Strategic Research Themes Terms-of-Reference currently being revised.

1. Background

The USP Council adopted as part of the 2010-2012 Strategic Plan the following objective:

Objective 8: To build the University’s capacity for inter-disciplinary research and to better align research with the priorities of Member Countries.

Interdisciplinary Research Clusters have been formed to meet this objective.

To ensure that the research activities of the Research Clusters align with the priorities of Member countries, the Clusters will be governed and monitored by the Research Cluster Project Implementation Group. See Appendix 1 for details.

This document outlines the structure and membership, and modus operandi of clusters. It is assumed that current University policies and regulations are applicable in situations not explicitly mentioned in this document.

2. Structure and Membership


  • It is expected that by the end of 2011, research active staff will be members of at least one Research Cluster.Membership will be at the discretion of the Research Cluster Leader.
  • Each cluster will focus on contributing research efforts towards one key challenge facing the Pacific Islands region, and will comprise the following:
    • Program or Theme – intended to encapsulate the goal of the research cluster and to underline the importance of the interdisciplinary collaboration involved.
    • Cluster Leader
    • Cluster Project Leaders


  • Each Research Cluster will have:
    • Cluster leader (must be a USP staff and acknowledged leading researcher in the thematic area, able and willing to manage the cluster).
    • Cluster Project Leaders (must be a USP staff with significant research experience, able and willing to support the activities of the cluster and lead projects).

 3. Modus Operandi of Research Clusters


  • Each Research Cluster will develop 2-4 Research Projects within its area of interest. Research Projects must be focused within the USP Region and address a question of key importance within the Cluster area for the region (or a constituent part of it. Each of these Projects will have
    • Either the Cluster Leader or a Project Leader (Tier 1, see Appendix 2 for details.)
    • Project Themes (Tier 2, see Appendix 3 for template)
    • Project Proposals (Tier 3, see Appendix 4 for template)


  • Each Research Cluster will meet four times a year, a week before the RGPIG meets. The Research Office will be responsible for organizing meetings and keeping records of meetings.The meetings will usually involve the following:
    • A 20-minute lecture presentation by a Cluster member (or Visiting Researcher) on a piece of research that falls within the Cluster’s area of interest.
    • At least one 10-minute presentation summarizing a recent publication (from a top journal) relevant to the Cluster’s area of interest.
    • A short progress report on all research projects being pursued by the Cluster.
    • Discussions.
  • Other forms of presentations such as performances, artwork, live demonstrations and so forth are acceptable.


  • Using the RCPIG Progress Report Template (see Appendix 5), each Cluster Leader will submit a progress report on their Cluster activities (since the last report or inception) every 3~6 months. This report will be received by the Research Office for consideration of the RGPIG, which will decide whether or not progress has been satisfactory. Evaluation criteria will include:
    • Progress on each project within the Cluster, as measured by the achievement of milestones identified at the outset.
    • Number of Cluster meetings held and the numbers of attendees at each.
    • Numbers of publications, the ranking of their outlets1, the numbers of their authors (from Cluster members).
    • Numbers of conference/workshop presentations/posters, community engagements, and direct impact on national/regional/international policies emanating from each project. Note that an excess of conference participation and a lack of publications will be regarded negatively.
    • Amount of funds (external and/or internal) attracted and/or generated.
    • Numbers of national/regional/international research collaborations.


  • Seed funds will be made available to each Cluster to start with projects that are regionally-focused. Clusters are expected to work with the RCPIG to identify and access sources of external funding for future Cluster research.
  • The Research Office will administer the funds by creating vote codes for research projects, and releasing funds based on the signatories of the Research Cluster Leader, Research Manager (or Research Director) and Pro VC (Research & International).


  • Clusters are expected to complete research projects within 2-3 years of inception and submit a Final Report (see Appendix 6 for template). Completion should be signalled by the production of high-impact publications and conference presentations/posters by most cluster members involved in the project. As one project is coming to an end, the Cluster should decide how to proceed after its completion. This will essentially be a choice between
    • Continuing with the current project, but framing new and original research questions.
    • Ending the current project and starting another 1-2 successor projects involving the same group of Cluster members (and other Cluster members) and within the same general area of research.
    • Having Cluster members involved in the particular project redirect their energies towards existing projects.


  • Once Clusters are established and some projects have been successfully completed (high-impact publications produced), it is expected that Clusters will work with the RCPIG to identify and access sources of external funding for future Cluster research.

1According to the Australian ARC/ABDC rankings used in the particular year by the Research Rewards scheme at USP – see research.usp.ac.fj/rewardsfor details.