ORU Guidelines

The Office of Research is not currently accepting new ORU applications. Future calls for proposals will announced to the campus community and posted here.

Definition and Purpose
Establishment and Administrative Procedures
Application and Review Procedures
Budget and Financial Considerations
Annual Reports and Program Review
Questions About ORUs?


Definition and Purpose

An Organized Research Unit (ORU) is an academic unit established by the University to provide a supportive infrastructure for interdisciplinary research complementary to the academic goals of departments of instruction and research. In accordance with UC Administrative Polices and Procedures Concerning Organized Research Units, ORUs are established on single campuses, whereas Multicampus Research Units (MRUs) exist on two or more campuses. The functions of an ORU are to facilitate research and research collaborations; disseminate research results through research conferences, meetings and other activities; strengthen graduate and undergraduate education by providing students with training opportunities and access to facilities; seek extramural research funds; and carry out university and public service programs related to the ORU's research expertise. An ORU must be complementary to the academic goals of the University, but does not have jurisdiction over courses or curricula and cannot offer formal courses or make faculty appointments.

Establishment and Administrative Procedures

Appointment of Director

The Director of an ORU, who must be a tenured faculty member, is appointed by the Vice Chancellor for Research after consultation with appropriate committees of the Academic Senate. Directors are generally appointed for a five-year term with the possibility of reappointment, and report to the Vice Chancellor for Research. The appointment of a new Director at a time when the ORU is not under review requires that the Office of Research solicit nominations from the ORU membership.

An ORU Director may not hold a concurrent appointment as Dean, Associate Dean, or Department Chair, unless exceptional approval is granted by the Vice Chancellor for Research.

The Director is responsible for the administrative functions of the ORU and, with the assistance of an Advisory Committee, for guidance of the unit's activities in accordance with its established goals.

Advisory Committee

An Advisory Committee may be appointed for each ORU. The Director of the ORU will have the opportunity to recommend potential members for the Advisory Committee. Candidates should be recognized leaders in the research field of the ORU and should come from both inside and outside the University of California system. Faculty who are members of the ORU cannot serve on the Advisory Committee.

The Advisory Committee, if one is appointed, meets regularly and participates actively in setting the unit's goals and in critically evaluating its effectiveness on a continuing basis, including a review of the unit's Annual Report.

Administrative Operations

The ORU reports to the Vice Chancellor for Research and must follow administrative review and approval processes set forth by the Vice Chancellor and/or campus policy.

ORUs are expected to follow all University of California policies related to academic responsibilities, including teaching and service workload within the faculty's respective home academic units, faculty commitment of effort and/or compensation, honoraria, travel and sabbatical leave.

Where expedient and to avoid duplication of administrative services, the ORU may negotiate coverage of services such as personnel administration, accounting and purchasing with an allied school, department, or other unit.

Prior to campus approval of an ORU, an organizational plan must be developed and any assurances related to administrative services, space and facilities must be finalized between the ORU and related academic units.

Application and Review Procedures

Competitive review of new ORU proposals will be carried out following a call for proposals according to the following procedures:

White Paper Requirements and Review

A white paper and attachments, as described below, should be submitted electronically via email to and should include the following:

  1. A description of the proposed ORU (no more than 2 pages of narrative). While not being overly proscriptive, it should be noted that ORUs are meant to foster interdisciplinary research that might not flourish in the conventional single school environment. This issue should be addressed in the narrative.
  2. Attachments:
    • A list of the facuilty members who have agreed to become actively participating members of the proposed ORU, signed by each.
    • Letters of support from each of the involved Deans.

All white papers will be reviewed by the Vice Chancellor for Research and the Council on Research, Computing and Libraries (CORCL). A small number of top candidates will be selected and invited to submit a full proposal.

Full Proposal Requirements

Full Proposals are by invitation only and will be solicited only after a preceding White Paper review.

A proposal, not to exceed 10 pages of narrative (excluding attachments or appendices), should be submitted to the Vice Chancellor for Research and should accomplish the following:

  1. Describe, in detail, research activities to be undertaken. Special attention should be paid to the creative value and significance of the proposed program. The proposal should discuss the original knowledge that the proposed ORU may be anticipated to add to the field.
  2. Explain why existing campus structures (Departments, Schools, Programs) or UC systemwide initiatives, if relevant, cannot accommodate the outlined goals and objectives.
  3. Discuss specific objectives of the proposed ORU with a description of how objectives will be monitored and performance will be measured.
  4. Spell out a timeline for the stages of development in the research program over the first five years.
  5. Provide projections of numbers of faculty members and students who are expected to participate in the ORU over the five-year period. Core membership must include a minimum of five faculty members from each of two or more Schools.
  6. State how the research of each of the individual researchers would be integrated with the proposed ORU to develop a synergy greater than their individual efforts. The nature of the participation of each of the proposers should also be included in the statement.
  7. Attachments or appendices to the ORU proposal should provide the following information:
    • Brief biosketches (two pages each) of the proposers.
    • Statement from all of the faculty members who have agreed to participate in the proposed ORU.
    • Resource requirement projections with a five-year budget and requirements for space, capital improvements, and library resources. A written confirmation of assigned space from the academic unit in which the program will be physically located is required. Consult with the Office of Research for an update on the likely range in size of allocations for ORUs at the time of submission.
    • Budget projections should include anticipated sources of funding (intramural and extramural), and justification for itemized expenditures within the objectives of the program. Appropriate use of ORU funding includes direct research expenses, such as support for research assistants and postdoctoral fellows, materials and supplies, equipment and facilities, research workshops, and general assistance.
    • Names of potential outside reviewers who have no conflict of interest with the proposed ORU or the proposers. The list should include at least ten specialists of national and international prominence within and outside the UC system, with a brief description of their areas of specialization, institutional affiliations, and contact information.
    • Metrics by which the proposed ORU should be evaluated.

An ORU may not be established if research objectives are essentially the same as those of an existing department or research unit. Prior status as a Campus Center or other organized research program is usually required.

Proposal Review

The minimum timeline for completion of the review process to establish a new ORU is one to two years from inception, and includes a year for Senate reviews at the campus level.

  1. Appropriate Deans, Directors and Department Chairs will be asked to comment on issues of quality and significance, organization and support, budget and space.
  2. The Vice Chancellor for Research will submit the completed ORU proposal package with the Deans' comments to the ad hoc Committee of the Council on Research, Computing and Libraries (CORCL) for preliminary review.
  3. The ad hoc Committee may request additional information from the proposers and will require that external letters be solicited by the Office of Research.
  4. External reviewers will be drawn from the ORU’s list of proposed names and by contacting other appropriate reviewers. All reviews will be treated as confidential, subject to the policies of the University of California.
  5. The ad hoc Committee will provide an internal review report when the ORU proposal is submitted for competitive review by the CORCL membership. A limited number of ORU proposals will be selected for establishment.
  6. The advice of the Council on Research, Computing and Libraries (CORCL) concerning the establishment of an ORU or ORUs based on favorable review of the proposal(s) will be provided to the Vice Chancellor for Research.
  7. The proposal(s) will next be conveyed to the Irvine Division Chair of the Academic Senate. At the Chair's discretion, the proposal(s) will be forwarded for commentary and recommendations to the appropriate campus Senate councils/committees, which historically have been the Graduate Council, Council on Educational Policy, and Council on Planning and Budget.
  8. After successful completion of the Senate review, an ORU proposal is forwarded to the Vice Chancellor for Research, who decides whether to recommend the proposed ORU for final approval by the Chancellor.
  9. If the Chancellor approves the ORU's establishment, the Vice Chancellor for Research informs the Office of the President of the new ORU.

Budget and Financial Considerations

Activities of ORUs may be funded by University budget allocations, philanthropic donations, and/or other extramural funds. The University may provide core administrative support in the form of a Director's stipend, allocations for supplies and expenses, equipment and facilities, and general assistance. No University funding is available for teaching buy-outs or summer salary.

In order to achieve administrative efficiencies and improvements, ORUs are advised to either combine resources with other Centers/Institutes, or to contract with a Department or School for administrative support.

Annual Reports and Program Review

At the end of each academic year, ORUs shall submit to the Vice Chancellor for Research an annual report that includes:

  1. Numbers of graduate and postdoctoral students directly contributing to the unit who: a) are on the unit's payroll; b) participate through assistantships, fellowships or traineeships; or c) are otherwise involved in the unit's work.
  2. Number of faculty members actively engaged in the ORU’s research or its administration.
  3. Extent of participation by students and faculty from other campuses or universities.
  4. Numbers of FTE of professional, technical, administrative and clerical personnel employed.
  5. A list of publications resulting from the collaborative endeavors of the ORU.
  6. A list of grant awards to participating faculty, as well as sources and amounts (on an annual basis) of support funds of all types, including income from service facilities, the sale of publications and from other services.
  7. Expenditures, distinguishing use of funds for administrative support, matching funds, direct research and other specific uses. A copy of the June 30th Final Ledger will satisfy this requirement; summary tables are also acceptable.
  8. Description of the space currently occupied.
  9. Any other information deemed relevant to the evaluation of a unit's effectiveness, including updated five-year plans.

Program Review

Each ORU shall be reviewed at intervals of five years by the Academic Senate Council on Research, Computing, and Libraries (CORCL). The review shall assess the Unit's activities with regard to its stated purpose, present functioning, future plans and continuing development to meet the needs of the field.

Reports concerning ORUs are reviewed by CORCL, and a decision concerning continuation of the unit is made by the Vice Chancellor for Research upon consideration of the information provided. Requirements for the self-report and procedures for including an external evaluation are similar to the review process for new ORU proposals. Please include a description of the ORU's leadership succession planning process, if any.

When a program review is concluded with the continuation of the ORU for an additional term, any suggestions or comments that the Vice Chancellor feels may be helpful in planning for the next term will be communicated in writing to the ORU Director.  The Director will be asked to respond to those comments in the next annual report.

In addition to the program review by CORCL, each ORU will periodically undergo an administrative review. This review of the management and operations of the ORU may take place before a leadership transition, such as when a new Director is appointed, or in conjunction with the five- or fifteen-year ORU program review.

Sunset Review

All ORUs that have been in existence for 15 years or more are subject to a Sunset Review. At that time, they are required to justify their continuation in terms of scholarly or scientific merit and campus priorities. ORUs due for sunset may be reviewed competitively, with a limited number selected for continuation. ORU Directors will be notified of the time of their sunset review six months prior to the submission date.

An ORU undergoing a Sunset Review needs to develop a formal proposal for continued ORU status, support funds, and space within the context of current campus and University needs and resources. The proposal should explain whether the ORU proposes to continue unchanged in the future, or if its plans change, what they will be and what they will accomplish, and how leadership continuation or change will be managed. If continued ORU status is not a goal, the Director will provide a final report to the Office of Research.

The proposal for continuation should describe:

  • The ORU's achievements over the past 15 years (or more, if it has been in existence longer),
  • The contributions the ORU has made to research, graduate and undergraduate education, and public service, and
  • The consequences if the ORU were not continued.

Sunset Review reports are reviewed by the Academic Senate Council on Research, Computing and Libraries (CORCL). A decision concerning continuation of the unit is made by the Chancellor upon recommendation by the Vice Chancellor for Research.

There are several options when an ORU is sunsetted:

  • The ORU may close, or it may transition to status as a School Center or Campus Center.
  • The ORU may reapply, reinventing itself to compete with proposals to establish a new ORU.
  • An ORU that runs a core research facility may continue to operate as a facility.

Those units recommended for continuation upon the completion of a Sunset Review are subject to subsequent Sunset reviews at five-year intervals.

The establishment or renewal date for all ORUs will be July 1.


Submissions should be directed to:

Vice Chancellor for Research
Office of Research
160 Aldrich Hall
University of California
Irvine, CA 92697-3175

For inquiries, please call (949) 824-5796.

Questions About Organized Research Units?

Please contact:

Jill Yonago Kay
Director, Research Policy
(949) 824-1410

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