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Where Do You See the Future of Research Administration | Philip J. Cola

By SRAI News posted 08-09-2023 05:24 PM


Where Do You See the Future of Research Administration | Philip J. Cola

Members of SRAI’s Distinguished Faculty were recently asked where they see the future of research administration. Over the next few months, we will share their insights and observations. 

It is commonly accepted that research administration has significant impacts on the success of research and advancement of science. Collaboration and relationship building is a significant factor in ensuring that faculty researchers and research administrators or managers are clearly working toward the same goal of new knowledge creation, which in turn advances science. Some have suggested that research administration needs to continue to evolve in the future and be restructured to improve faculty support and create a more collaborative research environment between the researcher and the administrator (Cole, 2010).  

Along these same lines, others have written about focusing on administrative support services to ensure that research administrators not only play a significant role in identifying and bringing in grant and contract funding opportunities for faculty (Goff-Albritton, Cola, Pierre, Yerra, & Garcia, 2022), but moreover that research administration should evolve to be thought of as a public service profession (Atkinson, 2007).  Thinking of research administration as a public service will lead to greater acceptance of the roles that research administrators play, in the future, as equal and necessary partners to the creation of new knowledge and the advancement of science.

Historically, this profession of research administration has suffered from an "us (faculty) versus them (administration)" bias that inhibits collaboration and relationship building.  Therefore, research administrators should be implementing evidence-based management practices (Rousseau, 2006) to support the significant value that they add to the overall process.  This would still require further transitions or transformations (Lintz, 2008) in how the profession of research administration is viewed to ensure more inclusive practices on research teams and in team science.  This should begin with an increased customer-oriented management philosophy that would be implemented in research administration to maximize the effectiveness of work processes and service delivery (Halkoaho, 2013).  This improves the ability to understand the roles and responsibilities of everyone who works in research.  It is through this expanded lens that collaboration and collegiality grow.  For example, scholars working at the intersection of Medicine and Management believe that physician-scientist success is rooted in the development of relational capacity with others to achieve success and desired outcomes (Cola & Wang, 2022).

Research administration plays a crucial role in supporting successful research. Improvements in research administration can have a positive impact on research outcomes, but this begins with continuing to advance the profession on well-accepted management principles such as collaboration and relationship building.


Atkinson, T.N., Gilleland, D.S., & Barrett, T.G. (2007). The Dimensions of Influence on Research Administrator Behavior: Toward a Theoretical Model of Research Administration as a Public Service Profession. Journal of Research Administration, 38, 19-30.

Cola, P. A., & Wang, Y. (2022). Discovering Factors that Influence Physician Scientist Success in Academic Medical Centers. Qualitative Health Research, 32(10), 1433-1446.

Cole, S. S. (2010). Reframing Research Administration. Journal of Research Administration, 41(1), 11-21. 

Goff-Albritton, R. A., Cola, P. A., Pierre, J., Yerra, S. D., & Garcia, I. (2022). Faculty Views on the Barriers and Facilitators to Grant Activities in the USA: A Systematic Literature Review. Journal of Research Administration, 53(2), 14-39.

Halkoaho, A., Itkonen, E., Vanninen, E., & Reijula, J. (2013). Can Lean Thinking enhance research administration. Journal of Hospital Administration, 3, 61. 

Lintz, E.M. (2008). A Conceptual Framework for the Future of Successful Research Administration. Journal of Research Administration, 39, 68-80.

Rousseau, D. M. (2006). Is there such a thing as “evidence-based management”?. Academy of Management Review, 31(2), 256-269.

Authored by Philip J. Cola, Associate Professor of Management, Departments of Design and Innovation and Organizational Behavior
Case Western Reserve University
SRAI Distinguished Faculty

1 comment



08-13-2023 03:28 PM

Great article, Phil. One way to break down barriers and silos is by erasing the "us vs. them" beliefs. We are all in this together- the PI's success is ours.