Office of Research (University of Michigan) Records and Publications


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Office of Research (University of Michigan) Records and Publications

The materials in this online repository form part of a larger Office of Research (University of Michigan) record group held by the Bentley Historical Library. For a more complete index to the materials, please consult the following online finding aids:

Researchers may also be interested in the Vice President for Research (University of Michigan) Web Archives.

For questions or more information, please contact the Bentley Historical Library's Division of Reference and Access Services

Officially established in 1959, the Office of Research supports and administers large interdisciplinary projects called research centers and administers research institutes. The record group includes individual vice president's files, central office files, staff files, financial records, administrative files, committee and task force documents and reports, special event files, and project and institute files.

After World War II the burden of overseeing the university's rapidly expanding research programs fell upon the Horace H. Rackham School of Graduate Studies. The dean's broad responsibility for research activity was formally acknowledged in 1959 when Dean Ralph A. Sawyer was given the additional title of Vice President for Research (VPR). The Office of the Vice President for research (OVPR) supports and administers large interdisciplinary projects called research centers and also administers research institutes. Research projects which have been overseen by the VPR include the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Project, which provides beneficial uses for atomic energy; the Institute of Science and Technology (IST), which managed large research projects that did not fit into the existing academic structure; and the Institute for Social Research (ISR), which undertakes substantial programs in survey research, political behavior, and other areas.

For practical reasons, the University of Michigan Research Institute (UMRI) was assigned to aid Sawyer in carrying out the administrative tasks of the VPR. The administrative relationship between the VPR and UMRI was formalized in 1961 with UMRI becoming the Office of Research Administration. The function of the Office of Research Administration is to assist faculty members in obtaining support for their research projects and to maintain appropriate records of university research projects. In 1972 the ORA became the Division of Research Development and Administration (DRDA).

At the time of Dean Sawyer's retirement, in 1964, a decision was made to separate the vice presidency from the deanship. Arthur Geoffrey Norman, a professor of botany at Michigan since 1952 and director of the university's botanical gardens since 1955, was named to replace Sawyer as vice president. Some of the problems facing the new VPR were recovering indirect costs of large research programs, integrating research with instructional programs, and developing interdisciplinary research.

During the early 1960s much of the work of the OVPR was involved in overseeing the expansion of government funded research. The majority of sponsored research funds went to engineering and scientific research projects, but as the decade advanced more research funds were received by the social and health sciences. Prior to 1966/67 sponsored research funds had increased an average of 13% to 14% a year, but from 1966 to 1968 a rise of only 5% was reported. By 1968/69 sponsored research had reached a plateau. This was caused in part by a leveling of federal funds and because available faculty time and research space had reached a saturation point.

Classified research policy was a topic of great debate during the late 1960s and early 1970s. A new policy was put into effect in 1968 and then revised in 1972. The 1972 revision prohibits research activities, the foreseeable result of which is to destroy or incapacitate human life, and restrictions that limit open publication of results beyond one year. Interpretation of the new policy resulted in the Willow Run Laboratories disassociating itself from the university, since the majority of university classified research occurred there.

In 1972, although he continued to perform various tasks within OVPR, Norman retired from the vice presidency. He was succeeded by Charles G. Overberger, who had joined the University of Michigan faculty in 1967 and was then chairman of the Chemistry Department. During Overberger's tenure in OVPR, research expenditures increased only 2.4% when adjusted for inflation during the 1970s. In the 1979/80 academic year the distribution of sponsored research funds was 43.3% life sciences, 20% engineering, 16.7% social sciences, 8.9% physical sciences, 1.3% humanities, and 9.8% other.

Overberger resigned in 1983. Rather than seek an immediate replacement, a major study was authorized to determine if the 1964 decision to separate the vice presidency from the deanship of the graduate school should be reversed. While the study was underway, Alfred A. Sussman was named interim VPR while also continuing in his position as Dean of the Graduate School. Eventually it was concluded that the two posts would remain separate, and in 1985 Linda S. Wilson was named vice president for research. Wilson resigned in 1989 and William C. Kelley became interim vice president. In 1990 he became the permanent vice president for research.

Homer Neal (1993-1996), Frederick C. Niedhardt (1996-1998), Fawwaz Ulaby (1999-2005) and Stephen R. Forrest (2005-2013) succeeded William C. Kelley as Vice President of Research. In 2014, the unit changed its name from the Office of the Vice President of Research to the University of Michigan Office of Research (UMOR). Also in 2014, S. Jack Hu was appointed interim Vice-President and officially named Vice President for Research in 2015. The University of Michigan continues to be a world leader in academic research and was ranked #1 in research volume among United States public universities in 2017.

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Copyright has been transferred to the Regents of the University of Michigan.

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