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To: Deans, Directors, and Department Heads
From: Bill Gern, Vice President for Research & Economic Development
Dick McGinity, Interim Provost for Academic Affairs
Subject: Policies Governing the Establishment of Externally Funded Research Centers
Date: Reissued September 19, 2013
This document describes UW's operating policy for the establishment and regulation of externally funded research centers. Such centers provide a mechanism for departments and colleges to respond to externally fundable research opportunities in a timely fashion, without changing the administrative structure of the university. The desire to foster greater interdisciplinarity, coupled with the overall increase in UW's research endeavors, suggests a reexamination of the administrative procedures and constraints that apply when faculty researchers propose the establishment of such centers. The institution's goal should be to allow for the formation and dissolution of research centers with a minimum of bureaucracy, subject to the need for appropriate levels of administrative and budgetary oversight.
Any center that (1) requires permanent institutional funding, (2) will play a formal role in the hiring of faculty or extended-term-track academic professionals, (3) will play a formal role in the reappointment, tenure, promotion, or extended-term appointments of these employees, or (4) will have responsibility for changing or delivering credit-bearing curricula requires a more complicated set of steps, leading to final approval by the President and Board of Trustees.
Institutional recognition. It is often important to demonstrate to funding agencies and foundations that clusters of research expertise have official recognition by the institution.
Avoiding bureaucratic disincentives. Cumbersome approval processes can serve to discourage faculty initiative and to diminish institutional nimbleness in responding to funding opportunities, even in areas where organized, collaborative research is timely in light of state-of-the-art advances.
Uncontrolled proliferation and organizational confusion. The possible proliferation of centers raises three concerns. First, the university has a clear interest in regulating activities that suggest an institutional imprimatur. Second, although most research centers have life spans shorter than those of departments and colleges, the need to staff and equip a research center can lead to unproductive conflicts of commitment and budgetary complexities. Third, the absence of clear bounds on hiring, personnel management, and budgetary practices can lead to confusion or inequities among employees.
The following procedures help resolve these issues.