Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Developing Research Foundations at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Developing Research Foundations at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions

Article excerpt

Introduction

This article provides an introduction and overview of University Connected Research Foundations (UCRF) and developing a research foundation at Predominantly Undergraduate Institutions (PUIs). This article has been stimulated by the increase of research foundation start-ups at PUIs over the last five years, requests for information, and PUIs observing at University Connected Research Foundations annual meetings. The UCRF is a private organization serving the university connected research community.

A favorite saying around the UCRF table is: "If you've seen one research foundation you've seen one research foundation." They have been developed because of institutional needs to provide flexibility for research. The first university research foundation was established in 1925 at the University of Wisconsin. It began as a receptacle for faculty donated patents and gifts that state law prohibited the university from accepting. Purdue's research foundation was incorporated in 1930 and was devoted to university-industry relations. Five more followed spanning the country from California State University at Fresno, to Indiana University, to Ohio State University. In 1951 the Research Foundation of the State of New York was founded and today serves over thirty campuses in the system. It is the largest research foundation with annual awards nearing one billion and many services (Meadows, 1977).

These earliest and more recent foundations were separately incorporated for a number of practical reasons. The upswing in research in the late 1950s created the need to avoid restrictive state procedures, provide fiscal flexibility, facilitate contracting, encourage entrepreneurship, promote intellectual property and commercialization, and provide for accountability. For example, The University of Kansas Center for Research, Inc. was founded in 1961 to provide flexible research administration for engineering research grants. This remained the model until July 1, 1997 when the Center expanded into all sponsored projects. (Gabriel, Garton, Scuto, Artz, & Myers, 2004). Today these trends continue to prevail. Some foundations are full-service and some provide specified services.

Purpose and Structure

How do you know when the time is right to start thinking about developing a research foundation? This question is answered differently from institution to institution, but some common indicators can be listed. First, officials at PUIs must realize that a research foundation based on undergraduate and some graduate programs will be different from a foundation supporting institutions that have hard science/engineering schools. The rapid growth of external funding may cause thinking about providing added value to benefit faculty. Second, this reality may lead to the need to create a mechanism to spawn financial flexibility. This variable can increase incentives for grant and intellectual property opportunities, and instill faculty confidence, increased morale, and visibility for research. Third, the foundation can provide customized services for business and industry contracts.

Research foundations arise on campuses that are undergoing transformation of the strategic plan to become a nationally recognized institution of choice. A rule of thumb might be that external awards have risen to ten million dollars and there is an institutional desire to better serve the public good through its faculty, students and the community as part of the change. Another indicator stems from the institutional ambition to transfer technologies. The foundation can provide flexible finances to increase awards and for technology transfer. It can provide a litigation shield for the supported university. In a word, the foundation can be more responsive to both internal and external constituencies.

Whatever the reasons, a research foundation should not be developed as a "quick fix" to onerous statutes or internal obstacles. …

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