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Applying to be an Associate Principal Investigator

The Associate Principal Investigator Scheme is a unique NIHR development opportunity, aimed at any doctor, nurse or other healthcare professional who would like to get more involved in research as part of their career.


Is the Associate PI Scheme for me?

If the statements below apply to you, then the Associate PI Scheme could be the ideal development opportunity:

  • I am a healthcare professional who wants to gain knowledge of what it means to deliver an NIHR portfolio trial.
  • I am able to commit to six months of working on a study registered on the Scheme at my local site.
  • I don’t currently work in research and I would like the opportunity to gain experience and mentorship from a local study PI.

Applicable to ‘Fellows’ only:

  • I am not receiving funding to work on the Study I am applying for.

Am I eligible for the Associate PI Scheme?

The scheme is open to healthcare professionals who do not have research as a core part of their role but wish to gain skills and experience in participating in NIHR Portfolio research. This includes, but is not limited to, doctors, nurses, pharmacists and so on.

We encourage all healthcare professionals to consider taking part, however please note the information below before applying:

  • Clinical Lecturer or Fellow:

If a Clinical Lecturer or Fellow would gain provable additional skills from working on a study outside their funded capacity / job role, then they may be eligible to register for the Associate PI Scheme. Enrolment in these cases will be made on an individual basis.

  • Research nurses:

The Associate PI Scheme is aimed at Clinical staff who wish to gain skills and experience in participating in NIHR Portfolio research, and to provide them with formal recognition of the contribution they have made over and above the standard expectations of their role.

Staff whose core role already includes research (such as Research Nurses) are therefore unlikely to benefit from the scheme. For this reason Research Nurses are ineligible to apply for the scheme, however we strongly advise looking at other NIHR career development opportunities.

  • Students:

Students are not eligible to be Associate PIs, because the scheme requires significant input over at least six months and this is not compatible with most student placements.

Students must qualify before becoming eligible to join the scheme. We strongly encourage students to become involved in clinical research in other capacities in a way that fits with their training.

For further guidance on who is eligible to take part in the Associate PI Scheme, please read the  eligibility section of our Frequently Asked Questions document.

Benefits of the Associate PI Scheme

Successful applicants who join the scheme will gain valuable enhanced skills and understanding around the delivery of NIHR Portfolio research over the course of their six month training period.

  • Certificate:

The signed checklist you complete during your participation in the scheme will be reviewed by the NIHR Associate PI Scheme team. If accepted, you will receive an NIHR and Royal College endorsed certificate to indicate the study, time period, and centre at which you were certified as an Associate PI.

  • Publications:

The study teams taking part in the Associate PI Scheme are encouraged to acknowledge all Associate PIs in the primary publication(s) from the study. The exact details of this should be included in the study protocol.

 How to apply to be an Associate PI trainee

Step 1: Find a suitable study

For you to register to become an Associate PI trainee for a study, you must find a study which is:

  1. Registered to the Associate PI Scheme.
  2. Open to recruitment at your site (or In Setup and due to Open to recruitment shortly).

To see which studies are currently registered for the Scheme, please check the list of registered studies.

To see a list of studies that your local site is participating in, please visit ODP (the Open Data Platform). Once you've made an account and logged in, you should be able to see a dedicated Associate PI Scheme dashboard. Once you’ve accessed this dashboard, navigate the tabs at the top and look for Where Can I Take Part? All the instructions on using the app are included at the top of the page on the correct tab.

When signing up to ODP please make sure to use your NHS or academic email address.

If you have any further questions please contact the Associate PI Scheme Team at

Step 2: Register yourself

Once you have found a study that is registered to the scheme, and is also open at your site, you can apply to become an Associate PI trainee.

To register for the Associate PI Scheme, you must meet the Associate PI Scheme Applicant Eligibility Criteria.

If you meet this criteria, then you must first obtain approval from the Local Site PI before you submit your application for the scheme. If you are unsure who the Local Site PI is, please speak with your site’s R&D department. If they are unable to help you, please email us at and we can investigate further for you.

You then need to complete the Associate PI Scheme applicant registration form.

Application Tip: Some and accounts may experience issues receiving our emails. Please could we ask you to check your 'Junk/Spam' email folder and mark the email as 'not Junk' or 'safe' to avoid future issues. Thank you.

If you want to register for REMAP-CAP, RECOVERY trial or HEAL-COVID trial , please use the Associate PI Scheme Applicant Registration Form for COVID-19 Studies.

Please note that:

  • Although we allow all healthcare professionals who aren’t already involved in research to take part, the Associate PI Scheme is guided by the studies available and the CI, CTU/Sponsor, and Local PI would need to agree that your involvement in a study would enable you to meet the mandated Associate PI checklist criteria.
  • Retrospective registrations are not permitted, all applicants must register to the scheme before assuming the role of Associate PI trainee.
  • Clinical Research Network (CRN) staff and research nurses/staff are not eligible to join the scheme.
  • You are only permitted to register to one study, at one site, at any time.

Please email the Associate PI Scheme Central Team if you are unsure of whether you are eligible to join the Scheme, we are happy to discuss individual circumstances.

Step 3: Login to NIHR Learn

Once your application has been confirmed, you will receive an email from the Associate PI Scheme team confirming your application.

In this email, you will receive a link and an enrolment key for you to enrol on the Associate PI Scheme learning course on NIHR Learn.

You need to enrol yourself onto the Associate PI Scheme learning course in order to participate in the Scheme.

Step 4: Download your Checklist and complete your Associate PI Scheme learning course

You now need to complete your six-month learning course on NIHR Learn during your time working alongside your Local PI on the Associate PI Scheme.

This virtual iteration of the Associate PI Scheme within NIHR Learn will provide you with ways to structure your time by breaking down the elements of the checklist into monthly targets, as well as exposing you to useful additional learning. We also hope to encourage more communication between other Associate PI trainees and certified Associate PIs through the Associate PI Forum.

You will need to download your checklist from the ‘Download my Checklist’ tile in NIHR Learn.

As you go through the monthly tiles, you will be asked to complete journal entries to evidence what you have achieved, and you will also need to fill out your checklist alongside inputting these journal entries.

Step 5: Submit your Checklist

Once you have completed your time on the Scheme, simply fill in the checklist, get it signed off by the local PI and national study coordinator and submit it in the month 6 tile of NIHR Learn. We can then issue your certificate to officially recognise you as an Associate PI.

It is imperative that you as the Associate PI trainee drive the completion, sign off, and submission of the checklist in order to receive your certificate and attain the official status of Associate PI.

Step 6: Receive your certificate

Once you have submitted your fully signed checklist to NIHR Learn, the Associate PI Scheme Central Team will issue your certificate to you. This can be added to your training portfolio.

We also encourage study teams to acknowledge Associate PIs in the primary publication(s) generated from the study in a PubMed searchable way, this is usually in the appendix within the collaborators section. (Please note, we cannot mandate this).

Step 7: What next?

Depending on your circumstances, you can then go on to register for a different study at the same site, the same study at a different site, or a different study at a different site. The aim is for you to build up a significant portfolio of studies that you have been involved with.

You can also include your certificate(s) in your specialty training portfolio as evidence of significant involvement in NIHR Portfolio research studies at a local level.

Within NIHR Learn, we have also included additional courses and bite-sized learning that you may find useful.

“The Associate PI Scheme gave me the opportunity to contribute to the conduct and delivery of a study at a local level with oversight from an extremely supportive PI. It was a great chance for me to gain experience and broaden my future opportunities within research."
An Associate PI on the ROSSINI 2 study

Further information

If you have any questions about the scheme, please contact the Associate PI Scheme central team at


Need a little extra help? Based on Associate PI trainee feedback, we have created guidance documents that aim to support you through your Associate PI tenure.

Visit the Associate PI Scheme resources website