Developing yourself as a principal investigator (PI)

The roles of the principal investigator are indispensable in the scientific research. The principal investigator is in charge of a team of research scientists who undertake a funded project under his or her stewardship. There are defined roles and rights of the principal investigators. He/she is charged with the management of the project and ensures responsible spending of project funds. The principal investigator reports the progress made to the sponsors, maintain records of expenditure on the project, implement project plan on funds and ensure the team is in line with the rules laid down by the sponsors. The principal investigator is, therefore, key in the undertaking of any scientific project. This article discusses how you can develop as a principal investigator.


Principal investigators require critical leadership skills in order to effectively manage the team. In order to horn your skills, you need to keenly reflect on the past performances and failures. This will enable you to gainfully learn from the previous success and work on avoiding the previous failures. It further helps you understand the source of your motivation. Reflection comes in two directions, that is, through looking forward and looking backward. By looking forward, you will be able to set your career goals and achievable targets that will help guide you in developing as a principal investigator. On the other hand, looking backward will help learn from the past experience gained in order to develop your skills.


Critically explore the skills and the characteristics of the principal investigator and try to see which ones match your own characteristics. After this, employ the research development framework and or the research development framework planner in order to identify the documented behavior, knowledge or attitude. This RDF and RDF planner also helps identify your areas of strength, give an overview of your personal abilities and identify the gaps that need to be filled in order to develop your skills as the principal investigator. Seek the feedback from others on how they rate your personal performance. This will effectively help know your areas of strengths and weaknesses.

Development plan

Make your own plan in order to perfect your skills as a principal investigator. These development plans may take several forms;

Opportunity awareness: You can first plan your personal development by first identifying the opportune research areas through seeking the information available. This will be essential in ensuring you seizure areas of your professional and personal development.

Networking: it is necessary for you to create a network of personalized contacts. It is prudent for you to first define your desired network, develop it and then set up a support network in order to get advice and the relevant information for the development as principal investigator.

Decision making: critically understand your weaknesses and priorities in order to make the decision based on the information available to you. An informed decision will help you set targets that are achievable and avoid being overambitious.

Setting goals and action plan: you can only develop your career in a well-structured manner when you plan and stick to your plan in the course of your implementation. Evaluation and monitoring of the progress made are essential in determining whether you are still working within or outside the set plan.

Learn to cope with failure: it is necessary to cope up with setbacks in the course of you work as a principal investigator. Failures are inevitable and when they occur, how you rise from those setbacks will determine your success or failure.

There are several pieces of advice on this subject from various sources. However, it’s my desire that this detailed article will help you develop tremendously your career as a principal investigator and further propel your career going forward.