As a kid, my mom would tell this story about four people named Everybody, Somebody, Anybody, and Nobody. The story posed an obvious question “Whose job is it?” Long story short, no one took responsibility for doing the job, so nothing got accomplished. She often told this story when I had not finished my house chores.

I was reminded of this story when a student research assistant visited my office and asked me “Whose job is it,” when managing the administrative tasks of an IRB protocol and research project. I replied, “It depends,” as there are different researcher roles on any given project. For example:

  • Principal Investigator (PI) – The individual responsible for all study activities. This person is responsible for the preparation, conduct, and administration of the research, including training other research staff, safeguarding data collection and storage, and remaining compliant with applicable laws, regulations, and institutional polices. Ultimately, it is the principal investigator’s responsibility to prepare and train research personnel and ensure any named personnel meet all regulatory requirements.


  • Co-Investigator (CI) – The individual who collaborates with the PI on study procedures and can lead in the absence of the PI. This individual makes significant contributions to a project.


  • Research Coordinator – Reports directly to the PI and assists in project planning and ensures that pre- established work, scope, study protocol, and regulatory requirements are followed. May recruit research subjects and serves as administrative liaison for the project. Oversees and coordinates administrative research tasks and maintains record keeping systems and procedures.


  • Research Assistant – Reports to the Research Coordinator and/or PI and conducts literature reviews, prepares study materials, recruits subjects, collects and analyzes data maintain accurate records of study related materials including safeguarding the confidentiality of subjects. The research assistant may also be asked to summarize project results and prepare progress reports.


  • Visiting Scholar – A visiting scholar (visiting researcher, visiting fellow, visiting lecturer or visiting professor) is typically from another university, institution, government agency, or non-profit organization who works with a PI for a specific university-sponsored educational program, cooperative agreement, or collaborative research project under.

Everybody engaged in research is  responsible for the care and welfare of all participants.