The National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) Associate Principal Investigator (PI) scheme is a six-month training opportunity for healthcare professionals who are starting their research career.

The scheme provides them with practical experience of delivering an NIHR clinical trial under the mentorship of an experienced local PI.

Aims of the NIHR Associate PI Scheme

  • To integrate clinical research into clinical training;
  • To develop doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and healthcare professionals to be PIs of the future;
  • To recognise and promote doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, and healthcare professionals to engage in NIHR portfolio research in a consistent manner;
  • To increase opportunities for patients to be involved in high quality research to improve care.

Structure of the NIHR Associate PI Scheme

  • Open to Study and Associate PI applications from most NIHR specialties.
  • Open to any doctor, nurse, or health professional willing to make a significant contribution to the conduct and delivery at a local level.
  • Participation in the Associate PI Scheme does not absolve local PIs of their legal responsibilities at sites.
  • Commitment of at least six months is required for gaining Associate PI status.
  • There is no funding associated with the Associate PI Scheme. Applicants will take part in the scheme alongside performing their core role.
  • Applicants must register prospectively - retrospective recognition is not possible.

NIHR Associate PI Scheme - Study eligibility criteria:

  • The study must be on the NIHR portfolio.
  • The study must have at least six months of recruitment activity left.
  • The study must be multi-centred.
  • Can be interventional or observational. Observational Studies will require further clarification.
  • The scheme is currently not open to fully funded commercial studies.
  • Studies that are in set-up can join the scheme, but must be no more than three to four months away from recruiting.

NIHR Associate PI Scheme - Applicant eligibility criteria

  • The study must be registered on the Associate PI Scheme.
  • Applicants can only be an Associate PI for one study at a time.
  • One Associate PI is allowed per study, per site.
  • Any NHS healthcare professional who wants to gain experience of delivering an NIHR portfolio trial can take part.
  • You are not eligible if your role is specifically funded to work on research.
  • Associate PIs must be able to commit to six months of working on a study at their site.
  • Associate PIs must gain prior approval from their Local PI.

The process for an Associate PI

  • Applicants check the list of registered studies and speak to the local PI of the study to get their endorsement to join the scheme.
  • Applicants complete a registration form.
  • The Associate PI works alongside their Local PI for six months of the study at the site. The Local PI acts as a mentor during their time on the Scheme.
  • The Associate PI completes a checklist of activities and the Associate PI Scheme Learning Pathway in NIHR Learn.
  • The checklist is signed off by Local PI and National Study Coordinator.
  • The Associate PI Scheme team issues a certificate, officially confirming Associate PI status.
  • The Associate PI is acknowledged in a publication from the study, in a way which is searchable in PubMed (normally in the appendix as a collaborator)*.

*Please note we cannot mandate this, but we heavily encourage it.

NIHR Associate PI Scheme - Checklist activities

  • Signature on study-specific delegation log.
  • Dissemination to the department.
  • Engagement with staff, research team meetings (diary of research team meetings).
  • Site log, protocol amends, data returns and quality.
  • Train staff (good clinical practice, protocol).
  • Screening logs, recruitment/consent of patients or facilitating consent of patients.
  • Deputising for PI.
  • Patient and public involvement activities.

Benefits of the NIHR Associate PI Scheme

For the Associate PI

  • Experience of research with the oversight of the local enthusiastic PI
  • Learns about the challenges and practicalities of delivering a portfolio study
  • Participation is recognised through certification for their training portfolio
  • Associate PIs will be acknowledged in the primary publication(s) from the study




For the PI

  • Additional support with the delivery of the study
  • Developing the PIs of the future

For the study team/Clinical Trials Unit

  • Increased support for the trial at sites - managing delegation logs, etc.
  • Speedier delivery
  • Enhanced Recruitment

For the patient

  • Increased opportunities to be involved in high-quality research


Research learning lectures

The NIHR Associate Principal Investigator (PI) Scheme runs a lecture series or anyone in Health and Social Care interested in learning more about research. 

Research Learning Lectures

Research Learning Lectures

The Research Learning Lectures are a series of lectures covering a variety of topics relating to basic science, clinical trial methodology and statistics. They provide career advice for anyone who wishes to know more about research or work towards a career in research or academia. Attendees will also have the opportunity to hear from and put questions to research experts from across the world.

The Research Learning Lectures have been developed by Dr Kiran Reddy and Queen’s University Belfast Critical Care & Respiratory Research Group and now also include lectures developed by Dr Sophie Merrick and The Medical Research Council Clinical Trials Unit (MRC CTU) at University College London (UCL).


Recordings of previous lectures and webinars are available in the links below:

How to get involved