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Handbook of Operating Procedures
Chapter 10 - Research
Previous Publication Date: December 12, 2016
Publication Date: July 17, 2020
Policy Reviewed Date: November 18, 2021
Policy Owner: VP for Research

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 80307, Naming Policy


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

Chair of the Transdisciplinary Research Council (TRC): Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise (VPREDKE)


Organized Research Unit (ORU):
College ORU: College centers and institutes typically have a primary research focus that is within the academic discipline and scope of the college. They may have an infrastructure in place within the college (i.e. space, facilities, equipment or professional expertise). College centers and institutes have a budget that is fiscally independent from the other academic departments within the college that is managed under the purview of the college. College centers and institutes are expected to generate sustainable external funding to support their operations. These centers and institutes report to the dean of the respective college, who is responsible for the oversight of the ORU director and operations.

University ORU: University centers and institutes focus their research, scholarship and innovation activity by building transdisciplinary research capacity creating linkages with external government, industry, and community partners. University centers and institutes meet a strategic need that complements and exceeds what can be accomplished in a college or department. The university centers and institutes increase the impact and visibility of UTSA research by collaborating with local, regional, national and international communities. They typically require specialized infrastructure (i.e, space, facilities, equipment or professional expertise) beyond what is typically expected from a college, and have a budget that is fiscally independent from other academic units. University centers and institutes are expected to generate substantial external funding from either external sponsors or philanthropic resources to sustainably support their success. University ORU directors report to the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise (VPREDKE) who is responsible for ongoing review.


  1. The Transdisciplinary Research Council (TRC)
    1. Reviews new proposals for establishing new college and university ORUs and makes recommendations to approve or disapprove to the VPREDKE and Provost.
    2. The TRC may make the final decision as to whether an ORU is a college or university research unit. 
    3. Approves appointment of college and university ORU directors.
    4. Reviews/approves changes in university ORU directors.
    5. Reviews resignations of university ORU directors.
    6. Reviews biennial reports from university ORUs.
    7. Reviews six-year reports from university ORUs and provides subsequent reviewer comments/recommendations.
    8. Recommends dissolution of university ORUs to the VPREDKE.
    9. Designates organizational oversight/management of ORUs.

  2. Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise  (VPREDKE)
    1. Circulates proposals for establishing new college and university ORUs to the TRC.
    2. Provides format for university ORU biennial and six-year reports.
    3. Appoints six-year review committee and manages the review process for university ORUs.
    4. Notifies university ORU directors of schedule for the six-year review.
    5. Submits report from university ORU external reviews to the TRC for review.
    6. Maintains records of biennial and six-year reports from university ORUs with reviewers’ comments/recommendations.
    7. Recommends dissolution of a university ORU to the Provost.

  3. Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
    1. Reviews and recommends approval or disapproval of the establishment of a new university ORU to the VPREDKE.
    2. Reviews comments/recommendations resulting from the six-year review of university ORUs and makes recommendations to the VPREDKE, if needed.
    3. Recommends dissolution of a university ORU to the President.

  4. President
    1. Has final approval to dissolve a university ORU.


  1. Establishing an ORU

    Proposals for new ORUs may be introduced by a dean for a college ORU, or the VPREDKE for a university ORU.  Proposals will be circulated to TRC members by the VPREDKE Office for review. The TRC makes the final recommendation for approval. 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 VPREDKE Office will provide the format and content of proposals for new ORUs.

    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.
    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 of 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. Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
    ORUs will be governed by their bylaws which are required to be reviewed and approved by the TRC.  These by-laws will provide the organizational structure, appointment terms and selection of the ORU leadership.
    1. Appointment of Director
      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 TRC

    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 dean or VPREDKE. 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 biennial report.
    4. Administrative Operations
      The ORU must follow administrative review and approval processes set forth by UTSA and the TRC. Changes in the leadership and governance of ORUs must be approved by the TRC. 
  4. Biennial and Six-Year Reports and Review

    1. Biennial Reports.

      ORUs must submit reports biennially, giving an account of research and scholarly activities performed during the preceding two years. University ORUs will submit the biennial reports to the VPREDKE and the TRC, college ORUs will submit their biennial reports to their dean. The format of the report is provided by the VPREDKE. The TRC reviews the university ORU reports and provides 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 university ORUs are conducted by the VPREDKE every six years. The VPREDKE maintains the review schedule 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 of the ORU. The majority of the members of the review committee and the chair of the committee should be external experts. The VPREDKE is responsible for appointing review committees and for managing the conduct of the reviews. ORU directors will be notified by the VPREDKE’s Office at least six months prior to their review about when their review will occur. The VPREDKE’s Office will provide university ORU directors with a template for the six-year report requirements and timeline for the review process.

    The VPREDKE provides 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 VPREDKE shall submit a copy of the review along with the director’s response to the TRC.

  5. The TRC 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 VPREDKE shall submit the TRC’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 TRC 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.

  6. Resignation of ORU Director

    An ORU Director who wishes to resign is expected to give notice in writing as early as possible, but not less than three months before the resignation will be effective.  Resignations must be submitted in writing to the dean of the college ORU or VPREDKE for university ORUs and to the Chair of the TRC.

  7. Dissolution of ORU

    The TRC may recommend the dissolution of a university ORU to the VPREDKE. When a recommendation to dissolve an ORU is introduced in the TRC 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 TRC may consider content from previous ORU reviews and may require a probationary period or interim review before forming its final recommendation. The VPREDKE will refer the recommendation to the Provost who has the purview to accept or deny the recommendation.




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