Professional Development: Diversifying the Role of the Research Administrator: Broadening the Definition of Stakeholders in Research Administration

by on Thursday, March 29, 2018

Diversity can be viewed from the perspective of the impact of research administrators on key stakeholders. There may be opportunities in the university setting to expand the customer/stakeholder bases through reaching out to undergraduate researchers.

There is a tremendous potential for impacting researchers at the undergraduate, pre-professional researcher level. Through interactions with research administrators prior to beginning graduate level research, students can be guided through the research process in a holistic, organic way introducing them to important non-laboratory aspects of research. This allows the research administrator an opportunity to mentor and broaden their perspective to include budgetary and organizational process considerations.

There are several ways that research administrators can assist undergraduate students. Listening to their vision and helping to identify their budgetary/resource needs can be the most important task for the research administrator, as well as brainstorming to meet those needs and helping the student create a plan in achieving those needs. This can include introducing students to those within the organization who can assist in meeting these needs. Research administrators can also help to identify and review proposals for travel award funding needed to allow undergraduate students an opportunity to travel and present on their research.

Research administrators have an opportunity to broaden the scope of stakeholder needs. Through the inclusion of undergraduate students, research administrators have the ability to assist in molding and mentoring researchers at the foundation level. Tasks are different than assisting faculty, junior faculty or early career researchers. Since research at this level is limited to the resources available to the research mentor, this could pose a challenge for smaller colleges and universities. Creativity is needed in meeting the needs of students and the task can be a fun one. Through listening to the vision of the student’s research, a savvy research administrator can suggest and direct students to resources that they are unaware of. This can be as simple as letting them talk through their plan and helping to brainstorm low-cost or more realistically no-cost manners of achieving their goals. Helping students identify and apply for travel grants to present research can also be a need met by a research administrator. There is an opportunity to assist these budding researchers in formulating the questions that will make future grant proposals and project planning easier for all involved. This is an entry-level way to train future professionals early in their journey and to make a lasting impression about the importance of communicating to the research administrator. Although faculty and industry investigators are the first priority for many in the field, it is important to remember the impact that research administrators can have on undergraduate researchers and to consider them as key stakeholders. 

Authored by:
Dominique Gambino, MSA, CRA
Post Award Grants and Contracts Administrator
University of Detroit Mercy