Anthea Lipsett reports on a course to teach leaders of research projects ways to build and manage a team
Academics who struggle to run large, complex research projects and lead research teams will be able to hone their skills on a new management programme from September.
The Leadership Foundation for Higher Education is launching a pilot programme for research leaders as part of a series on research management that it plans to develop.
The pilot will focus on the practicalities of building and leading a research team and on ways a leader can support individual team members.
Research leaders will also get help in improving their communication skills, internally and externally, and will learn how to handle the conflicts that arise in institutions that are under pressure from several strategic priorities.
The programme will look at how research sits with other institutional priorities such as teaching and learning and administration.
Handling funding and infrastructure will be covered in more detail later in the series, said Ewart Wooldridge, chief executive of the foundation.
"There was no systematic programme on even the basics of team development and leadership, so that's why we are doing it," he said. "There was no provision for equipping people to manage research projects that are often very large and complex and involve collaborations with lots of different parties. What we have found is that the process of leading higher education institutions is becoming more and more complex and, in that context, managing research may be more challenging."
He said that the intensification of the research assessment exercise process underlined the importance of the course.
Sir Lawrence Freedman, vice-principal (research) at King's College London, said: "You could run a management course just on making sense of the most recent stages of the RAE saga.
"There is more of an audit culture now, and this requires people to be more professional about managing research. You also have to be much more sensitive to the career development of research staff. The more you put into that, the better the results you get."
Quality control of grants was also important, Sir Lawrence said. "Research, well beyond the RAE, is vital to the financial wellbeing of top universities, so it can't be an amateur job."
The six-month programme will use live case studies from those on the course and two weeks of seminars to work through how to handle the complexities of large research projects with multiple partners.