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What I Wish I Knew When I Started in Research Administration | Marcia Landen

By SRAI News posted 03-09-2022 03:34 PM


What I Wish I Knew When I Started in Research Administration | Marcia Landen

Members of SRAI’s Distinguished Faculty were recently asked, “What do you wish you knew when you started in Research Administration?” Over the next few months we will share their insights and observations. 

I wasn’t even that interested in the first job I took in research administration. It sounded boring. But I needed a job and this one was available. So, sure, rent is due, sign me up. That makes me laugh now, of course. Turns out the job, like the larger profession, was anything but tedious. 

It’s a long look back to those early days as a research editor. I guess I wish I had known of the larger research administration community, and the huge variety of jobs within it. It wasn’t until I attended my first SRAI meeting that I began to get an inkling of the bigger world. And the flame was lit. 

In that first job, I became familiar with the importance of guidelines and deadlines but was pathetically clueless about the regulatory world surrounding them, and the concepts of tech transfer or research ethics or even allowable costs wasn’t anywhere near my conscious brain. I don’t think this kind of knowledge would have made my job performance better, but it sure would have added context to what I was doing and enhanced conversations with and support of PIs. An added benefit is a larger network of colleagues. 

Two suggestions for my colleagues early in their research administration careers. First, take SRAI’s LevelUP Relationships, Roles, and Responsibilities in Research Administration online module. Second, attend conference sessions or virtual learning offerings in areas outside of your main responsibility. 

The other thing I wish I knew much earlier in my career is how to communicate complex concepts to PIs. We spend so much time explaining things to researchers, both individually and in more formal training sessions, but most of us don’t know how to target and focus a message. We either want to tell PIs every little detail, or we want them to just believe us and do what they’re told. Neither is good. Learning about the principles of training and adult education was huge for me, and collaborating with an SRAI colleague with that kind of knowledge was so much fun I eventually married him.

Authored by Marcia Landen, Associate Vice President for Research
University of Southern Mississippi
SRAI Distinguished Faculty

1 comment



03-22-2022 03:16 PM

I love this Marcia, not only is it a great career, it is also potentially a great place to meet a partner or spouse.  I met mine through Research Administration too, and we have been to many SRAI conferences together.