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Principal Investigators


Principal Investigator Role & Responsibilities

Role of Principal Investigators

Principal Investigators (“PIs”) have primary responsibility for achieving the technical success of sponsored projects, while also complying with the financial and administrative policies and regulations associated with the sponsored project agreement (the “Award”). Although PIs may have administrative staff to assist them with the management of Award funds, the ultimate responsibility for the management of sponsored projects rests with PIs. The fundamental responsibilities of PIs during the post-award phase of sponsored projects include, but are not limited to:

  • Execute the project as outlined in the Award using sound management techniques;
  • Carry out the project’s financial plan as presented in the Award, or make changes to the plan following a prescribed set of policies and procedures;
  • Report project progress to the sponsor as outlined in the terms of Award (see, e.g., Technical/Programmatic Reporting Guidance; National Science Foundation Technical Reporting Guidelines);
  • Maintain accurate records of project-related expenses;
  • Comply with all Boise State University (“University”) policies and procedures related to project management and personnel practices; and
  • Comply with all applicable sponsor rules, regulations and/or terms and conditions of the Award; and
  • Fulfill the PIs’ obligations set forth in the Principal Investigator Award Certifications and Assurances.

PIs’ responsibilities may be divided into two related but distinctly different sets of activities: (i) management of the Award Scope of Work (“SOW”); and (ii) responsible spending of Award funds. While the SOW should drive financial activities, sound management practices in both arenas are required. The financial stewardship of Award funds is a shared responsibility between PIs, the PIs’ college/departmental administrators and the Office of Sponsored Programs (“OSP”).

Once a project has been funded, there is the expectation by both the sponsor and OSP that PIs responsibly spend Award funds. Sound fiscal management of Award funds requires knowledge of, and adherence to, a prescribed set of federal and locally developed financial guidelines (see, e.g., Basics of Charging Costs to Sponsored Projects). Over the life of an Award, PIs may initiate changes to a project that impact the management of awarded funds. PIs must have a good understanding of the procedures associated with initiating financial transactions or changes to an Award’s financial plan.

OSP is committed to assisting PIs’ fulfillment of these responsibilities. In addition to offering workshops and training sessions, OSP has prepared (and will continue to prepare) forms, policies, procedures and training materials aimed at acquainting PIs and their college/departmental administrators with information that will positively affect sponsored project management.

Project/Award Management

A project is the allocation of resources directed toward a specific set of goals that follows a planned and organized approach to meeting those goals. Sponsored projects have an added explicit dimension of time that sets them apart from many internally funded and managed projects. Most sponsors expect PIs to meet the budgets and time frames outlined in Awards’ SOWs. This expectation puts special emphasis on PIs’ abilities to carefully plan and manage Award work.

The most basic project-operating document is the project plan. All resource allocation, including funding and staffing, must support the objectives outlined in the project plan. As project managers, PIs must:

  • Manage Award resources;
  • Plan and control Award work; and
  • Communicate with individuals and groups about the Award.

While the management of Award resources may appear to take the bulk of PIs’ time, it is the planning, controlling and communicating tasks that will prove most time consuming.

PIs, particularly if they manage multiple and/or complex Awards, may find public domain or commercially available software packages extremely helpful in managing their Awards. Use of project management and financial software, such as Microsoft Project and Excel (available through BroncoTec), can assist PIs in reporting project progress, tracking work, analyzing project-generated data and managing time keeping. Although Award financial information is maintained in Oracle Financials Cloud (“OFC”), PIs are encouraged to develop means by which they or their college/departmental administrators can maintain records related to the hours and tasks performed by each member of project teams.

Project/Award Staff

PIs have responsibilities and prerogatives in the selection, training and evaluation of project staff, subject to the policies and procedures of the University’s  Human Resource Services (“HRS”). These personnel practices conform to federal and state laws, and reflect the University’s approach to human resource management. Consistent with these policies and procedures, PIs may select staff to carry out project work. PIs unfamiliar with University personnel practices are encouraged to contact HRS staff.

Subaward Guidance for Sponsored Projects

The Office of Sponsored Programs (“OSP”) is responsible for overseeing “Subaward” negotiation, acceptance and monitoring.  In collaboration with the University’s Principal Investigators, OSP issues Subawards (as defined in 2 CFR 200.92)  to Subrecipients to perform a portion of the University’s prime award.  Subawards are not “Contracts” (as defined in 2 CFR 200.22) for goods and services needed to perform a University award.  For more information, see 2 CFR 200.330 and the following guidance:

Procurement Guidance for Sponsored Projects Information

The University’s Purchasing Department is responsible for overseeing all University procurements.  Procurement actions include purchases of goods and services via p-cards and “Contracts” as defined in 2 CFR 200.22 (e.g., Purchase Orders, Contracts for Services). Procurement actions do not include “Subawards” as defined in 2 CFR 200.92.  For more information, see 2 CFR 200.330 and the following guidance: