Group of Eight Australia
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Settling In: The Researcher's Guide to Your University

6.1 An outline of the Future Research Leaders Program modules

Project management operates in a cyclical pattern, from the original start-up and conceptualisation of the project through to the finalisation and closeout of the project. The Future Research Leaders Program offers learning modules similar to this induction module to assist researchers in building more comprehensive skills relating to project development, implementation, and completion. The following areas of research management are particularly critical to the successful enactment of a research project. These have been developed in the modules and are described below. As you read the descriptions, consider if these are worthwhile areas of skill consolidation for you in the next year.

Module 1: Research Strategy and Planning

Our universities are strongly encouraging research which demonstrates excellence and recognises and complements the larger strategic context. Many research projects are closely linked to industry, collaborative research communities, and/or within a larger program of research. Effective research must be carefully planned to achieve the best outcomes for the researcher/s, the university, and the furthering of knowledge. This first module explores the initial stage of research project management: designing and costing the project as well as operating within the broader research and political context. This module is suited to any researcher who is developing a new grant proposal or project area.

Module 2: Commencement and Collaboration – Putting Ideas Into Practice

There are many issues to address once funding for a research project has been obtained. The researcher must coordinate the development of the research concept and team, implement good project management processes, including effective management of any risks, and also encourage strong intellectual and emotional engagement with the project. This module explores the first year of a research project to ensure successful start-up and consolidation. The module is extremely valuable for all grant recipients.

Module 3: Governance and Compliance – Protecting Yourself, Your Research, and Your University

The researcher is bound by significant governance expectations, responsible research practices, and the need to comply with statutes and regulations. This module examines the context in which research operates and the resultant requirements for research practice. The need to operate within a university framework of governance and responsible research practice and statutory and regulatory requirements is also explored. This is ‘must know’ information for all researchers.

Module 4: Intellectual Property and Commercialisation

The intellectual capital within the research project needs to be carefully preserved and managed. This module provides an overview of how intellectual property is defined and managed in a university context. Research projects must operate within the funding and resource constraints agreed at start-up. The researcher must therefore carefully manage resources to ensure they support the full research life cycle. This module explores some useful principles and practices for managing the financial processes, assets, and risks attached to research. It emphasises the importance of monitoring the progressive expenditure and management of the project to achieve the agreed outcomes. This is a very useful module for research leaders and team leaders.

Module 6: Grant and Contract Administration

Research grants and contracts are legally binding agreements between the provider and the researcher. This module explores the nature of research grants and contracts. It examines the principles of effective grant management and explores the responsibilities of the researcher with respect to the execution and reporting of project outcomes. It is essential for any researcher with responsibility for grant execution.

Module 7: Managing and Leading People in a Research Context

Research projects require some particular approaches to managing people. This module builds on Module 2, where the initial employment of the research team was explored. We will explore the researcher's own personal management skills, the ongoing management of the research team and allied contributors, and particular management issues that may arise. We will focus on management within the distinctive research context of constrained periods of employment and tight timelines. If you have responsibility for managing students, research teams, a research centre, or a program of research, this is most important. It will make a real difference to how your group operates.

Module 8: Project Closeout

The successful completion of a research project requires a number of closure processes relating to research, people, finance, knowledge, assets, and media management. This module explores these processes, promoting effective closing out of the project lifecycle. This topic is largely ignored by many people – with some disastrous results. The module offers valuable insights into how to finish a project in an exemplary manner – and move toward new projects from the old. This too, is useful for anyone with responsibility for grant expenditure.

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