Policy Guidelines for Research Centers


On 16 December 1985, the Report of the SEAS Faculty Council Committee on Policy Guidelines and Suggested Bylaws for Research Centers was enacted (reference 1) following recommendation by the Faculty Council (20 November 1985) and Administrative Committee (27 November 1985), discussion by the Faculty (10 December 1985), and report to the Provost (16 December 1985). Subsequent experience, related discussion, and corresponding committee work in Faculty Council (references 2-3, 5-7) coupled with revised University policy (reference 4), resulted in proposed amendments (reference 8). This present document represents a revision of the 16 December 1985 document (reference 9).


In consonance with established University procedures, the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) encourages the formation of Research Centers that enhance the research activities of our faculty and students, and which thereby contribute to the scholarly environment of the School. It is the purpose of these policy guidelines to assure that Centers are reviewed and supervised by the faculty, that they operate in a way that respects accepted standards of academic freedom in choices of topics and techniques, and that they serve to enhance the strength of SEAS departments by cooperating with department chairs. To these ends, a Research Center must conform to all the standards of conduct that SEAS and the University demand of any faculty research, including for example: limitations on secrecy, whether for private or government reasons; retention of publication rights; no confidentiality agreements for students; and avoidance of any conflicts of interest.


It is noted that Research Centers may be based (i) within a department, (ii) within SEAS involving faculty from more than one department, or (iii) within the University involving faculty from more than one school. The departmental and school Research Centers are administratively responsible to the Dean, while the inter-school centers are administratively responsible to the Provost. In this latter case, the term Institute has been adopted by the University and should be used preferentially to distinguish such units from Research Centers (reference 4).

This policy statement applies to units that are formally organized and recognized as Research Centers as being distinct from other less formal groupings of faculty or students for academic, professional, or research advantages. Such groups should not be prevented from adopting identifying titles, but the words Center and Institute should be reserved for the formal structures. Phrases, for example, such as “The Research Group in…” or “The Laboratory for…” would be suitable for these informal groups.


The professional participants in a Research Center should ordinarily be either (1) bona-fide faculty, (2) visiting faculty, (3) students who are degree candidates, or (4) postdoctoral fellows. Academic appointments will continue in all cases to reside in the departments and not in the Center. If other appointments are made they should be for clearly stated terms and contingent upon the availability of funds from Center research programs or negotiated support from the school, with the understanding that although such appointments may be renewed, they are, in their nature, temporary and will not be renewed when a special need no longer exists or when a Center is closed.


Research Centers may encourage academic program development, however, teaching is solely the responsibility of the academic departments, and all courses and degree granting programs must be integrated into and administered through the existing graduate group committee/departmental structure of SEAS.

Administration of Research Centers

The executive officer of a Research Center is the Director, who is appointed by the Dean. The Director reports administratively to the Dean (directly for a Research Center that includes more than one department and otherwise through the Department Chair). Each Research Center has a Faculty Governance Committee that works with the Director to establish policies. After consultation with the Director and the Faculty Governance Committee, the Dean may also appoint an Advisory Council with affiliations coming primarily from outside the University. Appointments to the Faculty Governance Committee and the Advisory Council will be for a period of three years, with the possibility of renewal. The Faculty Governance Committee is required to conduct a triennial review of the Research Center and advise the Dean on its status, with advice from the Advisory Council (if one exists). In addition, the triennial report of each Research Center, including a fiscal summary, should be distributed to SEAS Council for their information.

The Director’s term of office is three years, with the possibility of repeated reappointments. This term of office may be shorter if the Director resigns, or longer if the school fails to review the center at the end of the three year period. However, the typical case is that the Faculty Governance Committee, in consultation with the Advisory Council (if one exists), should review the Director’s performance toward the end of each three year term and make recommendations to the Dean for action.


Research Centers will use standard University budgets, based on the same budgeting procedures as used by academic departments. These budgets must be approved by the Dean, and they must be prepared during the same budget cycles as academic departments. The Director administers the approved budget. Centers are permitted to recommend the hiring of professional and technical staff (A1 and A3 personnel classifications) consistent with approved budgets and with personnel practices of the University, but recommendations must be approved by the Dean or his or her delegated officers.

The administrative costs of a Research Center percentage-wise, should not be greater than those of contracts which are supervised independently. The incentives to increase research funding are not changed by the formation of a Research Center. The objective is simply to provide a mechanism of internal cooperation and external credibility. Research Centers should be discouraged from building an excessive or self-perpetuating administrative structure which simply increases the costs of carrying out the research itself.

It is recognized that the formation and initial operation of a Research Center may require expenditures which cannot be assigned to existing research contracts. The funds for such initial expenses should be funded by the Dean on a one-time, short-term, discretionary basis, to initiate a new program of research. Requests for such start-up funds should be included in toto in the initial proposal for the Center. The evaluation of a proposal for a new Research Center may therefore take into account the associated financial burden on SEAS.

In order to raise funds to support Center activities, the Director may seek outside funds in coordination with the School’s development program; however, if a request is made for funding to support research by a grant, a contract, or a gift, the proposal must be originated by a faculty member with a genuine research interest in the project. All proposals must be processed using standard SEAS and University procedures. They may be designated as originating from the Research Center, but the Principal Investigator or other responsible faculty members must be identified. Details on the intended allocation of the requested funds within the Research Center and among the home departments of participating faculty, must accompany the proposal. In general, the allocations should adhere to the following guidelines:

  1. The indirect cost allocation for the Research Centers will be the same as that currently used for individual research contracts.
  2. Personnel costs will be allocated to the budgets (center and departmental) carrying the research time of the people named in the proposal.
  3. Direct and other costs will be budgeted through the Center with the principal investigator administering that budget in the traditional manner.

Variations in these allocation guidelines may be warranted but must receive advance approval from the appropriate Department Chairs, the Center Director, and the Dean.

The Dean will appoint a budget administrator for each Center to assist the director in maintaining proper financial procedures.

Formation of a Research Center

Faculty members wishing to start a Research Center must prepare a written proposal containing at least the following information:

  1. A description of the scholarly field of research to be addressed by the Center, and of its justification. What is it that the faculty wants to do that cannot be done within the existing administrative structures? Is there a current or future need for students educated in the field of activity of the proposed Research Center?
  2. A listing of the faculty members who will participate in the Research Center activities with information on their home departments. Is there a specific request for additional faculty embedded in the proposal?
  3. A description of the Center’s impact on graduate academic programs. This might include the number of graduate students that will be supported for existing degree-granting programs, descriptions of courses that may be developed as a result of the Center activities, and a description of any central research facilities that will be acquired.
  4. A summary of the Research Center budget. Where will the start-up funding for the Research Center come from? What are the sources of funds that will be obtained in order to support the Research Center activities on an ongoing basis? If the budget contains a request for discretionary funds from the Dean to assist in the formation and initial operation of the Research Center, the justification for this support must be clearly defined in the proposal.
  5. A description of the Research Center’s organization, including nominations for the Center Director, and for the members of the Faculty Governance Committee. Nominations for the external Advisory Council may also be included.
  6. A description of the space needs, if any, of the proposed Research Center. If new space is required or existing space requires renovation, details on approximate costs and sources of funds should be included.


The formal Proposal to Establish a Research Center must be approved by the participating Department Chairs with the involvement of their faculty, students, space, or equipment. Following such approval, the proposal will be sent to the Dean, who will make a decision after consultation with SEAS Faculty Council and Administrative Committee. For inter-school Institutes, the proposal will be reviewed in the same way and forwarded to the Provost by the Dean if it has received SEAS approval.

Upon approval of a proposal, a Research Center Director will be appointed by the Dean from the nominations list submitted with the proposal. (The Director of an inter-school Institute is appointed by the Provost.) The members of the Center’s Faculty Governance Committee and external Advisory Council (if one is to exist) will also be appointed at this time.

Closing a Research Center

On the occasion of a review of the Center and Director’s performance, the members of the Faculty Governance Committee will be asked to also assess the ongoing value of the Center in comparison to its initial role and justification, and to report their findings to the related Department Chair(s) and to the Dean. The Faculty Governance Committee can recommend the closing of the Center if they see fit. In addition to the foregoing, the Dean may at any time appoint an ad hoc review committee, whose report would be advisory. The Dean may also close a Center if:

  1. It fails to conform to SEAS policies for Research Center operations;
  2. It is unable to generate sufficient funds to meet its needs and to satisfy approved budgets; or
  3. It fails to demonstrate a scholarly need that cannot be met as well by other existing administrative structures.

It should be noted and emphasized that the closing of a Research Center should not in any way affect a faculty member’s tenure or freedom to choose a research topic. The closing implies that the administrative structure, the budget authority, and the designation as a Center have been eliminated, but nevertheless, a faculty member can pursue his or her research interests through traditional departmental structures.


  1. Report of SEAS Faculty Council Committee dated 16 May 1985: SEAS Policy Guidelines and Suggested Bylaws for Research Centers, enacted 16 December 1985.
  2. Letter to J. Bordogna, Dean, from P. S. Ayyaswamy, Secretary of the Faculty, dated 10 July 1988.
  3. Faculty Council Minutes dated 20 April 1988.
  4. Memo to Academic Deans from Provost M. Aiken re Establishment and Discontinuation of Research Centers and Institutes dated 7 February 1989.
  5. Memo to E. D. Glandt, Chair, Faculty Council, from S. W. Churchill and P. K. Davies, Faculty Council Subcommittee on Research Center Policy, dated 31 March 1989.
  6. Faculty Council Minutes dated 19 April 1989.
  7. Letter to P. K. Davies, Faculty Council Subcommittee Representative on Research Center Policy, from E. D. Glandt, Chair, Faculty Council, dated 8 June 1989.
  8. Amendments to SEAS Guidelines and Suggested Bylaws for Research Centers prepared by P. K. Davies, Faculty Council Subcommittee Representative on Research Center Policy, dated 12 September 1989.
  9. SEAS Faculty Council Recommendations for Revision/ Amendment to Policy Guidelines for Research Centers (Minutes dated 18 November 2005 and 30 January 2006).

Policy Enacted: 16 December 1985
Revised: 19 April/ 12 September 1989 / 30 January 2006

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