Guest author: Peter Larsen
Happy post-Thanksgiving to the ECM faculty and team members!
As you think about your upcoming plans for research — and how to fund it! — now might be a great time to explore the Research Centers and Institutes at Michigan Tech.
Michigan Tech’s Research Centers and Institutes exist to promote interdisciplinary work across campus. Michigan Tech is home to 21 Centers and Institutes. This post is designed to provide answers to some common questions and information about how to engage with these campus resources.
What is the difference between a Center and an Institute?
A Center is a collaborative effort of faculty/researchers from two or more departments focused on a particular theme of research or educational activity. An Institute is proposed for larger initiatives that involve collaboration across multiple Colleges/Schools. Institutes may also contain one or more research centers within their organizational structure.
How are Centers and Institutes formed?
Centers and Institutes typically arise out of the interdisciplinary work of researchers. Approval requires evidence that there is a group of interdisciplinary researchers working together that could benefit from a Center/Institute structure. The second general factor in the decision to develop a Center or Institute is the existence of a funding opportunity that would benefit from the existence of the research center. Centers are proposed by faculty through an established process. Department chairs and deans from all involved administrative units must approve the plan, with final approval granted by the Vice President for Research, Provost, and University President.
How do I join a Center or Institute? What are the benefits of that affiliation?
Faculty can affiliate with one or more Centers/Institutes by simply expressing an interest. Only one Center can be the “home” to a sponsored project, but researchers with multiple research thrusts can affiliate with more than one Center or Institute.
Centers and Institutes provide an intellectually stimulating environment for researchers working across disciplines and on large projects. Centers/Institute funds are used to further the interdisciplinary mission of the group. Funds are used for a variety of purposes, for example to support student travel, provide cost share on research projects, or fund shared equipment or personnel. Centers also offer services like administrative support, access to equipment/facilities, and shared information about upcoming proposal deadlines. In addition, Centers/Institutes often organize professional and social opportunities for Center members, students, post-docs, and research staff. Once you become a member of a Center, you can suggest opportunities and events that are beneficial to the group.
How are Centers and Institutes funded?
Centers are funded through the scholarly work of affiliated researchers. 18% of Institutional Research and Development (IRAD) funds collected from externally funded projects submitted through a Center or Institute are returned for use by the Center or Institute. These funds are in addition to the IRAD returned to the PI and administrative units (department and college/school); in other words, no one receives less IRAD if a Center or Institute is involved. The Center orInstitute is accountable to the Vice President for Research to show that IRAD funds are being effectively leveraged to expand the interdisciplinary work of the center.
How are Centers and Institutes administered?
Centers and Institutes are governed by the structure proposed and approved during the creation of the center. Most Centers or Institutes could be called “academic” or “virtual” centers in that the researchers and director are employed by academic departments, rather than directly by the Center. These Centers are proposed and led by a director who is a tenured or tenure-track faculty member.
A small number of Centers/Institutes affiliated with Michigan Tech operate uniquely. These Centers/Institutes are their own organizational unit (operating outside of an academic department, college, or school) and typically have a full-time director, multiple full-time staff members to support and conduct research, and often have Center-owned facilities and equipment. The Keweenaw Research Center, the Michigan Tech Research Institute, and the Great Lakes Research Center are examples of this alternate Center/Institute structure. Other Centers are similar to these in some ways with a full-time director and staff (e.g., Center for Technology and Training) and/or their own facilities (e.g., Advanced Power Systems Research Center).
Centers are authorized for a specific period of time (usually five years). Annual reports are required, and a self-study is required at the end of the initial authorization period to determine effectiveness and to provide a justification for Center renewal (if desired).
How can I learn more?
Contact information for current Center and Institute directors can be found here
Center and Institute functions and opportunities will be a topic of discussion during the annual Research Development Day that will be held January 11, 2018. Center and Institute directors will be invited to attend the social at the end of the day to interact with and discuss collaboration with interested faculty.
In addition, we are planning a Spring 2018 TechTalks on March 21 that will provide highlights of each of the Centers and Institutes in a brief, 2-minute presentation format, followed by a social time to discuss and learn more. Watch your email and Tech Today for additional information.