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Establishing Research Centers and Institutes - Vice President Research and Economic Development - University at Buffalo Skip to Content

Establishing Research Centers and Institutes

Academic, discipline-based research is key to the university's mission. Centers and institutes are intended to serve the interests of faculty and UB by producing the highest quality scholarly work, an overriding objective that transcends other considerations. 

Overview: Establishing Centers and Institutes

Academic, discipline-based departments are the primary units for carrying out the university's mission. However, new problems or areas of scholarly work often arise that need different organizational structures. Interdisciplinary centers and institutes are key to developing innovative programs that keep the university in the forefront as a research and scholarly institution.

Such centers may focus on research, instructional, service problems or some combination thereof. Usually they are based on faculty interest or in response to external funding opportunities and are particularly relevant in the context of UB2020. In addition, some centers are established around a particular facility or service for the benefit of the university community.

Typically, interdisciplinary centers and institutes form to address specific issues or problems and cease activities when their objectives are met or when the center no longer addresses the original objectives.

When participating faculty come from multiple schools and/or address the core areas identified in UB2020, the Vice President for Research and Economic Development (VPRED) shall convene the appropriate deans, department chairs and/or faculty to plan these cross-decanal units, classified as UB centers and institutes.

Sometimes a special category of center or institute is established based on a particular research service or facility, which is administered separately from a school where this is advantageous for scholarly research and education. These are UB core facilities and may have a component of base funding.

Resources for Centers and Institutes

If a UB or decanal center or UB core facility is meeting its objective of producing outstanding scholarly work, the university will create a funding plan that may include state resources, university funds, research direct or indirect revenue, endowment or gift income, etc.

No single funding model works for all centers and institutes, but the university is committed to sustaining important scholarly work in whatever form it may take. Conversely, centers and institutes may form and dissolve, recombine and fracture as scholarly problems and issues arise and fade.

Where appropriate, the VPRED will work with the provost and deans to create a funding plan as long as the center / institute activities meet university goals and objectives. These plans should be in place at the start of a UB center’s activity so that it may plan accordingly. Deans and department chairs will have similar responsibility for decanal centers.

 

Guidelines: Establishing a Decanal Center or Institute

Decanal centers are those focused entirely or primarily within one school. The appropriate dean and faculty members will decide if creating a center or institute is the best way to address an important academic need. 

When establishing a center, you need to determine its unique contribution, mission and goals as well as developing a sound academic and financial plan along with criteria for benchmarking success. Your proposal should include:

  • The value-add for the school's and university’s missions, as well as how the center or institute would relate to the goals of UB2020, education and society.
  • An academic plan, proposed organizational and leadership structures, and a financial plan
    • The financial plan must include potential resource ramifications for units outside the decanal center, such as other departments, decanal units and central administration.
  • Nomination of an external advisory board
  • Specific benchmarks that reflect the identity and mission of the decanal center based on its particular academic focus
    • Quantify goals where possible, using accepted measures of scholarly productivity.

Decanal centers are expected to fulfill their academic and research goals at all times and to financially support their mission as possible, commensurate with funding available in their fields. Some centers may require sustained commitment of central or decanal resources to achieve their goals.

 

Evaluation: Decanal Centers and Institutes

Deans evaluate the effectiveness of their decanal centers and institutes to determine levels and sources of support. Funding may include state appropriations, university funds, direct or indirect grant income, gifts or endowment or some combination thereof. The deans also develop a process for determining when decanal centers and institutes have completed their missions.

  • Decanal centers will be evaluated and held accountable using the benchmarks specified in their academic and financial plans, and their contribution to the objectives of their original foundation and of UB2020.
  • Each decanal center or institute must produce an annual report of their activities and achievements to be reviewed by the appropriate school or college reporting supervisor.
  • The Vice President for Research and Economic Development maintains a list of decanal and university centers and may serve in an advisory capacity.

Guidelines: Establishing UB Centers and Core Facilities

UB centers, institutes and core facilities are those that involve substantial efforts by faculty across several schools, require the investment of central university funds, and/or focus on the acquisition and operation of shared instruments. The Vice President for Research and Economic Development (VPRED) convenes the appropriate deans, department chairs and faculty to review and assist with planning for a UB center.

Process for Establishing UB Centers and Institutes

You must apply to the appropriate deans and VPRED. They will review the application with advice from an ad hoc cognizant evaluating committee and/or the Research Advisory Council. The VPRED may approve the center or recommend changes in the name, scope or other aspects of the proposed center.

The application should contain information about the organization, administration and governance structure including:

  • Executive summary
  • Mission statement
  • Background - including existing efforts and faculty involved at UB
  • Comparison of value added compared to similar or related centers at other institutions
  • Description of proposed program
  • Potential for revenue generation (e.g. federal grants, training grants, clinical/service income, private and corporate donations)
  • Resources available/pending (space, equipment, administrative support, cash)
  • Requested school / college or UB funds, if any
  • Budget / resource justification for years 1-3
  • Strategic plan / timeline
  • Goals and progress benchmarks
  • Internal and external letters of support from informed individuals
  • Statements of support from relevant department head and deans

Criteria for Reviewing Applications

The VPRED and appropriate deans will review UB center and institute applications with these criteria in mind:

  • If involving more than one school, they should be multidisciplinary and, ideally, should involve faculty from at least three areas of expertise.
  • They should be organized around a research or scholarly theme of intellectual importance with high potential benefit for research, creative work and education at the university and should indicate their relationship to the goals of UB2020.
  • They should have a clear mission based on this scholarly and research theme, or, in the case of a core facility, on the proposed facility or service.
  • They should have as the proposed director, a senior faculty member of academic standing, who has demonstrated administrative skills and the ability to raise external funding where appropriate. 

Review: UB Centers and Institutes

New UB centers are granted such status for three to five years. A designated administrator (e.g. dean, associate dean for research or senior staff member of the OVPRED) is assigned to each center, responsible for overseeing possible funding and ensuring its success.

When granted UB center or institute status, the center members and designated administrator then must approve operating guidelines as outlined in the proposal. The guidelines should include:

  • Rules of internal governance
  • Membership criteria
  • Identification of an external advisory group

Annual Reports and Evaluations

To help ensure that there is a continuing need and that its research, facility and service remain of the highest quality, each center must submit an annual report.

The designated administrator reviews the report to make sure the center is reaching its goals and benchmarks, and meeting its objectives in regard to generating self-supporting, external funding. The administrator then provides a written evaluation to the center director and the VPRED. 

A major UB center or institute is reviewed every three years, by a committee comprised of three to five researchers of distinction and seniority, and with acknowledged expertise in the field. The chair and majority membership of the review committee are generally external experts.

The VPRED appoints all review committees. He/she collects all committee reports and advises the provost as to whether the UB centers and institutes should continue with center or institute status for an additional three years.

Continued UB funding after three years is infrequent. However UB centers which demonstrate their continued contribution to excellent scholarly work and, as appropriate, show significant growth in their external funding support, may receive additional university funding.

* The provost has final authority with respect to designation as a UB center and/or the allocation of university resources.