Research Teams as a Goal by Karin Scarpinato & Jeanne Viviani | Literature Review
This series of articles explores literary works that intersect with our professional interests in research, research administration, and university life.
Research Teams as a Goal: Anecdotal Tips and Actions Plans for Research AVPs and other Research Administrators focuses on building effective research administration teams, using the authors’ STAR framework (Strive, Think, Act, Read). The interview questions below have been lightly edited for clarity and length.
Rebecca Weaver Rinehart - Catalyst: How did your working partnership begin and develop?
Karin Scarpinato: We know each other from our “day jobs” where we work together to support research at Florida Atlantic University.
Jeanne Viviani: We saw eye-to-eye on many things and given our unique backgrounds and experiences -- Karin has been at a variety of places, including research intensive places where I have been at smaller institutions -- we both had the same challenges and also the same “get it done” attitude.
Rebecca Weaver Rinhart - Catalyst: What inspired you to write your own book?
Karin Scarpinato: We have both been reading books on leadership, team-building etc., but many of them are not specific to academic research administration. In addition, the way our offices provide research support in academia has really not changed in the last decades. We change WHAT we do, mostly in response to changes in regulations and laws, but looking at HOW we do it often goes to the wayside, because we are too busy making deadlines and meeting metrics. We are hoping to change that, in particular as the US is globally falling behind in research outcomes, and the challenges we are facing require research. The latest challenge, the pandemic, showed this really well.
Rebecca Weaver Rinehart - Catalyst: What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started your career in research administration?
Jeanne Viviani: I definitely had no idea what being at a larger institution would entail. Being at smaller places, I was kind of blinded by the fact that I did it all -- proposal development, post-award, compliance and close-out! I was a jack of all trades but that doesn’t work well of course at larger institutions.
Karin Scarpinato: I went into this completely naively, coming from the faculty side and never really paying attention to what the research office was doing, other than when I needed them. All I knew was that I like working on many different things, with different people. The politics going on in upper management is definitely something that you do not think so much about when you are pursuing your own research career as a faculty.
In addition, nobody tells you that rising up in the “ranks,” 95% of the time will be spent on problems, often those that you are not even officially in charge of or there is no immediate solution for.
Research Teams as a Goal contains valuable insights and techniques that research administration leaders can use to build strong and resilient teams. I particularly enjoyed the sections on connecting and communicating with faculty.
As the authors point out, there are a lot of leadership books out there, but the field of research administration would benefit from more specific materials and action plans. Kudos to the authors for leading the way and inspiring others to take on leadership roles and develop their teams to the fullest potential.
Research Teams as a Goal is available from Amazon in Kindle and paperback.
Authored by Rebecca Weaver Rinehart, Pre-award Specialist & Interim IRB Administrator
University of Northern Iowa