REPORT : First Indian delegation at the congress of the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS 2018)
29 Jul 2018
By Dr. Savita Ayyar, Research Management Consultant, Jaquaranda Tree
Lead, India Research Management Initiative (IRMI)
Seven Indian research managers from Delhi, Pune, Hyderabad, Vellore and Bangalore packed their bags and boarded long-haul flights on June 2, heading out to an international conference of research managers and administrators. Amidst a flurry of WhatsApp messages, the small Indian group finally met in Edinburgh, all set for INORMS 2018.
The 2018 edition of the biennial congress of the International Network of Research Management Societies (INORMS 2018) was hosted by the Association of Research Managers and Administrators UK (ARMA), and was attended by nearly 1100 delegates from 45 countries. For the team from India, this was a special occasion: the first opportunity for research managers from diverse Indian research institutions to come together as a country-wide team and to connect with and learn from research managers from across the world.
Research management is essential for the optimal delivery of research output at institutions and includes activities such as support with identifying funding opportunities, facilitating grant funding, managing awarded programs, public engagement, research impact analysis, ethics and others. Research management requires professionals with “blended skills” spanning academic to creative and administrative functions. Currently, only a small number of institutions in India have dedicated research management support and access to trained professionals. The group from India included individuals from such pioneering research institutions.
A two-day pre-conference workshop organized by the Wellcome Trust, the African Academy of Sciences and the India Alliance brought together nearly 35 delegates from India and Africa, for detailed discussions on research management systems in both regions. For the Indian delegates, this workshop was an opportunity to view the challenges and successes of research management in Africa, to interact with members of African Research Management Associations and to share their experiences from India.
“The discussions were very intense and interactive. I was especially impressed with the presentation from the Southern African Research and Innovation Management Association (SARIMA) which highlighted different aspects of research management and their efforts at creating a Professional Competency Framework, Accreditation and online course modules especially tailored to this field” said Dr Vineetha Raghavan, Grants Manager at the Research Development Office at the Bangalore Life Science Cluster.
Bagpipes and drums heralded a uniquely Scottish start to INORMS 2018, which brought together professionals with experience in the full range of research management activities, from all over the world. The Indian delegates were able to interact with other attendees through a wide selection of plenary talks, panel discussions, workshops, poster presentations, face-to-face interactions, social events and others. A dedicated workshop on managing international collaborations with India and Africa brought into focus the need for building research management capacity in these regions, particularly in the context of international research collaborations. For members of the Indian team, being at INORMS was a tremendous learning experience in diverse areas of research management and in viewing the profession as a global activity.
Research management is at an early stage in India and the relative scarcity of well-structured research offices in India limits the scope of interactions within India and makes it hard for research managers to assess their professional contributions to the institution.
“It was great to be amongst the professional group of INORMS delegates and to interact with research managers from different countries. It was reassuring to learn that the work done by research managers is important to support research at institutions and that this profession holds great promise in India” said Dr Md. Manzoor Akheel, from the Research Development Office at the Centre for Stem Cell Research, CMC Vellore.
The event was also an opportunity for members of the Indian team to bond with each other over personal stories, constraints and experiences of building research offices from first principles in India.
“Being a part of the Indian delegation was an opportunity to interact with research managers at several institutions across India. There already exists a precedent for research management in some institutions in India and by including other stakeholders such as funding agencies, mentors, faculty members and institutional leadership, the system could be tremendously improved” said Dr Ajay Pillai, In-Charge Project Management Cell, NCCS Pune.
Interactions with members of Research Management Associations and Societies from other participating countries made the Indian team aware of the need for a similar structure in India and for regular exposure to international best practice in the field, through conferences such as INORMS. Presently, there is neither a professional network nor regular networking and training opportunities for these practitioners in India.
“Forming an Association is an important step for networking and training. The Association would also need wider publicity within the international community. Institutes which are forerunners in research management in India could contribute significantly by allowing their research managers to take active part in building the network and by identifying niche areas where international participation can positively impact research” said Ms Vidhya Krishnamoorthy, a Professional Expert in Grants and Ethics at the External Relations and Institutional Development (ERID) Office at THSTI Faridabad.
With the field of research management growing in India, there is much for institutions and research managers to look forward to. "IRMI sharing sessions" across India are bringing research managers together for local interactions and discussions on capacity building and innovative solutions to India’s research management needs. A Linkedin page is now in place to connect Indian research managers. Several international Universities have expressed an interest in supporting the growth of research management in India. The community looks forward to building on early foundations of research management in India, for an effort that promises to be globally relevant for science.
Indian delegation at INORMS 2018. From left to right: Dr Madhankumar Anandhakrishnan (India Alliance), Dr Vineetha Raghavan (NCBS, Bengaluru), Ms Vidhya Krishnamoorthy (THSTI, Faridabad), Dr Savita Ayyar (Jaquaranda Tree), Dr Ajay Pillai (NCCS, Pune), Ms GS Vijayalakshmi (IISc Bengaluru) and Dr Md. Manzoor Akheel, (CSCR Vellore).
Institutions wishing to participate in the India Research Management Initiative should complete a registration form which can be downloaded here.
Individual research managers wishing to join the growing network of Indian research management professionals can follow IRMI at www.linkedin.com/in/irmi-ia/
The opportunity for Indian research managers to be represented at INORMS was made possible via an ongoing Wellcome Trust program to boost research management capacity in India and Africa and as part of IRMI, the India Research Management Initiative of the Wellcome Trust/DBT India Alliance. Support from Mr Hamish Macandrew, Chief Operating Officer of the ARMA and members of the ARMA Board is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank Dr John Kirkland and Ms Allen Muyaama Mukhwana, AAS and Mrs Saritha Vincent, Wellcome Trust DBT/India Alliance, Ms Claire Cunliffe and Ms Davina Lee, Wellcome Trust for their support.