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Apply to be an Associate Principal Investigator

The Associate Principal Investigator Scheme is a unique NIHR development opportunity, aimed at any health and care 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.

Do you already work in research? We suggest you review the eligibility section of our FAQs for clear guidance on who can be involved.

Am I eligible for the Associate PI Scheme?

The scheme is open to health and care 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 health and care 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 and midwives

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.

If you're a research nurse or midwife, you won't be eligible as you already have research skills and experience.

You should consider the Principle Investigator Pipeline Programme (PIPP).  It is specifically for research delivery nurses and midwives who want to  develop as PIs to deliver NIHR portfolio studies.

Find out about other Career development opportunities for nurses and midwives.


Students are not eligible to be Associate PIs, because the scheme requires significant input over a six month period 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 (FAQ) 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.


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.


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

Before you get started, we highly recommend you watch the trainee application instructions video below.

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 identify a study that is registered onto the Associate PI scheme and open to recruitment at your local site, visit the Associate PI Scheme study dashboard.

Then using our dedicated 'Where Can I Take Part?' tool, you will be able to view a list of studies that are:

  • already registered onto the Associate PI Scheme
  • within a selected specialty area/field
  • open and recruiting at the site where you work

How to access the 'Where Can I Take Part?' tool:

  • Visit the QlikSense Associate PI Scheme dashboard
  • Click on the 'Where Can I Take Part' tile
  • Follow the instructions at the top to filter for your choice of Trust

If you are still unable to find a suitable study but have a study in mind, you can let us know the ID of the study. If the study is suitable, we may ask the study team if they would like to register the study.

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 obtain approval from the Local Site PI before you submit your Associate PI Scheme application. 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 Trainee Application Form, please visit the NIHR Learn Associate PI Scheme applications page for further instructions and to find which application form is most suitable for your circumstances.

Application tips:

  • The application form is not compatible with Firefox internet browser.
  • Some & accounts may experience issues receiving our emails. Please check your 'Junk/Spam' email folder and mark the as 'not Junk' or 'safe' to avoid future issues. Thank you.

Please email the Associate PI Scheme 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

We highly recommend you watch the step by step 'How to complete the Associate PI Scheme within NIHR Learn' video below.

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

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

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

Step 4: Completing the Associate PI Scheme

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 learning pathway within NIHR Learn will provide you with ways to structure your time by:

  • breaking down the elements of the checklist into monthly targets
  • 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.

As you go through the monthly tiles, you will be asked to populate your Associate PI checklist, to evidence what you have achieved.

Step 5: Export your checklist

Once you have successfully completed your checklist you will need to export it from NIHR Learn, and then attain signatures from your Local PI and a member of the national study team. If you are unsure who the national study team representative is, speak to your Local PI.

Step 6: Uploading your fully signed checklist

Once you have a fully signed copy of your checklist, you are ready to submit it. Select the ‘Upload Associate PI Checklist’ tile on the Associate PI Scheme course.

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 7: Receive your certificate

Once the Associate PI Scheme team have reviewed your fully signed checklist and deemed it to be a successful submission, your certificate will be made available for download via the Associate PI Scheme course homepage.

We also encourage the national 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 8: 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 the Associate PI Scheme course we have created a dedicated Alumni area which includes additional courses and bite-sized learning further supporting your pathway to research.

Further information

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


You may find the answers to some of your questions in our Associate PI Scheme FAQs.


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