India Alliance with the Indian Research Management Community Celebrates Research Administrator Day
24 Oct 2018
Research Administrator Day (RAD) is celebrated globally on the 25th of September to recognize the role of research managers/administrators in supporting researchers and research organizations. Initiated by NCURA, the National Council of University Research Administrators in the USA, RAD was first celebrated on 25th September 2015.
The India Alliance joined in the celebrations this year along with the Indian research community, as an outreach activity of IRMI, the India Research Management Initiative. Indian research organizations were invited to felicitate their administrators and share opinions on research management on Twitter. The India Alliance also hosted a Twitter Chat @India_Alliance with Dr. Savita Ayyar, Jaquaranda Tree and Lead, IRMI; Dr. Madhuri Dutta, Research Manager, The George Institute for Global Health India; and Dr. Prashanth NS, Faculty at The Institute of Public Health joining in as the panellists and answering queries and sharing their insights on research management in India. Below are the excerpts from the Twitter chat, which was also followed by the global community of research managers as part of RAD celebrations:
What is research management? What are the activities included under its aegis?
Savita: Research management as a field arose to help institutions and researchers worldwide secure and manage a diverse range of research funding and awards. Research management includes several activities such as grants management, project management, research ethics, international relations, science communication, and public engagement. These activities are often at the boundaries of research with other areas such as business and communication. Research management helps institutions make crucial links between science, external funding, and societal engagement. Skilled professionals, who can work alongside scientists and both internal and external stakeholders to facilitate research, are required in the field of research management.
What impact can research management have on science?
Prashanth: Employing research management can improve the quality of research and amplify its effects by improvements in efficiency. Researchers get more time for what they do best i.e. research while research managers can fulfil crucial supporting roles. Until recently, I was under the impression that research management was only for large biomedical research establishments; that is not the case according to Savita Ayyar and the field is discipline-neutral.
Savita: Yes, research management can and does support the full spectrum of science.
Prof Raghu Padinjat (Faculty at NCBS, Bengaluru): Large complex research programs are key to solving challenging problems in modern science. Professional research management is essential to maximize benefit from these.
What support do Indian researchers need from their institutions for research?
Prashanth: Too many to name! Grant finding, support with due diligence, good financial management practices, identifying statutory requirements in particular research areas, handling recruitments while ensuring gender balance in science and fair employment practices, and ensuring research(er) safety are some.
Savita: I would also add partnership building, for example international collaborations, all the way from external relations to agreements.
Prashanth: If you are a researcher, it is very likely that the role of research management in supporting staff in your team/university/institutions was critical; cheers to all of their work on Research Administrator Day. Many Indian institutions do not professionally recognise this role; its high time to do so!
Voices of Indian scientists in support of research management : (L-R) Drs. Anmol Chandele (ICGEB, New Delhi), Dr. George Varghese (CMC, Vellore), Dr. Shobhona Sharma (TIFR, Mumbai)
What does research management look like in India?
Savita: A small number of Indian institutions have diverse aspects of research management well in place and this needs to grow considerably, across the country. There is now a growing group of scientists in non-academic research management roles at India’s research institutions. The good news is, with involvement from the community, mentors, funders and other stakeholders, there is room for tremendous improvement.
Sarah Iqbal (Public Engagement Officer, India Alliance): Many of the current research managers in India have stumbled on to research management by chance and not by design. How can we make research management a legitimate career option for science graduates?
Savita: Yes, the world is full of accidental research managers!
Prashanth: Very true. A solution to this, partly, could be the researcher community along with the research donors, identifying research management as an important role, building a platform for research management and training research managers.
Savita: Yes, research management needs acceptance both within the scientific community and donor organisations.
Prashanth: We also need to create good career pathways for research management; many people playing this role are hardly recognised in research impacts.
Savita: Agree. India needs trained research managers and with strong career paths. India’s research managers need diverse and exciting training, exchange, networking, and career progression opportunities. Indian research managers also need to be part of the global community of peers.
Who can be a research manager?
Madhuri: A background in research, an understanding of the research focus of one’s organization and good managerial skills (concerning both people and work) are required to make a good research manager.
Savita: Someone who enjoys facilitating research and is open minded
Madhuri: Absolutely, it's all about facilitation and bringing all divisions together.
Subhra Priyadarsini (Editor, Nature India) : Are there instances where non-scientists with a keen understanding of the research scenario have taken up research management as a career? Is that a possibility?
Savita: Yes indeed. The profession worldwide has individuals from both science and other backgrounds. Key here is the ability and willingness of the individual to facilitate research and there are many facets to that.
Madhuri: One of the portfolio of a research manager is to be able to help researchers with their grant/project applications. And once funded, some amount of project management is also involved, hence a research background helps. However, self-interest is always a big motivation, irrespective of a research background.
Prashanth: A wider view—science happens within a wider societal engagement. It’s not only excellent tools, methods and study design that make good science; it’s also teamwork, management, financing, communication and values such as trust and transparency.
Savita: A research manager needs to be able to make that connect for the organisation. While a background in science is helpful, the wider view is more important. Merely being from a science background does not make a good research manager!
What training does a research manager need?
Madhuri: Presently, the training happens mostly on the job and is experiential in he beginning. However, a research manager can choose to do specific courses in areas they choose to explore and develop their expertise. Additionally, research managers should have their own professional motivation with respect to research management. Subsequently, one could choose to develop skills in science policy, ethics, IPR, etc. and choose their own courses to specialize in
Savita: Each person has inherent interests and abilities. It makes sense to work with one's strengths and develop a career around that. Skills help to fine-tune it.
Prashanth: IRMI is one of the first efforts possibly of professionalising and recognising important contributions of research management in India.
Are any courses available in the country now for aspiring research managers?
Savita: At present, there are research management courses for active scientists, supported by DST and offered via ASCI and others. There is also a course in scientific administration being offered jointly by IISER Pune, British Council, and IndiaBioscience. IISER, Pune also plans to run a research management course shortly.
Prashanth: It would be nice if IRMI could develop an online course for research management.
Savita: This certainly sounds like a great way forward. I am sure this will follow in due course for IRMI.
Can you draw a roadmap of how research management should develop in India and what should be the focus?
Savita: With IRMI, we are approaching development of research management along four themes: institutional leadership, sustainability, standards, and careers. All these four themes are interlinked and will contribute towards putting the larger picture together.
Madhuri: We do need institutional leadership and then providing a respectable platform to research managers. Fortunately, going by the present number of research manager positions in several Indian institutions than there were in the past, we appear to be moving in the right direction.
Savita: More work is needed to make research manager roles and positions in India more widespread. Similarly, there is a growing need for networking, training, and exchange opportunities.
Madhuri: Yes, we have just started the journey and a lot needs to be done. IRMI is a great initiative and a good point to start.
India Alliance: It is time to recognize research management as a vital professional cadre of the research enterprise (research institutes Universities, funding agencies)
Prashanth: On Research Administrator Day, I urge DST, HRD Ministry, ICMR, ICAR, and ICSSR to invest in research management in our research institutions. Good research is good science; however, it also requires ethical and well managed workflow.
Madhuri: Kudos to India Alliance for taking up all things where research matters and in innovative ways such as using the Twitter platform. Truly building research infrastructure in all ways possible!
Keeping up with the spirit of celebrating “Research Administrator Day”, the research management network of India including researchers/scientist from organizations and institutes like NCBS, PHFI, IPH, NCCS, IISER Pune and THSTI shared messages about "What Research Management Can Do" to increase awareness about research management as an important aspect of the research enterprise.
Banner image credit: PHFI