Organized Research Units

Handbook of Operating Procedures 7-1030

Organized Research Units

I. Policy Statement 

The University of Texas at Austin ("University") is dedicated to the enhancement and support of interdisciplinary and other research activities through the establishment of Organized Research Units ("ORUs").

II. Reason for Policy 

This policy outlines the procedures and criteria for establishing, reviewing, and terminating ORUs at the University.

III. Scope & Audience 

This policy applies to employees seeking to establish a new ORU or who direct and/or are affiliated with an existing ORU, as well as supervising department chairs, deans, and vice presidents.

IV. Definitions (specific to this policy) 
Organized Research Unit (ORU):

Refers to an interdisciplinary research unit that enhances the research activity of the University and complements the instructional and research goals of colleges, schools, and units ("CSUs").

V. Website (for policy)
VI. Contacts 
VII. Responsibilities & Procedures 
  1. Purpose of Organized Research Units

ORUs are created to enhance the research activities of the University. An ORU is established to provide support for interdisciplinary research that complements the instructional and research goals of CSUs. ORUs are usually referred to as Institutes, Laboratories, or Centers.


  1. Organizational Structure of Organized Research Units

ORUs either report to the executive vice president and provost through a dean or to the vice president for research. If an ORU's disciplines span multiple colleges or schools, the ORU generally will report to the vice president for research. If an ORU's disciplines are contained within a single college or school, the ORU will report through the dean of that college or school to the executive vice president and provost. Further, an ORU in which most or all participating faculty members are from the same academic department is considered a departmental ORU and ordinarily reports through that department’s chair to the dean. The director and any associate directors of ORUs are appointed by the individual to whom the ORU reports (department chair, dean or vice president for research). Many ORUs will have an associated unit code; the budgeting of any indirect costs generated by that unit code is at the discretion of the supervising department chair, dean and/or respective vice president.


Proposals to name an ORU for an individual or entity must comply with the provisions of the Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 80307 "Naming Policy," which relates to honorific and gift-related namings, and must be recommended through the appropriate channels to the president of the University. When selecting a name for an ORU, the ORU leadership must first ensure that there are no other existing University organizations that already use the same name, abbreviation, or acronym to minimize confusion.


ORUs with an annual budget of $3,000,000 or more (representing the sum of research grants and contracts managed through the ORU's operations as well as institutional and other funding) must have an advisory committee/council that assists the director in setting the ORU's goals and may be asked to evaluate the ORU's effectiveness on a continuing basis. The creation of this advisory committee/council must be approved by the UT System Board of Regents in accordance with Regents’ Rules and Regulations, Rule 60302 "Advisory Councils of an Institution."


  1. Functions of Organized Research Units

The functions of an ORU is to:

  1. Facilitate research and research collaborations.
  2. Disseminate research results through conferences, meetings, and other activities.
  3. Support and strengthen graduate and undergraduate education by providing students with training opportunities and access to research facilities.
  4. Seek extramural research funds.
  5. Carry out University and public service programs related to the ORU's research focus.


  1. Designation of Organized Research Units

ORUs normally carry a designation such as Institute, Laboratory, or Center. The historic practice on campus for ORUs has not made a clear distinction between these various designations. An ORU may be identified primarily with one discipline, or it may be multidisciplinary or interdisciplinary. Some ORUs are supported largely from appropriated funds; others receive no direct support from appropriated funds, depending entirely on support from outside agencies and foundations. Whatever the source of support, an ORU must justify its establishment by articulating a clear need for multiple faculty members to work together in a single administrative unit to carry out an effective research program.


  1. Procedures for the Establishment of an Organized Research Unit

Faculty seeking to establish a new ORU must submit a request to their dean(s). Upon approval of the request, the dean(s) will then route the request to the vice president for research who will review and approve requests in consultation with the executive vice president and provost. The request must carry the endorsement of all relevant deans and department chairs. The following information must be included:


  1. The purpose and the benefit of the ORU to the University.
  2. The proposed administrative organization (faculty members and other participants).
  3. The research and other activity plans.
  4. Space requirements.
  5. The financial support required and the source of funds.
  6. The significance of the research unit to undergraduate and graduate education.
  7. Any external service functions of the research unit.
  8. For ORUs that anticipate an annual budget exceeding $3,000,000: proposed structure, organization, and function of an advisory committee/council, as described above in Section VII.B.


  1. Annual Reports for Organized Research Units

All ORUs must submit a report annually to their immediate supervisor (either department chair, dean, or vice president for research) giving an account of the preceding year’s research and other activities described above in Section VII.C, and describing plans for research and other activities for the upcoming year.


  1. Procedures for the Periodic Review of Organized Research Units

Periodic review of ORUs is necessary to ensure consistency with institutional goals and priorities and the institution’s requirement to sustain a capacity to innovate. Each ORU should be reviewed at least once every six (6) years, or more frequently as determined by the supervising department chair, dean, or respective vice president. For ORUs that are directed by a tenured faculty member, the supervising department chair or dean may choose to include the ORU's periodic review as part of the faculty director’s Comprehensive Periodic Evaluation as described in HOP 2-2150.  


For each periodic review, an ad hoc committee should be formed to assess the ORU's original goals and objectives, its present functioning, recent accomplishments, future plans, adequacy of space and budget allocations, and future prospects for contributing to the institution’s vision and mission. The ad hoc committee’s report will be forwarded through the appropriate reporting channel to the executive vice president and provost and the vice president for research, according to the schedule established by these two vice presidents. Renewal of an ORU is not automatic. The two vice presidents, in consultation with others including the supervising department chairs/deans, will determine whether the ORU will continue, be reconfigured, or be discontinued.


  1. Termination of an Organized Research Unit

An ORU may be terminated by the executive vice president and provost, the vice president for research, or its supervising dean at any time.

VIII. Forms & Tools 
XI. History 

Reviewed: 02/24/19

Next Scheduled review: 02/2021

Previously HOP 5.05