Setting up a research project

Setting up your project properly will involve you in getting to know different areas of your organisation, and drawing on the expertise of others.

Your organisation is likely to have guidelines for you to follow in order to ensure that your project is properly set up to get off to a good start. Below we outline some of the key areas you are likely to have to consider, and identify key colleagues who will provide expert guidance. You may well have had to consider some of these areas in putting your proposal together, so they may be familiar.

Project finances

This is probably the area that causes most concern for the new PI, but there are some simple and commonsense steps you can take.

Always keep on top of the project finances - befriend the person (probably in a central service) who looks after your project finances from an institutional perspective. If you have not had a project before, you would be wise to familiarise yourself with the finance system and financial processes of your institution. You should review the project finances and ensure that you have been awarded what you had anticipated and make sure that you are aware of any stipulations in the contract/offer as to what might be ineligible expenditure. There are likely to be quite detailed procedures to follow regarding purchasing and other expenditure - but making time in your schedule to keep up to date and on track with project finances will avoid possible problems later on in the life of the project.


Depending on the nature of your project there may be ethical approvals to obtain for your research. Do make sure you allow enough time for this, bearing in mind how frequently the relevant approvals review board or committee meets in your organisation.

Staff recruitment

If you are employing new research staff you will need to liaise with your Personnel or Human Resources department, who will manage the process for you. You are likely to be responsible for providing all the details of the posts you are offering, and arranging interview panels. Usually training and guidance will be offered to help you with these tasks.

Legal conditions

You should ensure that you review the contract/terms and conditions of the grant before you start, as there may well be legal obligations on the project as part of the contract, for example in relation to confidentiality, publication arrangements or reporting requirements. Your organisation should be able to provide access to legal advice if you require it. The page on legal requirements may be helpful.