From the Editor's Desk
Jennifer E. Taylor, MBA, PhD
Tennessee Tech University
The Journal of Research Administration (JRA) is the premier scholarly publication for the field of research administration and management. We publish timely work that covers all facets of our discipline. The Journal is an important education and career development platform. Our authors share best practices and innovative means of performing research administration and management work in our fast-paced, ever-changing environments while also enhancing their own careers through the process of publishing peer-reviewed scholarly journal articles.
As the current editor of JRA I am keenly aware that the current success of JRA is built on the hard work and dedication of our current and prior incredible staff, editors, reviewers, and the SRAI communication committee members. Among that group, few have made greater contributions to JRA and our field overall than Tim Linker. Earlier this Fall, along with the rest of our SRAI community, his friends, and family, I was deeply saddened to learn of Tim’s passing. Tim put in countless hours helping to build the field of research administration. Tim was a certified research administrator, served as a leader in the SRAI North Carolina chapter for many years, was an active member of the SRA Chapter Council, and first as Deputy Editor and then Editor-in-Chief of JRA in addition to leading research administration efforts at High Point University and as Assistant Vice Chancellor for Research Administration at North Carolina Agricultural and Technological State University. Long after he stepped down as editor, he continued to review for JRA and provide useful and always kind council to subsequent editors. Indeed, although those who knew Tim professionally were always struck by his intelligence and commitment to excellence, those characteristics were often overshadowed by his kindness and caring for others. The research administration community, as well as the larger communities in which he lived, are poorer for his loss. He will be missed greatly.
The excellence of the contributions of the current issue of JRA reflects the growth of the field that Tim and others have nurtured over the more than 50-year history of JRA and SRAI more broadly. As we move into our 53rd year, and the return to some semblance of the new, post-initial COVID era, we have been fortunate to receive a set of important contributions from our authors' that address issues that are central to the concerns of research administrators and that provide critical input for them to draw on as they carry-out their work. I want to thank our authors, editorial board members, and staff, for all their efforts that have enabled us to put together what, collectively, we think is another exceptional issue of JRA. As in the work of those we have built upon, it is again characterized by high-quality, important manuscripts that will enable another step forward in the knowledge-base and work of those in Research Administration and those who depend on that work.
The manuscripts we are pleased to share with you address a broad cross-section of critical issues that research administrators grapple with as they seek to serve their constancies. They range from those whose focus is on the recent challenges and complications that a sudden pandemic brought to our work and the work of those we support, to others that are more closely focused on some of the most important issues that research administrators continue to address as we seek to enhance the efficacy and success of our own work, as well as that of collaborators in other units as well as investigators. As always, we hope that researchers and research administrators, across the international membership that comprises SRAI, will continue to view JRA as a preferred outlet for their work as well as a source of important conceptual and practical scholarship to guide that work.
Our first article focuses on one of the more pressing questions that are core to the decisions research administrators must answer as they seek to address the needs of those we work to support. Dr. Goff-Albritton and her colleagues both at Case Western and Florida State seek to provide important insights about “Faculty Views on the Barriers and Facilitators to Grant Activities in the USA.” Those who read this article will find it has broad applicability, not just to work in the USA but across most nations. The authors argue that research development in higher education is a service-delivery system and that research development professionals need evidence-based information on which to make critical decisions regarding strategic utilization of resources and in choosing client-centered grant-related services to provide for faculty.
Continuing with the theme of how research administrators can best support investigators, centers, and units in ways that have a positive impact on research productivity, a team of authors from across the University of the Western Cape, the University of Namibia, and Stellenbosch consider how institutional policies, practices, and initiatives can encourage research productivity. They survey a select set Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) regarding these questions. Respondents identified several key factors they saw as significant contributors to productivity as well as participants and processes that contributed to increasing those factors in research institutions. Critically, the findings of the study highlight the instrumental roles of university staff and students in creating essential conditions for research productivity.
Yet another manuscript in this issue that focuses on the central theme of enhancing research productivity comes from Dr. Santos, Ms. Carolina Varela and Dr. Martinez-Galen who were all working in Portugal at the time of their initial submission. They propose a management framework for more efficient approaches to research and innovation projects built on multiple pillars derived from a careful consideration of the literature.
Our next two papers focus their attention on issues relating to enhancing the success of clinical research. The first of these discusses the work of a national joint task force in Canada to delineate the core competencies for clinical research professions. The manuscript focuses on the case of the unique scientific and ethical considerations that are important to the work of professionals engaged in child health research. The authors, Dr. Ibrahim, Ms. Guerrero, and Dr. M. Goos, expand on that discussion to apply it to what they see as the overall aims of such efforts at professionalization including increased participant safety, enhanced research quality and greater regulatory compliance as well as improve job satisfaction and institutional engagement among the clinical research workforce. The second article focused on the enhancement of clinical research comes to us from a large and diverse team at the University of Minnesota who examined efforts there by their Clinical Research Support Center to develop a structured feasibility review process to address common clinical research study challenges. They discussed the impact of applying this process to 116 different feasibility reviews. They found the process to be highly effective in addressing a number of frequently occurring study design and resource problems, resulting in unfeasible studies being turned into well-designed protocols that are IRB-approved with few protocol-related stipulations and well prepared for execution. Among a number of other important findings discussed, the process was also found to help study teams write better quality and more robust protocols for subsequent studies.
The final two manuscripts in this issue turn their attention to issues that have required significant amounts of attention from research administrations in the daily operations of an office of research. Holly Zink, Dorothy Hughes, and Nathan Vanderford, employed semi-structured interviews to capture research administrators' experiences within four research questions: 1) how is a traditional research administration professional role defined today; 2) how does the chain of command respond to new professional roles; 3) how has the standardization of professional knowledge through education and certifications impacted the workforce; and 4) how does the distribution of tasks become fluid to get work done between the different research administration professionals? Based in their findings the authors discuss several ways in which roles in traditional research offices may be improved, including career growth opportunities for research administrators, and they offer insights into the social and administrative processes that drive the development of these extended roles. A final paper offers insight from a survey of NIH and NSF researchers regarding lessons that research institution administrators learn from researcher experiences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Insights from a survey of NIH and NSF researchers, Dr. Cargill and her colleagues across multiple institutions, note that the COVID-19 pandemic required research institution administrators and researchers to make rapid and unprecedented decisions about whether research should continue and in what form. In the fall of 2020, they conducted a national survey of 930 federally-funded principal investigators (PIs) who continued in-person research during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic. They investigated researcher perceptions of what shaped their choices about conducting in-person essential research and managing personnel during this time. By jointly interpreting the quantitative and qualitative data, they identified 10 concrete lessons that can inform administrator decision-making and best practices in preparation and response to crisis shutdowns of research if they happen in the future.
IMPORTANT NOTICES: I want to draw your attention to two process issues regarding the operation of JRA.
- There are new author guidelines that will be taking effect around January 2023. Please refer to the journal webpage below to see make sure you are using the guidelines that are in effect if you are submitting a manuscript at this time or if you are intending to do so in the future. https://www.srainternational.org/resources/journal
- I want to remind you that, in 2022, we began the process of pre-publishing articles online soon after they have been formally accepted. These articles, once copyedited and proofed by the authors will be both posted on the JRA’s webpage and then as part of the framework of the full Fall or Spring JRA issue in which it will be published. We hope that this will get the important lessons that our articles may offer readers to them to draw on much sooner. We also hope that it will encourage potential authors to consider JRA as an outlet for their work as will allow their work to be available in discoverable and citable form much sooner than if it was held until the formal issues were released.
This is my second year as Editor-in-Chief of JRA. I continue to be excited about being given the charge to continue to help move our field forward. Having the opportunity to receive and read the incredibly diverse and exciting array of submission we receive is one that I feel incredibly honored by as they reflect the work of so many talented and committed professionals. I invite you to email me directly with any input, questions, or suggestions you may have. Once again, I would be remiss if I did not mention how critical the hard work and contributions of the many people who support this work and their help as I have been honored to have their collaboration in continuing the tradition of excellence of this journal. It is the team behind the Editor that is essential to the success of the Journal. The administration of SRAI and the communications committee of JRA provide essential guidance and input on all phases of the Journal including being an essential resource in addressing unique situations. Holly Zink, who serves as Deputy Editor, is an invaluable professional partner, and an important personal support, in what might otherwise be an overwhelming task. I want to be sure to recognize her hard work and intellectual contributions – she is often called on for input with short notice and always comes through. The Editorial Board members are essential partners in ensuring that the manuscripts that appear in the Journal are exceptional and that they make valuable contributions to the work of our readers and the field of research administration more broadly. As the submissions to the journal have increased, they have gone far beyond what is reasonably expected in responding quickly and with great expertise. Without the countless hours, they contribute to the review process, the Journal and its continued growth would not be possible. The Author Fellowship Committee and the Author Fellow Advisors provide essential guidance to the Author Fellows as they develop and publish their first scholarly articles, and I am grateful that they will continue to provide this unique and vital work for JRA. Many behind-the-scenes SRAI staff have shared their knowledge, guidance, and expertise to my work as Editor-in-Chief. Gina Cuevas is not behind the scenes but is very much visible as on ongoing participant in working with reviewers and authors, always quickly, thoughtfully, and with kindness. As always, she merits special recognition and thanks. She is, as I have noted previously, the day-to-day beating heart of JRA – who ensures the production of the Journal meets the highest professional standards.
Lastly, and as always, if you are a non-SRAI member and wish to have the Journal delivered to you via email, please sign up through the online system at http://www.journalra.org