Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Leading by Example

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

Leading by Example

Article excerpt

Advice from European academics on managing and expanding a research team. Jack Grove writes

Leading a research team is one of the toughest tasks in academia. Here, five senior research heads offer their top tips on making it as a principal investigator.

Rudi Balling, director of the Luxembourg Centre for Systems Biomedicine, University of Luxembourg

Always think about keeping the members of your team happy. Show them appreciation, care for them and respect that they might be different.

Think about how you wanted to be treated by your boss when you were a student. [US scientist] David Altshuler once said: "Nobody works for me. I work for them" - this is something every leader should internalise.

Something that is still painful for me is when young people who had all the freedom to develop and who had a long leash turn into dictators as soon as the leash is cut.

Bob Siegerink, head of the clinical epidemiology team at the Center for Stroke Research in Berlin, who is based at Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Organise an environment in which you can learn, preferably with regular feedback and mentoring. Some universities have formal mentor programmes, but I just make sure that I have more experienced researchers whom I can ask for advice and feedback.

Discuss issues around setting up your own team with friends who are not in academia. Starting your own research team sounds as if it is very different from what your friends that studied business, law or even art are doing, but, let's be honest, it is just the first career move into middle management. Sharing stories and comparing notes helps me to better understand academia and what I can do to improve myself and the team.

Wendy Ayres-Bennett, professor of French philology and linguistics, University of Cambridge, who is leading a £3.2 million Arts and Humanities Research Council-funded project on multilingualism

Make sure you [budget for] sufficient, good-quality administrative support for the research project because there are always a lot of personnel and organisational issues that need constant monitoring and chasing. Without such support, you find yourself with little time to pursue your own research agenda.

If international partners are involved, it is also important to be clear from the outset what the obligations are in terms of outputs and outcomes. They may not feel the same urgency as you without the pressure of being answerable to a funder or the obligations of the research excellence framework. …

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