Blog Viewer

The Future of Research Administration is Now! Are You an Influencer? | by Renee Vaughan

By SRAI News posted 07-05-2023 04:05 PM


I became a member of the Society of Research Administrators International (SRAI) in 1997 during a career transition from global media communication to research administration. My mentor invited me to the founding meeting of the North Carolina Chapter. I attended the section and annual meetings in 1998 and 1999 – and realized I had found a home for my diverse interests.

Research Administration is the only profession I’ve encountered with the breadth to engage any field of study. Membership in SRAI has been integral to my career growth and professional development as a Certified Research Administrator (CRA). As a result, I have sought to be an active volunteer for more than twenty- five years of membership serving on committees, and volunteering at chapter, section and annual meetings. I will continue to promote Research Administration as a viable profession.

With the advent of the COVID-19 Pandemic, I believe a paradigm shift in our profession occurred. Those of us that had long pushed for the ability to “lead from anywhere” found our opportunity. Remote, and then hybrid, work have become the norm. Research administrators moved from being considered as support staff to now being recognized as a partner and “influencer.” Diversity, equity, inclusion, and engagement have risen to the forefront as we lead diverse teams. I’m very enthusiastic about changes in our world of work and my role in facilitating communication and innovation as a research administrator. 

The future is now! Consider these thoughts: 

  1. Advancements in technology will continue to play a significant role in research administration. The adoption of artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and automation will streamline administrative processes, such as grant management, compliance tracking, and reporting. These technologies can help improve efficiency, reduce errors, and free up time for RAs to focus on higher-value tasks.
  2. With the increasing availability of data, research administrators will be able to make better informed decisions. Data analytics and visualization tools will enable administrators to gain insights into research trends, identify potential funding sources, and optimize resource allocation.
  3. As research becomes more complex, ensuring compliance with regulations and ethical standards will remain a priority. Research administrators will need to stay updated on evolving regulations, manage conflicts of interest, protect human subjects, and address issues related to data privacy and security. This may involve implementing robust compliance management systems and providing training to researchers.
  4. The future of research will likely involve greater interdisciplinary collaboration. Research administrators will play a crucial role in facilitating collaboration across departments, institutions, and even countries. They will need to develop systems and processes that support interdisciplinary research, such as creating interdisciplinary funding opportunities, managing shared resources, and fostering a collaborative culture.
  5. Research is increasingly becoming a global endeavor, with collaborations spanning across borders. Research administrators will need to navigate international funding opportunities, understand different regulatory frameworks, and address cultural and logistical challenges associated with global collaborations. This may require developing networks and partnerships with international institutions and staying updated on global research trends.
  6. There is a growing demand for transparency and public engagement in research. Research administrators will need to communicate research findings effectively to the public, policymakers, and funding agencies. They may also be involved in facilitating community engagement and addressing public concerns related to research activities.
  7. The funding landscape for research is evolving, with new sources of funding emerging, such as public-private partnerships and philanthropic organizations. Research administrators will need to adapt to these changes, identify diverse funding opportunities, and develop strategies to secure funding for research projects. They may also need to explore alternative funding models, such as crowdfunding and venture capital.

Research administrators will continue to be critical in managing administrative tasks, ensuring compliance, fostering collaboration, and supporting the research community in achieving impactful outcomes.

Authored by Renee J. Vaughan, MDiv. MA, CRA, Financial Practice Manager, Psychiatry Clinical Research Unit
Duke University School of Medicine