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The traditional NIH research project grant consists of a single Program Director/Principal Investigator (PD/PI) working with a small group of subordinates on an independent research project. Although this model clearly continues to work well and encourages creativity and productivity, it does not always work well for multidisciplinary efforts and collaboration. Increasingly, health-related research involves teams that vary in terms of size, hierarchy, location of participants, goals, disciplines, and structure. The multiple-PD/PI model supplements, and not replace, the traditional single PD/PI model, and allows applicants and their institution to identify more than one PD/PI on a single grant application. The goal is to encourage collaboration among equals when that is the most appropriate way to address a scientific problem. The NIH adopted a multiple-PD/PI model in November, 2006, in response to recommendations from the NIH 2003 Bioengineering Consortium (BECON), an NIH Roadmap Initiative to stimulate interdisciplinary science in 2004, and a directive from the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) in 2007. As a result of a Request for Information (RFI) to obtain input on policies and issues of special interest to the health-related research community, and experiences from pilot initiatives offered through a select group of Requests for Applications and Program Announcements, NIH implemented the Multi Principal Investigator Policy (see NOT-OD-07-017). The availability of the Multiple PD/PI option encourages interdisciplinary and other team approaches to biomedical research.
The format and administration of applications submitted under the multiple-PD/PI model have some elements that differ from the traditional single-PD/PI model.
In addition to its direct impact on researchers, the adoption by the NIH of a multiple-PD/PI model affects some administrative operations of both the NIH and the awardee institutions. For example, as a result of the multiple PD/PI initiative, the NIH Departmental Ranking Tables that ranked institutions and medical school departments by the amount of NIH funding they received were replaced with a web-based tool that allows users to determine dollars awarded to any one organization or department. With multiple PD/PIs from different departments, assignment of funds is not possible; in addition, many institutions responded to the RFI that the value of the tables to the scientific community was limited. Extramural award data is now available from the NIH Research Portfolio Online Reporting Tool (RePORT).
Specific features of the Multiple PD/PI Option include the following:
The multiple PD/PI option is extended to most research grant applications submitted electronically through Grants.gov using the SF424 R&R application package. If the Multiple PD/PI Model is not allowed, the Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) will state that “Multiple Principal Investigators (mPI) are not permitted.” under Section III, Eligible Individuals.
The decision to apply for a single PD/PI or a multiple PD/PI grant is the responsibility of the investigators and the applicant organization. Those decisions should be consistent with and justified by the scientific goals of the project. Therefore, as with the preparation of any research grant application, it is essential that investigators consider all aspects of the funding mechanism before submission. While there are some projects that clearly will be appropriate for the multiple-PD/PI model, the “fit” for other projects may not be so clear. All applicants proposing team science efforts are strongly encouraged to contact their NIH program officials at the earliest possible date to discuss the appropriateness of the multiple-PD/PI model for the support of their research.
See a list of Frequently Asked Questions.