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Research Administration Organizations: Results from an Investigation into the Five Disciplines

By SRAI News posted 10-25-2018 12:00 AM



In a series of articles, we will present the newest in research administration from the Journal of Research Administration. To read the full JRA, please see here.


Angela J. Silva, DBA, MAOL, CRA, MultiCare Institute for Research and Innovation

A variety of organizations conduct research including universities, academic medical centers, community hospitals, federal and state facilities, and for-profit and nonprofit institutions. In some institutions, research is the primary mission, while in others, it is only a part of the overall organizational goal. Underpinning this activity are individuals working in a wide range of positions providing specialized expertise in professional and administrative roles.

Research administration (RA) has emerged as a relatively new professional field with primary emphases on proposal development, award management, and accounting. Professional development through training, certifications and networking opportunities is provided by a variety of research administration organizations such as the Society of Research Administrators International (SRAI), the National Council of University Research Administrators (NCURA), the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP), and the Research Administrators Certification Council (RACC). Universities such as Johns Hopkins and the University of Central Florida offer Master’s degree programs in Research Administration.

Although their profession is becoming more established, research administrators are increasingly operating under conditions of change and uncertainty. Many research organizations are experiencing reductions in programs and staff due, in part, to shrinking sponsoring agency budgets and increased competition for diminishing resources. As scientific research continues to evolve, universities have tried to adapt, with varying degrees of success (Lintz, 2008). As a community, research administrators face increasing responsibilities and are expressing concerns related to work stress, number of hours worked, work/family conflict, and illness (Shambrook, 2012). Effectively managing change and positioning research organizations for success requires proven strategies to build resilience and deliver results.

There are a myriad of management theories and approaches in the organizational management literature. Some of these have been tried and tested, and others were only popular for a short time. Peter Senge’s Five Disciplines model first emerged in the 1990’s and was widely adopted within the business, higher education, and healthcare sectors. Components of the model include personal mastery, mental models, team learning, shared vision, and systems thinking. This model provides a matrix for organizations to enhance their performance and create vibrant, adaptive, healthy, team-focused environments. The model also presents a pathway for organizations to move from the status quo towards a learning organization that is better able to deal with uncertainty and change. The model is often presented as a framework for organizational development (Bui & Baruch, 2010).

To read the full manuscript, please click here.

Interested in becoming a Journal Author? Please see here and submit a manuscript.