Stanford University Faculty Senate Approves a PI Exception Pilot Program for Shared Facility/Service Center Staff

On April 22, 2021, the Stanford University Faculty Senate approved a PI Exception Pilot Program for staff engaging in “specific projects which are part of a shared facility or service center.” During this five-year pilot program, MD- and PhD-level staff of shared facilities or service centers will be eligible for PI waivers for funding opportunities in support of the Shared Facility/Service Center.

Shared Facilities/Service Centers impact thousands of Stanford faculty and trainee users each year by providing training toward independent instrument use; instrumentation selection, design, implementation, application and maintenance; and leadership and guidance within shared facilities. As such, Shared Facilities are integral to Stanford’s research, education,
and translation ecosystem. Shared facilities at Stanford include BioX, ChEM-H, CNI, NMR, School of Medicine, SE3, SLAC, SNF, SNSF, SUMS, and Wu Tsai.

The approval of this PI Exception pilot program reflects an increasing number of federal grant applications requiring the expertise of Shared Facility/Service Center MD- and Ph.D-level staff, including but not limited to instrumentation grants. Additionally, an increased number of RFAs are targeted to shared facility/service center staff. Service center PI Waiver Eligibility, and associated opportunities, will expand the range of research opportunities for graduate students, postdocs, and the Professoriate, in terms of additional resources and equipment. Such support has been integral to entities such as the New School, the Innovative Medicines Accelerator, the Stanford Cancer Institute, and Q-Farm.

The Research Policy Handbook (Section 2.1), has been amended to add this PI waiver exception pilot program. Existing exceptions to this policy include career development awards, large interdisciplinary proposals, pending appointments for new faculty, and conference grants. As part of a previous pilot program, approved on June 11, 2020, exceptions were extended to clinical educators at the School of Medicine and continuing staff scientists and engineers at SLAC.

This pilot program was proposed by the Committee on Research’s Subcommittee on PI Eligibility, Chaired by Senior Associate Dean for Research in the School of Medicine, Dr. Ruth O’Hara. Other members of the Sub Committee include Mike Dunne, Dolores Gallagher-Thompson, David Goldhaber-Gordon, Adam Kerr, Peter Michelson, and Marcia Stefanick. The Committee on Research posited that MD- and PhD-level Service Center/Shared Facility Staff were ideally positioned to enhance facilities by acquiring modern instrumentation, maintaining tools, and guiding faculty and trainees on their use, and that Facilities enhancements would accelerate research and discovery across all Stanford schools.

"The Stanford community is fortunate to have such talented, dedicated staff within shared facilities,” noted Dr. Jennifer Dionne, Senior Associate Vice Provost of Research Platforms/​Shared Facilities. “This PI pilot program not only recognizes staff contributions to the research ecosystem, but promises to amplify the impact of shared facilities, on campus and in the broader community."

The policy addition (A7) reads: “MD- or PhD-level researchers and staff who are not members of the Academic Council or the MCL faculty may be approved to serve as PIs on projects within the scope of a shared facility or service center. For this purpose a "shared facility" is defined as a center providing critical research infrastructure to the broader Stanford community, beyond the needs of any one PI or department. The shared facility or service center should: a) have an expected duration beyond the involvement of any individual faculty participant, and b) have users spanning many (e.g., three or more) departments.”

The pilot program specifies the following additional eligibility criteria. There must be a defined programmatic need of the service center, and that the shared facility/service center Faculty Lead and, if applicable, Center Advisory Board, and School Dean or designee must all agree on the selection of the PI. In addition, the shared facility/service center Faculty Lead must confirm that the proposed PI has the requisite qualifications to serve as PI; provide assurance that the work will be conducted in accord with the standards of excellence of the University; and confirm all appropriate PI trainings have been completed. Further, the proposed research must be conducted in the Shared facility/service center and affiliated locations only; the proposed project must be term-limited; and, for each graduate student participating on the project, a qualified faculty member is identified to supervise the student's research program. Waivers will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis. The revised policy is detailed here: