5 C’s of Research Administration Teamwork | Background Noise

by Zoya Davis-Hamilton on Friday, January 11, 2019

Authored by

Sarah Marina
Assistant Director for Research Administration and Development
Tufts University
Zoya Davis-Hamilton
Associate Vice Provost for Research Administration and Development 
Tufts University

Conceptualized as the sister column to The Pulse, Background Noise is a column devoted to conceptual ideas of interest to the research administration community. It is written by Zoya Davis-Hamilton, Associate Vice Provost, and Sarah Marina, Assistant Director, both of Research Administration and Development at Tufts University. Look for a new column in The Catalyst every few months, whenever an idea pops into our heads, and feel free to send us ideas to feature in future columns at zoya.hamilton@tufts.edu and sarah.marina@tufts.edu

5 C’s of Research Administration Teamwork

A faculty member recently suggested that our research administration operation should strengthen teamwork by leveraging the 5 C’s: commitment, communication, coordination, cooperation, and collaboration. This was a new concept for us, one that builds on project management and communication theories. Building on these conceptual foundations, we’ve undertaken to build a model of the 5 C’s for research administration, which we share below.

In research administration, commitment is the foundation of success. As research administrators, we are fully committed to providing excellent support to investigators and to supporting research. This commitment must be clear to both investigators and to our colleagues.

Communication, coordination, and cooperation serve as the tools used by research administrators in their work. The challenge of communication lies in information transfer, specifically, knowing what information the individuals need to do their jobs effectively (Denise, https://www.sccharterschools.org/assets/documents/collaborationvsthe3cs.pdf). For example, what information is needed for a research administrator to determine if funding is a grant or a gift, or if an agreement should be a vendor contract or a subaward? How much information is sufficient and which details are important? When is simply transmitting information via email adequate, and when is a phone call or a meeting necessary for a productive information transfer? To some extent these questions may be addressed in internal procedures; however, professional judgement is always important to successful communication.

Coordination is the art of making sure that separate offices all work toward a common purpose. It requires a clear understanding by all parties of who needs to do what, and by when. The greatest challenge to good coordination lies in clearly understanding the roles of all involved. For example, it may not be clear who will review biosketches in the proposal or obtain a formal commitment of cost share. Delineating these roles before embarking on a project is key.

Cooperation is an essential piece of any joint effort, and requires mutual trust and respect. For example, a central research administrator must trust that their colleague in the department correctly and accurately performed the tasks that are in their scope. Harmony and accord are required for cooperation as much as they are needed for coordination and communication.

The final C, collaboration, is result-oriented. Having achieved harmony via communication, coordination, and cooperation, there is room for difference of opinions and a healthy amount of divergence. An excellent example of a result-oriented collaboration between the central office and departmental research administration is submission of a proposal. In collaboration, individuals with different perspectives use the tools above, and each bring distinctive and unique value to the process.

If the foundation (commitment) is solid, and the tools (communication, coordination, and cooperation) are well aligned, then the collaboration will work well and the result will be successful. 


Denise, L. (year unknown) Collaboration vs C-Three (Cooperation, coordination, and communication). Innovating reprint 7 (3). The Rensselaerville Institute. http://childrenfamilylegacy.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/03/Collaboration-vs-C-Three-2.pdf 

We are grateful to Professor Albert Robbat, Jr., Associate Professor of Chemistry at Tufts University, for the inspiration about the 5 C’s.