CTR Home Internal  Relations and Communications Home About CTR Publication Schedule CTR Archives

March 14, 2002 Consultation on a Chief Research Officer Position



The Provost and Vice-Rector, Research, has initiated a broad-based consultation based upon the following document. Faculty Councils, Senate and its principal committees and the Council of the School of Graduate Studies have been asked for their views. Others may write to the Provost and Vice-Rector, Research, by March 31, 2002.

Proposal to Establish a Chief-Research-Officer Position
Consultation of Senate and the Academic Governing Councils

The Context

In the process of preparing for and conducting a search for a Dean of the Graduate School, there has been much informal discussion about the evolution of the position. The discussion has been informed by the emerging provincial and national contexts and the current academic planning mandate established by SCAPP under the aegis of Senate.

The emerging context in which Concordia must succeed, and for which we are planning, requires greater attention to, and coordination of, the various complex elements that comprise the research portfolio at the University-wide level. Concordia cannot continue to be served well by the elements of this portfolio being attended to in part by the Provost and Vice-Rector, Research and in part by the Dean of Graduate Studies together with their other respective duties. It is within this context that it is recommended that serious consideration be given to establishing a position whereby the University-wide research portfolio be the sole fulltime responsibility of a specific University academic officer.

The Past

Between the mid-80s and the mid-90s the Vice-Rector, Academic was supported by an Associate Vice-Rector, Curriculum and an Associate Vice-Rector, Research. Supporting and coordinating those research-related matters which required attention at the University-wide level was the fulltime duty of the latter, who worked under the authority and supervision of the Vice-Rector, Academic. When in the mid-90s the University dealt with the enormous budget cuts imposed by the government on all Quebec universities, the Vice-Rector, Academic decided to eliminate both Associate-Vice-Rector positions. The Vice-Rector, Academic (re-titled Provost and Vice-Rector, Research) assumed some of the day-to-day duties of both of the Associate’s portfolios), and other day-to-day duties once carried out by the Associates were devolved elsewhere. Many of the duties once assumed by the Associate Vice-Rector, Research were at the time devolved to the Dean of Graduate Studies (re-titled the Dean of Graduate Studies and Research).

The Present

What has changed such as to recommend the (re)establishment of a chief-research-officer position, whose fulltime responsibilities would lie with the duties of the research portfolio proper to the University-wide level?

1) The block federal grants to provinces to support universities’ operating budgets have in effect been replaced by truly massive and ever increasing federal funds to support research. The former funds were distributed by formula; the latter funds are directly or indirectly available on a competitive basis. Moreover, this massive federal investment in research has been effected not so much via the augmentation of the budgets of the established federal granting agencies and their “traditional” grants programmes, but via the establishment of new programmes. There has been a plethora of new opportunities and proliferation of programmes. As a result, university research officers and university researchers are increasingly more hard-pressed to keep up with these opportunities. To do so requires advance information gathering, lobbying, the formation of alliances and partnerships, intense follow-up and debriefing, the coordination of major interdisciplinary and inter-institutional proposals, and a times the engagement of professional “consultants” to put major proposals together.

2) Quebec’s support for research has also evolved significantly, sometimes in response to, sometimes in anticipation of the federal initiatives. Therefore the Quebec scene is fast becoming as complex and diverse as the federal one as regards support for university-based research.

3) The above coincides with a renewal of the University’s fulltime faculty ranks which is unprecedented in its scope and unparalleled in its long term impact upon the University. By about 2005 or 2006 nearly 50% of our full time faculty will have been hired since 1997. Because of demographics, Concordia will not get another opportunity so rapidly to evolve the research strength of its faculty for another 25 to 35 years by making so many new hires of junior faculty. However, to seize this opportunity and ensure that the research careers of so many newly hired faculty are well started in a very competitive environment, both for research funding and faculty hiring, is an immense challenge and will require a great deal of hard work and effort on the institution’s part.

4) The above also coincides with an explosion of demands by federal and provincial agencies for the development or rewriting of institutional policies regarding research. The increased burden this has and will continue to place on university-research administration is considerable.

The Future

To maximize our potential and opportunity within the aforementioned context will require much more in the way of support, services and proactive leadership and activity at the Faculty level—closer to the “content” level as it were—than most other Canadian universities have instituted to date. However, it will certainly require a great deal more action and activity proper to the University-wide level than we have had. Hence the proposal to (re)create a position at the University-wide level to deal with the latter on a fulltime basis.

This document has throughout used the term chief research officer (without capital letters) to refer to this proposed position. It does so in order not to prejudice either the nomenclature for the position or to predetermine where such a research officer should fit within the structure of the university’s academic administration. Both the title and officers place within our academic administrative structure must be appropriate for Concordia’s internal organization and our own quite distinctive mode of academic planning. It must also accord with the level of responsibility and accountability which we have given the Faculties and with the particular role the University has given the Office of the Provost for the leadership and coordination of academic planning and related budgeting mechanisms.

At the same time, the title of this officer and his or her position within the University’s administration must be appropriate coin to those outside the University, at other universities, in the offices of the federal and provincial governments, those of the granting agencies, and at both national and quebec associations (like CREPUQ’s comite de recherche) of research officers.


A number of questions, which follow, are, then, the precise object of this consultation. Note that these questions go beyond the hypothesis that the Provost reestablish the position of Associate Vice-Rector, Research. That, the Provost and Vice-Rector can do as an administrative staff appointment within his office as the minimalist or default solution. With the default position in mind, this consultation seeks input on the following questions:

1) What should the title of such a chief research officer be, given Concordia’s internal structure and the needs for appropriate representation externally? (Possiblities are: Associate-Vice-Rector, Research; Vice-Rector, Research; Chief Research Officer; or some other title. The title of the Provost and Vice-Rector, Research would require revision under certain circumstances.)

2) To whom should the chief research officer report administratively, to the Provost, or to the Rector? (An Associate-Rector, Research would presumably report to the Provost. However, a Vice-Rector, Research or a Chief Research Officer could report either to the Rector or via the Provost, depending upon how one envisages maintaining coherence and integration across all aspects of the Universities academic mission.)

3) Should the chief research officer be a member of Senate, as he or she will almost certainly chair the Senate Research Committee and probably should be a member of SCAPP? (Currently the Chief Financial Officer is a non-voting member of Senate, as was the Associate Vice-Rector, Research when the latter position existed. Would this level of participation in Senate be appropriate for a Chief Research Officer or Vice-Rector Research, or would the fact that the research mandate is core to the University’s academic mission, with respect to which Senate is the highest legislative authority, suggest that he or she should be a voting member of Senate?)

It is apparent that the timeframe for making such an appointment and the mode of identifying an appropriate incumbent will be a function of the answers to these questions. However, the more expeditiously we can proceed to establish a chief research officer position, the better off we shall be.

Jack N. Lightstone
Provost and Vice-Rector, Research
March 12, 2002