A Person of Interest (POI) designation is the mechanism Harvard uses to validate identities so that access to physical or digital resources can be granted to non-employees, non-students, and non-academic appointment holders. A member of the Harvard community must act as the sponsor for a POI request and in doing so, the POI Sponsor provides a legitimate and verified business need to justify giving access to Harvard resources to 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.

This web page was developed to assist the HMS community in bringing POIs onboard according to the University POI policy and to explain additional HMS-specific requirements.

For POIs that need to access digital resources at HMS, a separate request for creating an HMS account ID (Guest Account) must also be submitted by an HMS department administrator/delegate after a POI is fully approved. Note: Ideally, the HMS POI Sponsor would also be the sponsor of the HMS account ID (Guest Account) for the POI. However, that is not required, and sometimes the HMS Guest Account and POI are sponsored by two different people for the same POI. You can find details on how to submit an HMS Guest Account request at it.hms.harvard.edu/getting-started-it/guests.

General information

  • Who can be a POI: An individual with a legitimate need for access to Harvard and HMS space and digital resources for purposes that advance the Harvard or HMS's business mission, and who also meets 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 the POI role type descriptions).
    • Special note on academic affiliates of HMS: Individuals who hold an academic appointment through HMS (for example, postdoctoral researchers, lecturers, instructors, assistant and associate professors, and professors) should not be brought on board as a POI. People who have an HMS academic appointment already have access to Harvard/HMS space and resources. To access, affiliate appointees should claim their Harvard University ID (HUID), HarvardKey, and HMS account ID. Instructions are available through the HMS-IT Getting Started web page and via the HMS IT Service Desk at itservicedesk@hms.harvard.edu. HMS IT does not sponsor POIs.
  • POI sponsors and approvers: Each POI must be sponsored and approved by authorized members of the HMS community. Sponsors must ensure that the POIs they sponsor comply with the Harvard University POI policy and all other applicable Harvard policies. Unpaid HMS faculty not associated with a pre-clinical department are not eligible to sponsor POIs at HMS. Unpaid HMS faculty with an appointment in a pre-clinical department are eligible to sponsor POIs.
    • Training – Sponsors, sponsor delegates, and local and central approvers MUST take a one-time POI training before sponsoring or approving POIs in the University POI portal.
    • POI Portal Roles – Local Approver, Administrator, Reviewer, and Central Approver roles for your department can be requested by emailing HMSPOI@hms.harvard.edu.
    • Limitations – HMS personnel can be assigned multiple roles in the POI system; however, the same person cannot be both the sponsor and the approver for the same POI request.
  • POI role types: Harvard has identified 25 different assignable POI Roles that describe/define the circumstances under which a person qualifies for a POI role and can be granted access by Harvard/HMS 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.
  • 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.

HMS-specific information for certain POI roles

External core customer (ECC) POIs are individuals who need to use HMS shared-use core facilities or fee-based research service but are not employed by HMS/Harvard and do not hold an HMS or Harvard academic appointment (for example, a lab technician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital or a scientist from Pfizer). External core customer POIs should be sponsored by the director or a senior staff member of the relevant research core facility. A list of individuals eligible to sponsor external core customer POIs by each core is available in this PDF.

Two documents are required to bring on board an ECC POI at HMS:

  1. HMS-approved core User Agreement: All ECC POIs must sign an HMS-approved core user agreement. HMS research cores have been provided with HMS-approved external user agreement templates to distribute to their users.
  2. Acknowledgment of Risk and Release of Claims. This is only required for in-person or on-campus access. It is not required for HMS-affiliated hospital employees.

Detailed instructions have been developed to support Sponsors of External Core Customer (ECC) POIs.

Research Collaborator POIs are individuals who do not hold a Harvard appointment or employment but are participating in an active research collaboration with a Harvard-based researcher and have a legitimate need to access Harvard research space, data, or systems as part of their collaboration for a specified period of time. Research collaborator POIs must be sponsored by a faculty member with an appointment in an HMS pre-clinical department.

Three documents are required to bring on board a research collaborator POI at HMS:

  1. HMS Research Collaborator POI Intake Form
  2. When a PA is not on file with the University, signed Participation Agreement (PA) or Visitor Participation Agreement. See the information that follows for more details on PAs and VPAs.
  3. Acknowledgment of Risk and Release of Claims. This is only required for in-person or on-campus access. It is not required for HMS-affiliated hospital employees.

More information on PAs and VPAs

Those who have an existing signed Participation Agreement (PA) on file with the University that includes the language I hereby assign… do not need to sign a VPA after departure from the University. If you are unsure if someone has an electronic PA on file, you can check GMAS. Refer to the instructions for finding PAs in GMAS.

VPAs should only be collected for individuals who do not have a previously existing PA on file. Alternative forms of the VPA exist to accommodate various needs, depending on the type of organization, if any, from which a person is visiting Harvard. Only the version for for-profit organizations requires both the signature of the individual and their new company or institution. All other VPAs only require the signature of the individual.

Visitors from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are not required to submit a VPA form provided they have first signed MIT’s own IP agreement (the IPIA), with the exception of MIT undergraduates, who must submit a VPA form. If you can't determine whether a visitor from MIT has signed the IPIA, contact the Office of Technology and Development for assistance.

Hospital administrator POIs are administrators at an HMS-affiliated hospital requiring time-bound access to Harvard resources. Examples of hospital administrator POIs are: 1) an undergraduate medical education administrator at Boston Children’s Hospital who needs access to Tableau reports about medical students rotating at their hospital; 2) a Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center employee serving as department administrator for a clinical department who needs access to PeopleSoft hire forms and the HMS faculty search portal. The only HMS units permitted to use this POI type are: Program in Medical Education, Office of Finance, Office of Human Resources, and the Office for Faculty Affairs. Other HMS departments/units who believe they have a need for this POI type should contact HMSPOI@hms.harvard.edu.

Tenant POIs are individuals who work in a leased space on the HMS campus. This POI category may only be used by the Office of Campus Planning and Facilities.

Incoming Trainees and Researchers may need to access certain business systems ahead of their arrival to facilitate the transfer of grants and protocols in GMAS, ESTR, IACUC, COMS, OAIR, and other research compliance systems. Incoming researchers may be granted pre-arrival access to these research compliance systems in the following ways:

  • Individuals with a current HMS appointment or employment (including temporary appointments) but transitioning to another faculty or postdoctoral position within Harvard: Many academic appointments and employments allow access to the research compliance systems. Individuals who currently hold HMS/HU employment or an appointment may not need a POI role; however, they must qualify for PI status to submit grants or protocols. If you are unsure if someone’s current role allows them access to specific systems, check with HMSPOI@hms.harvard.edu. If you are unsure if the person is eligible for PI status, check with business office who manages that process (for example for GMAS confer with ORA, for ESTR confer with the IRB).
  • Incoming Faculty, who will have a rank of Assistant Professor, Associate Professor or Professor upon their start date, should be granted a Member of the Faculty appointment ahead of their start date. They should not be assigned a POI role. Once assigned a Member of the Faculty role, access to the research compliance systems will be automatically granted within two business days. More details on the process for requesting a Member of the Faculty appointment/title can be found in the HMS Faculty Handbook, fa.hms.harvard.edu/FoMhandbook.
  • Incoming Postdocs/Trainees, Instructors, Lecturers and Research Associates who are eligible to be a PI and who are submitting grants or protocols for their own benefit prior to arrival at HMS, should be assigned an External Administrative Affiliate POI role via the POI Portal. This role will grant them access to the research compliance systems within two business days of POI approval.
  • Individuals Assisting An Incoming Faculty with a grant or protocol submission but who are not members of the Harvard/HMS community may also be granted access to the research compliance systems. They should be assigned an External Administrative Affiliate POI role via the POI Portal. This role will grant them access to the research compliance systems within two business days of POI approval. Departments are encouraged to limit the number of people and the length of time they assign this role for individuals who are supporting submissions only.

Departing Trainees and Researchers may be eligible to retain access to HMS resources upon departure by converting to a Research Collaborator POI, provided they meet all Research Collaborator POI eligibility standards (must be participating in an active collaboration with an HMS PI or researcher). All Research Collaborator POI onboarding steps and documentation must be completed to convert someone to a Research Collaborator POI. Departing trainees include Post Doctoral Fellows who are leaving HMS but need to complete a publication or analysis in collaboration with their HMS PI. Questions about post-departure access trainees and researchers ineligible under the Research Collaborator POI role, or other on-trainee/non-researcher employees should be directed to HMS Human Resources.

Requesting HMS space and systems access for an approved POI

Consistent with POI onboarding practices, approvers, departments, and/or sponsors and sponsor delegates must separately identify and request access to the computing or physical HMS resources that the POI will need, after the request is submitted, to assign POI status through the POI Portal is approved. After the sponsored POI has been approved:

  1. Physical access to HMS space (swipe card/key access) is granted through a request made by your Departmental Administrator or Core Director to HMS Security. Contact your Department, Center or Core’s Administrator for assistance.
  2. Computing resources/systems must also be separately requested through the ServiceNow portal. You will need to provide both the POI Request ID number and the Harvard University ID (HUID) assigned to your POI in the Guest Account/ServiceNow form justification field. This is necessary for HMS-IT to match the Guest Account request to the POI Portal request. Note not all POIs are eligible to access to all services.

Computing resources that can be requested include but are not limited to:

For a more extensive list of services, visit Our Services | HMS IT (harvard.edu).

Approved POIs will not be able to access any HMS resources until access to the resources has been requested through the processes outlined above. Access to space, materials, data, and systems are reviewed and approved on a case-by-case basis, in accordance with their POI role type, and HMS/Harvard policies. Be aware that POIs may not be granted access to all systems, data, space, or materials that are requested.


HMS resources

Contacts for general help

Forms for bringing POIs on board (required for certain POI roles - see POI Portal)

University resources


An FAQ for HMS POIs is under development. Send your questions to HMSPOI@hms.harvard.edu.