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a new way of organising research

Over the past two years the Universitą Iuav di Venezia has been involved in a collective reflection on its cultural and scientific identify and on the goals it intends to set for its research. This has led to reorganising the university’s research, bringing together and networking various fields of knowledge, with the awareness that research is no longer an activity that regards the university alone but is part of the more general process of creating a knowledge society.


The Department of Research took shape through an internal call that defined research projects and programmes organised on the basis of concrete goals, resource estimates and scheduling.


The Department of Research is an experiment that organises research outside of the traditional departmental structure, directly involving the entire academic staff, including adjunct professors and young researchers.


The basic cell of the new organisation is the “research unit”, which works on research projects and programmes. The research units are flexible, local, independently organised and governed networks that are open to non-tenure or non tenure-tracked academic staff (project researchers, doctoral students, adjunct professors). The underlying concept defines research as something in which one is actively involved as opposed to connected, as in traditional departments.


The research units, the goal of which is to develop and build research projects and programmes, are formed in the most open way possible. Their continuance, however, depends on the quality of their scientific production, which is evaluated on the basis of national and international criteria.


There are currently about fifty research units (for further details, see: www.iuav.it /ricerca), which involve a highly significant number of the university’s professors and researchers. As a rule, the research units are noticeably multidisciplinary, formed around specific issues and themes rather than single disciplines. Individual and collective research are supported on an equal basis.


The research units are federated in broader “research areas” (conserving their independence in terms of research orientation). These areas have a more stable nature and constitute the thematic and methodological framework within which individual units can share resources (in terms of networks, for example) and research operations, and carry out the functions of sedimenting, managing and transmitting scientific findings.


Current areas of Iuav research:

> architecture and archaeology

> architecture and dynamic earth systems

> CUPR – Centre of Urban Policy and Research

> city and sustainability: sustainable urban design

> communicating knowledge

> knowledge and decision-making

> representation and construction: the art of building

> housing

> the landscape project

> innovation and efficient building

> memory and history of the arts, fashion and design

> north-south and diminishing processes

> new frontiers of design

> theatre production

> policies and projects for mobility and infrastructures

> representation, communication, interaction

> architecture restoration. Knowledge, form and structure

> history of architecture


In the experimental phase, general discussion on the university’s research policies took place in assemblies of the research units and in an intermediate structure (a steering committee, which was formed by a volunteer group of professors and researchers but might, in the future, include stakeholders from the financial system and municipal society). The task of the steering committee was to identify issues/problems and possible solutions to submit for broader discussion in the assembly of research units. These activities are currently coordinated by a professor nominated by the Academic Senate, which discusses and approves the research strategies.


This process has been accompanied by significant innovation in the organisation of services, which have been rationalised and progressively shifted from a “window” to a “project management” logic. This is indispensable in both the new configuration of research and with respect to the dynamics and processes for responding to demands for research, be it European, national or local.


The process is strongly connoted by openness, cross-breeding of skills, organisation innovation and attention to issues of political-social importance as opposed to direct focus on individual disciplines. This has had an impact on finding new ways of formulating research in the School of Doctorate Studies, through the awarding of research funds (conceived as idea-based competitions, freed from the disciplines and the supervision of tenured professors).


This process is still underway and much remains to be defined: the rules for operating and governance of the Department of Research, the evaluation system for projects and findings through referee networks, the implementation of integrated project management systems, the relationships between the laboratories and the research units, and the intersections between teaching and research.


At the conclusion of the first phase of this effort, the number of researchers involved has doubled in respect to the tenured academic staff, confirming that the university can be recognised as a place in which it is possible to conduct research in freer, more articulated forms, with the concrete possibility of becoming a real incubator of innovative knowledge.


A complete guide to the Department of Research can be found (in Italian) at: