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University Strategic Organizations (USO) Policy

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Policy on University Strategic Organizations (USOs)

(to be reviewed & revised Summer 2019)

Because USOs represent a strategic investment by the university, they are subject to a formal planning, approval, and review process, typically on an annual cycle with the proposal due early in the calendar year. However, under special circumstances, a USO proposal may be submitted off-cycle with permission from the Norman campus Vice President for Research.


Any non-academic unit or informally organized activity is eligible to apply for USO classification. As noted previously, however, organizations so classified typically will have been longstanding entities that reflect core strategic directions of the university. New or existing organizations created by statute, e.g., state or national surveys, are considered strategic to the university and receive USO designation automatically from the Vice President for Research. However, their funding and governance follows the policies and laws associated with their creation; such organizations generally are not eligible for USO ongoing base support.

Proposal Preparation

To apply for USO designation, a proposal (maximum of 10 single-spaced pages excluding biographical sketches) containing all of the following must be submitted to the Norman campus Vice President for Research by the date specified in the solicitation:

  • Mission and Rationale (up to 1 page). Describe the mission/vision of the organization, including a discussion of why the organization is necessary, how it proposes to accomplish work that otherwise would not be possible, how it will interact, as appropriate, with other organizations both internal and external to the university, and how it differs from and/or is complementary to other organizations locally and nationally.
  • Congruence with University Strategic Goals (up to 1 page). Describe the congruence of the proposed USO with university strategic goals as well as the expected value added to the local scholarship enterprise. This section also should address, if appropriate, congruence with state and national goals.
  • Program of Research (up to 2 pages). Present a strategic plan of research including specific objectives, milestones, and priorities/phases as appropriate, along with expected outcomes. Of particular significance is the manner in which the research plan builds upon or enforces strategic research directions of the university.
  • Leadership and Governance (up to 1 page). Describe the proposed governance model to be used, qualifications of leaders and other participants, programmatic linkages to departments, schools, colleges, or other units, split appointments, etc. Also, discuss proposed membership of the Advisory Committee (see §7.3).
  • Special Requirements (up to 1 page). Discuss any special requirements associated with the proposed USO, including space, required renovation, equipment, transportation, hazardous materials, supercomputing and data, etc. If organization needs cannot be met by existing resources, a justification for those proposed must be provided in the Financial Plan.
  • Financial Plan (up to 2 pages). Present a business plan for the first three years, including anticipated funding sources and amounts, planned expenditures, leveraging or cost sharing, personnel costs, etc. For years four and five, present only a summary of anticipated needs and expenditures. Base funding requested from the university can be used for anything deemed necessary, but this use must be justified and weighed against other sources.
  • Metrics for Assessing Outcomes and Impacts (up to 1 page). Provide a set of metrics, both qualitative and quantitative, by which the proposed USO wishes would be evaluated as part of the formal review process (see §9). Possibilities include but are not limited to the following:
    • Number and quality of refereed publications
    • Number of external, peer-reviewed grants (research, teaching, training) and/or Congressional initiatives
    • Number of large interdisciplinary grants
    • Funding from or meaningful linkages with private industry, private foundations, or other non-government organizations, foreign and domestic
    • Collaborations with individuals from other institutions
    • Juried creative endeavor
    • Licenses, disclosures, patents, number of degrees produced
    • Impact on diversity enhancement and workforce development
    • Creation of new initiatives and areas of scholarship
    • National and international partnerships
    • Public education programs
    • Major conferences initiated or managed
    • Number of invited talks nationally and internationally
    • Extension of scholarship to undergraduate and K-12 levels
    • Healthy/effective linkages with related academic programs
    • Healthy/effective linkages with other USOs
    • Healthy/effective linkages with relevant state and federal agencies
    • External collaborators and extended visitors
    • Assistance/mentoring given to students and early-career faculty

Most importantly, the metrics should establish that the activities of the USO and its benefits to the university could not be achieved in its absence.

  • Broader Impacts (up to 1 page). Describe potential broader impacts of the proposed activity beyond core scholarship goals. Possible items to consider are broadening the participation of traditionally underrepresented groups, linking traditionally disparate disciplines, linking government/academia/industry, enhancing infrastructure for scholarship and instruction, stimulating economic development, improving quality of life, enhancing Oklahoma's or the nation's overall competitiveness, and workforce development.
  • Biographical Sketches (pages as needed). Include biographical sketches of key personnel as appropriate (2 pages per person).

Advisory Committee

Each USO is required to have an Advisory Committee, chaired by someone external to the USO, which meets at least once per year and participates in strategic planning, budgetary evaluation, and assessment of overall organizational effectiveness. Composed predominantly of regular faculty who are not formally aligned with the organization but whose expertise is deemed relevant to center foci, the committee ideally should include external members as well, with all costs of such participation paid by the USO. The Advisory Committee is expected to play a key role in major center evaluations.

Proposal Submission and Review

The proposal is to be submitted electronically via instructions provided in the program announcement. The proposal will be reviewed by the cognizant dean(s), Vice President for Research, Provost, and Research Cabinet, with peer experts consulted as appropriate. The Vice President for Research and Provost have authority for approving the proposal, which then is forwarded to the President for final approval and subsequently provided as an information item to the Board of Regents. In accordance with university policies on the appointment of administrative personnel and title changes, the appointment of a director and other administrative personnel must be submitted to the Board of Regents for approval.

Review Criteria and Notification

Proposals will be evaluated based upon the following criteria, listed in arbitrary order:

  • Technical and/or creative merit of the activities proposed
  • Rationale and necessity of the organization for achieving stated goals
  • Congruence with university strategic goals and potential for enhancing the scholarship enterprise
  • Viability of the proposed governance model and qualifications of the leadership team
  • Nature and value of existing or proposed linkages with other organizations
  • Soundness of the financial plan and rationale for support requested
  • Potential for fiscal and programmatic sustainability
  • Likelihood of success in making meaningful impacts beyond the scholarship being proposed

Proposal review may require three to four months depending upon a number of factors, e.g., time of year, degree to which external advice is sought. The principal investigator will be notified once a decision has been made and will be provided with a written summary of reviewer comments. Resubmission is possible in the event of declination, and the revised proposal should address all points made in the previous review.