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Senior Investigator

A Senior Investigator is a NIH employee who has been granted tenure by the Deputy Director for Intramural Research (DDIR), after review and recommendation by the NIH Central Tenure Committee (CTC) or the Senior Biomedical Research Service (SBRS) Policy Board. Tenure at the NIH is the commitment by an Institute or Center (IC) of independent resources to an independent Senior Investigator, including salary, operating budget, personnel, and space. Senior Investigators are required to have regular outside, expert reviews by Boards of Scientific Counselors (BSC). Based on these and other reviews (assessing the productivity and quality of work), resources may be adjusted up or down by the IC.

Tenured Senior Investigators, who have established a record of career-high achievements, may be nominated to receive the honorific Intramural Professional Designation of “NIH Distinguished Investigator.” This title is reserved for NIH’s most preeminent Senior Investigators (top two to three percent), with entrance requiring a special peer review and approval by the Director, NIH. For additional guidance, please consult the Office of Human Resources (OHR) Policies and Procedures for Selection.

A Senior Investigator is a Full-Time Equivalent Employment (FTE) position.

Approvals (Process)

A formal DDIR-approved search process is required when selecting a Senior Investigator not from the tenure-track, as well as a review and approval by the CTC or SBRS Policy Board.

Please note that Senior Investigators (Clinical), not coming from the tenure-track, a Title 5 exhaustion process is required. Working with the Office of Intramural Research (OIR) and the Office of Human Resources (OHR), the position must first go through the Title 5 exhaustion process, with participation of the DDIR-approved search committee. If a suitable candidate is selected, then the individual must be reviewed and recommended by the CTC and approved by the DDIR. If a suitable candidate is not selected through the Title 5 exhaustion process, as certified by OHR and approved by the NIH Principal Deputy Director, then the national search for a Title 42(f) candidate can continue.

Additional approvals may be required for salary levels under specific appointment mechanisms, including Title 5 with Title 38 Pay, Title 42, and SBRS.

Senior Investigators are appointed using one of the following mechanisms:

For Senior Investigators that require clinical credentialing, an additional approval must be received from the Director, CC (or delegate) after recommendation by the Clinical Center (CC) Credentials Committee and the Medical Executive Committee (MEC). For further information, please contact the Office of Credentialing Services, Clinical Center (OCS/CC) at cc_ocs@mail.nih.gov or 301-496-5937.

Check Sheets / Checklists

Below are the check sheets and checklists that have been developed and approved by the DDIR for the Senior Investigator designation.

Individual ICs may have additional requirements, check sheets, and/or checklists. Please contact your Administrative Officer (AO) or HR Specialist for additional guidance. For examples of IC-specific check sheets and checklists, please visit:

Ethics

Intramural scientists at the NIH, as is true for all scientists, should be committed to the responsible use of scientific tools and methods to seek new knowledge. While the general principles of scientific methodologies are universal, their detailed application may differ in various scientific disciplines and circumstances. All research staff in the Intramural Research Program should maintain exemplary standards of intellectual honesty in formulating, conducting, presenting, and reviewing research, as befits the leadership role of the NIH.

Within the NIH IRP, the ethical conduct of researchers is governed by the following three disciplines:

Ethics information may also be available through your specific IC. Please contact your Ethics Counselor for additional guidance.

Pay / Compensation

Pay and compensation for a Senior Investigator is contingent on the specific appointment mechanism.

After initial appointment, any increases/promotions will occur at various intervals, and are again dependent on the appointment mechanism. For pay decreases (i.e., poor BSC ratings, less than satisfactory performance, etc.), the IC should work closely with OIR leadership and the Office of Human Resources (OHR) Employee Relations to determine the correct changes. It is the policy of the NIH that a Title 42 salary in the intramural program will generally not be reduced below that of a GS-14/Step 5, and that downward adjustments should generally not exceed $20,000 per year, with notice of intent to reduce salary being given in writing at least one year in advance of the action. Senior Investigators who reach the end of a personnel mechanism (e.g., Commissioned Corps) are moved to another appropriate mechanism that meets programmatic needs of the Institute. Salary reductions in other personnel mechanisms must follow the rules of those individual mechanisms.

Recruitment Process / Appointment Mechanisms

The Senior Investigator designation can be given to either 1) a NIH investigator (tenure-track); or 2) a fully-qualified scientist selected via a DDIR-approved national search for a tenure-eligible position. All Senior Investigator appointments must be reviewed and approved through a tenure process (CTC, or rarely SBRS Policy Board). 

Additional information regarding the search and selection process can be found at:

Senior Investigators are traditionally appointed using one of the following mechanisms:

For information regarding the appropriate appointment mechanism, please visit:

The mechanism of the initial appointment is at the discretion of the Institute, based on availability of positions and amount of salary needed to recruit the scientist. A commitment to long-term support of salary is made by an Institute when it tenures an individual as a Senior Investigator. However, salary in all systems is merit-based within the flexibility afforded by the particular system. Senior Investigators who reach the end of a personnel mechanism (e.g., Commissioned Corps) are moved to another appropriate mechanism that meets programmatic needs of the Institute.

Below is a sample memo and offer letter that has been developed and approved by the DDIR for the Senior Investigator designation:

Renewals

Senior Investigators are tenured scientists and are considered to be on permanent appointments. Tenure includes assurance of continuing salary to an independent Senior Investigator who is granted tenure by the CTC or SBRS Policy Board, even if scientific resources are cut back or eliminated. Tenure conferred or approved by earlier NIH-wide review bodies (e.g., Board of Scientific Directors) is considered equivalent. The continuation of a Senior Investigator is assumed, regardless of appointment mechanism, except in cases of malfeasance or if the Senior Investigator fails to remain a productive member of the scientific community. Tenured Senior Investigators are required to have regular outside, expert reviews by the Boards of Scientific Counselors (BSC) at least every four years (exceptions may be granted only by the DDIR). Resources may be adjusted up or down by the Institute, based on productivity and the quality of their work, as determined by these and other reviews. The granting of tenure at the NIH will continue to be a vote of confidence in the achievements and potential of the Senior Investigator, and it is the policy of the NIH that such scientists will be renewed in one or another of the five personnel mechanisms available.

Resources

Tenured Senior Investigators are granted independent resources (salary, operating budget, personnel, and space) by their Institute. The amount of research support, however, must depend on the quality of science as determined by the BSC and other reviews. All Senior Investigators are required to have regular outside, expert reviews by the BSC. Based on these reviews and other reviews (assessing the productivity and quality of work), resources may be adjusted up or down by the IC.

Termination

Regardless of whether a Senior Investigator retires, resigns to accept a position elsewhere, or is de-tenured, ICs are required to notify OIR leadership. It is inherent in the tenure of a Senior Investigator that this is a permanent appointment with a commitment of salary. However, it is possible to remove that commitment through the De-Tenuring Process. Senior Investigators may also voluntarily choose to re-assign to another non-PI Intramural Professional Designation (IPD), if desired and available.


The page was last updated on Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - 12:17pm