Volume XLVII, Number 2

Fall 2016

From the Editor's Desk

Tim Linker
High Point University

The Journal of Research Administration is committed to broadening and deepening our shared understanding, so that we can successfully manage the global research enterprise and solve our collective challenges. With the complexities of research administration ever growing, there has never been a greater need for more effective management. Fortunately, research administrators are renowned for their willingness to share their successes and failures. It is with this perspective that the Journal contributes to our field.

I am proud to say that, as of this edition, the Journal is an open-access publication. The Journal and its resources are available to every research administrator, at every level, at every institution, throughout the globe. This transition reflects our profession’s willingness to share. If you are a non-SRA member and wish to have the Journal delivered to you via email, please send a message with your name and institution to journal@srainternational.org. Our progress toward reaching all research administrators would not be possible without the generous support of the Society of Research Administrators International, which publishes the Journal and I thank the SRA members and leadership for their continued support.

The Journal also supports those who seek to share their expertise in our field though our Journal Fellowship Program and SRA annual conference offerings. The fellowship program, which welcomes its first cohort in January of 2017, will pair seven writing fellows with established authors. This program is designed to guide budding research administration authors through the scholarly writing process. If you are interested in becoming a fellow, calls for future fellowship applications will continue throughout 2017 and will be noted in the Catalyst and on the Journal website (www.journalra.org).

This edition of the Journal is filled with ways to more effectively manage your research enterprise. Abbott and Stacener investigate a systems engineering-based approach to improve the effectiveness of universities’ administrative tools and procedures in Systems Engineering-Based Tool for Identifying Critical Research Systems. In their article Multi-institution Research Centers: Planning and Management Challenges, Spooner and coauthors examine the challenges in planning and managing multi-institution centers of excellence. Phipps and coauthors evaluate knowledge mobilization strategies to more effectively measure future research impact in their article Supporting Knowledge Mobilization and Research Impact Strategies in Grant Applications. In their article, Enhancing Faculty Productivity Through a Centralized Communications and Project Management Infrastructure: A Case Study at the University of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center, Vanderford and coauthors put a spotlight onto the University of Kentucky, Markey Cancer Center’s efforts to support faculty with professional grant services designed to enhance faculty productivity. In their article The Grants Office and the RA Generalist: Parallel Life-Cycles and Development at Small PUIs, Chuel-Shuckers and coauthors explore a life-cycle model for accessing Predominately Undergraduate Institution (PUI) research offices. Finally, Raubenholt details the use of the sprint model as a problem-solving mechanism at The Research Institute at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital in her article An Analysis of Collaborative Problem-Solving Mechanisms in Sponsored Projects: Applying the 5-Day Sprint Model.

As always, I want to thank the Journal’s Deputy Director, Dr. Nathan Vanderford, and editorial board for their outstanding efforts. The Journal is a team effort and the editorial board is one of the best teams in research administration.


Systems Engineering-Based Tool For Identifying Critical Research Systems

Authored by:
  • Rodman P. Abbott
    Naval Post Graduate School
  • Jerrell Stracener
    Southern Methodist University

This study investigates the relationship between the designated research project system independent variables of Labor, Travel, Equipment, and Contract total annual costs and the dependent variables of both the associated matching research project total annual academic publication output and thesis/dissertation number output. The Mahalanobis Taguchi System (MTS) pattern recognition methodology was utilized in the three-year, 3000+ research project case study to identify which research project system variables are responsible in both magnitude and degree for the associated publication & thesis and dissertation research project outputs. The selection of the MTS “abnormal” and “normal” data set boundary was specifically chosen in an attempt to define a “successful” from “unsuccessful” research project metric at the research unit, tenure track versus non-tenure track, and individual research project principal investigator organizational levels. The findings of the study are directly compared against the associated level budget percentages changes over the same time period. Through such concrete research system identification, research administrative personnel have the possibility of directly identifying both the research project system “impactors” as well as the association between likely effects of reduced or affected research system impacts on the research outputs themselves.

Multi-institution Research Centers: Planning and Management Challenges

Authored by:
  • Catherine Spooner
    Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, UNSW Australia
  • Lisa Lavey
    School of Rural Health, Monash University
  • Chilandu Mukuka
    Australian Primary Health Care Research Institute, Australian National University
  • Rosslyn Eames-Brown
    Centre for Primary Health Care and Equity, UNSW Australia

Funding multi-institution centers of research excellence (CREs) has become a common means of supporting collaborative partnerships to address specific research topics. However, there is little guidance for those planning or managing a multi-institution CRE, which faces specific challenges not faced by single-institution research centers. We conducted qualitative research to identify the challenges faced by an Australian program of multi-institution CREs with a view to identifying lessons for the future. This paper describes two of the most significant challenges: administrative complexity and investigator engagement. Administrative tasks (e.g.: establishing partner contracts and recruitment) were significantly more complex and time-consuming in the multi-institution CREs than single-institution research centers. Investigator engagement was hampered by a range of factors, including differing expectations within the investigator team and between the team and the funding body in relation to investigator roles as well as investigator capacity. We conclude with a discussion of key strategies that cut across the challenges: 1) early planning, 2) communication and 3) management capacity.

Supporting Knowledge Mobilization And Research Impact Strategies In Grant Applications

Authored by:
  • David Phipps
    York University
  • Krista E. Jensen
    York University
  • Michael Johnny
    York University
  • Anneliese Poetz

Each application to the National Science Foundation (NSF) must contain a Broader Impact (BI) strategy. Similarly, grant applications for most research funders in Canada and the UK require strategies to support the translation of research into impacts on society; however, the guidance provided to researchers is too general to inform the specific impact strategies required by funding agencies and peer review panels. Furthermore, there is almost no training and few tools provided to research managers and administrators to support the development of these strategies. To fill this gap, university based knowledge mobilization professionals in Canada have developed specific tools and services to support research impact strategies in grant applications. Over the last 10 years the Knowledge Mobilization Unit at York University (Toronto, Canada) has used planning tools and standard approaches to support knowledge mobilization strategies in 137 grant applications resulting in 42 funded research projects attracting over $47M in research funding. The Knowledge Translation (KT) Core facility of the pan-Canadian research network, NeuroDevNet, has supported knowledge translation strategies in 11 grant applications resulting in 2 research projects attracting $2.9M in the last 2.5 years. The tools and processes used to develop these strategies have supported grant applications in a range of disciplines and are presented to help research managers and administrators support impact strategies in grant applications. 

Enhancing Faculty Productivity Through A Centralized Communications And Project Management Infrastructure: A Case Study At The University Of Kentucky Markey Cancer Center

Authored by:
  • Heather N. Russell-Simmons
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • Cathy Anthony
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • Marcia Ballard
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • Jonathan Coffman
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • Donna Gilbreath
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • Terry L. Keys
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • Danielle Story
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • Jennifer Rogers
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • David M. Gosky
    Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine
  • Nathan L. Vanderford
    Department of Toxicology and Cancer Biology and Markey Cancer Center, University of Kentucky, College of Medicine

Academic careers and institutional reputations are closely linked with the ability to secure funding and publish work. In today’s competitive environment, it is essential for research to be clearly communicated. In our experience, many researchers need assistance with communication skills, and institutions that offer professional services in grant, manuscript and project management have an advantage in the development of their faculty and trainees. A review of the literature shows that some institutions offer centralized proposal development resources and personnel to assist with grant writing, some institutions offer workshops and lectures designed to improve researchers’ writing skills for grants and/or manuscripts, and fewer institutions offer departments focused specifically on editing manuscripts. In the fall of 2009, the University of Kentucky’s (UK) Markey Cancer Center (MCC) developed an infrastructure, the Research Communications Office (RCO), to enhance faculty productivity. The RCO exists to provide: expertise in scientific editing of manuscripts for academic publishing; editing and management of research, training, and career development grants; project management for multi-component and institutionally complex grants; facilitation and tracking of all MCC pilot funding mechanisms; tracking all research outcomes; preparation of graphics for presentations, posters, publications and grants; marketing and design expertise for outreach endeavors; the planning and execution of internal and external communications; and MCC web content creation and maintenance. A successful and valued service for MCC, the RCO has totaled more than 1,400 projects over six years, growing from 189 projects when tracking began in 2010 to 294 in 2015. This article will discuss why and how the RCO was created at the MCC, and in doing so, provide a framework for how the RCO model can be successfully implemented at other institutions interested in offering professional editing and management of grants and manuscripts. 

The Grants Office and the RA Generalist: Parallel Life-Cycles and Development at Small PUIs

Authored by:
  • Amy Cuhel-Schuckers
    Franklin & Marshall College
  • Cara Martin-Tetreault
    Bowdoin College
  • Carol Withers
    University of New Haven

If you are a grants or research administrator working at a small predominantly undergraduate institution, have you ever wondered where you stand in relation to other similar institutions? Have you thought about what you need to do to get yourself, your office, and your institution to the “next level” of outreach to or support for the faculty? Have you asked what are reasonable benchmarks or milestones to which you can aspire in leading your office?

In this article the authors focus on two parallel cycles of development within a small grants office at a predominantly or primarily undergraduate institution (PUI). One cycle is the development of the office itself as it is shaped by the institution, faculty research activity, and intramural and extramural funding priorities. The second cycle is the development of the research administrator as the professional grows and matures. The authors will walk the reader through the phases of development as they are influenced by challenges and milestones characteristic of successful research development. 

An Analysis of Collaborative Problem-Solving Mechanisms in Sponsored Projects: Applying the 5-Day Sprint Model

Authored by:
  • Amy Raubenolt
    The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital

In May 2016, the office of Finance and Sponsored Projects at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital conducted a 5-day design sprint session to re-evaluate and redesign a flawed final reporting process within the department. The department sprint was modeled after the design sprint sessions that occur routinely in software development and manufacturing processes fields. The Research Performance Progress Report (RPPR) process was not consistent among all Sponsored Project Officers (SPOs), and the department needed to develop and implement quality control measures to safeguard compliance and assure quality in the reporting process. This study in adapting a software design process for use in sponsored projects assesses how this problem-solving mechanism can be utilized with success to replace the formal workgroup model and improve the research administration enterprise. Findings illustrate that several factors influence the success of the sprint application to research administration, including increased time spent dedicated to the problem and a gained shared understanding of the problem and possible solutions. Finally, findings indicate a strong preference for the individual problem-solving technique inherent in the sprint model in combination with the intense and deadline-driven collaboration mechanism.