The role of research administrators in universities or institutions is now more important than ever, given the increasing need for external research funding. Administrators’ work can make or break a collaborative project and define an institution’s collaborations, since cultural and procedural differences in dealing with project administration are inherent to European research consortia. Projects simply cannot perform without efficient processes running their engine.
In 2014, several young research administrators from Eastern and Central Europe involved in Targeted Network BESTPRAC went on short-term scientific missions (STSMs) at several universities and research institutes across Europe. They exchanged administrative and financial practices across all project stages and found ways of improving project partners’ collaboration. They also analysed the positive impact of research-oriented organisational structures on emerging partnerships.
Their findings showed common issues and pitfalls in administering EU research projects including their workflows, legal and financial matters.
Andjela Pepic (University of Banja Luka, Bosnia and Herzegovina) visited the Centre for Social Innovation in Vienna, Austria. Her conclusions shed light on good practices in project planning and implementation: a lack of understanding of partners’ roles, differences in communication styles and budget calculations can seriously undermine the project.
Findings also revealed efficient practices leading to streamlined, clear processes. Ms Joanna Kartasiewicz’s mission aim was to enable a knowledge transfer from the University of Ljubljana and the IDEC-Bled School of Management to the Kozmiski University in Poland. She outlined the best practices that the Polish university is keen on implementing: internal instructions and handbooks on managing EU projects, specialised trainings and related European certifications, joining research networks and a stronger focus on science communication. The two universities will also start a joint project aiming to engage research administrators in Eastern and Central European universities partnering in EU-funded consortia.
Andri Charalambous ( Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics ) visited the financial department at the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany, where she learned how to simplify audit practices by having a filing system in place for each project. She also learned that the finance department at Max Plank informs project members about possible underspendings and that the accounting department is asked for approval before proceeding with purchase orders.
Mission grantees also experienced more proactive approaches coming from research support offices. These include bottom-up initiatives reorienting research funding, identifying potential project coordinators and informing them about the opportunities at hand, rather than waiting for coordinators to knock on the right doors.
“Such short-term scientific missionsgreatly contribute to the overall success of the Targeted Network BESTPRAC, since they enable experience exchange and the knowledge sharing necessary to develop best practices, all leading to an increasingly efficient administration. Such missions help us better understand the different obstacles in research administration in different institutions and countries”, underlinedBESTPRAC Chair Jan Andersen and Vice-Chair Martina Pöll.
Building up on their experiences, BESTPRAC members are jointly editing a best practice paper touching on the network’s main objective: more efficient research administration all over Europe.
BESTPRAC is open to all interested in joining. Should you wish to join in the network, please contact the Targeted Network Chair, Mr Jan Andersen.