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Guidelines, Policies and Procedures

Guidelines for Establishing Research Clusters, Centers and Institutes


Operating Policies and Procedures for Research Clusters, Centers and Institutes

The following guidelines apply to all research clusters, centers, institutes, core facilities and laboratories (hereafter referred to as Research Organization or RO) that receive direct financial or other support, including space, from the University of Houston. In particular, they apply to all Research Organizations that receive, or expect to receive, direct return of overhead monies generated by research grants and contracts. Also, these guidelines apply to those entities of the University of Houston that represent themselves as ROs without actually using that name.

Research clusters are multidisciplinary, challenge-based groups of investigators that include and draw on the strengths of existing research centers, institutes and laboratories within multiple academic departments and colleges. Clusters are faculty-driven, multilevel frameworks that connect researchers with expertise in various disciplines in a multi-campus system with industry partners and funding agencies. They provide an inclusive foundation for collective scholarly activity and foster the sharing of ideas. The overarching goal of clusters and the cluster hiring strategy is to develop a critical mass of skills within the UH System for national leadership in defined areas of strategic growth.

Research clusters, centers, or institutes may be built around core facilities, which provide critical research equipment and infrastructure to a broad user community—both internal and external to the institution. Ongoing operations of core facilities are typically covered by user fees and service charges. The facilities are generally operated under direction of a facility manager under the oversight of a faculty user committee which reports to the VC/VP for Research.


A Research Organization, for the purposes of these guidelines, is a cluster, center, core facility or institute based at the University of Houston whose primary purpose is either research and development, and/or scholarly and creative activity among University of Houston faculty. Research Organizations exist to enhance the educational and/or research activities of the University of Houston and to provide the critical mass to attain national recognition, pursue center grants and partner with other institutions and industry. The Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research will maintain a list of recognized Research Organizations.


A Research Organization is a non-profit organization that engages in research and educational activities.

A Research Organization may be identified primarily with one discipline, be multi-disciplinary, may support research in a wide variety of areas, and may involve more than one UHS university or institution.

A Research Organization may be supported by appropriated funds or depend entirely on sponsorship by outside agencies and foundations.

Approval of a new Research Organization is delegated by the Chancellor/President to the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research of the university. An agreement between a Research Organization and the VC/VP must be in writing.

An agreement between a Research Organization and the VC/VP must provide at least the following:

  • That the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research approves of the creation, existence, and purposes of the Research Organization.
  • That the Research Organization may not carry on activities that do not, in their entirety, support the mission of the university.
  • That the Research Organization may be built around core facilities.
  • That the Research Organization will undergo an extensive review every fourth year. The review period and depth of the evaluation will depend on the nature of the Research organization. The charter will not automatically renew, but will be renewed based upon performance according to the fourth year review. The Research Council will play a key role in this review process.
  • That the Research Organization is subject to all policies and procedures of the Board of Regents and system administration, and must submit to reporting and auditing requirements as established by the system administration.
  • That the Research Organization will submit a business plan and analysis relating planned pursuits to actual results to the Office of the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research.
  • That the Research Organization will submit an annual report with updated contact information for its Director and Officers by January 31 to the Office of the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research.


The operations of each Research Organization (RO) must guarantee appropriate fiscal controls as well as oversight of the academic/research mission of the RO. Each RO must have policies to insure that the operations conform to state statutes and regulations, Board of Regents policies, UHS administrative memoranda, and other institutional policies. These policies should include but not be limited to the following matters:

Creation of the RO

To establish a new RO, a group of faculty members should develop a proposal based upon a two to five year strategic plan. The proposal must be approved by the Department Chairs and/or Dean(s) of the department(s)/college(s) involved, and submitted to the Office of the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research. The VC/VP for Research will act on the proposal within three months. The VC/VP for Research may establish an ad hoc advisory committee as needed.

Content and Form of the Proposal Submission

The proposal should include a statement of objectives, a list of faculty and other participants and an indication of how the center will be funded. It should include the following components as a minimum:

Introduction – presents a reason for the existence of the proposed RO.

  • Provide a brief overview of the research area.
  • Provide a brief history of the research area in general and at UH, specifically.
  • What other universities/entities claim this area of research as an area of expertise?
  • How will this RO be differentiated from its competitors?
  • How will this RO respond to needs not currently being addressed by the competition?
  • What are the competitive obstacles to success?

Goals and Objectives – the benefits to the University of Houston should be presented along with the benefits to the faculty involved.

  • How will this RO fit into departments and colleges within UH?
  • How will UH’s existing strengths be leveraged in forming this RO?

Organization, governance, and membership should be discussed. – Faculty membership can include both tenure-track and research faculty. The role of the faculty in the RO should be defined and standards should be set for faculty involvement. Faculty members listed, as RO members should be participants in the activities of the RO not just listed as members. If the RO has plans to pursue external funding, it should be discussed.

  • Describe the proposed RO hiring plan in terms of staffing (e.g., faculty, post docs, students, staff).
  • How will the RO be managed and by whom?
  • What business processes will ensure efficiency of operations and best Return on Investment (ROI)?
  • Provide an organization chart of the RO.
  • Is there any relationship with industry?
  • Do you anticipate a relationship with the UH Center for Industrial Partnerships (CIP)?
  • Will you have an advisory board?
  • Describe the administrative organization of the RO, including rules governing membership, how prospective members will join or leave, and the role of the Director and of the members in the RO of ensuring that information on work done by members of the RO is available to the appropriate administrators, department heads and Deans for deciding on increments, salary adjustments, promotions and tenure.
  • Describe the rules governing to whom the RO reports, how the director is chosen, appointed and terminated, whether there is a governing or advisory council, and how it is constituted and the frequency of meetings of the officers of the RO.
  • Describe the procedures for the dissolution of the RO.

Budget and Fiscal Accountability – The operating budget of the RO should be submitted for the first year. If funds are being requested, include the following:

  • What faculty lines and amounts are necessary to fund the RO?
  • What additional personnel resources are required?
  • What startup package levels are necessary to fund the RO?
  • If funds are not being requested then provide documentation of financial operations and business practices of the RO, including statements on financial accountability and reporting responsibilities for operation of the RO.

Space – Space requirements should be identified.

  • Where will the new RO be housed?
  • What facilities, equipment, and technology are needed?

Commitments – Departmental or College commitments should be described.

Members – a listing of faculty who will be members of the RO along with a two-page curriculum vitae should be submitted.

Reporting Point – The proposal should state to whom the RO will report. If the RO will be primarily in one department, then the RO will report to that department chair. If the proposed activity is primarily within one college, then reporting will be to the Dean of that college. Truly multi-college ROs may report directly to the Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research. The Vice Chancellor/Vice President for Research must be consulted prior to submission of a request for establishment of a multi-college RO.

Funding – a list of recently funded activities related to the proposed RO and projected sources of future funding should be provided.

  • Will you be bringing existing research dollars into the university with the targeted hires?
  • What funding agencies and opportunities exist for the research generated?
  • How will these funding opportunities be pursued (e.g., a strategic research development plan)?
  • What are the sources of these funds? (Pay particular attention to sources such as philanthropy, graduate student fund generation, federal initiatives, state line items, IDC return levels.)
  • Detail the projected ROI.

Impact – how the new RO will impact the University of Houston.

  • What are the specific impacts on UH’s mission to double research in five years (in terms of projected research expenditures)?
  • What are the projected impacts on graduate and/or undergraduate student programs (e.g., new degree programs, new tracks in existing programs, increasing student involvement in research—for undergraduate this ties in with the SACS QEP?
  • What are the specific impacts on graduate and/or undergraduate student enrollments, and thus formula funding?