Volume XLVIII, Number 1

Spring 2017

SRAI Journal cover for the Volume XLVIII, Number 1

From the Editor's Desk

Tim Linker
High Point University

Anniversaries are a time of celebration, as we reflect upon the past and look forward in anticipation.  This issue of the Journal of Research Administration is no different.  As an imprint of the Society of Research Administrators International (SRAI), the Journal is pleased to dedicate this issue in commemoration the Society’s fiftieth anniversary.  Throughout this issue, we rediscover our past, examine our present, and ponder our future.  

The Society established the Journal in 1967.  In the intervening forty years, the Journal has laid to page numerous articles that have shaped our profession.  In this issue, we highlight two previously printed articles that are representative of our body of work.  First, Edward N. Brandt’s prophetic article Research Administration in a Time of Change, originally published in 1987, offers a research administration road map for the past thirty years. In it, Brandt offers his thoughts on how research administrators would need to respond to challenges on the horizon.  Its clarity and consideration are timeless.  Next, Dr. Robert Porter’s 2005 Rod Rose Award winning article Why Academics Have a Hard Time Writing Good Grant Proposals, continues to be cited and used throughout our field.  In it, Dr. Porter discusses the inherent differences in grant and academic writing styles.  Dr. Porter also offers research administrators strategies to assist their faculty. Twelve years later, research administrators and faculty would both be well-served to read and incorporate Dr. Porter’s precepts.

In examining our present, Snyder and coauthors examine the skills and knowledge needed to serve as a chief research officer in their article The Roles of Chief Research Officers at American Research Universities: A Current Profile and Challenges for the Future. The authors also offer insights on effective ways to prepare future candidates.  In their article Greater than the Sum of its Parts: A Qualitative Study of the Role of the Coordinating Center in Facilitating Coordinated Collaborative Science, Rolland, Lee and Potter investigate the effort needed to effectively facilitate biomedical research spread across institutional, geographic and, often, disciplinary boundaries.  Squilla, Lee and Steil share the lessons learned in creating a shared service model for research administration at Thomas Jefferson University in their article Research Shared Services: A Case Study in Implementation. Finally, their article Perspectives on Institutional Bridge-Funding Policies and Strategies in the Biomedical Sciences, Yates and Warren detail the rationale and factors that are critical to managing a successful bridge-funding program.

In looking to the future, Cindy Keil, SRAI President, offers a path forward for the Society’s in the recently completed SRAI Strategic Plan.  I encourage you to read the plan and learn about how SRAI is focusing on its members. The Journal is working to incorporate this plan by using its tenets as a lens for decision-making and programming.

As always, I want to thank the Journal’s Deputy Director, Dr. Nathan Vanderford, and editorial board for their outstanding efforts.  Your Journal team works hard to bring you the best in our field.  I also want to offer a special note of thanks to all those who served on the Journal or authored articles in the past forty years.  We gratefully acknowledge your efforts, without which, the Journal would not be where it is today.  Finally, if you are a non-SRAI 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.


Reprint 1987: Research Administration in a Time of Change

Authored by:
  • Edward N. Brandt

The field of biomedical research has undergone several changes in recent years. These include increased funding, the rapid development in scientific knowledge which speeds up the obsolescence of equipment, facilities and knowledge and the growing complexity of scientific problems. Research administrators can take steps to address these changes such as encouraging interdisciplinary research, making optimum use of resources and developing accounting systems for resources.

Reprint 2007: Why Academics Have a Hard Time Writing Good Grants Proposals

Authored by:
  • Robert Porter
    Virginia Tech

This paper discusses the contrasting perspectives of academic prose versus grant writing, and lists strategies grant specialists can use to help researchers break old habits and replace them with techniques better suited to the world of competitive grant proposals.

The Roles of Chief Research Officers at American Research Universities: A Current Profile and Challenges for the Future

Authored by:
  • Kelvin K. Droegemeier
    University of Oklahoma
  • Lori Anderson Snyder
    University of Oklahoma
  • Alicia Knoedler
    University of Oklahoma
  • William Taylor
    University of Oklahoma
  • Brett Litwiller
    University of Oklahoma
  • Caroline Whitacre
    The Ohio State University
  • Howard Gobstein
    Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
  • Christine Keller
    Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
  • Teri Lyn Hinds
    Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities
  • Nathalie Dwyer
    Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities

The individual charged with stewarding the academic research and creative activity enterprise (i.e., Chief Research Officer or Vice President/Chancellor for Research), has tremendous responsibility and influence over the institution’s ability to achieve its overall mission. Yet, the skills and knowledge required to successfully serve in this roll have not been comprehensively studied. To address this deficiency, we synthesize the views of 78 sitting Chief Research Officers to document the academic and experiential pathways of respondents, their current roles and responsibilities, and future challenges. We provide recommendations for effective ways of preparing future candidates for this important role.



Greater than the Sum of its Parts: A Qualitative Study of the Role of the Coordinating Center in Facilitating Coordinated Collaborative Science

Authored by:
  • Betsy Rolland, PhD MLIS MPH
    University of Wisconsin-Madison Carbone Cancer Center
  • Charlotte P. Lee, PhD
    University of Washington
  • John D. Potter, MBBS PhD
    Public Health Sciences Division, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center; Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Washington; Centre for Public Health Research, Massey University

As collaborative biomedical research has increased in size and scope, so, too, has the need to facilitate the disparate work being done by investigators across institutional, geographic and, often, disciplinary boundaries. Yet we know little about what facilitation is on a day-to-day basis or what types of facilitation work contribute to the success of collaborative science. Here, we report on research investigating facilitation by examining the work of two coordinating centers (CCs), central bodies tasked with coordination and operations management of multi-site research. Based at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, both CCs were run by the same team and part of National Cancer Institute-funded consortia engaged in what we call “Coordinated Collaborative Science.” These CCs were charged with facilitating the collaborative work of their projects, with the aim of helping each cancer epidemiology consortium achieve its scientific objective.

This paper presents the results of a qualitative, interview-based study of the coordinating centers of two National Cancer Institute-funded consortia. Participants were observed in meetings and interviewed about their work in the consortium. A grounded-theory approach was used to analyze field notes and interview transcripts. We found that each CC engaged in four types of facilitation work: (a) structural work; (b) collaboration-development work; (c) operational work; and (d) data work. Managerial and scientific experience and expertise have been institutionalized in processes and procedures developed over decades of managing consortia.

By applying collective decades of experience and expertise in the facilitation of collaborative work, the CC PIs and staff were able to provide the consortium with a neutral, third-party view of the project, keeping it on track toward its scientific objectives, and providing leadership and support when needed. The CCs also helped the consortia avoid some of the pitfalls of collaborative research that have been well documented in the literature on team science. As such, the CC saved research-site personnel time, effort, and money. Further research on the development of facilitation standards is crucial to the success of Coordinated Collaborative Science.

Research Shared Services: A Case Study in Implementation

Authored by:
  • Brian Squilla
    Thomas Jefferson University
  • Jenna Lee
    Huron Consulting Group
  • Andrew Steil
    Huron Consulting Group

The private sector has been moving toward the idea of consolidating administrative functions within organizations since the 1980s. While this sector has traditionally implemented shared services with cost reduction in mind, traditionally through economies of scale, many universities across the country have begun to explore the concept of managing the research enterprise with hopes of finding an enhanced model for supporting operational and administrative processes. While several university-based shared service campaigns have allowed for reinvestment of time and money into missioncritical endeavors, the complex realities of assessment, design, and implementation make it a potentially daunting undertaking. This manuscript describes the strategic challenges of implementing a shared service model for organizing research administration at a major academic medical center, Thomas Jefferson University.

Perspectives on Institutional Bridge-Funding Policies and Strategies in the Biomedical Sciences

Authored by:
  • Robin M. Yates BSc, BVSc (hons), PhD, MTEM
    University of Calgary
  • Amy L. Warren BSc., BVSc (hons), PhD, Diplomate ACVP
    University of Calgary

Bridge-funding by tertiary-educational institutions allows researchers to continue their research in times of funding loss. With the ever-declining funding rates for major medical research institutions in North America, and the global economic downturn, it is crucial to critically assess institutional policies surrounding the allocation of bridgefunding. We review the theoretical framework of bridge-funding decisions and present theoretical factors that determine the success of bridge-funding. We also report the results of an online survey of bridge-funding policies in major medical research institutions in North America.