University of Wisconsin–Madison

Cluster Hiring Initiative Criteria and Proposals

The main goal of the centrally-funded cluster program is to support faculty hiring, and it is expected that the majority of requested funds in proposals are for the recruitment and hiring of faculty. Successful, already-existing clusters also may submit proposals to replace a departed cluster colleague; such requests will go through the same process as proposals for new clusters.

All proposals – regardless of whether they are made by individual faculty members, departments, research centers, or deans – must involve consultation with the relevant units, schools and colleges, and provide evidence of that consultation. Groups of individual faculty, research centers, or schools/colleges can submit a proposal for a cluster hire.

Cluster Hire Criteria

Cluster hire proposals should typically meet the following criteria. Proposals that vary from these criteria should explain why and how funding will be provided for any additional costs that might be accrued.

Hiring of Three Individuals

1. Proposal should request the hiring of three individuals, typically across different university units. These individuals should have overlapping, but distinct, research interests in an area of important current or future research interest at UW-Madison. There should be other faculty at the university in this research area who currently interact with each other and who these individuals will complement.

2. The three individuals should either be all faculty at the assistant professor level, or two faculty at the assistant professor level and one at the associate or full professor level. Proposals may also include an academic staff research scientist who meets the criteria for either senior scientist rank or permanent PI status if the reasons for this are clearly described. For faculty and staff members hired under the cluster program, all other applicable HR policies governing appointment and tenure will apply.

Interdisciplinary Research Area

3. Proposals should identify how the area of research focus is interdisciplinary, and why it is not likely to emerge through normal departmental structures; the potential impact of the cluster’s work; and how the faculty hired in the cluster will draw together others on campus in the area of focus.

Budget up to $500K

4. Proposals should outline a budget of no more than $500K. Any proposal that requires funding above the $500K ceiling should make clear how the excess costs will be covered and by which units. To even-out costs, it is anticipated that some clusters will, by necessity, have a smaller cost than the $500K maximum.

Funding Details

Salary Costs

For the first six years (five years for faculty hired with tenure), the initial salary costs of new hires in each cluster will be fully covered by central funds. Any salary increases over this time period should be covered by the units involved. After the initial funding period, the initial salary costs will be split 70:30 with the involved units (central funding covering 70 percent of the salary cost, with the units covering the remaining 30 percent). We will continue to ask the units to cover any future salary increases.

Start-up Funding

Start-up funding is not included in the new centrally-funded cluster allocation; these funds should be sought through the normal process of application to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education once the faculty to be hired are identified. Units involved will also be expected to make some contribution to these costs.

Proposal Components

Each proposal should include the following components. Proposals should not exceed 8 pages in length including narrative and budget. The cover sheet and letters of support do not count into this page total.

  1. Cover sheet that includes the title of the proposed cluster and the names of the individuals advancing the proposal. One individual must be designated as the contact person for the proposed cluster, and that individual’s contact information should be included on the cover sheet.
  2. Description of the area of research and why it is highly promising/important for UW to have greater strength in this area.
  3. Description of the three proposed hires and the range of departments and/or centers in which they might be located in the University. Indicate existing strength at UW in this research area and how these new hires will complement and deepen the faculty expertise already at UW in this area, or how the hires will create strength in a new area of research. Indicate also how these hires have the potential to complement/strengthen the faculty in the units in which they are to be hired.
    • For proposals that involve the replacement of faculty in currently-existing clusters, an assessment of the relative success of the cluster that addresses faculty turnover in the cluster; the cluster’s continued innovation; the extent to which the cluster has been successful in garnering extramural funding; the cluster’s sustainability projected over five years.
  4. Description of the opportunity for faculty hired in this area to bring in additional research funding.
  5. Proposed budget for the first five years for the cluster hire, with expected salary costs for each of the individuals to be hired. Any funds coming from outside the cluster hire program should be indicated.
  6. Description of how the cluster hires have the potential to add diversity to the campus community, and what efforts will be made in the hiring process to recruit a diverse pool of candidates.
  7. Preliminary indication(s) of support from department(s) in which new faculty are likely to be hired. (While it’s recognized that at the proposal stage departmental fit is not a certainty, proposers should show that they have done their due diligence in finding support at the unit level.)
  8. If any of these individuals will be affiliated with a research center, a letter from the director of this research center, supporting the proposed hiring.

Proposal Review and Approval

Proposals will be reviewed by a Cluster Advisory Committee, a faculty-majority committee appointed by the provost; final decisions will be made by the provost and the vice chancellor for research and graduate education.

Notification of successful proposals will be sent before the end of the fall semester. It is  anticipated that a second round of proposals will be solicited in late spring; unsuccessful proposals from this fall round will be eligible for re-submission in the spring call for proposals.

Round 2 Proposal Deadline

The deadline for Round 2 submissions has passed. Proposals are currently being reviewed by the Cluster Advisory Committee.


Please review the
FAQ page.

If you still have questions, please contact:
Michael Bernard-Donals
Vice Provost for Faculty and Staff
Office of the Provost