While the purpose of an RCN is similar to that of a VI, RCNs differ from the VI model in several ways.
FAQ: How does the RCN model differ from the Virtual Institute (VI) model?
|Research Coordination Network||Virtual Institute|
|Membership is not linked to a specific line of funding and teams do not compete directly. Successful research funding selected through competitions across cooperating SMD Divisions.||Membership and funding determined by competition between teams that propose to a single program.|
|Since members come from many different annually competed solicitations with varying periods of performance (1-5 years), the RCN membership is continually refreshed.||Members come from a periodic solicitation (2-3 years) with a fixed period of performance (~5 years), leading to periods of constant membership that is intermittently refreshed.|
|Member teams vary in size ($-$$$, 1-10+ funded researchers).||All member teams are roughly the same size ($$$, ~15+ funded researchers).|
|Membership is elective. While researchers are eligible to be a member of an RCN if their research grant is selected, they are not required to be a member. Membership is not a criterion for selection of the research grant.||Membership and research funding are linked. If research teams are selected, they must become members. Researchers propose to address additional Institute objectives, which is a criterion for selection.|
|Coordinated through a small team of scientists.||Coordinated through a “central node” of NASA administrators.|
|Very light management (3-4 PIs, part time) with fewer services at the RCN level. Extra services are provided on an as-needed basis by the Astrobiology Program for all members of the broader community.||The central node has a larger staff (6-10 FTEs) and overhead, that provides managerial oversight and additional support for its members as well as some of the broader community.|
|RCNs are effective in situations where the community is already established but benefits from a framework to self-organize topics/research foci.||VIs are effective at building an interdisciplinary community from the ground up, building bridges between disparate communities.|