Research Concentrations - Procedures

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Research Concentrations - Procedures

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Approval authority
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)
Responsible officer
Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)
Designated officer
Director, Office of Research
First approved
16 April 2014
Last amended
28 July 2016
Effective start date
29 April 2014
Review date
1 March 2017
Status
Active
Related documents
Research Concentrations - Academic Policy
Related legislation / standards
Membership Application Form
Expression of Interest Form
Annual Report Template
Three and Five Year Review Template

Definitions

Please refer to the University’s Glossary of Terms for policies and procedures. Terms and definitions identified below are specific to these procedures and are critical to its effectiveness:

Eligible Staff Member: Staff members qualify as an Eligible Staff Member if they are able to demonstrate a sustained commitment to research over the past three years using a portfolio of evidence. This portfolio of evidence may include sector recognised research outputs, competitive grant income, research impact (determined by citation analysis), HDR (Higher Degree Research) supervision and sector recognised esteem and applied measures. A researcher’s track record is primarily assessed against the eligible research output and research income patterns of their discipline area. National averages determined by established sector metrics for discipline specific eligible research outputs and research income are used in conjunction with other elements of the portfolio to assess engagement. Allowance is made for length of time an Early Career Researcher may have had in a research environment. Where appropriate, consideration is given to discipline specific quality requirements necessary for international accreditation.

Eligible Research Outputs: The University uses the Excellence in Research for Australia definition of Eligible Research Outputs. This means that a research output must meet the definition of research and conform to one of the following types:

  • traditional research outputs which include (Books—Authored Research; Book—Chapters in Research Book; Journal Articles—Refereed, Scholarly Journal; and Conference Publications—Full Paper Refereed)
  • ‘non-traditional’ types of research include (Original Creative Works; Live Performance of Creative Works; Recorded/Rendered Creative Works; and Curated or Produced Substantial Public Exhibitions and Events).

Where the term ‘Research Concentration’ has been used broadly, it means all types of Concentrations referred to in this procedure.

1. Membership of Research Concentrations

Staff members seeking to join a Research Concentration must complete a Membership Application Form. This form will require the following information:

  • researcher’s track record
  • details of eligible research outputs and contribution
  • research income by category summary
  • details of grants and contribution
  • research achievements, collaborations and linkages
  • HDR supervision
  • time commitment to research.

1.1. Guidelines for individual membership requirements

Currently the University requires members of Research Concentrations to satisfy the following criteria:

1. Three (3) Eligible Research Outputs over the last three (3) years (refer to the definition here)

Or

2. At least one (1) Eligible Research Output in the last one (1) year

And either

a. Supervised to successful completion at least one (1) research higher degree student in the past three (3) years

Or

b. Received at least one (1) external grant in the past three (3) years from a competitive grant scheme with a threshold applied to research income over the previous three (3) years of more than $20,000 for an Arts, Social Science or Business related discipline and $100,000 for a Science or Engineering discipline.

Allowance will be made for the length of time an early career researcher may have had in a research environment.

Research Concentrations may request that the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) approve a variation of requirements if discipline specific quality requirements, necessary for international accreditation, are externally mandated such as those required for AACSB accreditation.

Where a staff member is a member of more than one Research Concentration it is important that they are able to make a genuine and productive contribution to each. Approval of both Directors and the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) is required.

Where researchers have a joint appointment with another University or research organisation they will be considered for eligible staff membership if their University of the Sunshine Coast appointment is at least 0.4 FTE (40 percent).

In all cases eligibility and approval is subject to the discretion of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

Researchers should ensure that all their research outputs are captured in the USC Research Bank. Details should be emailed to: research-repository@usc.edu.au

1.2. Guidelines for membership requirements for each Research Concentration category (annual performance criteria):

Research Cluster Research Centre Tier 2 Research Centre Tier 1 Research Institute
Minimum number of Fulltime Equivalent Researchers (sourced from Human Resources FTE information) 4 6 12 >30
Minimum Number of Eligible Members 2 3 6 >20
Research Income Collective Performance Collective Performance Science, Engineering and Allied Fields $100,000 $300,000 $750,000 $1,500,000
Research Income Collective Performance Arts, Social Science, Humanities, Business and Allied Fields $20,000 $60,000 $150,000 $300,000
Publications* 10 24 60 150
Research Training 3 HDR enrolments per annum 1 HDR completion per annum 6 HDR enrolments per annum 2 HDR completions per annum 6 HDR enrolments per annum 2 HDR completions per annum > 25 HDR enrolments per annum > 12 HDR completions per annum
Planning Requirements 3 year Strategic Plan with KPI; 3 year Research Program and Annual Operating Plan with targets linked to KPI 5 year Strategic Plan with KPI, 5 Year Research Program; 5 Year Approved Business Plan and Annual Operating Plan with targets links to KPI 5 year Strategic Plan with KPI, 5 Year Research Program; 5 Year Approved Business Plan and Annual Operating Plan with targets links to KPI 5 year Strategic Plan with KPI, 5 Year Research Program; 5 Year Approved Business Plan and Annual Operating Plan with targets links to KPI

*Books receive a weighting of 5 publications for the purpose of membership eligibility.

Research Concentrations must demonstrate a continued level of critical mass appropriate to their category to justify ongoing support and status as a Research Concentration.

The nature and extent of staff contribution to a Research Concentration is to be negotiated with the Faculty by the Research Concentration Leader/Director. This is to occur prior to establishment and amended where necessary during the life of the Concentration. The staff profile will be updated in each Annual Report.

Staff contribution is to be finalised by the 31 March each year and the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) notified. Once established, Research Concentrations wanting to add members should submit their Membership Application Forms to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) for approval by this date.

Staff may be appointed directly to a Research Concentration for a fixed term appointment which would not normally exceed the period of recognition for the Research Concentration.

2. Collective Performance Criteria

Performance criteria will be used to assess applications to establish Research Concentrations as well for the review of Concentrations.

Applications for the initial Expression of Interest will be judged on merit and competitively ranked by discipline on performance across the following:

  • strategic impact of the combined track record of Eligible Staff Members
  • collective research income by category
  • collective eligible research outputs (as defined here)
  • collective experience and commitment to HDR supervision.

Shortlisted applications may have collective performance compared against discipline specific benchmarks available in the sector such as those contained in national Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) data if this is required to enable the establishment of a collective baseline for subsequent performance measures or where the ranking of otherwise equal applications is necessary.

Collective performance for ongoing assessment of established Research Concentrations will be measured against the Key Performance Indicators chosen by each Research Concentration in consultation with the Executive Dean.

Research Concentration Leaders/Directors of existing Research Concentrations may negotiate with the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) a transition period for any change in Research Concentration status.

In all cases the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) is able to use discretion regarding the performance eligibility of a Research Concentration where this provides strategic benefits for the University.

3. Application for Research Concentration Recognition and Benefits

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) will determine the number and spread of Concentration classes based on strategic needs of the University, funding available and quality of proposals submitted to any call for Expressions of Interest.

Expressions of Interest will be taken as a result of a competitive call for proposals at least once every three years or by invitation of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) to take strategic advantage of an external initiative.

Expressions of Interest should be submitted to the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) using the form provided.

Information for the Expression of Interest may include:

  • statement justifying the establishment of the Concentration, benefits to the University, alignment with the University research strategy, host Faculty/School and any collaborative linkages
  • proposed membership with Eligible Staff Member status (membership should go beyond the immediate team of any researcher). A rationale should be provided for members who do not have Eligible Staff Member status
  • coherence and synergy of the research interests of the membership and expected contribution of members to an identified research niche with examples of research recognised by peers with evidence of highly cited refereed papers and measures of esteem from a range of members
  • quality and impact of members’ collective publications and other research outputs
  • proposed strategy for development of the research team over initial establishment period
  • proposed strategies to develop research capacity through research training relationships with Early Career Researchers and Higher Degree Research and honours students
  • plans for the provision of and subsequent maintenance of a quality environment for Higher Degree Research and honours students
  • a research program with annual targets linked to key performance indicators
  • significance and expected impact of the research effort with evidence that the research will have an assessable impact for end users/beneficiaries
  • proposed membership of the research leadership team
  • Business Plan with the key elements of any formal agreements required with the relevant faculties and or schools covering matters such as: the allocation of performance funding; allocation of space and resources; workloads; and the joint use of any infrastructure acquired by the Centre
  • existing academic and financial support
  • existing and potential external funding, resources, infrastructure, and collaborative partnerships with a statement of their strategic importance.

Research groups are encouraged to discuss their applications with the relevant Executive Dean and seek advice from external expertise where this will enhance the robustness of an application.

4. Assessment of Expressions of Interest

Only those Expressions of Interest which have been discussed with and endorsed by the Faculty Executive Dean will be considered.

Expressions of Interest should be presented to the Office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) using the forms provided by the Office of Research.

Expressions of Interest will be assessed by a panel chaired by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation). The panel will include Associate Deans (Research); a member of the Research Committee; a member of the Research Degrees Committee; and up to three external specialists who may be nominated by the applicants to provide expert guidance to the panel.

Successful Expressions of Interest will be invited by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) to negotiate and then formally submit a five year plan which will form the basis of an agreement. Research Clusters may submit a three year plan, while Research Centres and Institutes will provide a five year plan.

This plan will include the key performance indicators and performance targets which will inform subsequent reporting and reviews.

A copy of this plan will be provided by the Office of Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) to the Research Committee.

5. Administration

5.1. Location

Research Concentrations will operate within Faculties under the authority of the Executive Deans. Research Institutes will operate outside the Faculty under the authority of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

Research Cluster Research Centre Tier 2 Research Centre Tier 1 Research Institute
Administrative Location Faculty Faculty Faculty Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation)
Operating Budget Location Faculty based cost centre Faculty based cost centre Faculty based cost centre Independent cost centre

Where membership of a Research Concentrations spans more than one Faculty, one Faculty is to be appointed as the administering faculty for the purpose of accountability and compliance with these procedures.

5.2. Research Centre and Institute Directors

Each Centre and Institute will have a Director endorsed by the relevant Executive Dean(s) and appointed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

The Director will be appointed for a period of five years subject to evidence of satisfactory performance provided as part of the three year review.

In accordance with the usual practice for the appointment of Heads of School, the relevant Executive Dean will develop an appropriate role description to reflect the Director’s responsibilities that extend beyond the position description of their substantive position. This role description will be reviewed after three years.

Tier 1 and Tier 2 Centres and Institute Directors should have appointments with qualifications, leadership qualities and responsibilities similar to those expected from a Head of School.

Research Centre Directors will be supervised by the Executive Dean of the Faculty in which the Research Centre is aligned and responsible to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), via the Executive Dean for the planning, reporting and fulfilment of the objectives and plans of the Centre.

The responsibilities of Directors will include strategic research leadership, development, promotion, and support for collaboration, engagement and operational management. It will be the responsibility of the Director to ensure the Centre builds capacity for quality research.

The Director will manage the day to day activities of the Centre in accordance with policies and procedures of the University and research objectives of the University.

The Director is responsible for the management and supervision of staff appointed to the Centre.

Financial management of the Research Centre is vested with the Director.

In the event that a Research Centre Director resigns, a review of the Centre will be undertaken within three months using the same process as the three year review.

5.3. Research leadership team

The Director will be supported by a research leadership team of three drawn from a pool nominated by Centre members. The membership of this research leadership team will be determined by the Executive Dean on advice from the Director.

The research leadership team will be chaired by the Research Centre Director. The research leadership team will meet at least twice a year. Minutes must record all decisions and these should be communicated to all members.

The role of the research leadership team is to assist the Director in:

  • managing the day to day functioning and administration of the Centre
  • facilitating coordination between areas involved in the work of the Centre
  • administering the funds available to the Centre
  • preparing the Annual Report of the Centre and documents required for reviews.
5.4. Advisory Board

Tier 1 and Tier 2 Research Centres and Institutes will establish an Advisory Board with external representation and an independent Chair to support the research leadership team.

The Advisory Board should have a minimum of five committee members. The term of membership for each board member will be two years with successive appointments permissible.

Advisory Board members will be chosen to ensure a spread of expertise that is representative of relevant academic and professional areas. Membership should reflect internal and external stakeholders.

Members of the Research Centre may nominate a pool of qualified external representatives to serve as members of the Advisory Board.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) will approve members of the Advisory Board following consultation with the Director.

The Board will be chaired by an independent external person appointed by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) with relevant expertise and knowledge to support the Research Centre in achieving its objectives.

The role of the Advisory Board is to:

  • influence the strategic directions of the Research Centre
  • review the effectiveness of the Research Centre operations (including performance against strategic plan and performance indicators)
  • provide advice to the Director on governance and management
  • provide advice in relation to the research program and external linkages
  • review progress of research conducted
  • promote and support activities of the Research Centre.

The Advisory Board will meet at least twice per year.

The Director of the Research Centre will act as the Executive Officer of the Advisory Board.

5.5. General operation

Directors of Research Centres and Institutes, and Leaders of Research Clusters will choose an appropriate title (name) to use for the Research Concentration and submit this for approval to Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

Research Concentrations and their members must properly and prominently acknowledge their relationship with the University in all correspondence and published material.

Significant changes to the operation of a Concentration (e.g. type of Centre, change of name, committee structure or composition, or strategic plan) must be approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

5.6. Planning requirements

Research Centres will prepare a suite of five year plans:

  • Strategic plan with Key Performance Indicators(KPI)
  • Research Program
  • Business Plan
  • Annual operating plans with targets linked to Key Performance Indicators (KPI).

Research Clusters are not required to prepare a Business Plan. These plans will be developed in consultation with the relevant Executive Dean and Research Centre membership. The plans will be submitted to and approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

The Strategic Plan will encompass the KPIs chosen to reflect the aspirations of the Research Centre at establishment. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) retains the right

to negotiate to make them more robust and rigorous.

KPIs may be chosen to reflect these themes among others:

  • eligible research outputs
  • research income
  • research capacity
  • research training
  • productive partnerships
  • knowledge transfer / esteem.

A research program will be developed to guide the achievement of research goals of Research Centre members. The program should enhance the opportunities for the development of strategic research coherence. This program should include plans to develop new strategic collaborative research linkages, strengthen existing ones and identify targets for external funding. In addition infrastructure and resource needs should be identified and plans made to fulfil these requirements.

The research program should be linked to the business plan which must consider:

  • funding
  • staffing
  • equipment
  • operating expenses.

An annual operating plan with targets linked to the approved KPIs will be developed as part of the Annual Report. This plan must be approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) to ensure base funding is provided for years two to five.

6. Support

Each category of Research Concentration will be allocated a fixed base level of annual support for the first three years of operation subject to satisfactory annual progress reports.

Base level support for years four and five will be subject to a satisfactory performance review during year three.

Base level support for Research Concentrations will be provided through the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) from the research initiatives funding pool.

Research Institutes are not provided with base funding.

The funding will be applied proportionally using the following allocation:

Research Cluster Research Centre Tier 2 Research Centre Tier 1 Research Institute
Units for Annual Internal Base Funding 1 Unit 2 Units 4 Units Assumed to be self sufficient

The current value of each unit is $25,000 per annum and may be varied from year to year subject to the availability of funding. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) will notify Research Concentration Leaders and Directors in October if there is to be an increase in the value of the funding unit for the next financial year.

The Faculty will open an account for the Research Concentration and request the Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) to transfer appropriate base funding into the account, notify the Leader or Director of the account number, and enter details onto the file and database.

Base funds may be supplemented by funding provided through other University schemes or initiatives.

Any budget deficit is the responsibility of the Faculty.

Research Concentrations are expected to actively seek external research support from Australian and International competitive grant schemes.

Research Concentrations will be provided with support from the Office of Research for applications to the Australian Research Council (ARC) for linkage, infrastructure, equipment and facilities funding.

7. Annual reporting

Research Concentration Leaders and Directors will provide the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), relevant Executive Dean(s) and the Research Committee with an Annual Report using the template provided. The report should include:

  • a brief review of the research program for the past year
  • current research projects, including funding and stage/progress
  • progress against performance targets and the agreed KPI
  • annual operating plan with proposed activities for the next year
  • a financial summary for Concentration funds for the past year, and a projected cash flow and budget for the following year
  • changes to Concentration membership
  • a list and status (commenced, continuing or completed) of HDR students directly associated with the Concentration
  • where relevant a brief report of the activities of the Advisory Board
  • the status of implementation for recommendations from any review.

This report will also incorporate data for the year covering reportable research outputs as well as internal and external grants or funding contracts secured by members of the Research Concentration. This quantitative data will be provided by the Office of Research.

Leaders and Directors may also include anything else deemed to impart a sense of the research productivity of the Concentration.

A review of KPIs should be done before submission of the Annual Report. The report should include strategies to address any performance issues against the agreed KPIs.

Research Concentrations will submit their Annual Report to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) by 31 July each year. Funding in years two – five inclusive will only be distributed to Research Concentrations following receipt and acceptance of the preceding year’s Annual Report.

8. Third and final year reviews

Research Concentrations are not permanently funded by the University and are subject to regular review.

In the latter half of the third year of funding, or after the resignation of the Leader or Director, or at any time at the discretion of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation), each Research Concentrations will be reviewed to determine if they will receive a further support.

A final review will be conducted in the latter half of the final year of the Research Concentration base funding agreement.

The purpose of these reviews is to determine whether each Research Concentration:

  • is continuing to effectively and efficiently pursue its original functions and targets
  • these functions and targets continue to be relevant and that the Concentration has demonstrated a case for its continuation
  • the Concentration has achieved the planned targets for the period of review
  • strategic and operational planning is in place for the ensuing period, including succession planning
  • the strategic relevance of the Concentration’s activities
  • academic and financial support for the Concentration remains sufficiently strong to justify its continuation
  • there are appropriate mechanisms in place to ensure that any income arising from activities is expended appropriately, and
  • if there is a case for a change in status, including strategies for achieving financial independence and any revised performance indicators and performance targets (progression is not mandatory).

Research Concentrations will use the template provided to document evidence to cover these points. Documentation must be provided by a Research Concentration to the Office of Research by 30 June in the review year.

Preparation of the review documentation is the responsibility of the Leader or Director and research leadership team in consultation with members.

The template will guide the Research Concentration through the preparation of a self-review which will be provided to the Review panel. This documentation will include:

  • summary of achievements related to earlier plans with an assessment of Research Concentration performance against KPIs and operational targets
  • evidence that the Concentration is a viable research endeavour including the title, value, funding body and description of major projects undertaken
  • financial statement which includes performance against budget targets for the previous three or five years of operation
  • discussion of future plans and prospects of Research Concentration with reference to any issues arising from the operation of the Concentration and constraints for growing the Research Concentration. The discussion should include any plans to enhance performance and should demonstrate connection with relevant University and Faculty plans. A foreshadowed budget for next funding period can also be included.

A review panel with five members will be convened by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation).

The panel will include the Executive Deans and at least two external members. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) will select the external members from a list of peer reviewers nominated by the Research Centre.

The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) will appoint the Chair of the Review Panel.

The review process will be managed by the Office of Research. Review documentation provided by the Research Centre will be forwarded to the Review Panel by the Office of Research.

The panel will meet to review the documentation and evidence provided. They may consult with the Research Concentration’s external research partners, conduct interviews or request further evidence as required.

The Chair of the Review Panel is responsible for preparing the review panel report. This report is to be provided to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) and should include at least one of the following recommendations:

  • Research Concentration approval should be renewed and continue in its current form
  • Research Concentration should be reconstituted to better reflect changes in field or to more effectively support USC strategic research initiatives and continue with changes
  • Research Concentration should be disbanded (reasons must be specified).

A copy of the review report is to be provided to the Leader or Director of the Research Concentration and the Research Committee.

The members of the Research Concentration through the Leader or Director will be asked by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) to respond to the review and any recommendations.

In the first Annual Report following a review the Research Centre will report on implementation of any recommendations made in the review report.

9. Disestablishment

A Research Concentration may be disestablished in one of two ways:

1. A motion to disestablish a Research Concentration must be carried by a majority of members at a formal meeting called by the Leader or Director for all members. Four weeks’ notice is required. If this motion is carried a Research Concentration, through their Leader or Director, may propose to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) and the Research Committee that they be disestablished.

2. The Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) in consultation with the Research Committee may disestablish a Research Concentration as an outcome of a review.

A review panel may recommend the disestablishment of a Concentration for reasons such as:

  • its strategic purpose has been fulfilled
  • it has experienced a significant change in direction
  • it has failed to achieve a significant proportion of its Key Performance Indicators and targets and insufficient evidence of strategies to lift the performance to a satisfactory level has been provided
  • there is a lack of an agreement between the host Faculty and the Concentration regarding staffing, financial and/or resource arrangements for the ensuing five years
  • it has failed to meet any requirements under the terms of the Research Concentrations Academic Policy and this procedure as requested by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Innovation) or Research Committee.

All Centres and Institutes are required to articulate arrangements for disestablishment in their initial business plans. These arrangements must address governance, management, research project completion, student completion, financial management and budget provisions.

After a formal decision to disestablish, the relevant Executive Dean (or nominee) will work with the Leader or Director of the Concentration to transfer any residual staff, assets or commitments.

END

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