Principal Investigator Duties & Guide

The Principal Investigator (PI), who is a faculty or staff member, is responsible for the overall development and content of a grant proposal.  The PI may delegate aspects of the proposal and implementation of the proposal if funded, but the PI is ultimately responsible for the project and all aspects of the proposal as submitted.  The PI will work closely with the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP) from the time a need for a project is identified to the completion of the project.  Please complete the PI Position Request Form, if you are interested in being designated as a PI.

OSP is responsible for submitting proposals to the federal government’s funding agencies on behalf of CFCC.  Although the College is the official applicant and, as such, has legal responsibility for the performance and administration of any project that is funded, the PI is ultimately responsible for the implementation and fiscal operations of the project.

Pre-Award PI Duties

  • Identify a need for the project and funding opportunities.  As part of OSP Services, the OSP staff will help you in finding a funding source for your project.
  • Obtain approval for the project from the department chair/dean
    1. Discuss if the project is consistent with programmatic objectives of department.
    2. Discuss any special needs such as space requirements, facilities, and cost sharing.  Some of these may be resolved by OSP.
  • Complete and submit the Intent to Apply Form to OSP.
  • Prepare the proposal.
    1. Download the application package which includes, guidelines for proposal submission.  Most federal agency solicitations for proposals are online.
    2. Forward copy of the application package to OSP.
    3. Meet with OSP to determine internal deadlines, a timeline for submitting the proposal, and resources needed for the project.
  • Content of proposal
    1. Generally, the format for the application is provided by the federal agency.  If a standard form is not given, OSP has supplied an outline for creating proposals, that you can use as an example.
    2. Cover Page – federal agency provides the needed information.
    3. Table of Contents
    4. Abstract – A one-page narrative of proposed project – use terminology that will be understood by lay previewers of the proposal.  This rule should be followed in writing the whole proposal.
  • Narrative- This is the main body of the proposal and should include a clear statement of the project:
    1. Need – This section cannot be stressed enough.  Some statistics may be obtained from OSP to support the need for the project.
    2. Objectives and their outcome
    3. An outline of the general plan of work – steps that will be taken to implement the project
    4. Collaboration with individuals or other departments (not included in budget)
    5. Evaluation of the project – Evaluation is a requirement for all grant proposals.  An Evaluation Plan has been provided as a guide for your budget proposal and implementation of the project.
    6. Citations and references
    7. Prepare the budget and justification for the items in budget in collaboration with OSP — Most federal agencies provide detailed instructions and forms on completing the budget.  The budget has to be as detailed as possible, since the reviewers use the budget and justification as a summary of the entire proposal.  Pay special attention to staffing needs and the duties performed by each staff member.  Budget Justification should clearly explain what costs will be paid by the federal agency and calculation of expenses.  It is important to compare the detailed description of the work to be performed to the budget justification to ensure that all costs are accounted for, and that the requested funds conform to agency specifications with regard to costs and project period.  OSP will assist you in developing the budget and all administrative costs including, salaries and benefits.  The PI is responsible for all other costs.  In preparing the budget, it is imperative that all rules that mandate compliance with the Federal Cost Principles be followed.  The cost principles information regarding, Cost Sharing, Direct Costs/Indirect Costs, and Allowable and Non-allowable costs can be found in Budget Information.  Detailed information on cost principles as set by the Office of  Management and Budget (OMB) can be found in circulars.  OSP has provided you with sample budget templates:  budget with match and budget with no-match as guides in preparing and maintaining your budget.
    8. Review proposal for accuracy and departmental compliance.  OSP strongly suggests that the proposal be reviewed by a colleague.  In addition, OSP is available for regular reviews of drafts.
    9. Complete the Proposal Submission Checklist before submitting to OSP.
    10. Send final proposal along with supporting documents to OSP for final submission to the federal agency.  Please follow deadlines for internal and external submission.
    11. Most agencies require electronic submission, and the PI is responsible for contacting OSP to obtain information on directions for use, username, and password.  In addition, the PI has to enter the data into the different modules.  Please request review from OSP as you complete each module for accuracy and compliance.  OSP is responsible for the final submission of proposal, because access to the submission process is provided only to OSP.
    12. Submit hard copies of the proposal to OSP, save a copy of the proposal on your computer, and print copies for your files.
    13. Save all correspondence with OSP; you are responsible for question raised by the agency, and you may be asked for input during the negotiating process.

Post Award PI Duties

Once a proposal has been approved for funding, a program official will notify the College.  The signature accepting the award has to be that of the President.  All accepted awards must be in the name of CFCC.

The acceptance of the award represents a formal obligation by the College, and the prospective agency may require changes; for example, revisions in staffing, facilities, or the project itself.  Therefore OSP, the PI, and other administrative representatives of CFCC must review the recommended changes and provisions of each offer, and if needed, start negotiations with the agency.  While OSP is responsible for ensuring that the academic and financial provisions of the award are consistent with CFCC policies (for sponsored programs), the PI should make sure that the recommended changes do not affect the outcome of the project or the completion date of the project.

Once the award, with changes, are negotiated, accepted and signed by the federal agency and CFCC official, the project will be assigned an account number (budget) and entered into the CFCC accounting system.  OSP will notify the PI and department heads that the project has been approved, and inform the PI that work can begin on the project and costs may be charged to the budget items.  Please note, that the PI may not initiate work on a project unless there is a firm commitment that the project will be supported by the  agency and CFCC.

Duties – Project Requirements

The project authorization notice, highlighting the terms and conditions of the proposal, will be sent to you.  The PI is responsible for:

  • Reporting technical requirements that the  agency sets
  • Checking the schedule and due dates set by agency and the deadlines.  OSP will help you draw a timeline to keep you on track.  Funds may be withheld if reports are not filed on time.
  • Submitting  fiscal and administrative information to OSP for the reports that will be submitted
  • Tracking of all restrictions placed on the expenditure of funds by the agency.   Examples of restrictions are foreign travel, un-budgeted equipment, and hiring outside consultants.
  • Working with OSP to obtain approval for items requiring prior consent (changes in scope of project) from the agency and institution.  Check OSP information on prior approval.

Duties – Project Administration and Implementation

It is the responsibility of the PI to monitor the day-to-day fiscal performance of the project and carry out the technical aspects of the project.

  • Establishing space and furniture
  • Hiring personnel for the project following CFCC procedures
  • Purchasing equipment (if needed) & supplies
  • Financial Compliance
  • Closeout
  • Reporting – Two problems that are common to financial reporting are timeliness and accuracy.  Inaccuracy can be due to inaccurate data, a result of unidentified data (not estimated) or missing data.  A sample grant reporting timetable (Federal Grants Management Handbook, pub. Thompson Publishers, 2011) has been provided for your convenience.  Failure to submit reports may result in withholding of advances and reimbursement of funds.

Evaluation – The institution is required to monitor and assess data and progress of a grant project.  In addition, the process of implementation has to be analyzed and used as the basis for feedback for continuation and program planning.  The information collected has to be sent to OSP for review and submitted to the agency.  Please follow the guideline outlining the Evaluation Plan  provided by OSP.