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Reflections on EARMA

By SRAI News posted 03-10-2021 11:30 AM


Reflections on EARMA

In our new virtual normal where travel is banned by our campuses and the ubiquity of video meetings is a part of our everyday lives, the world feels even more connected. During this time, I have had the fortune to become more involved with the European Association of Research Administrators and Managers (EARMA), one of SRAI’s sister societies. In the Fall, I joined EARMA’s Policy and Representation Committee (P&RC), one of seven standing committees. 

While I had been familiar with EARMA for many years, my first substantial involvement with this professional association was as a participant in the 2018 EARMA Early Stage Research Administrators Masterclass in Brussels, Belgium. Despite having worked 13 years in research administration at the time, I had very little experience with European grants. Since participating in an international professional development experience was part of the capacity-building plan for our award from the NIH BRAD program (SPAD is its current iteration), the EARMA Masterclass presented a fitting opportunity to expand my knowledge in this domain. 

Nik Claesen, Managing Director of EARMA, was the organizer of the day-and-a-half program. As the only American in the cohort, I was delighted to learn alongside participants from the Czech Republic, Denmark, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, and Norway. The presenters for that year’s program were John Donovan (Dublin Institute of Technology), Angela Noble (Leiden University), Ellen Schenk (Erasmus Medical Centre Rotterdam), and Olaf Svenningsen (Lund University). 

The intensive format included a mix of lectures, case studies, discussion, and group exercises on a variety of topics such as funder identification, proposal preparation, post-award management, research development, ethics (including the case of Henrietta Lacks), open research, and EU funding trends. Time for camaraderie was built in prior to and throughout the program. 

The Masterclass influenced my career journey on many levels, from providing an introduction to the European funding landscape to creating a space for vocational reflection through “The Accidental RMA” session led by Dr. John Donovan. The conversations with fellow colleagues between sessions were  invaluable and I learned that some of the institutions also worked with American funding agencies. Most of all, the experience affirmed the nobility of our profession. As stated in the opening session led by Donovan and Claesen, research administrators are in a “privileged position” to look over the walls between silos and are able to see connections that others cannot. This is one of the often unrecognized qualities of research administrators that I hold dear. 

EARMA has been a tremendous resource in this very early part of my learning curve about European funding. These grants can be complex for U.S. institutions (not to mention GDPR), thus this would not be a path to take lightly. Nevertheless, the thought leadership alone on issues such as research ethics and research impact makes participation in EARMA worthwhile despite differences in geography or culture. I look forward to continuing to engage with EARMA through P&RC and its new slate of digital offerings to keep its members connected and informed through the pandemic and beyond. 


European Association of Research Managers and Administrators (EARMA). 2018. EARMA Early Stage Research Administrators Masterclass! 

Donovan, J. & Claesen, N. (2018, November 15-16). Scene setting and introductions. [Conference presentation]. EARMA Early Stage Research Administrators Masterclass, Brussels, Belgium. 

Donovan, J. (2018, November 15-16). Research administration as a career: “The Accidental RMA” [Conference presentation]. EARMA Early Stage Research Administrators Masterclass, Brussels, Belgium.


Authored by Tania Johnson, CRA, Director of Sponsored Programs
Swarthmore College