VPRI Position Description & Candidate Profile

Position Description

The Vice-President, Research and International (VPRI) has overall responsibility for academic leadership in and administration of research and other scholarly activities (hereafter called ‘research’), and for developing and supporting the University’s international engagement strategies and activities related to research.

SFU is a research-intensive university with a growing reputation for world-leading research. The VPRI has a key role in advocating for SFU’s research mission, both internally and externally. The VPRI is the strategic lead for developing and maintaining international partnerships on behalf of the University. As a senior executive leader at SFU, the VPRI reports directly to the President and is a member of the Executive Team, Senior Leadership Team and Administrative Leaders Council.

Specific Accountabilities

These areas are roughly divided among the headings listed below, but with considerable overlap of functions and considerable overlap between internal and external functions.

Strategic Leadership and Research Facilitation

  • Creates a climate that encourages the development and enhancement of exceptional research and scholarship in all areas of the University.
  • Develops the Strategic Research Plan through an open and consultative process.
  • Increases SFU’s research profile, reputation and ranking through collegial engagement and collaborations with key stakeholder groups internally and externally.
  • Develops SFU research policies and provides advice to the President, the Board of Governors and other senior administrators on matters related to research operations, research ethics, research impact, research policy, research administration and internationalization.
  • Supports the development of community-engaged research in line with SFU’s vision to be Canada’s engaged university.
  • Identifies and supports opportunities for interdisciplinary and cross-disciplinary research.
  • Champions a culture of equity, diversity and inclusion in SFU’s research activities.
  • Supports the Indigenization and decolonization of research, and the calls to action in the Aboriginal Reconciliation Council (ARC) report.
  • Identifies and coordinates innovative ways of engaging and supporting undergraduate, and graduate students, and post-docs in research, as well as supporting and mentoring early-career, equity- deserving, and international faculty and researchers in their own research endeavours.
  • Oversees the development, planning and coordination of research operations; research infrastructure including research computing, facilities and equipment; research and data management; and the University’s libraries.
  • Provides direction for, and administers, a wide range of activities related to internal and external funding opportunities, consideration and approval on behalf of the University of applications for grant and contract funding, negotiation of contract overhead rates, protection of intellectual property, information systems and reporting.
  • Leads programs which include (but are not limited to):
    • Internal Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) program.
    • With the Vice-President, Academic, the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program.
    • SFU Leading Edge Endowment Fund (LEEF) Chair program.
    • Internal, inter-faculty, and inter-university Centres and Institutes.

External Relations and Advocacy 

  • Develops and implements a strategic vision and plans for research activities and partnerships, including community engaged research and other links with the University’s research mission.
  • Identifies, secures, and nurtures strategic partnerships and alliances that have the potential to increase research capacity and major external funding across SFU.
  • Working closely with the VP, External Relations, liaises with elected officials and the civil service in the federal and provincial governments, as well as within local municipal governments and Indigenous leaders.
  • Liaises with BC based and national industry associations.
  • Liaises with the institutional counterparts in B.C. via The Research Universities’ Council of British Columbia (RUCBC), across Canada, and internationally.
  • Acts as a spokesperson for the university on matters related to research and innovation.
  • Acts as the SFU contact for external regulatory agencies.

International Engagement Activities  

  • Develops and implements the strategic vision and plan for international partnerships.
  • Establishes and maintains international research collaborations and partnerships between SFU and institutions in other countries.
  • Identifies opportunities, and coordinates the acquisition of, international research funding.
  • Works with the Deans to facilitate their aspirations relating to internationalization.
  • Leads initiatives to forward and augment SFU’s international reputation and ranking.
  • Serves as a key contact to the local diplomatic corps.


  • Develops and oversees the University’s innovation strategy, a key area of SFU’s recent and future institutional development.
  • Builds and facilitates productive partnerships that enhance innovation, collaborative research, knowledge transfer, and commercialization.
  • Develops SFU policies and procedures related to University-Industry Liaison and technology transfer.
  • Provides direction to the Executive Director Business Acceleration and the Director of the Technology & Licensing Office in a very wide range of activities including promotion and facilitation of interactions between SFU researchers and companies and government agencies, development of spin-off companies, administration of technology transfer agreements, development of supporting publications and audio-visual materials, information systems and reporting.
  • Is responsible for the administration of:
    • Patents, copyrights and licenses held jointly or singly by SFU.
    • SFUniventures and interaction with its subsidiary companies.
    • Equity held by SFU in spin-off companies.

Reporting Relationships

Reports to:
President and Vice-Chancellor

Works closely with:                                                                        
Vice-presidents, associate vice-presidents, deans and senior administrators. In particular, the VPRI’s relationship with the Vice-President Academic and Provost is critical in furthering SFU’s strategic priorities and ensuring alignment between research and the broader academic mission.

The following positions report directly to the VPRI:       

  • Associate Vice-President, Research
  • Special Advisor on Innovation
  • Dean of Libraries
  • Executive Director, SFU International
  • Director, Office of Vice-President, Research and International
  • Director, SFU Partnership Hub


The VPRI serves a five year (renewable) term. The Search Committee recognizes that no candidate for the VPRI position is likely to meet all the following criteria in equal measure; nevertheless, the following characteristics, experiences and personal qualities are seen to be important. The order of the following key selection criteria does not imply priority.

Academic Experience

  • An outstanding record of scholarship consistent with appointment to the rank of Full Professor at SFU.
  • A personal track record of research success relevant to their discipline.
  • Values all types of research and the importance of the link between teaching and research.
  • A thorough grasp of research opportunities and challenges in Canada. Knowledge also of global research opportunities, challenges, funding sources, and rankings would be an asset.

Research Leadership

  • Deep experience as a researcher, broad scholarly interests, and the capacity to both work with peers and nurture junior researchers and scholars outside of one’s own discipline.
  • Outstanding skills, and demonstrated track record in mobilizing, supporting, and elevating research performance and scholarship (basic, applied, interdisciplinary and creative), across a range of fields.
  • A commitment to finding innovative ways to engage students (undergraduate and graduate levels) and post-docs in research.
  • Familiarity with trends in research libraries and scholarly communication would be desirable, as well as an understanding of the importance of the library in enhancing SFU’s research endeavours.
  • Familiarity with Intellectual Property, knowledge mobilization and an ability to further build upon SFU’s strengths and achievements in innovation, technology transfer, and commercialization. Knowledge across these areas would be desirable.

International Experience and External Relationship Skills

  • Ability to advocate for the research needs of the entire University community locally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Strong knowledge of the Canadian and global research landscape, including global rankings.
  • The energy, ability and commitment to build partnerships outside of the University, provincially, nationally and internationally.
  • Knowledge of provincial, national and international research funding opportunities and ability to identify and secure new sources of research income.
  • Experience engaging and/or working with government and industry in Canada and internationally would be desirable.

Administrative Leadership Experience

  • A track record of success in administrative leadership positions in a research-intensive institution.
  • Demonstrable experience in successfully managing sizeable budgets and financial resources in a large and complex organization.
  • Proven ability to provide leadership and effectively manage high-performing staff and faculty in a decentralized environment.
  • Able to recruit top calibre people, delegate responsibility, empower staff and develop the capability of employees to capitalize on their full potential.

Commitment to Decolonization, Indigenization and Reconciliation

  • Demonstrated commitment to being an advocate for Indigenous faculty, staff and students, preferably in a research context.
  • Awareness and understanding of decolonization, Indigenization and reconciliation, and a willingness to actively pursue furthering these objectives in the development of SFU’s research policies and practices (specifically as they relate to Calls to Action 9, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 32, 33, and 34 in the  ARC Report.
  • Willingness to gain knowledge and experience related to Indigenous research protocols, methodologies and ways of knowing.

Commitment to Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

  • An understanding of and proven commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion.
  • A demonstrated track record of understanding, supporting and advancing these principles and objectives within a complex organization is highly desirable.

Values Based Leader

  • An ‘enabling’ view of leadership with an awareness of the need for openness, change and team building. Accepts and provides mentorship and supports professional development.
  • Entrepreneurial with a respectful, positive, compassionate, inclusive and engaging leadership style.
  • Values academic freedom and leads with integrity, transparency, empathy and trustworthiness.
  • Highly effective team leader and team member, with the demonstrated ability to build and work with a collegial and collaborative approach.
  • Demonstrates empathy, values people, and places an emphasis on teamwork.

Communication Skills

  • Positive, clear and articulate communicator. Able to listen actively, engage in meaningful dialogue, and communicate effectively with a wide array of individuals and groups.
  • Effective at communicating to the general public through various forms of media and public events.
  • Experience successfully managing controversial issues in an academic environment.

Relationship and Trust Building

  • Demonstrated ability as a relationship builder, exhibits humility, empathy and engages naturally with others.
  • Cultural competence and internationally aware.
  • Can motivate others and build trust through an open, respectful and collegial approach.