Roles and Relationships

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Research programs create relationships with sponsors and other stakeholders. It is important that everyone involved understands their roles and responsibilities in those relationships.

What is essential?

Our relationship with a sponsor is generally a relationship between the University and the sponsor, exceptions being limited to certain programs such as some sabbatical year or Summer fellowships. As such, the university is accountable for the actions and inactions of our faculty, staff, and students. Everyone’s work affects how sponsors regard the university, and by extension, your Lehigh colleagues. Accordingly, everyone’s work must comply with the university’s legal obligations to sponsors and our obligations to the public.

Individuals, units, and offices have key roles and responsibilities in Lehigh’s relationship with a sponsor and in each project or program. The Sponsored Programs Roles and Responsibilities Matrix identifies these roles and responsibilities as they apply across the university. Individual colleges, departments, institutes and centers may differ in their implementation of these roles and responsibilities. Contact your Chair or Administrative Director for guidance for your individual unit.

The Principal Investigator (PI) is generally responsible for the overall conduct of the scholarly, technical, educational, or creative work, oversight of the work of others including subrecipients, stewardship of resources, reporting, and other aspects of the project that involve application of subject matter expertise. In general, only University employees may serve as a PI. The PI has responsibilities stemming from both university and the sponsor’s policies and the terms and conditions of the award. The role of the PI often requires a level of technical knowledge and expertise that is not held by anyone else at the university. While the PI may be the only person at the university with the expertise necessary to serve in the role, the university remains accountable to the sponsor for the PI’s performance.

Other investigators may also have specific expertise that qualifies them to exercise independent judgment in conduct and oversight of the work. While the PI is typically responsible for oversight of all other investigators on the program, each individual investigator is expected to meet the same standards in carrying out their responsibilities. Therefore, throughout this guide, responsibilities of the PI in conduct and oversight of a project extend to all investigators.