Before the University can move forward with its strategic initiative for Growing Research and Scholarship by Instituting Institutes, Centers, and Core Facilities, first the concept and use must be defined.
Jack McIver, vice president for research, says his team is looking at what makes an institute or a center, what is their purpose, why does the University have them and what do the institutes or centers hope to accomplish?
This process will allow us to flow into the next step,” says McIver, who expects the review process will see the creation of some new research institutes and the possible transformation or closure of some current ones. He added that most directors are excited about this change, as it encourages them to look at the structure, work and goals to rejuvenate their activities.
“With finite resources, we are going to have to see some restructuring to--at a minimum-- realize efficiencies,” says McIver. “Most of the institutes have been around for about 15 years, and they haven’t really had a major review during that time.”
As part of the restructuring process, McIver says looking at what makes an institute and center will be examined and defined: Institutes substantially cross college lines in their research and activity, where centers are more likely to cross departments, but stay within the college. McIver points to the Idaho Water Resource Research Institute as a good example of an institute that reaches across engineering, science, natural resources and has connections outside the University.
The review and assessment process also gives McIver a chance to look at the current research and see if it is in alignment with the University’s signature areas and with emerging areas of research.
“This is not a one-shot deal, we will be looking at this again in three-to-five years,” says McIver.
He adds the review process will help keep the institutes on track and allow them to dissolve once their function is complete.
Currently the University has five institutes under the University’s Research Office, with many centers in place around the University.