Penn State sees collaborative benefits, efficiencies from CIC membership

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — While the Big Ten Athletic Conference is well known, its less-familiar academic counterpart, the Committee on Institutional Cooperation (CIC), delivers collaborative, cost-saving benefits for its university members, including Penn State, that rival any on-field competitive success.

Founded in 1958, the CIC is composed of the 14 universities of the Big Ten and the University of Chicago. Every year, CIC universities save millions of dollars on joint purchases and contracts, access resources on the other member campuses, and work together to solve problems faster.

Together, the universities have a powerful voice in the academic conversation both nationally and globally. With annual research expenditures topping more than $10.2 billion — more than the Ivy League and the University of California System combined — and spanning 11 states from the High Plains to the Eastern Seaboard, the 15 universities of the CIC have an enormous influence in research and education far beyond their geographical footprint.

The recently released CIC Annual Report details the collective power and progress of this enterprise, highlighting the emerging Health Disparities Collaborative between the state Departments of Health and the member schools, the work of the Big Ten/CIC-Ivy League Traumatic Brain Injury project, and data on the economic impact of the scientific workforce and the research being done across the campuses.

In addition, Penn State realizes CIC-member benefits through coordinated purchasing, faculty mentoring and leadership training through the CIC’s annual Academic Leadership Program and Department Executive Officers Program, and shared, pooled resources.

Purchasing strength in numbers

Penn State participates in the CIC Purchasing Consortium’s competitive bidding process, where CIC contracts allow each of the institutions to reap the benefits of combined buying power. For instance, the CIC contract with the National Car Rental and Enterprise Rent-a-Car saved Penn State in excess of $119,000 in fiscal year 2013-2014.

The University also uses the CIC’s lab supply contracts with Dot Scientific, a women-owned business, as well as Fisher Scientific and VWR International. The University’s eBuy e-procurement shopping site provides an easy-to-use, online site with competitive prices from these and other vendors. The site’s electronic catalogs allow for electronic shopping comparisons, purchase orders and invoices, further enhancing efficiencies.

In addition, by sharing CIC universities’ purchasing staff resources, each can find value through others’ contracts. “We all provide purchasing staff resources to the bidding activities. In this way, we can benefit from one contract that was initiated by a team from other institutions, while they can benefit from a contract that resulted from a bid in which we actively participated,” Joyce Haney, director of procurement services, explained. 

Penn State’s University Libraries also participates in the joint purchasing program within the CIC, saving almost $250,000 this fiscal year through the committee’s collective clout.

“Capitalizing on our buying power, partnering to share our expertise, and leveraging resources for our students is the greatest strength of the CIC,” Barbara Dewey, dean of University Libraries and Scholarly Communications, said.

Savings include lower overall costs for licensed electronic resources available at all Penn State campus libraries’ visitor stations — access points available to students, faculty, alumni, visiting scholars and citizens of the Commonwealth.

CIC member libraries also realize added value through collaborations of expertise and services. Joint digitization, preservation and cataloging initiatives have allowed librarians and staff to create vast digital collections in the HathiTrust digital repository.

Last November, eight CIC library directors, including Dewey, agreed to co-invest in a two-year pilot project to build one primary access point for CIC geospatial data resources for the Open Geoportal (OGP). A map-based search engine led by Tufts University, Harvard and MIT, its resources include GIS data, imagery and scanned historical maps.

Academics sharing notes, classes

Penn State shares academic programs as well as best practices with other CIC schools, according to Susan Welch, dean of the College of the Liberal Arts.

Most prominent is CourseShare, in which member institutions share low-enrolled courses, especially for less commonly taught languages. Penn State students have been able to learn basic Hindi remotely from a course offered at the University of Minnesota. The three or four Penn State students who registered otherwise would have been too few for a separate Penn State course.

Like other CIC committees, Welch noted, “we also benefit by sharing best practices. Our Liberal Arts and Sciences deans’ group is very active in discussing problems and sharing ideas on how to solve them.”

Additional CIC collaborative projects include technology collaborations, such as research IT support, identity management, shared storage services.

For more information about the CIC, visit http://www.cic.net online.

Last Updated April 10, 2015