PIs: Frequently asked questions

Can I get training on grant writing?

Your first port of call should be your local research office - they will be able to signpost you. It is likely that your institution, either centrally or through your department/faculty, will run courses on grant writing. There are also a number of external providers that provide courses: some are generic, some are subject specific and some are funder specific. Some course providers are membership organisations, so if you or your institution is a member, you can benefit from reduced rates.

How can I strengthen the chances of my proposal being more successful? 

There is a step-by-step guide to the process on the applying for funding page.

How do I plan for the entire period of project funding?

Within the project management section, there are some tools that may be used to monitor your project.

At what stage of the project should I start planning for recruitment?

When drafting the proposal and thinking about the level and type of staffing resource that you need, speak to your research office or HR department for advice.

As a joint or co-principal investigator, what are my responsibilities?

Whether you're at the same institution as the other principal investigator or not, you should discuss the sharing of workload and responsibilities with him or her.

What are the ethical issues in publication of joint papers? 

This issue is covered on the publication and authorship page.

How can I manage my workload better? 

Visit the page on time management. If you still have questions/need support after that, contact your local staff development unit.

What activities can I devolve to researchers on my team? 

Visit the section on delegation, which covers why you should delegate, what and how much you should delegate and tips on successful delegation.

How can I keep my team motivated? 

Visit the motivation pages and learn about motivation in theory and in practice.

How do I address the issue of a poor performer who is bringing down the enthusiam of the whole team? 

Look at the pages on developing individual researchers. Appraisal, professional development and/or mentoring may all be helpful

At what stage should I talk to my researcher about his or her contract coming to an end? 

This depends on your local HR procedures but could be approximately 6 months before the end of the researcher's contract.

What happens if a member of the team becomes pregnant?

Research staff are entitled to maternity leave under the same policies and procedures as other employees at your institution. Your institution's Human Resources department will be able to advise you and your staff about their options and entitlements with regard to maternity leave and eligibility for maternity pay.

As principal investigator (PI) you will also need to consider how the absence of your researcher during her maternity leave will impact on your research project. You may consider that the future progress of the project will be best met by employing replacement staff to cover the maternity leave period. Alternatively you may prefer to extend the project (by the length of the maternity leave period), which will enable the researcher to resume work on the project following her maternity leave.

A common concern for PIs is if the length of the maternity leave is likely to exceed the remaining length of the project funding. Again your Human Resources department and/or research office will be able to advise you on the processes and procedures, and what notification and information you will need to supply to your research funder.

How should I use these webpages to plan my development?

You may find it useful to browse the site fully, using it as a checklist - identify which areas you feel confident with and which need further development. Use the resources, work through the tasks on the pages and contact your local staff development office if you need additional support.

I'm thinking of applying for a job at another institution - what impact will the move have on my project and funding?

As a rule, research projects are awarded to institutions rather than to individuals (this is not the case for some fellowships). However, in most cases a project will transfer with the individual to their 'new' institution. But this may not be possible: the new institution may not eligible to receive funding from the research funder, e.g. Research Council projects cannot normally be transferred outside the EU. It may not be sensible to transfer the project - the new institution may not have the required infrastructure and this could be resolved by the new institution making explicit payment to the 'old' institution for the use of the facilities. If there isn't much time left on a project, it may be easier to keep the project at the old institution and for them to, in effect, sub-contract the work to the new institution. In all cases agreement between the three parties (funder, old institution and new institution) will be required. Contact your local research office as soon as you can.

Another major issue is the effect on people, e.g. researchers and postgraduate research students. It might be that they can (if they are willing) move with you, or they might wish to/need to stay. In general the issues are the same as for a project but with people involved they can become more complex quite quickly. Contact your local HR department (and perhaps Graduate School) as soon as you can.