Volume XLV, Number 2
From the Editor's Desk
Jeffrey N. Joyce, Ph.D.
Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences
The Journal of Research Administration (Journal) provides a scholarly forum for information and critical analysis of research administration topics to help our members meet their challenges in developing the research enterprise while assuring compliance with a myriad of agencies. This issue reflects the theme of the “inorms” meeting held April 10 – 13, 2014 in Washington, DC at the Washington Hilton. The International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS) Congress addressed the theme, “Enabling the Global Research Enterprise from Policy to Practice.” SRA International, a co-sponsor of the meeting along with the Canadian Association of University Research Administrators (CAURA) and the National Council of Research Administrators (NCURA), is a global research management society. The articles in this issue of the Journal again reflects the global aspects of our organization and the principles of research administration.
In this issue of the Journal, as with all issues, we endeavor to address these major themes, providing strategies for success, insight into regulatory compliance issues, research management, and research development. This issue includes six articles covering a broad range of topics. Derrick and Nickson writing “Invisible intermediaries: A systematic review into the role of research management in university and institutional research processes” explore in depth and breadth the literature regarding the definition of “research management” and the lack of empirical data on what are successful strategies for research management. Clearly, the historical and cultural considerations for a changing definition of research management have impacted how we view ourselves and the institutions we work in view us. The current and continually emerging pressures to raise the bar for a successful research enterprise require administrative strategies by “a group of fulltime, professional practitioners in research management/administration. However, the literature is unsure of how to perceive this role. In particular, it is unsure of whether the role of this professional lies as a partner, a servant or as a leader.” As the authors point out, the lack of a clear understanding of the role of the research manager(s) within the academic research enterprise is compounded by a lack of empirical data of which strategies are successful. A topic that is important for developing strategies to increase research capacity is the role of research management in supporting collaborative networks of scientists. However, little formal analysis of the theory of social networking has been applied to research management. In the paper by Huang “Building Research Collaboration Networks - An interpersonal perspective for research capacity building” he effectively argues that research collaboration networks are a form of research capacity at interpersonal level, able to complement capacity building at organizational and interorganizational levels. Proactive development of collaborative networks can be a managerial tool but requires an understanding of social network theory and an evolution of new metrics for measuring success.
In “Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research”, Grieb and co-authors focus on a key requirement of research administrators, that of ensuring there is adequate infrastructure tocreate the backbone for cutting edge research. Within the constraints of a university budget, core facilities must be sustained and replaced in order to compete for extramural funding. “The historic high-end, self-sufficient laboratories have been mostly replaced by laboratories that rely on institutionally supported infrastructure (i.e. core facilities).” Decision making about what to support, the cost of the support and the replacement of the core facilities is often not well managed. An institutional approach for enhancing the effectiveness of core infrastructure operations by implementing process improvements, managing the lifecycle of core facilities, and monitoring key core facilities’ metrics is described. In doing so, it addresses one of the key concerns raised in the article by Derrick and Nickson, that strategies that engage researchers, promote communication between administrators and researchers, and lead to a collaborative approach to streamline bureaucratic processes engenders success. Michel writes in “Liaison and Logistics Work With Industrial Advisory Boards” about her experience with a an administrative operation to provide extraordinary service and support for the relationship between a university research center and an advisory board. While centered on a specific case, the paper provides an invaluable manual of best practices for operating more effective and streamlined advisory board meetings that are required as part of the many programs.
Two papers that were invited for publication after presentation at inorms 2014 focus on rapidly changing research and research management in culturally different environments. Ivey and coauthors describe in “Evaluating the Impact of Research Produced by a Mission-Directed Emergent University” their institution’s commitment to a strategy for a community impact requires “fidelity-to-mission” of the research management. This focus on a strategy that supported research output that benefited proximate stakeholders ultimately increased the impact for several programs and the university within Jamaica. Finally, Sugihara and co-authors present in “Development of a System of Strategic Research Administration at Kyoto University” their strategies to establish an entirely new research capacity building team as part of a traditional research management operation. An entirely new area of research development and support was initiated at several universities simultaneously in Japan, and Kyoto University Research Administration was born almost overnight. How this was accomplished and solutions the team developed for overcoming barriers to success is informative for every university.
This issue of the Journal recognizes the strengths and expertise of our global community. We have much to learn from each other, and the Journal offers the opportunity to provide to the readership a level of scholarly expertise in our broadening field. I wish to remind all of the readers of the Journal that we want your contributions, and the Editorial Board is committed to helping each author or collaborating authors in the submission of a manuscript. It is your experience, point of view, or analysis of the literature that is important to our entire community.
Please send manuscripts to firstname.lastname@example.org
Invisible Intermediaries: A Systematic Review into The Role of Research Management in University and Institutional Research Processes
The introduction of competitive rankings and research assessment frameworks have necessitated that research organisations continually monitor their research strengths and weaknesses. Such monitoring is essential to be able to strategically respond in a competitive environment. There is little research on the role of research management in research organisations, including universities, but the literature suggests that when implemented well, research management is an essential component of the research process. Despite this, an evidence-based understanding of the strategies available for successful research management is lacking. In order for organisations to structure their research management strategies more efficiently, as well as to inform practitioners of the best way to deliver their service, an understanding of the evidence for successful research management strategies is needed. The aim of this article is to provide a systematic review to investigate the evidence base for successful research management strategies.
Optimizing Institutional Approaches to Enable Research
Challenges that face the academic research enterprise are numerous. These concerns include, but are not limited to: declines in extramural funding for investigator- initiated research, an aging faculty workforce (the average age of securing a faculty’s first R01 is over 42), insufficient funds to support faculty laboratories, and limited access to cutting- edge, next generation infrastructure and methods to support research. This manuscript describes an institutional approach to providing leading-edge core facilities and enhancing the effectiveness of their operations by implementing process improvements, managing the lifecycle of core facilities, and monitoring key core facilities’ metrics. This approach has created a number of standardized, transparent processes to effectively manage central infrastructure that enables enterprise-wide research, including a process for capital equipment planning, a procedure to evaluate new cores, a method for reviewing and managing the lifecycle of existing cores (invest, maintain, or sun-down), an investment in the administration and operational efficiencies of the cores, and support for the development and implementation of new methodologies for our investigators. The execution of these processes has provided faculty with forward-looking technologies to facilitate innovative research and provide a competitive edge for extramural support.
Liaison and Logistics Work with Industrial Advisory Boards
One model for successful university research centers is based upon close collaboration with other organizations, including large and small companies as well as federal and state agencies. Collaborations of this nature often involve an Institutional Advisory Board (IAB), which can have significant responsibility for management and financial oversight. This paper addresses two critical areas for facilitating a strong working relationship between a university research center and an IAB: (1) streamlining information transfer, and (2) organizing a well-run center meeting. The paper addresses specific strategies for effective information transfer among center participants including sponsors, faculty and students. Also discussed are best practices for center meetings that ensure a suitable level of efficiency expected of an IAB. The methods described in the paper are established, well-accepted psychological and organizational principles. These methods have contributed to the paradigm for successful industry-university collaboration developed over the last 25+ years by the National Science Foundation’s I/U CRC program.
Evaluating the Impact of Research Produced by a Mission-Directed Emergent University
The University of Technology, Jamaica (UTech) is quite young, having been granted university status in 1995, a mere 19 years ago. Nevertheless, UTech is acutely aware that it is research that sets a university apart from other post-secondary institutions. Driven by this awareness, it has developed, articulated, and implemented a coherent research agenda and established a supporting research management ecosystem. In this paper we argue that the two main traditional metrics – peer-reviewed publications and citations - which are used in evaluating research productivity and impact, respectively, of a university, while useful, are not sufficient. UTech’s mission, like that of many other similar institutions, includes “service to our communities” and its research focus is on “interdisciplinary and applied research relevant to (national) economic and societal problems.” By adopting a reflective inquiry method, we cite two examples of how research by UTech staff members has, in one case, had positive impacts on the university’s proximate stakeholders, and in another case has the potential to generate significant impact on a particular sub-sector of the economy. We use the sense-making gleaned from these examples to propose an expanded schema of metrics for evaluating research impact. The schema we are proposing is one that includes “Fidelity-to-Mission (FTM).” The inclusion of FTM is based on the premise that an emergent university’s first obligation, especially in resource-deficient contexts, must be to address through its research the needs of those it purports to serve, as expressed in its mission statement. Therefore, the extent to which it does so in objectively verifiable ways is a legitimate metric worthy of recognition.
Building Research Collaboration Networks - An Interpersonal Perspective for Research Capacity Building
While collaboration is increasingly recognized to be important for research, researchers’ collaboration networks are still not adequately recognized as a form of research capacity in the literature. Research is a knowledge creation activity and interpersonal research collaboration networks are important for knowledge cross-fertilization and research productivity. By referring to social network theories, this paper argues that research collaboration networks are a form of research capacity at interpersonal level. It complements capacity building at individual, organizational and inter-organizational levels. However, building research collaborations can be challenging. Three key issues are raised for discussion. First, collaboration networks have nonlinear effect on research productivity. Second, fostering heterophilous communications and maintaining degrees of heterophily can be contradicting and thus challenging. Third, building research collaboration networks proactively requires shift of research management philosophy as well as invention of analytical tools for research management. Debates and solutions with regard to these issues may contribute to the advancement of theory and practice of research management.
Development of a System of Strategic Research Administration at Kyoto University
In 2004, all national universities in Japan, which had previously been legally subordinate to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT), became separate National University Corporations. With this change, the importance of securing competitive funding increased significantly, and university researchers have had to devote more time to non-research burdens related to obtaining competitive funds including project management and public engagement. In order to reduce the burden for researchers in Japan, MEXT launched a support program in 2011 called the “System to Develop and Secure University Research Administrators (URA).” Supported by the program, Kyoto University established The Kyoto University Research Administration Office (KURA) in April 2012 as a support organization to help with planning of research projects, obtaining research funding, project execution, and public engagement. In this article, the strategic planning to implement the URA program at Kyoto University shall be described within the historical context of how the Japanese government decided to launch this support initiative.