Research Centres and Institutes

Queen’s Research Centres and Institutes (RCIs) are, and have been, the vehicle for many important research outcomes. Researchers from all disciplines and corners of the University recognize that RCIs can bring new meaning and opportunity to important research questions and be the vehicle through which research can be unburdened from traditional administrative structures. In addition, the research funding landscape is evolving, with greater emphasis on interdisciplinary research that is impactful, supports training and development, and is relevant in local and international contexts. RCIs are often well positioned to be successful in this context and pursue research questions related to global challenges and opportunities.

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Research Centres and Institutes

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A new Policy on the Establishment of Research Centres and Institutes and associated Procedures was adopted by the Senate in spring 2020. The Policy and Procedures guide the process for the establishment and renewal of RCIs via the Senate Advisory Research Committee (SARC), which recommends establishment and renewal to Senate. Administrative procedures will also assist in bringing a new robustness to the mechanisms deployed to ensure the operational vitality of RCIs.

The revised Policy and Procedures provides freedom for groups and collaborations to evolve, only becoming more formalized when such factors as size, scale, and complexity, make it appropriate. While the balance between administrative due diligence and burden can be difficult to find, the various consultations in the Policy development process have led to the identification of several ways that RCI support and oversight can be improved and appropriately simplified.

Renewal Process

The Senate Advisory Research Committee (SARC) reviewed and revised the Senate Policy governing RCIs and formally endorsed a revised Policy on the Establishment of Research Centres and Institutes and an associated Procedure for the Establishment, Categorization, Renewal and Dissolution of Research Centres and Institutes (Procedure A). Accompanying the new Policy and Procedure A, is a Procedure for the Administration of Research Centres and Institutes (Procedure B).

The revision is the culmination of over three years of consultation with multiple stakeholder groups, including the Directors of RCIs, individual faculty members including Canada Research Chairs, and has crossed three Vice-Principal Research appointments and three SARC panels. Deans commented on a discussion paper in 2016 that outlined several potential changes to RCI structures and oversight and provided further detailed comments on draft documents in late 2019. Associate/Vice-Deans Research have been consulted on progress towards reforms at regular meetings between them and the Associate Vice-Principals Research. 

SARC held a half-day retreat in February 2019 to focus on key issues associated with current policies and procedures and the topic has been the central area of discussion at various SARC meetings through 2019-20. Environmental scans have been undertaken of other similar processes and procedures at Canadian institutions.

Senate approved the new policy in spring 2020.

Objectives of the Renewal Process

While ongoing dialogue and engagement will be important to keep procedures and practices relevant, SARC was of the opinion that it was time to implement some changes and evolve decision-making in relation to RCI establishment and renewals. Key changes include the following:

  • eliminate the differentiation between the activities of institutes and centres (the names are used interchangeably or not at all)

  • provide clear criteria to assist SARC in its decision-making and move away from University or Faculty led as the determining factor for how RCIs are supported, structured, and operationalized

  • reduce the administrative burden on RCIs and support a focus on leading-edge research

  • separate the policy from procedures to create flexibility allowing SARC to evolve practices for assessing research centre activity, impact, and outcomes over time

  • add an administrative procedure to be associated with the policy and approved by the administrative policies process

  • ensure that upon the implementation of the revised policies and procedures, the structures are in place to enable the success of RCIs

  • The reforms in the Policy, and associated Procedures, will allow Senate to exercise its governance responsibilities, while also providing a strong administrative foundation to ensure the success of these entities at various stages.

A few important details when considering pursuing the establishment/renewal of an RCI:

Where to start?

  • Review the Policy and Procedures carefully
  • Connect with the relevant Associate/Vice-Dean(s) Research early in the process of considering the establishment of an RCI
  • Arrange a joint meeting between the Vice-Principal Research Portfolio and the relevant Associate/Vice-Dean(s) Research to discuss the proposed RCI, research objectives and operational considerations
  • Review the templates to guide the development of the Research Plan and Operational Plan components of the application

Why are RCIs organized by Tier 1, Tier 2 and Group?

  • To inform the governance and oversight of RCIs, SARC will recommend establishment, and renewal, of RCIs within three categories – Tier 1, Tier 2 and Group.
  • Rather than focusing on delineating RCIs by their names (i.e. a Centre is X and an Institute is Y) or by status as Faculty or University level under the old Policy, SARC adopted a categorization method that focused on key research indicators including research excellence, evidence of collaboration, training and development of highly qualified personnel, knowledge mobilization activity and alignment with Queen’s strategic plans.
  • It is not a requirement for prospective RCIs to indicate Tier level as part of the application, however, a preference can be offered.
  • Tier 1 represents the areas of highest strategic importance to the university research mission and may, when available, receive additional central institutional resources and support to deliver on its objectives.
  • A categorization guideline will be maintained by SARC as part of this Procedure, to be reviewed by SARC annually, and updated at a minimum of every three years.

How are RCIs funded and administered?

  • At this time, RCIs require a lead Faculty to support operations, administration and financial processes
  • Multidisciplinary and multi-Faculty RCIs are strongly encouraged; current structures and oversight processes require a lead Faculty to be identified, although the lead can change over time
  • The role of the Vice-Principal Research Portfolio is to ensure that RCIs when established are positioned for success, and that proper governance and oversight practices are in place
  • The Vice-Principal Research Portfolio currently does not have funding to directly support RCI activity; proponents are encouraged to apply for funding through internal funding opportunities [hyperlink] sponsored by the Vice-Principal Research Portfolio, pursue grant and research contract funding and seek support from Faculties.
  • A minimum 5-year budget plan is required; a strategy for a 10-year horizon is strongly encouraged

The Vice-Principal Research Portfolio is currently working with a small group of RCIs to pilot the new process and develop forms and templates with a goal of reducing the burden on applicants. We expect this pilot to be complete in early 2020 but are sharing the current version of the forms and templates used to assist RCIs in submitting for establishment or renewal. Forms and are subject to change; contact to be added to the Queen’s RCI Team Group to keep informed and ask questions.

Other relevant Policies and Procedures:

During the development of the new Policy and Procedures, a number of RCIs had their renewals and migration from provisional status delayed. The Vice-Principal Research Portfolio will be in touch all existing RCIs by the end of January 2021 to map out timelines for renewal processes and to assist in the transitioning to the new forms and templates. Any questions from current RCIs can be directed to Jason Schmelzle at

Associate Vice-Principal Research Dr. Kent Novakowski is providing executive leadership in the implementation of the new process on behalf of the Vice-Principal Research.

Associate/Vice-Deans Research in the Faculties:

Jason Schmelzle, Executive Assistant, is providing process and implementation advice and assisting Dr. Novakowski and Senate Advisory Research Committee.

Alex Birchard, Financial Officer, is providing advice on the development of financial plans for RCI operational plans.

If you are unsure where to direct your inquiry, please write to