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Research-Related Institutes and Centers

  • Responsible Office: Research and Innovation
  • Current Approved Version: 03/09/2020
  • Policy Type: Administrative

Policy Statement and Purpose

The framework under which research-related institutes and centers (RICs) are established and operate at VCU is grounded in institutional strategic planning. VCU’s Quest 2025 strategic plan focuses on national prominence by distinguishing VCU as a preeminent urban public research university. National prominence will be achieved by growing areas of strength as researchers, innovators, and educators. VCU’s RICs support and promote our interdisciplinary research strengths, scholarship, and creative expression. 

The purpose of this policy is to provide a framework that enables the oversight, creation, establishment, evaluation, modification, and discontinuation of RICs in a consistent manner. This policy aims to promote visibility, transparency, and accountability across these institutes and centers (ICs). 

This policy does not apply to institutes and centers that do not have a research mission. All research-related ICs must adhere to this policy. 

Grant funded centers created in response to Requests for Proposal (RFPs) and as the result of the receipt of funding (e.g., P50s) are not required to follow the procedures for creation, operation and evaluation set out in this policy. However, ICs in this category that would like to be classified as a university-level RIC must follow the procedures in this policy in addition to the RFP requirements. 

Some centers and institutes provide key infrastructure and support to the university and have unique funding status, such as Massey Cancer Center; the Wright Center for Clinical and Translational Research; and the Institute for Inclusion, Inquiry and Innovation (iCubed). These as well as those that report directly to the Office of the Provost or President are not subject to this policy.

Noncompliance with this policy may result in disciplinary action up to and including termination. VCU supports an environment free from retaliation. Retaliation against any employee who brings forth a good faith concern, asks a clarifying question, or participates in an investigation is prohibited. 

Who Should Know This Policy

Employees (including faculty), deans and research deans who interact with or are members of RICs are responsible for knowing this policy and familiarizing themselves with its contents and provisions.

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Definitions

Research-related Institute or Center (RIC)

An organizational unit comprised of a group of multidisciplinary researchers across multiple units focused on solving a critical societal problem that is consistent with the VCU strategic plan. The mission of RICs will have significant focus on research as well as training and service. RICs are classified into two types: university-level and unit-level.

Research-related Institute or Center (RIC) Director

The individual responsible for ensuring the RIC is effectively and efficiently managed and able to meet its goals and objectives.

Research-related Institute or Center (RIC) Oversight Official

The individual to whom the RIC director reports. University-level RICs will report directly to the vice president for research and innovation. Unit-level RICs typically report to their respective dean/associate dean, department chair or division chair.

Contacts

The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, in consultation with the VCU Research-related Institutes and Centers Review Committee, officially interprets this policy. The Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation is responsible for obtaining approval for any revisions as required by the policy Creating and Maintaining Policies and Procedures through the appropriate governance structures. Please direct policy questions to the Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation.

Policy Specifics and Procedures

The following procedures outline the oversight program for the creation, establishment, evaluation, modification, and discontinuation of university-level RICs at VCU.

Oversight of Research-related Institutes and Centers (RIC)

The vice president for research and innovation (VPRI) will appoint an institutional review committee to engage in the following activities for university-level RICs:

    • Review proposals to establish new university-level RICs and provide recommendations to the VPRI.
    • Establish guiding principles to be used in the evaluation of university-level RICs. 
    • Provide recommendations to the VPRI for necessary changes to this policy. 
    • Review annual progress reports from university-level RICs and provide feedback to the RIC oversight official and the RIC director. 
    • Review requests for resources and support from university-level RIC directors and make recommendations to the VPRI. 
    • Review five-year evaluations for each university-level RIC, provide feedback to RIC directors, and make recommendations to the VPRI. 
    • Review requests from RIC directors for modification or discontinuation of a university-level RIC and provide recommendations to the VPRI.   
    • Disclose any conflicts of interest that may arise during the course of their participation in the RIC Review Committee.

The RIC Review Committee will be comprised of the following representatives:

o Associate Vice President for Research and Development (OVPRI)

o One representative or designee from the Provost’s Office 

o One representative or designee from the Office of the Vice President for Health Sciences 

o Chair of the Research Development Advisory Committee (ReDAC)

o Vice-chair of the Research Development Advisory Committee (ReDAC)

o Senior Associate Vice President for Finance and Operations (OVPRI)

o Two active research faculty members

o Ad-hoc members appointed by the VPRI 

The RIC Review Committee should reflect the university’s commitment to diversity, inclusivity, and shared governance. Committee appointments will reflect an appropriate mix of knowledgeable faculty and administrators and will be staggered to ensure periodic replacement and continuity.

Creation of a Research-related Institute or Center (RIC)

Research-related ICs must be guided by a mission statement and organizational plan that clearly conveys the RIC’s potential to attract extramural funding and to add value to the university’s intellectual power and collaborative interdisciplinary relationships.

In addition to the requirements outlined below, requests to establish a university-level RIC must follow the procedures detailed in the OVPRI Compliance Notice “Procedures for the Establishment, Operations, and Evaluation of Research-related Institutes and Centers.” 

A proposal to establish a new university-level RIC must include:

1. Mission and goals of the RIC: In addition to its specific scientific or societal aims, the mission and goals must address how the RIC will add value to the university and help advance its strategic goals. In particular, the proposal must detail how the RIC will accomplish some or all of the following: 

a. Contribute to the national and international prominence of VCU as a research university

b. Enhance interdepartmental and interschool interactions and collaborations leading to significant multi-investigator awards 

c. Be a leader in promoting strategic initiatives that position the university to develop and expand its research enterprise 

d. Improve, both in quality and quantity, research productivity

e. Play a significant role in transferring science into practice 

f. Play a significant role in ensuring the recruitment and retention of outstanding faculty 

g. Create a mentoring environment for faculty that augments and extends beyond that provided by individual departments 

h. Provide unique educational opportunities for faculty, students, and trainees 

i. Develop and maintain core facilities or services that promote and support research

j. Build linkages between the university and the community 

 

2. Scope and value: The proposal must explain the value of establishing a RIC. Provide the rationale for seeking university-level status instead of establishing a unit-level RIC. Explain how the interdisciplinary collaboration of individual researchers under the proposed RIC will potentially result in outcomes greater than those that could be realized from the researchers’ individual efforts. 

3. Organizational structure, operations, and governance: The proposal must detail the organizational structure and general operations plan for the RIC. It must also include:

a. The rationale for the selection of a RIC director

b. How membership for RIC faculty is defined, with clear guidelines for promoting diversity and inclusivity. Membership should be demonstrated by prior evidence of synergistic collaboration between faculty members, or plans for future collaborations (publications, collaboration on a sponsored research project, etc.). 

4. Measurable outcomes and timeline: The proposal must provide specific activities to be undertaken by the RIC with measurable outcomes and a timeline for the stages of development over the first five years. The proposal must include the projected number of faculty members and trainees who are expected to participate in the RIC during this time. 

5. Resources and sustainability plan: The proposal must include a detailed funding plan and outline of resources needed (including personnel and space) for the initial five-year period of the RIC. All units involved with a RIC (schools/colleges, departments, etc.) are expected to have an investment in the work of the RIC. Examples of investments include funding commitment, protected time, decreased teaching responsibilities, facilities, space, and administrative support. These investments must be detailed in the RIC’s application for establishment to demonstrate sustainability and solvency, preferably through the submission of Memoranda of Understanding from the RIC’s key stakeholders with the application. 

Approval and Establishment of a Research-related Institute or Center (RIC)

Approval of a university-level RIC will be based on a compelling proposal that specifies the contributions the RIC will make above and beyond those expected from existing institutional units (e.g., departments, other ICs). 

Research-related institutes and centers may be categorized as either a university-level RIC or a unit-level RIC. The RIC Review Committee will review all university-level applications and classify each RIC at the time of establishment. Applications that do not meet university-level designation will be returned to the appropriate oversight official (i.e., dean) for approval as a unit-level RIC. While OVPRI will not have administrative responsibility for unit-level RICs,  units are encouraged to report their establishment or existence to the OVPRI on an annual basis. The OVPRI will maintain a list of all university- and unit-level RICs. This list can be used to identify potential collaborations and to reduce duplication of efforts.

A university-level RIC must meet the following criteria:

• Aligns with university priorities and strategic plans 

• Addresses a critical scientific or societal problem and a need not already met at VCU 

• Has a mission that is multidisciplinary, across multiple units, and beyond the scope of what can be accomplished by an individual department, school, or college

• Is evaluated periodically by the RIC Review Committee on whether or not the RIC is still pursuing a mission that is novel, compelling, and university-level

• Plan for financial sustainability and external sponsored funding

Typically, RICs applying for university-level status will have a demonstrated track record of collaboration and success over multiple years and have a significant research focus.

The governance structure of a RIC is based on the RIC’s status as either university-level or unit-level.

University-level RICs will report to the VPRI and/or Associate VP in the OPVRI and will be governed according to this policy. Human resources functions, grant submissions, and fiscal management will not be altered by this policy.

Unit-level RICs will report to the appropriate RIC oversight official within a school, college, or unit. Typically, this will be the dean to whom the RIC director reports. RIC oversight officials of unit-level RICs have full discretion in deciding whether to govern according to this policy. For consistency, the RIC Review Committee recommends that RIC oversight officials for unit-level RICs govern according to this policy.

In addition to all other approvals, all RICs that propose to develop educational programs must have such programs reviewed and approved through the relevant university approval process. For policies related to development and modification of educational programs, see https://provost.vcu.edu/academics/approval/.

Evaluation of University-level Research-related Institutes and Centers (RICs)

The following procedures apply to university-level RICs. Unit-level RICs are required to follow these procedures only if mandated by their oversight official.

To ensure each RIC is contributing to the mission of the university, all RICs must submit an annual written progress report to the RIC Review Committee and participate in an external review on a five-year cycle.

Annual Progress Report: The RIC report must provide a quantitative and qualitative assessment of the outcomes detailed in the planning proposal. The OVPRI Compliance Notice “Procedures for the Establishment, Operations, and Evaluation of Research-related Institutes and Centers” provides details about preparing the annual progress report.

Annual progress reports are due on the second Friday of February of each evaluation year. Tangible evidence of goal achievement must be conveyed in the annual report. The RIC Review Committee will review each annual report and provide feedback to the RIC director and the VPRI. RIC directors should provide responses, if any, to the VPRI.

Five-Year Review: An in-depth review of RICs will occur at five-year intervals. The date of final approval for establishing the RIC will serve as a guide to determining the appropriate review cycle. This process may be coordinated or linked with another review process, such as academic degree program review, as appropriate. As part of its evaluation, the review team will invite input from the VCU community on the effectiveness of the RIC. This input will be considered in the review team’s evaluation report.

The five-year review must include the use of outside experts to evaluate the program. The format for this review process is to be agreed upon between the RIC director and the RIC Review Committee. The evaluation must involve the preparation and review of a comprehensive document detailing the operation, accomplishments, and future plans of the RIC. The process will involve on-site interactions with researchers, staff and trainees. The review team must prepare a written evaluation report. The RIC director will be given an opportunity to provide a written response to the review team’s report. The OVPRI Compliance Notice “Procedures for the Establishment, Operations, and Evaluation of Research-related Institutes and Centers” provides details about the structure of the five-year review. RIC directors should provide responses, if any, to the VPRI.

Remediation: If the RIC Review Committee identifies deficiencies or areas needing improvement, the RIC will receive written notice in the form of a Notice of Improvement Needed report and be given a period of time to meet the expectations set forth by the RIC Review Committee. If expectations are not met, the RIC Review Committee may provide a recommendation to the VPRI for discontinuation or change in classification of the RIC. Such recommendations are required to follow the process detailed below for modification or discontinuation of a RIC. RIC directors should provide responses, if any, to the VPRI.

Resources and Support for University-level Research-related Institutes and Centers (RICs)

The following procedures apply only to university-level RICs. Unit-level RICs should negotiate funding arrangements with their respective RIC oversight officials.

University-level RICs are eligible to request resources or support from the VPRI. Resources or support may include, but are not limited to, financial support, advocacy, shared administrative services, or training and education. The RIC Review Committee will use annual progress reports and five-year reviews to make recommendations to the VPRI regarding resource distribution. 

To request resources or support from the VPRI, a RIC must submit an application to the RIC Review Committee. Details about this process can be found in the OVPRI Compliance Notice “Procedures for the Establishment, Operations, and Evaluation of Research-related Institutes and Centers.” 

The VPRI has full discretion to determine which resources and support will be provided to a RIC and for how long.

Modification or Discontinuation of a Research-related Institute or Center 

RICs that have established educational programs must follow SCHEV procedures to modify or discontinue their institute or center, which will affect closure timelines. For policies related to modification or discontinuation of educational programs, see https://provost.vcu.edu/academics/orgchange/.

Modification of a RIC: If the mission, goals, structure, leadership, or governance of a RIC change substantially from those in the originally approved proposal, the RIC must submit a request for modification outlining the changes and rationale for the changes. Approval of modifications will follow the same procedure as for the initial approval.

Discontinuation or change in classification of a RIC: It is not uncommon for specialized RICs to have a change in scope or a decline in activity after many years of service. Discontinuation or change in classification may be initiated by a RIC director, RIC oversight official, or the RIC Review Committee. 

RIC Director or RIC Oversight Official-Initiated Requests: Following a formal written request by the RIC Oversight Official, a decision for discontinuation can be made by the RIC Review Committee and the VPRI for the following reasons: 

1. The RIC unnecessarily duplicated the mission and/or activities of another IC or unit.

2. Insufficient financial, human, or facilities resources are available to support the RIC.

3. The major supporting grant or award has been terminated. 

4. The RIC has failed to achieve its mission, goals and objectives. 

5. The mission, goals and objectives of the RIC are no longer congruent with those of the administrative unit to which it reports or with the university.

Research-related Institutes and Centers Review Committee-initiated Requests: Requests from the RIC Review Committee for discontinuation or change in classification of a RIC will be based on annual progress reports or five-year reviews. RICs will receive written notice of deficiencies or opportunities for improvement and be given a period of time to meet the expectations set forth by the RIC Review Committee. If expectations are not met, the RIC Review Committee will provide a recommendation to the VPRI for discontinuation or change in classification of the RIC. The VPRI, in collaboration with the appropriate dean(s) or the RIC oversight official, will determine next steps for the RIC, which may include discontinuation of the RIC or a change in classification to unit-level RIC.  

If the VPRI decides to discontinue a university-level RIC, the RIC oversight official, in collaboration with the RIC director, must develop a plan for phasing out the RIC to allow orderly termination or transfer of contractual obligations. The phase-out period cannot be more than one year in duration, except for units with collections or facilities requiring additional time for responsible disposition.

Details about this process can be found in the OVPRI Compliance Notice “Procedures for the Establishment, Operations, and Evaluation of Research-related Institutes and Centers.”

Forms

There are no forms associated with this policy and procedures.

Related Documents

1. Compliance Notice “Procedures for the Establishment, Operations, and Evaluation of Research-related Institutes and Centers.” 

2. Development and modification of academic programs (https://provost.vcu.edu/academics/approval/)

Revision History

This policy supersedes the following archived policies:

Approval/Revision DateTitle
February 8, 2008A Framework for Institutes and Centers (IC) at Virginia Commonwealth University, (Recommendations of the VCU Institutes and Centers Committee)
March 4, 2014Research-Related Institutes and Centers
November 5, 2014Research-Related Institutes and Centers


FAQ

1. Is my institute or center “research-related?”

Research-related ICs (RIC) have self-defining criteria that typically include most of the following:

• Creating new knowledge and publishing research results in the peer-reviewed, scholarly literature

• Enhancing interdepartmental and interschool interactions and collaborations leading to significant multi-investigator sponsored awards

• Promoting strategic initiatives that position the university to develop and expand its research enterprise and to achieve national prominence

• Playing a significant role in transferring science into practice

• Recruiting and retaining outstanding faculty

• Creating a mentoring environment for faculty that augments and extends beyond that provided by individual departments

• Providing unique educational opportunities for faculty and trainees

• Developing and maintaining core facilities or services that promote and support research

• Building linkages between the university and the community.

• Securing federal or other extramural funding not feasible within the individual units/schools

Proposals for ICs that do not fulfill the above listed criteria may result in the development of a non-research-related IC by members of the VCU community working with someone in an appropriate VCU leadership position (e.g., dean or vice president). The IC director and the IC oversight official may use this policy to guide the operation and evaluation of their IC or they may develop a separate plan for that purpose.

Non-research-related ICs may not compete for IC budgets/funds that have been allocated for research-related ICs.

2. If my research-related IC is created as the result of a grant, do I still need to prepare a proposal to create a RIC?

No, unless the RIC elects to apply for university-level RIC status. In the case of any grant-funded entity that, by definition, must be called an institute or center, the proposal for the OVPRI may be derived from the submitted application to the funding agency.

3. I have to submit an annual (progress) report to my outside funding agency. Do I still have to submit an annual progress report to VCU?

Yes, if you are a university-level RIC.

4. I have a great idea for a Research-related IC. Can I create it and then solicit members?

No. You must follow the process outlined in this policy to create the RIC. The proposal must address the proposed definition of faculty membership. The RIC Review Committee, as well as your dean or relevant vice president, must approve the RIC.

5. I would like to establish a unit-level RIC. Do I need approval?

Yes. You must obtain approval from your dean or equivalent.

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