PI & Award Transfers

Page Updated: March 1, 2024

The transfer of a Principal Investigator (PI), and subsequently an award, from one institution to another is a complex and time-consuming action, and a number of potential issues should be addressed prior to the transfer. An award transfer to a new institution is not simply the change of a name on the award documents.

Intended for research administrators, this page covers the information needed and actions taken when a PI transfers institutions. Here you will find information to effectively facilitate the transfer of a PI into, or out of, the University of Wisconsin – Madison.

About Transfers

All grants and contracts, both Federal and non-Federal, are awarded to The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System, not directly to Principal Investigators. If a PI wants to change institutions, the UW will determine on a case-by-case basis whether it will retain, transfer, or terminate the award. As the grantee institution, the UW must approve the relinquishment of an award to formally transfer an award the PI’s new institution. The awarding agency or sponsor must also approve all grant/contract transfers.

To initiate a typical transfer, the UW first submits, using a process defined by the each sponsor, a transfer request. If the sponsor approves the request, the UW will begin the process of closing out the award. At the same time, the new institution will submit a proposal to the sponsor for the remaining funds. After completing both the closeout and proposal review stages, the sponsor will issue a new award to the new institution. This is generally not a quick process, and it can easily take two to three months. It is important to allocate enough time to the transfer process; therefore, the request should be made well prior to the expected start date at the new institution.

As straightforward as this process sounds, there are several factors to consider. Including, but not limited to, the following:

  1. Will the grant be transferred, or will a new PI be named at UW?
  2. If the award is staying at the UW, will there be a subaward issued to the new institution?
  3. If the award is transferring and there are project staff members staying at UW, will there be a new subaward issued back to UW from the new institution?
  4. Are there subawards on the current award? All active subawards will need to be closed out prior to the transfer.
  5. What will be the relinquishment date (generally, last day at UW)?
  6. What is the unobligated balance to be transferred to the new institution? This is the amount unspent/unencumbered at the relinquishment date and may involve some estimates by the PI.
  7. Are there any cost share obligations under the award? Will the new institution agree to take these on?
  8. Has there been any intellectual property developed?
  9. Is there any equipment associated with this award that is to be transferred to the new institution?
  10. Are there any compliance protocols (IRB, IACUC, OBS etc.) to close out?
  11. Is there a lab to be closed? See the OVCR Research Close-out Checklist.
  12. Will any related project staff members, such as graduate students, transfer to the new institution with the PI?
General Process for Transferring an Award
  1. Stop all spending on the award as soon as is practical. An award cannot be relinquished by the UW until all expenditures made at the UW have been paid and posted to the account.
  2. Notify the RSP accountant assigned to the award as soon as possible. The RSP representative can assist in laying out the options for that particular award.
  3. The transferring PI should meet with the department chair and administration to develop a transition plan. This plan should address what will happen to active awards, and needs to be approved by the Dean’s Office.
  4. Develop the necessary documentation for each award. The information below may not include everything, however it is an attempt to highlight the more common issues/concerns.
    • If the award will stay at the UW:
      • Prepare a change of PI request. To change a PI create a new RAMP record, the new PI needs to sign the record. A justification on why the change is necessary needs to be uploaded to the record. Typically this justification should be addressed to the sponsor’s grants specialist, signed by both the old and new PI, and developed on department letterhead. If the outgoing PI has already left the UW, we can proceed without it. Submit the record to RSP, who will submit the request to the sponsor.
      • Prepare outgoing sub-award documentation, if applicable. Submit the documentation through the outgoing subaward portal. RSP will review and issue the new subaward.
    • If the award will be leaving the UW:
      • Prepare the transfer/relinquishment materials as specified by the sponsor. The heading below titled “Process for Specific Sponsors” provides specific details for some of the major Federal funding agencies. If you don’t see the sponsor of your award listed, please contact the RSP accountant assigned to your award for more details.
      • For sponsors that require a letter of request, prepare, on departmental letterhead and signed by the PI, a letter addressed to the sponsor’s grants specialist or contracting officer and program manager. Remember that the award belongs to the UW, so please leave a place for RSP to add a signature block for the authorized official who will sign on behalf of The University. This relinquishment letter should contain the following:
        1. The sponsor's award number
        2. The effective date of relinquishment
        3. The relinquished amount as of the date of transfer
        4. Justification for the need to transfer the award
  5. Send documentation to RSP for review and approval. All transfer/relinquishments should be submitted to the RSP accountant assigned to the award. RSP will review, sign, and forward the request to the sponsor for their review.
  6. Repeat this process for all awards affected by the PI transfer.
Note on Transfer of Contracts

Please note that while federal grants are often transferred between institutions based on the relocation of a Principal Investigator, contracts are generally not transferrable, but instead may be terminated completely and re-issued to a new institution. Likewise, sponsors may require that UW retain the original contract and issue a new subcontract to the Principal Investigator’s new institution. Regardless of the award type, the steps outlined above should be followed. Any questions regarding this process may be directed to the Grants and Contracts Specialist assigned to the award.

Process for Specific Sponsors

If you don’t see the sponsor you are working with below, please refer to the terms and conditions listed in the award document or the sponsor’s website for additional information.

Department of Defense (DoD)

  • Contact the Program Officer

Department of Education

  • Contact the Program Officer

Department of Energy (DOE)

  • Contact the Program Officer

Department of the Interior

  • Contact the Program Officer

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

National Science Foundation (NSF)

Office of Naval Research (ONR)

Outgoing & Incoming PI Checklist

Faculty who leave the UW should obtain appropriate clearances in order to exit the University in good standing. Likewise, faculty who arrive at the UW need to obtain appropriate clearances in order to conduct their research. The Checklists below are tools for Principal Investigators and Departmental Administrators to assist in ensuring that all pertinent activities are properly handled for PIs transferring to another institution or transferring to the UW. These Checklists may not include everything, however they are an attempt to highlight the more common issues/concerns that complicate and potentially slow down the transition of a PI, or cause problems when a PI transfers between institutions.