Science and Engineering Ethics

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 1051–1061 | Cite as

Protecting Ideas: Ethical and Legal Considerations When a Grant’s Principal Investigator Changes

  • Leonidas G. KoniarisEmail author
  • Mary I. Coombs
  • Eric M. Meslin
  • Teresa A. Zimmers
Review Paper


Ethical issues related the responsible conduct of research involve questions concerning the rights and obligations of investigators to propose, design, implement, and publish research. When a principal investigator (PI) transfers institutions during a grant cycle, financial and recognition issues need to be addressed to preserve all parties’ obligations and best interests in a mutually beneficial way. Although grants often transfer with the PI, sometimes they do not. Maintaining a grant at an institution after the PI leaves does not negate the grantee institution’s obligation to recognize the PI’s original ideas, contributions, and potential rights to some forms of expression and compensation. Issues include maintaining a role for the PI in determining how to take credit for, share and publish results that involve his or her original ideas. Ascribing proper credit can become a thorny issue. This paper provides a framework for addressing situations and disagreements that may occur when a new PI continues the work after the original PI transfers. Included are suggestions for proactively developing institutional mechanisms that address such issues. Considerations include how to develop solutions that comply with the responsible conduct of research, equitably resolve claims regarding reporting of results, and avoid the possibility of plagiarism.


Grant transfers Grant stipulations Grant awards Principal investigator PI transfer Authorship Plagiarism 



The authors wish to thank Lana Christian for her expert editing assistance with this manuscript.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Potential conflict of interest

LGK has transferred a grant to another investigator.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Leonidas G. Koniaris
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mary I. Coombs
    • 2
  • Eric M. Meslin
    • 3
  • Teresa A. Zimmers
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of SurgeryIndiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.School of LawUniversity of MiamiMiamiUSA
  3. 3.Indiana University Center for BioethicsUniversity of Indiana School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA
  4. 4.Department of Cell Biology and AnatomyIndiana University School of MedicineIndianapolisUSA

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