Experiences from the Certificate in Research Management

We cannot afford not to have excellence in research administration

We challenge ourselves to achieve excellence in research and excellence in education but we cannot afford not to have excellence in administration.

Professor Björn Gustafsson, Dean of Faculty, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

 

It met my expectations, and beyond!

Janne Ostvang, Research Adviser, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

 

 

As of August 1st 2018 15 candidates have now completed the Certificate in Research Management (CRM). The CRM is a work based accredited qualification designed to help students and professionals to consolidate their knowledge and skills required to be successful Research Managers. Further details can be found here.

Janne Ostvang, Research Adviser & Certified Research Manager, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Janne Ostvang, who is one of the first candidates from the second cohort to have recently completed the certificate, talked to us about her experience from the course and her expectations of its impact on her future career.

Janne is a research adviser and administrative leader at the Faculty of Medicine and Health (MH) at Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim. She holds a PhD in biotechnology and has worked in research administration (RA) for 12 years. Her position in RA includes a wide specter of responsibilities, including leadership support, the coordination of core facilities and a local grants office.

Prior to her career in RA Janne worked as a researcher. Although she still has a genuine interest in cell biology and natural sciences, changes in her private life made a career as a successful researcher impossible to pursue. She still wanted to work in research and was offered a position as a research adviser. The task of a research adviser is to make sure the researcher can spend his time on research, and her research background gave her the advantage in understanding the needs of the researchers and how they work.

With 12 years of experience in RA she is considered to be an experienced administrator so we asked her opinion about how the CRM can be useful to those who are already highly skilled in RA. Janne first heard about the CRM at an EARMA conference before the first cohort was started, but she didn’t pay much attention to it. She was not convinced she needed this training and thought she would just surf through the classes and the assignments however her line manager encouraged her to go. She studied the course plan and found it highly relevant, and when she was offered a small scholarship from NARMA (the Norwegian branch of EARMA), she agreed to take the certificate, after all at the very least this would help her to widen her network.

The program turned out to be more work intensive than she anticipated, and the support from her line manager has been vital. She was given the time off from work to attend the workshops, but the assignments that can take about 30-50 hours each, with six in total, had to be done after working hours, over the weekends and during holidays so over the last year she has had to prioritize her spare time carefully.

However, the assignments are well set up as each assignment is written as a report using the participant’s own organization for case studies. For each topic the performance of the organization was assessed, and improvements were suggested. Janne discussed the assignments with her line manager in order to select cases that were priority topics for the organization. To ensure that her employer got value for sending her on the CRM, she also shared her assignments with colleagues who were interest in reviewing them.

It met my expectations, and beyond!

Looking back over the time she was completing the course, she realized quite quickly that she would not just surf through the CRM.

Janne learned how to justify changes with good background information, and equally importantly, that the information must be delivered in an understandable manner.

  • I experienced during the assignments that the presentation of the work was important. People with different backgrounds and culture understand the same thing differently. This is extremely valuable to be aware of during my work.

A mentor was assigned to her for the CRM, the mentor was an invaluable gift who gave fundamental contributions to the work. The discussions in the workshops and with the mentor made her understand the importance of seeing the issues from several perspectives.

She has earned a new highly valuable international network that she hopes to be able to nurture even after all the workshops and assignments are done and she realized that you will always have things to learn, no matter how experienced you are.

Janne’s advice to colleagues around Europe enrolling on to upcoming cohorts is to:

  • Be prepared. Do the pre-workshop tasks to be prepared for good discussions at the workshops, then you will be more prepared to start with the assignments when you get back home.
  • Set aside enough time. If possible, try to block your calendar for a full day
  • Use the network of colleagues from the cohort, set up skype meetings to discuss the assignments.
  • Finally, be persistent and determined!

Professor Björn Gustafsson, Dean of Faculty, Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

We have also met with the Dean of Faculty, professor Björn Gustafsson and asked him how the university management level values the profession of research support and administration. Professor Gustafsson is very clear in his statement: “We challenge ourselves to achieve excellence in research and excellence in education but we cannot afford not to have excellence in administration.”

He further expressed that highly skilled administrative staff are vital to support their academic activity. When they need to cut budgets administrative staff need to work more efficiently, and only by having the right competences can they work better with less resources.

Unlike many European universities, Faculty of Medicine and Health (MH) at NTNU don’t have a centralized grant office. They build distributed research support teams that serve a group of researchers both pre and post award. The teams work independently of each other but they interact regularly for mutual learning and coordination of initiatives, and they take advantage of the specialized competence provided by centralized staff. Janne is at the central level and will serve as the main coordinator of the teams. She will bring the teams to a higher strategic level and they expect to see a movement from a focus on the individual team to a sense of community, from “us and them” to “we”.

On-the-job training, personal development and career opportunities are important elements of the working environment they want to provide for their work force. A systematic approach to competence development that leads to a certificate and eventually shows on the paycheck is highly motivating. People stay longer and become better at what they do.