had no previous federal funding as principal investigator other than fellowships or an AFRI Seed grant.


Internal Roles & Responsibilities:

Generally, there are two approaches to internal roles and responsibilities for grants where the postdoctoral fellow may be a significant contributor. The approach must align with the sponsor’s rules and expectations and the postdoctoral fellow’s needs. The definitions of these roles may differ among sponsors.

Approach 1 (preferred): Postdoctoral fellow as PSGM PI and Faculty Mentor as PSGM Co-PI

  • Note: For all postdoctoral fellowship applications (e.g., NIH K99-R00), this approach is required.
  • This creates a consistency in communication and data between MU and the sponsor and is encouraged as a best practice. In such cases, the faculty mentor should support this decision and mentor the application and administration of the grant. Specifically, the mentor should prepare the fellow for the following tasks:
    • Be the point of contact for pre-award and post-award support teams at all levels
    • Actively engage in the grant writing process and meet internal and external deadlines and requirements
    • Understand financial and compliance management associated with the project

Approach 2 (use when additional mentoring is optimal or when PI status in PSGM would negatively impact the fellow’s future funding options): Faculty Mentor as PSGM PI and Postdoctoral fellow as PSGM Co-PI

  • Faculty Mentor as PSGM PI:
    • Do not use this method if the submission is for a postdoctoral fellowship unless expressly instructed to do so by the sponsor.
    • If the grant is solely or primarily the work of the postdoctoral fellow, then we strongly encourage you to find an alternative funding opportunity so the postdoctoral fellow can be the PI.
    • The postdoctoral fellow should select the faculty mentor who will serve as their mentor and PI on this project.
    • This faculty mentor should serve as the PI of record in PeopleSoft and with the sponsor and be responsible for modeling for the postdoctoral fellow the following:
      • How to be the point of contact for MU pre-award and post-award support teams at all levels
      • Significantly involve the postdoctoral fellow in the grant writing process
      • Teach the postdoctoral fellow the financial and compliance management issues associated with the project after it is awarded
    • Postdoctoral fellow as PSGM Co-PI:
      • The postdoctoral fellow can benefit greatly from mentoring in the grant writing and administration process
        • They should be Co-PI only when it would not impact their opportunity to seek future funding
        • This experience should be a learning opportunity for the postdoctoral fellow

Shared Credit and Project Home Considerations:

  • When the postdoctoral fellow is the PI, it is strongly encouraged that the postdoctoral fellow receives shared credit on the project.
  • The home department and administration of the project should follow the postdoctoral fellow’s home academic department. For example, a postdoctoral fellow with an appointment in Biological Sciences may have a faculty mentor in Plant Science & Technology. In that case, the project home department is Biological Sciences – following the postdoctoral fellow’s affiliation, the faculty mentor’s shared credit will appear as Plant Science & Technology.

PeopleSoft Checklist Question:

  • There is a new question on the PeopleSoft Checklist, which will appear on Proposal Signature Routing Sheets.
  • The question asks, “Is this a graduate student or postdoctoral fellow submission?”
  • Division research administrators should indicate “yes” for all postdoctoral fellow submissions regardless of whether the postdoctoral fellow is listed as a PI or Co-PI. Because postdoctoral fellow titles may change, but employee id numbers will remain the same for life, this is the best way to ensure that historical data is accurate about postdoctoral fellow grant submissions. They should also select “postdoctoral fellow” from the drop-down that appears.
  • Postdoctoral fellows can be Co-PIs on any proposal, but not necessarily all of these are “postdoctoral fellow proposals” and need not be counted. If the proposal exclusively represents the postdoctoral fellow’s work, then the PeopleSoft checklist question should be marked as “yes.” If the postdoctoral fellow is a “regular” Co-PI on the proposal per the faculty PI, then the proposal should not be marked as a postdoctoral fellow submission.

Other Technical Considerations:

  • In the instance that the postdoctoral fellow leaves the University, the standard practice should be first to follow the sponsor’s guidelines and regulations. Then, decide whether it is most appropriate for the grant to transfer with the postdoctoral fellow or remain at MU under a new PI, with a subcontract being issued to the postdoctoral fellow at their new institution. The best approach will vary by circumstance and sponsor.