In this post, Alicen Nickson (Deputy Director, Research Support and Development) at Brunel University describes the challenges faced by Research Managers when it comes to managing an institution’s funding portfolio, and how the work being done by the G4HE project could be useful:
The University Research Manager engages in a wide range of activities to facilitate their institution’s research. This includes supporting the generation of external research funding. Being effective in this role requires us to understand and manage our funding portfolio. This entails a number of challenges such as:
How do we address such challenges? My team collates a range of information on our portfolio of research funding. We put this into an internal database from which we generate reports for numerous internal and external stakeholders. Like any other Research Office, we maintain fairly comprehensive records on all our grant proposals and awards. However, this does not tell us how our performance compares to others. Perceptions of success, and the consequent targeting of resources, might alter when we better understand relative performance.
It also does not tell us where research funding is actually going, (assuming we are not winning it, of course!) For example, which researchers and groups are receiving most funding under a particular funding scheme or theme? Such intelligence can help us to identify opportunities for developing mutually beneficial collaborations.
If reviewing Research Council funding, it is possible to find out more about others’ funding successes through systems such as ‘grants on the web’. That is fine in theory but, in practice, for many of us there is limited time and resource to actually do this. With the advent of the Research Council’s ‘Gateway to Research’, there is the opportunity to access information on all their funded grants. However, as it stands, the system has not been designed to meet a Research Manager’s needs, with its current target audience being SMEs. The simple availability of information does not necessarily mean it will be used, or add value to what we already have available.
As busy Research Managers with numerous (often last minute) deadlines, what we need are simple tools that sort and analyse the available data on a timely basis. In addition, we need to be confident in the provenance and accuracy of the data, and be able to download data sets for incorporation with internal databases. As time and resource are increasingly at a premium, the availability of such tools to provide management information will be increasingly essential. The more efficient and effective such tools are in enabling access, to and use of, available data, the better we can do our jobs.
The G4HE project is focused on doing just that. By building a number of tools that make use of publically available Research Council data, this should provide additional resource for Research Managers. These tools have been developed on the basis of consultation with volunteers from the Association of Research Managers and Administrators network, so are targeted towards our specified needs. It will be interesting to try these out and see what can be gleaned from the new intelligence available to us.