Managers are extending reach into research

A managerial culture is growing in universities as they “position themselves to align more systematically with government and industrial sectors”, a conference has heard.

December 13, 2012

Nick Fowler, managing director for academic and government institutions at the publisher Elsevier, said that his company had observed the change via a rise in demand for management information.

“Whether universities should be managed as drivers of economic growth or not, the fact is that significant forces - perhaps most of all government policy - are spurring them to do so,” he told the Higher Education Policy Institute’s autumn conference in London on 5 December.

He said that 20 universities use a research information system owned by Elsevier to boost income by capturing more details of their work, which helps them to achieve “better alignment with the shifting foci of funding sources”. Of the UK’s top 20 recipients of research council funding, the combined grant income of those using the service grew by 12 per cent compared with the previous year, while grant income for those not using the system shrank by 11 per cent, he told the conference.

Other recent trends include the movement towards “Snowball Metrics”, a system of data and metrics created by universities to allow comparisons across the sector. Eight institutions, including the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge and University College London, have developed an initial set in partnership with Elsevier.

“Showcasing” the data gathered to demonstrate the utility of research was another trend, Dr Fowler said, who noted that organisations such as Universities UK and mission groups were increasingly commissioning and publishing economic impact studies.

The UK research councils have also launched systems to collect information about research outcomes to demonstrate to the government the value of the work they fund.

“Universities and funding bodies are investing to broadcast information about themselves and their strengths to prospective collaborators, including from government and industry, as they seek…talent, funding and investment,” Dr Fowler added.

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