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Handbook of Operating Procedures
Chapter 10 - Research
Publication Date: December 12, 2016
Responsible Executive: VP for Academic Affairs

10.03 Guidelines for Organized Research Units


An Organized Research Unit (ORU) is a unit (either a Research Center or a Research Institute) established by The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) to provide an infrastructure for inter- and multi-disciplinary research complementary to the research focus and goals of the University. The primary function of an ORU is to facilitate scientific inquiry that involves researchers from multiple units across disciplines, departments, or colleges. ORUs will enable research collaborations, the dissemination of research results through professional research conferences, meetings and other activities, the strengthening of graduate and undergraduate education by providing students with research training opportunities and access to facilities, and applying for and being awarded extramural research funds related to the ORU's research expertise.


This policy sets forth appropriate and relevant guidelines and procedures for establishing, reviewing, and closing ORUs to ensure that all such units maintain the highest academic and research standards, contributing most effectively to the intellectual vitality of UTSA.


This policy applies to all UTSA Research Centers and Research Institutes. This policy does not apply to centers or institutes that do not have research as their principal function.



UTSA or UT System Policies or the Board of Regents' Rules & Regulations

  1. Board of Regents’ Rule 40602, Organized Research Units
  2. Board of Regents’ Rule 60302, Advisory Councils of an Institution
  3. Board of Regents’ Rule 80307, Naming Policy


If you have any questions about HOP policy 10.03, Guidelines for Organized Research Units, contact the following office:

Deans Research Council
DRC Chair 210-458-4450


Research Centers: An ORU that furthers research in a discipline, sub-discipline, or analogous subject area, by means beyond those typically available within an academic department. Research Centers may also engage in public service activities stemming from its research program, within the limits of its stated objectives.

Research Institutes: An ORU that coordinates and promotes thematic, interdisciplinary research on a continuing basis across departments, schools, colleges, or campus boundaries. Research Institutes enhance and support broad-based research efforts. Research Institutes may also engage in public service activities stemming from its research program, within the limits of its stated objectives.


  1. The Deans Research Council (DRC)
    1. Reviews new proposals for establishing new ORUs and makes recommendations to approve or disapprove to the Provost.
    2. Reviews/approves ORU bylaws.
    3. Recommends appointment of ORU Director to the Provost.
    4. Reviews/approves ORU Advisory Memberships.
    5. Reviews/approves changes in ORU Directorship.
    6. Reviews resignations of ORU Director.
    7. Reviews ORU Bi-annual Reports.
    8. Selects ORUs for six-year review.
    9. Notifies ORU Directors if selected for a six-year review.
    10. Reviews six-year reports and subsequent reviewer comments/recommendations.
    11. Submits reviews to the Provost for review and possible recommendations to the President.
    12. Recommends dissolution of an ORU to the Provost.
  2. Vice President for Research (VPR)
    1. Circulates proposals for establishing new ORUs to the DRC.
    2. Provides format for bi-annual and six-year reports.
    3. Appoints six-year review committee and manages the review process.
  3. The Office of Research Support
    1. Maintains records of bi-annual and six-year reports and reviewer's comments/recommendations.
    2. Submits reviewer's comments/recommendations to the DRC.
  4. Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs (Provost)
    1. Reviews and recommends approval or disapproval of the establishment of a new ORU to the President.
    2. Reviews comments/recommendations resulting from the six-year review and makes recommendations to the President if needed.
    3. Recommends dissolution of an ORU to the President.
  5. Advisory Committees
    1. Sets ORU goals.
    2. Reviews ORU bi-annual and six-year reports and subsequent reviews.
  6. President
    1. Appoints ORU Directors.
    2. Approves the establishment of new ORUs.
    3. Dissolves ORUs.


    1. Establishing an ORU. Approval of a proposed ORU is made by the President on recommendation of the Provost and the DRC.  An ORU with a projected annual budget of more than $3M must also be approved by the University of Texas System (“UT System”) Executive Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and must meet all requirements found in Board of Regents' Rules and Regulations, Rule 40602.

      Proposals for new ORUs may be introduced by the VPR or the college Dean.  Proposals will be circulated by the VPR’s Office for review by the DRC, and the Provost recommends approval or disapproval before being advanced to the President for consideration. Proposals for the establishment of ORUs should demonstrate the necessity and benefits of forming a new ORU. The proposal should explain how no existing department, college or ORU is a more appropriate locus for the proposed work. The format and content of proposals for new ORUs will be provided by the VPR’s Office.

      Proposals for the establishment of ORUs will be reviewed with the following criteria in mind:
      1. Plans for involvement of faculty members across more than one college and/or department if relevant.
      2. Organized around a research theme aligned with UTSA’s research themes with a high potential benefit for research, creative work and education at the University.
      3. The ORU has a unique niche within UTSA and does not duplicate the foci or efforts of an existing ORU.
      4. Plans for involving graduate and undergraduate students in its research activities if relevant.
      5. Cost of start-up and space required from UTSA, and the College or Colleges, with documentation of relevant commitments for support.
      6. The likelihood of developing self-sustainable funding within a reasonable period of time with estimates of levels of support needed for maintenance and growth of the ORU.
    2. Naming an ORU. Ideally, the name of an ORU should indicate its primary research function, purpose and need for the Research Center or Institute.  Proposals to name the ORU for an individual or an entity must follow Regents' Rule, 80307 which governs such a naming.
    3. Administrative Structure. ORUs will be governed by their bylaws which are required to be reviewed and approved by the DRC. These bylaws will provide the organizational structure, appointment terms and selection of the ORU leadership.
      1. Appointment of Director. The Director of an ORU is appointed by the President after consultation with the DRC and Provost. Directors are appointed for a six-year term and may be reappointed. ORU Directors will report to the nearest ranking line administrator (typically Dean, Chair or designee for Research Centers, Provost or designee for Research Institutes). Director's responsibilities include:
        1. Accountability for the ORU's performance.
        2. Day-to-day management of the ORU.
        3. Responsiveness to direction provided by the ORU's Advisory Committee and the DRC.
      2. Appointment of ORU Affiliates. UTSA faculty members and non-UTSA employees (external faculty members and researchers) may be appointed as affiliates of an ORU by the Director.  Affiliates are generally appointed for three-year terms with the possibility of reappointment by the Director. Appointments of faculty members require review and approval of the appropriate academic unit administrator (e.g. Chair or Dean). 
      3. Advisory Committee. An Advisory Committee should be appointed for each ORU upon the recommendation of the Director of the ORU. The Advisory Committee should consist of recognized leaders in the research field of the ORU and should come from both inside and outside the University. Appointees to the Advisory Committee will be reviewed for approval by the DRC. Faculty who are members of the ORU cannot serve on the Advisory Committee. The Advisory Committee should meet regularly and participate actively in setting the ORU's goals and in critically evaluating its effectiveness on a continuing basis, including a review of the ORU's Bi-annual Report. 
      4. Administrative Operations. The ORU must follow administrative review and approval processes set forth by UTSA and the DRC. Changes in the leadership and governance of ORUs must be approved by the DRC. 
    4. Bi-annual and Six-Year Reports and Review
      1. Bi-annual Reports and Review. All ORUs must submit reports bi-annually giving an account of research and scholarly activities performed during the preceding year. Each ORU will submit a bi-annual report to the DRC. The format of the report will be provided by the VPR. The DRC shall review the reports and provide comments and/or recommendations to the ORU as to improvements or other actions that may be indicated in the report.
      2. Six-Year Report and Review. Reviews of ORUs will be conducted at least once every six years or as recommended by the DRC. The Office of Research Support will develop a schedule of reviews for ORUs in consultation with the DRC.  The Office of Research Support shall maintain records as to review schedules and completion to ensure that centers and institutes have been reviewed and evaluated at least once within the approved required review period. Each ORU will be fully reviewed by committees of three to five recognized experts in the areas in which the ORU works. The majority of the members of the review committee and the chair of the committee should be external experts. The VPR is responsible for appointing review committees and for managing the conduct of the reviews. ORU directors will be notified by the VPR’s Office at least six months prior to their review about when their review will occur. The VPR’s Office will provide ORU directors with opportunities to suggest reviewers and include a clear description of Six-Year Report requirements and timeline for the review process.

        The Office of Research Support will provide a copy of the review to the ORU Director. The Director will be provided an opportunity with a reasonable amount of time to address any factual errors that may be contained in the report and to respond to recommendations in the report.

        The Office of Research Support shall submit a copy of the review along with the Director’s response to the DRC. The DRC shall review the reports and provide comments and/or recommendations to the ORU as to improvements or other actions that may be indicated in the report. The Office of Research Support shall submit the DRC’s comments and/or recommendations with copies of the review documents to the Provost.  These actions may include, but are not limited to, personnel actions, modifications of the ORU’s mission or programs, or dissolution of the ORU. The DRC shall provide copies of the comments, recommendations and any other guidance or directions resulting from the review, comments and/or recommendations to the ORU Director.

    5. Resignation of ORU Director. An ORU Director who wishes to resign is expected to give notice in writing as early as possible, but in any event no less than three months before the resignation will be effective.  Resignations must be submitted in writing to the Chair of the DRC with copy to the VPR.
    6. Dissolution of ORU. The DRC may recommend the dissolution of an ORU to the President. When a recommendation to dissolve an ORU is introduced in the DRC and the ORU reports to a member of the Council, that member may participate in discussions but must recuse him/herself from the vote on the recommendation. A recommendation for dissolution of an ORU should be accompanied with a statement of the rationale. The DRC may consider content from previous ORU reviews and may require a probationary period or interim review before forming its final recommendation. The President will decide whether or not to accept and implement the recommendation.




    Research Centers and Institutes will utilize a web-based reporting system for both Bi-annual and Six-Year Reports.