Accessibility Skip to Global Navigation Skip to Local Navigation Skip to Content Skip to Search Skip to Site Map Menu

University of Otago Research Themes Policy

Category Research
Type Policy
Approved by Council, 13 June 2006
Date Policy Took Effect 1 January 2006
Last Approved Revision 29 April 2015
Sponsor Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise)
Responsible Officer Senior Research Analyst, Research and Enterprise
Review Date 29 April 2018


University of Otago Research Themes are established under the authority of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise). Research Themes must have approval from the Head of the host Department, and/or the Dean of the host School, and have been recommended by the Divisional Pro-Vice-Chancellor to the Research Committee. The Research Committee will make recommendations to the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) on the establishment and number of Research Themes.

Organisational Scope

This policy applies only to those research Themes endorsed by the Research Committee.


PBRF - Performance Based Research Fund.

University of Otago Research Centre -  is a research flagship for the University. There are fourteen formally recognised and supported Research Centres.

Policy Content

1 General

a) A Research Theme is a broad interdisciplinary network of University scholars who engage in related research activities leading to common goals. The purpose of a Research Theme is to promote and facilitate communication and new types of research collaborations among its members, including academic staff and graduate research students. A Research Theme signals an area where there are research strengths in the University that, with co-ordination, might incubate promising interdisciplinary research directions.

b) A Research Theme provides unique training opportunities for students, and may support co-ordination of activities not readily undertaken within the University's department structure.

c) A Research Theme signals an area of developing or potential research excellence. By giving particular recognition and support, the University is signalling that Research Themes will:

(i) develop a pathway to increase national and international leadership and recognition for excellence;

(ii) increase interdisciplinary and collaborative contributions to a research field;

(iii) have the potential to attract external research income.

2 Establishing a Research Theme

a) Proposals to establish University of Otago Research Themes are invited from time to time by the Research Committee.

b) Themes will be established for either three or five years at the discretion of the Research Committee. Recognition of the Theme, and any funding, finishes at the end of that period. The interdisciplinary research groups incubated by the activity may re-apply as a Theme, apply to become University of Otago Centres when proposals are invited, or continue their scholarly endeavours independent of University of Otago Research Theme branding.

3 Management of Research Themes

a) Personnel

(i) Each full member of a Research Theme, including the Director, shall hold an appointment in an academic department. Appointment of a Director is approved by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (Research and Enterprise) on the endorsement of the Head of the Host Department(s) and/or Dean of School and relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor(s).

(ii) In addition, Research Themes are encouraged to include associate members such as from Crown Research Institutes, business organisations, community groups, iwi or Māori organisations.

(iii) Research Themes are administered by a Steering Group.

b) Relationships and Marketing

Research Themes will be publicised.

c) Funding

University of Otago Research Themes are supported by an annual grant (up to $25,000).

4 The Proposal Criteria

a) Proposals will be assessed against the following criteria.

(i) The proposal establishes the relevance of the research area and explains why a Theme approach is needed to incubate the research strength;

(ii) The proposal identifies achievable outcome(s), for example, development of new policy approaches, refining of a technology, new methodological frameworks, new models of practice;

(iii) There is a coherent set of research activities;

(iv) The proposal has identified the key researchers’ strengths and how these will contribute to achieving the Theme’s outcome(s);

(v) The proposal has identified the resources that will best support the achievement of the outcome(s).

(vi) The proposal has a pathway to a clear end-point, outcome or a defined goal, or to a self-sustaining status.

5 Proposal Application

a)    Proposals should be completed on the University of Otago Theme Application Form and be sent to the Administrator of the Research Committee. Proposals must be endorsed by the Head of the Host Department(s) and/or Dean of School and relevant Pro-Vice-Chancellor(s). Proposals should include the following information:

(i) Name of proposed Research Theme.

(ii) Director (s) and contact details.

(iii) Steering Group members.

(iv) Response to the Research Theme criteria. (NB – this section should be no more than three pages).

(v) Key researchers’ curricula vitae.

(vi) Statement signed by the Director of the Research Theme, Head of Department and/or Dean of School, and Pro-Vice-Chancellor(s) detailing any understandings concerning the provision of resources and funding, including space.

6 Assessment of Proposals

Members of the Research Committee will assess the proposals. During the assessment period, further information may be sought – either in writing or in person – to assist the Committee in its deliberations. The Committee may also ask applicants to refocus their proposal or combine with other proposals.

7 Reporting

a)   All Research Themes will return an annual report in these areas:

(i)    Theme activities and achievements;
(ii)    Development of interdisciplinary collaborations leading to pathways for national/international leadership and recognition;
(iii)    Funding expended and sought under the Theme.

Related Policies, Procedures and Forms

Contact for Further Information

If you have any queries regarding the content of this policy or need further clarification, contact the Secretary to the Research Committee, Office of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Research and Enterprise, email