Research and Development is big business. Global spending on R&D has reached a record high of almost US$ 1.7 trillion. As part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, countries have pledged to substantially increase public and private R&D spending as well as the number of researchers by 2030. As an example, Australia spends in the region of A$34Bn per year (13th largest by country) on R&D, equivalent to 2.2% of GDP (ranked 15th globally) – half of which is conducted in private industry, the other half in universities and other research institutions.
This doesn’t happen by chance. Over the past few decades, a profession has emerged and now established itself that incorporates all those individuals who provide strategic, management, technical, administrative, or clerical assistance to support the research endeavour. These research management professionals are employed in specialist teams in public and private organisations.
The problems facing the world today are complex global challenges that cannot be solved by researchers working in one organization or even one country alone. Fortunately, the rapid internationalisation of society is producing increasing numbers of globally minded and mobile researchers who are working to solve these problems through collaboration on a world-wide scale. However, the rapid internationalisation of the research environment does not come without problems of its own.
Research management professionals are at the forefront of adapting to many of the challenges associated with the globalization of research and academia, for example:
Partnerships and innovation
Researchers are not only expected to generate scientific achievements but also bring the benefits of their work into the ‘real world’. Research management professionals are thus required to promote collaborations between universities and industry or other non-academic sectors to facilitate connections between the people and skills needed to develop the research and implement or commercialize the results.
The nature of such trans-sectoral research may also invite (or necessitate) funding from unconventional sources, such as donations or crowdfunding. In such cases, research managers must also assist researchers in engaging with stakeholders and the public to ensure that the benefits of the research are widely understood.
Research evaluation and impact
The acquisition of university and research budgets is becoming ever more dependent on performance evaluations, from those of individual research projects to assessments of entire universities. In some parts of the world, universities are striving to be placed among the top-ranked institutions globally, using metrics to identify their strengths and weaknesses. In others, the spotlight is on the benefits of research outside academia, and maximizing and communicating research impact has become a top priority.
Continuing professionalisation of research
A successful career in research requires continuous education and professional development. Exposure to new ideas and cultural environments, established scientists, or enthusiastic early-career researchers from other sectors and research fields stimulates both researchers and research managers to assess their current skills and expertise, broaden their horizons, and develop new goals for their future career progression. Mapping out these needs and developing the tools and resources that will prepare our researchers to successfully take on these new opportunities falls to Research Managers.
Enabling global research excellence
The Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS) is the Australasian association of research management professionals.
Since its founding in 1999, the ARMS network has grown to serve over 30000 members from universities, independent research institutions, government and health and research organisations primarily from across the Australasian region including Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.
ARMS aims to create an internationally connected community of research management professionals who operate at the highest standards to influence, support and enhance the global delivery of research excellence.
ARMS is dedicated to the development of research management professionals; the promotion of the profession of research management; and the advancement of the research enterprise.
The Society fulfills its mission through:
The Society values and strives to deliver:
Our seven-year Strategic Plan guides culture and provides direction to decision-making and actions towards 2025 to ensure the delivery of ARMS’ mission for its members. The following strategic priorities shape the programs ARMS delivers, the services it provides, and the management of its business and finances to grow a sustainable and successful Society.
Preparing for the future
A recent example of how ARMS embodies these priorities to help prepare its members for the future was its partnering with the US-based Society of Research Administrators (SRAI) to host a joint conference on the disruptive trends which are likely to affect the global research management profession. Senior leaders from organisations across Australasia and the US met in Hawaii (as a convenient mid-point in the Pacific between continental US and Australia) to understand these trends and ideas for adapting the workforce to future needs.
Amongst many themes, the conference had a strong focus on disruptive innovation and the technological transformations of:
• Genome sequencing
• Energy storage
• Artificial intelligence
When combined experts predict these emerging capabilities to have three times the economic impact (in real terms) over the next decade as the combined platforms of the telephone, automobile and electricity in the early 1900’s.
To highlight just one of the changes impacting on the sector, a hotly debated topic was the impact of Blockchain on the dissemination of research findings. Whilst the concept of ‘open access’ to research data and publications has been discussed broadly; one interesting development was the introduction of the concept of how Blockchain might disrupt the role commercial publisher’s play in scholarly publishing. Simply put, Blockchain files’ fundamental benefit is that they carry their histories with them. The concept is that each research article would be encoded with its own origins, revisions, peer review, and details about data and methodology. The aim would be to make publishing affordable and fast, with researchers making their research publications openly available themselves with additional incentives for peer review.
With a continual focus on best practice and future trends, the global investment in research and development is clearly in safe hands. Through the activities of ARMS, and our sister societies around the world, a network of research management professionals are being trained, connected, and empowered to enable global research excellence.
Dr. Ross McLennan is the President of the Australasian Research Management Society (ARMS), www.researchmanagement.org.au.