Research Administrators and Development Officers: Orchestrating from Organizational Discord to Harmony

Article excerpt

RESEARCH ADMINISTRATORS AND DEVELOPMENT OFFICERS: ORCHESTRATING FROM ORGANIZATIONAL DISCORD TO HARMONY

Background

There is a potential for conflict between the research administration/sponsored program administration office (grant/contract-seeking entity) and the development office (gift-seeking entity) within most institutions of higher education and many non-profit organizations such as hospitals. If one considers three basic sources of intergroup conflict (Sacks, 1979, p. 33), i.e. goal incompatibility, lack of sufficient information and resources to make decisions independently, and the unrealistic performance expectations of interacting groups, it seems that a research administration office and a development office are likely to experience conflict in any medium- to large-size institution. At very small institutions, however, the grants administrator often serves other roles, such as development officer and news service director. Alternatively, research administration becomes an ancillary task of a college development officer or institutional academic officer at the small institution (Walsh, 1986, p. 34). However, this arrangement is the exception rather than the rule. The more common case is that sponsored program administrators and development officers work in distinctly separate units reporting through different vice presidents.

Although it seems simple to have one group deal with grants and contracts generated mainly from governmental sources and the other with private gifts, we know this is no longer true. There is a great deal of overlap in the private foundation and corporate spheres. Black and white melts into a medium-gray haze. It is clear that both offices need to work together in an efficient and reliable fashion for the sake of the institution as well as the sponsors.

Both groups' activities often include one or more of the seven boundary spanning categories proposed by Robert H. Miles, i.e. representing the organization to outside elements, protecting against disruptive or harmful outside influences, scanning trends, gatekeeping by selectively transmitting information to key institutional decision-makers, transacting exchanges of resources between the organization and external elements, and linking/coordinating both inside and outside the organization (Harman & McClure, 1983, p. 36).

In Managing the Higher Education Enterprise (Karol & Ginsburg, 1980, p. 72), separate chapters are devoted to development activity and sponsored activity, with a glancing reference that private foundation sources of funding are frequently relegated to the research administration function because these sources are drawn upon most often to support faculty research. This issue was scarcely addressed in a cursory review of various texts dealing with higher education organization and administration. Perhaps this is because its importance is minimized when contrasted with other, more serious, organizational conflicts dealing with governance and accountability. It is, however, an issue with which growing numbers of us must deal daily on the front lines.

Typically, sponsored program administration officers are much more control-oriented than development officers. This is not surprising given the general nature of the work. Attainment of a certain funding level is not their ultimate goal, while some development officers may feel that is the case in their divisions. Sponsored program administration officers are often given broad responsibilities in compliance-related areas and deal with everything from misconduct in science to biohazards. On the other hand, development officers may have broad institutional advancement duties in public relations which go beyond fund-raising.

Need for Cooperation and Demarcation

Development officers are rarely as cognizant as research and program administrators of institutional obligations regarding animal care and use, human subject protection, patenting and licensing regulations, facility modifications required to accommodate equipment, etc. …