Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Invisible Intermediaries: A Systematic Review into the Role of Research Management in University and Institutional Research Processes

Academic journal article Journal of Research Administration

Invisible Intermediaries: A Systematic Review into the Role of Research Management in University and Institutional Research Processes

Article excerpt

Introduction

In many countries the introduction of competitive rankings and assessment frameworks have necessitated that universities continually monitor and strategically promote their strengths. This management objective also requires that universities be able to promote and encourage research behaviour that increases the probability of research success using research administrators and/or managers as facilitators. Research administrators are now regarded as key participants in research planning at the department, college, and university levels to attract and manage strategically desirable research and researcher behaviour. In order for organisations to structure their research management strategies more efficiently, as well as to inform practitioners as to the best way to deliver their services, an understanding of techniques and state of the research administration role is needed.

The research management/administration profession has sought to define itself in recent years. In the UK, in 2009 the Higher Education Funding Council for England and Medical Research Council funded a study entitled 'Professionalising Research Management'. The study's main objective was to identify whether there was a demand for the development of a professional framework for the training of Research Managers and, if so, how this demand could be addressed. However, as part of this study, the authors articulated a range of work activities and skill requirements associated with research work. It also identified the variety of research management structures within universities, the levels at which research managers operate, and their involvement at strategic levels within the university. Building on such understandings of'research management', the UK's National Association of Research Administrators (ARMA) has recently implemented a 'Professional Development Framework' which outlines the 'activities, knowledge, skills and behaviours required across the full range of research management and administration roles' (https://www.arma.ac.uk/professional-development/PDF). This framework describes the key activities at the operational, management and leadership levels. As a result of this framework, the Association has developed professional certificates in research administration, management and leadership. It could be suggested, therefore, that there is now a detailed understanding of the constituent parts that broadly make up 'research management'. However, as noted by Green and Langley (2009), the huge variety in how it is delivered across the sector, and the constant restructuring of research services within universities, suggests a lack of understanding regarding how it can most effectively be delivered. Indeed, recognition that 'research management' lacks the consistency and standardization of professions such as Finance and Human Resources means that it is more difficult for those outside of the profession to understand and value its function, and more complicated to define and situate in terms of its role within a university.

Hockey & Allen-Collinson (2009) state that formal research on administrative/management staff in higher education is lacking (Mclnnis, 1998; Whitchurch, 2006b; Allen-Collinson, 2006). Research management provides a balance between promoting the needs of institutions to meet their organisational objectives and the ability of academics to determine the best means of performing research. Despite the importance of research management as part of the modern university, there is little consensus within the literature available regarding what are the successful strategies for this profession. In particular, which management models and strategies specifically for the research management profession are the most effective? In addition to that, those outside of the profession are often unsure with regards to what constitutes 'research management', what value it adds, and how best it can be operationalised (Green & Langley, 2009). …

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