George Mason University’s Board of Visitors approved the formation of a new research foundation during its Jan. 26 meeting. Referred to as the International Research Foundation, this institution will specialize in international development research and training.

According to Chief of Staff Tom Hennessey, the IRF will be governed by an independent board of directors. There are no plans to build a new facility for this foundation, and its size and budget have yet to be specified. Plans are to initially locate the IRF on campus, unless or until its growth dictates a move.

This foundation was proposed in order to fulfill Mason’s goal of growing its presence in the international development research and training community. Hennessey said the IRF will support this goal by “facilitate[ing] contracting with such international development organizations as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank, the African Development Bank, the U.N., the European Union and others.”

The foundation will make appeals to international organizations to support its research and training through grants, contracts and donations, Hennessey said.

During the formation period, the foundation’s legal and accounting operations will be handled by contractors, with more staff being hired in the next year or two, Hennessey said.

The IRF’s articles of incorporation define the main goals of the foundation, which include advancing education both in the U.S. and in countries with fewer resources, promoting and contributing to the arts and sciences through research and development, and fostering economic growth in the U.S. and abroad.

The IRF was devised to be a tool for Mason and other interested organizations to connect and work together to discover, invent and disseminate knowledge that will provide a foundational basis for better education and quality of life across the world, according to the IRF’s articles of incorporation.

Addressing concerns regarding how universities might work with independent contractors, the articles state the foundation will be an independent organization tied to Mason. It also says that other Virginia schools, such as University of Virginia, Virginia Tech and Old Dominion University, currently contract work through independent foundations, illustrating that this kind of arrangement is not unprecedented.

Hennessey stressed the institution’s importance. “Contracting with these organizations is often quite difficult because of the required clauses in state agency contracts,” he said. Mason is a Virginia State agency. “The IRF will be able to execute such difficult contracts more easily and then subcontract the research back to the university for execution.”

To ensure the foundation’s independence, the board will consist of representatives with international business and development ties, as well as members from Mason organizations, such as the Board of Visitors and the George Mason University Foundation.