Reporting and Resourcing Guidance for Research Centers and Institutes
UTA's policy for the Establishment and Administration of Centers and Institutes (Policy GA-UA-PO6) was recently updated to define terms, align practices, and clearly outline reporting expectations. The new policy recognizes that Centers and Institutes might be established to serve a variety of purposes and is intended to allow maximum flexibility while encouraging consistency. As such, the policy provides minimal detailed guidance on the governance, reporting and resourcing of Centers and Institutes. It is anticipated that the mechanisms and approaches to address these issues will be as diverse as the Centers and Institutes themselves. A primary goal of the policy, and this accompanying guidance document, is to limit the potential for conflict between stakeholders (e.g. faculty, Center Directors, Department Chairs, Deans and Central Administration).
Under the new policy, Centers and Institutes with a primary focus on research must involve the Vice President for Research during establishment and ongoing reporting. To support this, the Office of the VPR is providing additional guidance and defined expectations regarding: (a) reporting lines and periodic reporting, (b) financial sustainability plans, and (c) space planning for Research Centers and Institutes.
This guidance is applicable to all Research Centers and Institutes, regardless of whether they report directly to the VPR.
The new policy defines three possible reporting lines:
- Participants within one Department: The Center or Institute will report to the Department Chair and the Dean.
- Participants in multiple Departments but within one College or School: The Center or Institute will report to the Dean.
- Participants in multiple Colleges or Schools: The Center or Institute may report to one or more Deans by mutual agreement. Alternatively, the Center or Institute may report to the Vice President for Research, again by mutual agreement.
- Centers or Institutes that “serve a unique program purpose” may report directly to the VPR.*
- Centers or Institutes that obtain a level of prominence, activity and/or extramural funding that requires attention from Central Administration may report directly to the VPR. As an example, these may include large, programmatic grants with complex cost-matching or administrative requirements. Others may involve managing philanthropic relationships that require participation of UTA leadership.*
- Some Centers or Institutes may propose an advisory board or council as part of their governance structure. This may include members of faculty outside of the center, staff or university administrators. However, if an Advisory Council includes an external member to help promote and solicit private support, the approval and selection of council members must follow Regents Rule 60302 – Advisory Councils of an Institution.
* Reporting lines 4 and 5 are considered exceptions. Most often, Deans will be the highest members of the reporting line. Exceptions will require strong and compelling justification. Reporting to the Vice President for Research will not necessarily lead to financial support from that office.
Proposals to establish new Centers or Institutes, and subsequent performance reports from all Centers and Institutes, are expected to include financial sustainability plans. Financial sustainability plans for Centers and Institutes are expected to involve a mixture of funding, possibly including:
- current and anticipated extramural grant and contract support for direct research costs (Research Centers and Institutes are expected to be funded primarily by extramural grants)
- indirect costs provided through individual PI’s, Departments, or Colleges and Schools
- in-kind support (e.g. staff time) from academic units (with approval from relevant Department Chair(s), Dean(s), or Vice President for Research, as appropriate)
- gift funds
- support from central administration in exceptional cases
Extramural funding should be used to finance the direct costs of research activities, as allowed by standard sponsor rules. It is recognized that some costs supporting these research activities will not qualify as direct costs, and the following resources may be included in financial requests:
- Pooling of indirect cost (IDC) revenues between participating faculty, where existing College, School or Department policies return some portion of IDC revenue to faculty Principal Investigators (PI’s). Because Colleges, Schools, and Departments have different policies about returning IDC to faculty PI’s, negotiation with Chairs and Deans may be needed.
- Pooling of IDC revenues to a Center or Institute for a particular project as agreed upon by the Chairs or Deans in the reporting chain for the Center.
- In order to help document this agreement and to encourage multi-disciplinary research participation, within the Proposal Routing Form (bluesheet), faculty have the option to agree to a specific split of earned IDC for the Unit Head’s/Dean’s portion of IDC distribution. The form becomes available within the Special Consideration Tab, Indirect Cost Rate & Distribution section, and selecting “Yes” to a “Customized Indirect Cost Distribution is Required for this Proposal”. The Deans and Chairs affected must all agree to the proposed IDC distribution at time of proposal otherwise the IDC distribution will default to the PI’s academic Dean.
- IDC or other funding from central administration, e.g. the Vice President for Research. This source of funding will be approved only on an exceptional and well justified basis and should not be presumed to be available. It is most likely to be approved if it is provided as an explicit cost-share to a grant supporting Center activities. For example the formation of a center or institute may be part of a major proposal submission where cost-sharing is required or committed by the university to form and sustain the center/institute as a condition of the award.
One-time funding for specific purposes may also be requested. For example, a grant writer could be contracted to help prepare a proposal for a large grant capable of supporting a substantial portion of Center or Institute activities.
- Most campus research space is assigned by the University Space Resource Allocation Committee, with input from Department Chairs and Deans concerning space assignments in areas and buildings where their faculty are situated. Any requests for space in these areas should be made in consultation with the relevant Deans and Department Chairs.
- Space in the SEIR Building is assigned by the Vice President for Research. Any space requests involving this building should be made in consultation with the Vice President for Research.
All space assignments requested by Centers or Institutes must go through the usual approval processes. The space required for a Center or Institute should be described in the Center proposal. If establishment is approved, separate approval will be needed from the SRAC (or the Vice President for Research for SEIR) to assign requested space.
Credit for proposals, awards and expenditures of sponsored projects is important for activity reporting of individual faculty and their association to a center/institute where appropriate. Such reporting association will not bypass or replace the same credit to the academic home department of faculty Chairs and Deans. Therefore all sponsored project activity reporting will give credit to academic reporting chains in most reports. A separate report for those projects associated with a center or institute can be generated. To associate a project with a center or institute the PI will select the center or institute in the “Center Tag(s)” field of the “Proposal Information” tab of the proposal routing form (bluesheet).
In addition to the association of a center or institute and in order to encourage multi-disciplinary research participation, within the Proposal Routing Form (bluesheet), faculty have the option to agree to a customized credit percentage for each proposal according to their agreed upon participation. This is available in the “Multiple Credit System” tab of the proposal routing form.
The Office of the VPR has created a template application form to assist in the request for approval of a center or institute. The application form is aligned to capture the procedural elements for establishing a center/institute under the policy and should be used in conjunction with this guide. Use of the application form is not required and may be customized given the unique type of a center or institute being proposed.
Per the new policy, all Directors of Centers and Institutes will produce an annual report, which will follow the organizational chains defined above. The new policy also requires detailed reports after the initial first 3-years and then every 5 years thereafter. These reports will follow the organizational chains defined above, then be transmitted to the VPR for review.
As part of their reports, all Centers and Institutes (whenever they were established), should include:
- A description of the reporting chain the Center has followed, with request for continuation of this reporting chain, or for alteration with explanation and justification.
- A financial summary of all external funding and resources received and a description of all University resources provided to the Center (including cost-shares), with a request for continuation or modification of these resources and why they are necessary.
- A summary of performance activities towards current goals and a summary of future performance goals. Performance goals, may be for example, amount of external funding, new resource acquisitions or capabilities, industry, educational, or community impacts, major events or collaborations and other activities that clearly benefit the university.
Approval to continue as is, with modified goals, or with alterations to governance, administration, reporting, or resources, will then be decided by consultative agreement between the Dean(s) and the Vice President for Research. Performance reviews may also result in a probationary period for improvement, per the new policy.
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