About Research Organizations at Cornell

Research centers, institutes, laboratories, and programs offer many benefits to the university. They provide a means for faculty and staff to share expensive, specialized research facilities and equipment. They take advantage of federal and state programs that are designed to promote university, government, and corporate partnerships. Also, interdisciplinary research organizations enhance graduate and undergraduate education, and they contribute significantly to the university's outreach activities.

Distinguishing features for centers, institutes, laboratories, and programs can be blurred at times. There is no clean, crisp definition of a center, institute, laboratory, or program. There are centers that include programs, programs that include institutes, and institutes that have centers. However, there are some guidelines to highlight.

Centers are usually organized under centralized university governance, and they report to a university vice president or the university provost. They usually span two or more colleges. Most centers are established by action of the Cornell Board of Trustees. Institutes may span two or more colleges, but often they are centered in a single college and governed from within that college. Laboratories generally are centered and governed within a college or a center. Most times, laboratories provide facilities and administration for large interdisciplinary research units within a college. Programs are organized around unified plans of study with a central focus. They bring faculty members together from various departments within a single college or across colleges. Programs usually report to a college or a center.

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