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Home No. 13: Co-PI vs. Consultant: Which is better?

Jun 15

No. 13: Co-PI vs. Consultant: Which is better?

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Co-PI vs. Consultant: Which is better?

Reader question: My proposal requires a skill set that I don’t have. Should I look for a co-PI or a consultant to fill the experience gap? Which would make for a stronger grant application?

Expert Comments:

A co-investigator or a co-PI definitely would make the proposal much stronger, says Jerome “Boe” Itinger, Director of Grants and Contracts at Pennsylvania State University in University Park.

Recruiting a consultant means conferring with someone outside the project regarding research objectives. A co-PI, on the other hand, helps develop those objectives, Itinger adds. “The co-PI is much more involved overall in producing the research.”

But Tony Silbert of Silbert Consulting Services Inc. in Woodland Hills, Calif., doesn’t feel the answer is so clear-cut. “It will depend on the skill set that is required to accomplish that particular part of your research.”

Using a consultant makes sense if the task is a discrete activity — such as statistical work, running data or translating — that does not involve designing or developing the research. But if the duties are “essential toward the shape, direction and completion of the project, it will make more sense to go with a like-minded co-PI,” Silbert notes.

And instead of focusing on what makes a stronger grant application, you should consider whether a co-PI or consultant is better equipped to help accomplish your project’s goals, Silbert says. “It should be about what you need to get the job done and bring the benefits of your research to the world.”

Comments (3)
written by James E. Lewis, PhD, June 15, 2011
The initial question needs context. If, for example, the PI intends to apply to NIH for funding, he should be aware the NIH does not recognize the "Co-PI" role. See NIH policies for confirmation.

Other research sponsors may or may not have similar restrictions.

The primary rule for all people submitting application related questions to PIA is READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS.

written by ReferenceHelper, June 16, 2011
I think in this case, there may be some confusion regarding the definition of "co-PI." In the question above, the situation appears to indicate multiple PIs rather than a prinipal and co-PI. And NIH does allow for multiple PIs on a single proposal.

NSF, on the other hand, does allow one or more co-PIs.
written by Geesefly, June 17, 2011
Just think there is a great difference between co-Investigator and co-PI (multiple-PI now called in NIH application), when i read these.

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