Person of Interest (POI) Policy – effective July 15, 2021

Updates & FYIs:

  • VPN is no longer necessary to access the POI system – just your Harvard Key
  • Departing postdocs are eligible to be research collaborator POIs for up to six months, without a POI form and via an administrative sponsor; after the initial six months, the full research collaborator process will be required
  • As research collaborator POIs carried over from the previous system expire, a full set of documents will be required if an extension or renewal is requested
  • Existing data use agreements can substitute for a VPA in certain cases

A Person of Interest (POI) designation is the mechanism Harvard uses to grant access to physical and/or digital resources for a person who is not a Harvard employee nor a Harvard student and who does not hold an HMS academic appointment through a Harvard-affiliated hospital.  POI status is granted because Harvard has a legitimate and verified business need to support the activities of the POI.

Effective July 15, 2021, all POI requests must comply with the new Harvard POI policy and all POIs must be brought on board, renewed, or terminated using the new Harvard POI portal.

Who can be a POI:

An individual with a legitimate need for access to Harvard/Harvard Chan School space and/or digital resources for purposes that advance the University or School’s business mission(s), and who also meet the definition of one of the POI role types defined in appendices A, B, or C of the Harvard University POI policy (also found in POI Role Types).

Individuals who hold an academic appointment through the Harvard Chan School (e.g., postdocs, lecturers, instructors, assistant and associate professors, and professors) should not be brought on board as POIs. People who have a Harvard Chan academic appointment already have access to Harvard space and resources.

POI sponsors and approvers

Each POI must be sponsored and approved by authorized members of the Harvard Chan community. Sponsors must ensure that the POIs they sponsor comply with the Harvard University POI policy and all other applicable Harvard policies. Research Collaborator POIs must be sponsored by the relevant PI.


Sponsors, sponsor delegates, and local and central approvers MUST take a one-time training BEFORE they are able to sponsor or approve POIs in the University POI portal. Access the training here:

POI training

Some additional information was provided at a recent meeting hosted by staff from HUIT/IAM and SPH discussing the purposes of the new policy and the important process updates. Access the Zoom recording of that meeting here:

SPH POI Overview meeting (MP4)

Quick POI Guide For Sponsors in research collaborator POI process (provided by Luis Hernandez in MET and NUT)

POI role types

Harvard has identified 25 different assignable role types that describe/define the circumstances under which a person qualifies for a POI role and can be granted access by the Harvard Chan School to a variety of time-bound physical and/or digital resources. It is important to match the type of access needed to the appropriate POI role and to ensure that the POI matches the criteria defined in the POI policy for the POI role.

Research Collaborators

In most Harvard schools and units if an individual is in a lab actively participating in research or is requesting access to otherwise inaccessible Harvard materials in conjunction with the ongoing work of a Principal Investigator, they should have a formal appointment rather than a POI role. There are two exceptions to this:

  1. An industry collaborator (e.g., consultant/vendor) who will be collaborating on research pursuant to an IP agreement between Harvard and the outside vendor that has been approved in place of the standard Visitor Participation Agreement and Acknowledgement of Risk and Release of Claims documents.
  2. A research collaborator in a school or unit that supports centralized approval of Research Collaborator POI roles.

The Research Collaborator POI role type will only be available for selection in schools and units where centralized approval is supported. Research Collaborators are expected to have paid employment outside of Harvard. Research Collaborators should have a legitimate and documented research-related business reason to access university space or resources, and should be directly sponsored at the Harvard Chan School by the relevant PI. Requests for Research Collaborator POI roles must include the following documentation as attachments:

  1. Signed Visitor Participation Agreement (VPA). Note: Visitors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are not required to submit a VPA form, with the exception of MIT undergraduates, who must submit a VPA form.
  2. Signed Acknowledgement of Risk and Release of Claims (if accessing one of Harvard’s laboratories). Note: Employees of one of the 15 teaching hospitals and institutes associated with the Harvard Medical School are not required to complete this form.
  3. A signed and counter-signed Research Collaborator POI Information Form outlining the scope of activities and the nature of the collaboration and relationship with Harvard and specifying that the POI is not an agent or employee of Harvard. See: SPH POI Candidate Info Form

*Research Collaborator POIs will have an additional layer of approval required (from a Local Approver in OFA or HR).

Expiring POIs

POIs must be renewed on or before their end date listed in the POI Portal. Renewing POIs must meet all POI Policy criteria and have the required documentation to be approved for renewal. For POIs onboarded prior to July 15, 2021, their information will be transferred into the new POI Portal,  but newly required documents will be required on requests for their extension/renewal.


Who can sponsor a Research Collaborator POI?

A primary faculty member, a research scientist, staff scientist, or lab manager can sponsor a POI. By exception, a secondary faculty member from another school at Harvard can sponsor a POI for work related to a grant being run through the Harvard Chan School.

Can departing academic appointees have a POI? (UPDATED 8-19-21)

POI roles may not be used to extend access for most departing employees or other Harvard affiliates who wish to retain access to email, file shares, or other resources to which their employee role granted them privileges.

For a short time in Fall 2021, departing appointees may have a temporary POI designation to close out projects and forward correspondence to their new primary email account. With the exception of departing postdocs*, starting in 2022, departing appointees will have to be transitioned–if necessary and appropriate–within an unpaid, non-PI-rights-eligible, time-limited appointment.

Co-authorship and email forwarding are not legitimate qualifications for an appointment in and unto themselves, and all efforts should be made to plan accordingly for original appointment end dates. Co-authorship does not by definition require a School email account; School email accounts are meant to be reserved for active appointees; off-boarding should commence three to six months prior to planned end dates, depending on the appointment type, when the appointee is reminded or given notice of the term date for the appointment.

*Departing postdocs are eligible for six months of POI status and may be sponsored by department administrators and assigned a Research Collaborator POI without the required information form. After the six-month period, they will have to be sponsored by their PIs and an information form will be required. 

Can current POIs be extended?

Current POIs were ported into the new system from the old system before July 15, 2021. When they reach their end dates, those POIs will be required to be renewed through the new process and according to the new Harvard POI policy. This means Research Collaborators will have to fill out the SPH POI Candidate Info Form and Sponsors will be responsible for approving those POIs in the Harvard POI portal, regardless of how their initial POI was entered.