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Handbook of Operating Procedures
Chapter 10 - Research
Previous Publication Date: July 17, 2020
Publication Date: October 6, 2022
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. ORU’s also enhance graduate and undergraduate education by providing students with research training opportunities, access to research facilities, and exposure to the research funding process.


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..




  1. UT System Policies or the Board of Regents  Rules & Regulation
    1. Board of Regents’ Rule 80307, Naming Policy
    2. UTSA HOP Policy 9.29 Naming of Buildings and Facilities
    3. UTSA HOP Policy 10.12 Sponsored Programs Administration
    4. UTSA HOP Policy 1.02 Appointment of Academic Administrators: Deans and Department Chairs/School Directors


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)


  1. Organized Research Unit (ORU)
    1. College ORU:
      1.1 College centers and institutes typically have a primary research focus that is within the academic discipline and scope of the college
    1. University ORU:
      2.1 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.


  1. The Transdisciplinary Research Council (TRC)
    1. UTSA Transdisciplinary Research Council (TRC) brings together executive leadership from all academic colleges, Academic Affairs and the Office of the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise (VPREDKE).
    2. Reviews new proposals for establishing new college and university ORUs and makes recommendations to approve or disapprove to the VPREDKE and Provost.
    3. The TRC may make the final decision as to whether an ORU is a college or university research unit.
    4. Approves appointment of college and university ORU directors.
    5. Reviews/approves changes in university ORU directors.
    6. Reviews resignations of university ORU directors.
    7. Reviews annual reports from university ORUs.
    8. Review five-year reports from university ORUs and provides subsequent reviewer comments/recommendations.
    9. Recommends dissolution of university ORUs to the VPREDKE.
    10. Accepts and affirms dissolution of college ORUs from Deans.
    11. Designates organizational oversight/management of ORUs.
  2. College ORUs
    1. College ORUs have a budget that is fiscally independent from the other academic departments within the college and that is managed under the purview of the college.
    2. College centers and institutes are expected to generate sustainable external funding to support their operations.
    3. These centers and institutes report to the dean of the respective college, who is responsible for the oversight of the ORU director and operations.
    4. They may have an infrastructure in place withinthe college (i.e., space, facilities, equipment or professional expertise).
  3. University ORUs
    1. University centers and institutes increase the impact and visibility of UTSA research by collaborating with local, regional, national and international communities.
    2. 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.
    3. University centers and institutes are expected to generate substantial external funding from either external sponsors or philanthropic resources to sustainably support their success.
    4. University ORU directors report to the Vice President for Research, Economic Development, and Knowledge Enterprise (VPREDKE), or the VPREDKE’s institutional designee, who is responsible for ongoing review.
  4. Dean
    1. Introduces proposals to the TRC for establishing new college ORUs.
    2. Appoints directors of college ORUs.
    3. Recommends the dissolution of college ORUs to the TRC.
    4. Reviews annual reports of college ORUs.
  5. 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 annual and five-year reports.
    3. Appoints five-year review committee and manages the review process for university ORUs.
    4. Notifies university ORU directors of schedule for the five-year review.
    5. Submits report from university ORU external reviews to the TRC for review.
    6. Maintains records of annual and five-year reports from university ORUs with reviewers’ comments/recommendations.
    7. Recommends dissolution of a university ORU to the Provost.
  6. 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 five-year review of university ORUs and makes recommendations to the VPREDKE, if needed.
    3. Recommends dissolution of a university ORU to the President.
  7. President
    1. Has final approval to dissolve a university ORU.


  1. Establishing an ORU
    1. 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.
    2. Proposals for the establishment of ORUs will be reviewed with the following criteria in mind:
      2.1 Plans for involvement of faculty members across more than one college and/or department if relevant.
      2.2 Organized around a research theme aligned with UTSA’s research themes with a high potential benefit for research, creative and education at the University.
      2.3 The ORU has a unique niche within UTSA and does not duplicate the foci or efforts of an existing ORU.
      2.4 Plans for involving graduate and undergraduate students in its research activities if relevant.
      2.5 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.
      2.6 Proposals for college ORUs must document written guidelines for administrative reviews, policies for changes in leadership and governance of the ORU, and dissolution of the ORU.
  1. Naming of ORU
    1. 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
  1. Governance
    1. ORUs will be governed by their bylaws which are required to be reviewed and approved by the TRC. These bylaws will provide the organizational structure, appointment terms and selection of the ORU leadership.
    2. Appointment of Director
      2.1 Director’s responsibilities include:
      2.1.1 Accountability for the ORU’s performance
      2.1.2 Day-to-day management of the ORU
      2.1.3 Responsiveness to direction provided by the ORU’s Advisory Committee and the TRC

      2.2 Appointment of ORU Affiliates
      2.2.1 UTSA faculty members and non-UTSA employees (external faculty members and researchers) may be appointed as affiliates of an ORU by the DirectorAffiliates 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 (i.e.,. Chair or Dean).

      2.3 Advisory Committee
      2.3.1 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 annual report.

      2.4  Administrative Operations
      2.4.1 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.
  1. Annual and Five-Year Reports and Review
    1. Annual Reports.
      1.1 ORUs must submit reports annually, giving an account of research and scholarly activities performed during the preceding two years. University ORUs will submit the annual reports to the VPREDKE and the TRC, college ORUs will submit annual reports to their dean. The format of the report is provided by the VPREDKE. Once the university ORU reports are completed by the VPREDKE and directors, they will be submitted to the TRC for reviews. The TRC may provide comments and/or recommendations to the ORU as to improvements or other actions that may be indicated in the report.
    2. Five-Year Report and Review
      2.1 Reviews of university ORUs are conducted by the VPREDKE every five 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 five-year report requirements and timeline for the review process.
      2.2 The VPREDKE provides a copy of the review to the ORU Director. The Director will be 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.
      2.3 The TRC shall review the reports of university ORUs and provide comments and/or recommendations for 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.
  1. Resignation of ORU Director
    1. 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.
  2. Dissolution of ORU
    1. The Dean has the authority to propose dissolution of a college ORU to the TRC. The TRC may recommend the dissolution of a college or 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 themself 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.



XIII. Dates Approved/Amended