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Administrative arrangements and objectives

The decision to apply for REI funding and to establish a new research infrastructure (the CoE) under the umbrella of an HI relies on the interplay of different actors. The results show that the impulse to start the application process is generally driven internally, from either the HI’s management structure or from the researchers in specific departments. Other bodies (i.e. external partners) play only a minor role in starting the application process for excellence funding. Around 60% of HIs (see Figure 4.1) declared that the initiative to apply for REI funding came from researchers in the respective departments and was eventually passed onto the HI’s management. In around 38% of cases the HI’s management structure suggested to researchers in specific departments to apply for funding. In only 3% of cases did one or several of the co-operation partners approach the HI to propose to apply for funding.

The decision to start the application process is sometimes linked to the size and variety of an HI’s research areas. In German HIs and CoEs with few areas of excellence (see Chapter 6), the HI’s management simply supported the activity of the initiators as much as possible. More formal procedures were required at HIs with strong research records in a broad variety of scientific fields to initiate the application procedure. For instance, the university management initially collected ideas from relevant departments, assessed them internally and then decided which proposals would be developed and submitted for funding.

Figure 4.1. Initiative to apply for REI funding

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Host Institutions, 2012.

From the point of view of the HI, supporting the creation and subsequent research activity of a CoE is usually linked to a strategic objective. Apart from the research outputs expected from the CoE, HIs are usually looking to enhance their visibility and improve their scientific, reputational and financial position in relation to other institutions. Figure 4.2 shows that 96% of HIs believe that their support for CoEs will eventually make it easier to obtain third-party funds. Similarly, 80% expect to be able to raise more funds in subsequent rounds of REIs. Supporting a CoE is also seen as a way to receive more funding from the HI’s core funding body (57%) with the expectation that, once the CoE is in place, the HI’s status will rise and it will attract further financial contributions.3 In addition, 57% of HIs view their financial investment in the research activities of the CoE as a way to reduce the risk of insufficient funding once the REI expires.

Some Danish HIs (see Chapter 5) noted the importance of controlling potential financial risks, such as a CoE’s costly agreements or structures that cannot be cancelled or easily dissolved at the end of the grant period; for example, they would only offer labour contracts beyond the lifespan of the CoE to a limited number of employees. Similarly, the university of Oslo in Norway, which was able to integrate the hosted CoE into the organisational structure of the host university, could only renew the contract of about half of the academic staff once the REI funding ended (see Chapter 8).

Figure 4.2. Expected results from supporting a CoE

Note: * Japanese HIs significantly drive some of the results. When they are removed from the sample, the share of HIs that expect to receive more funding from its core funding body drops to 47%.

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Host Institutions, 2012.

The possibility of higher status and greater visibility in relation to other institutions is likely to affect the decision to sponsor, both directly and indirectly, the research activities of a CoE (Figure 4.3) and to influence the number of hosted CoEs. Around 87% of respondents stated that they receive more attention from the media owing to the establishment of a CoE. Higher status is also seen as a means to obtain funding from third parties (77%) as well as a way to increase the possibility of attracting top-level researchers (77%) and better qualified students from other institutions (72%). German HIs were able for instance to establish new professorships at both senior and junior levels and to pay higher salaries to attract excellent researchers in order to raise the research status of both the CoE and the HI (see Chapter 6). However, 41% of survey respondents reported some potential negative effects of higher scientific status, mainly related to a tendency for competing institutions to try to lure researchers away.

The results in Figure 4.3 show that institutions hosting a larger number of CoEs (HIsHCoE) are on average in a better position to acquire third-party funding for research projects (85% of HIsHCoE as opposed to 73% of HIsLCoE). Similarly, HIsHCoE are also generally able to attract better-qualified students than HIsLCoE (85% of HIsHCoE as opposed to 65% of HIsLCoE). This situation again raises the danger that other institutions might try to lure researchers away from them (50% of HIsHCoE as opposed to 37% of HIsLCoE).

Figure 4.3. Effects of the CoE on the perceptions of external stakeholders

Note: HIs hosting three or more CoEs are labelled HIsHCoE. HIs hosting two or less CoEs are labelled HIsLCoE. The average number of hosted CoEs is 2.6.

Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Host Institutions, 2012.

The way HIs interact with the hosted CoEs in the administration of their tasks is likely to affect the overall performance of both. Interesting information can be obtained by examining how tasks are administered between HIs and CoEs in HIs in which the REI positively affected their overall activities (i.e. 94% of the total HI sample). Approximately 62% of these also indicated that they had implemented a clear division of tasks and administrative duties between the HI and the CoE; a more restricted number of HIs declared that the administration of tasks was concentrated in either the host or the CoE (Figure 4.4).

In certain cases the clear division of tasks between the CoE and HI led to the creation of specific management groups. In Japan, since the universities do not administer the CoEs, a small administrative staff is hired using grant funds for this purpose (see Chapter 7). Similarly, in some Danish HIs many decisions are taken after consultation with an internal management/advisory group or an external advisory body. These auxiliary bodies consist of people with scientific expertise in the research field who supervise the centre’s performance (see Chapter 5).

Figure 4.4. Administrative linkages and division between HIs and CoEs

Note: This figure analyses HIs that positively value the experience of hosting a CoE (i.e. 92% of the total sample). Source: OECD/RIHR Survey to Host Institutions, 2012.

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