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Expansion Through International Engagement

By SRAI News posted 20 days ago


Expansion Through International Engagement

For more than 20 years, Floris van der Leest was responsible for the development of Research Information Man­agement Systems. Next to ongoing development of data harvesting and reporting rou­tines, he developed web applications to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of research administration activities. 

Floris worked at James Cook University in Townsville and Victoria University in Melbourne, both in Australia, and at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology near Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. At each university, he was responsible for strategic analysis of information needs as well as the accu­racy of data underpinning research performance reporting. 

From 2008, he has been an active member of research management societies, and from 2012 he has presented each year at an international conference (ARMS, INORMS, SRAI). He is currently the Presi­dent of SRAI’s International Section, an Ad Hoc Board Member, and the driver behind the Virtual International Convention of Research Administrators (VICRA). 

While working in Australia, Floris was an active member of the Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS): he was a committee member of its Queensland chapter from 2008 and functioned as its convener from 2012 to 2014. Moving to Melbourne, he joined the committee of its Victorian chapter from 2014 to 2016. For each chapter, he was the lead organizer for annual one-day Professional Development workshops. 

At RMA conferences he presents on research performance and information management issues or offers a thought-provoking professional/personal development session. While in Australia, he pre­sented both in-house and at other universities on a range of faculty advancement topics, e.g., Networking to Collaboration, Smarter Publishing, and the Bigger Picture. 

In his first year as President of the International Section, he analyzed the section’s membership over recent years and noticed that the underwhelming international membership was correlated to annual meeting registration, and that only a few dozen stayed members for a number of years in a row. 

To change this picture, in early 2021 he approached twenty international members who had attended at least three of the last five annual meetings, making sure each one worked in a different country, and the group was spread over four continents. Sixteen of those approached were keen to join the organizing committee for the first VICRA. 

VICRA is designed from the ground up to be a live online experience presented by invited experts and aimed at early to mid-career research administrators. The convention targets specifically research offices of uni­versities in countries without a research management association and/or colleagues who normally don’t attend international conferences. 

To reach half the globe in their waking hours, each VICRA day was only four hours long as a start time of 9:00 AM in London means 8:00 PM in Sydney. Each day started with a keynote, fol­lowed by three concurrent sessions with a choice from four streams, which totals three plenaries plus 36 presenta­tions (by 42 presenters from 23 countries). Each day, each stream finished with a panel session with the three presenters. 

The inaugural VICRA was well-received and a financial success but did not draw the number of regis­trations hoped for. Nonetheless, the core organizing team and six of the seven sponsors are keen to support a second edition, planned for early 2024. 

In the meantime, SRAI’s International Section will work on an eight-hour long RMA workshop truly tailored for an international-mix of early career research administrators. 

If elected as an At-Large Board Member, Floris hopes to contribute fresh views on familiar matters and take a lead in implementing innovations. His aim is to emphasize the word INTERNATIONAL in SRAI’s Strategic Priorities: he sees expansion for SRAI through engagement with colleagues in countries without a research management association.

Authored by Floris van der Leest, Independent