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Module 2: Commencement and Collaboration – Putting Ideas Into Practice

Topic 3: Management – small, medium, and large projects

Leadership and management is central to the success of research projects. Your management structures will differ according to the scope and scale of the research program. It is important to have these in place at the commencement of your project. Your clear management structures will, within the scope of your project, enable successful and mutually beneficial collaborations to occur. Management should be formalised and leadership roles should be clarified at the outset of your project. Management structures will differ according to the scope and scale of the research project. This topic will explore different management structures. You will also need to consider the composition of executive management groups, committees, and advisory bodies – the groups that may oversee the implementation of planning, monitoring, and evaluating the activities of your project and research team. Project governance is dealt with more extensively in ‘Module 3: Governance and Compliance – Protecting Yourself, Your Research, and Your University’, but because it is intrinsic to successful project commencement and collaboration it is also raised in this module.

Learning outcomes

After completing this module you should be able to:

  • Develop a management framework including decision-making and communication policies, systems, and processes
  • Negotiate competing interests, needs, and wants
  • Determine the elements and understandings that need to underpin the project's legal agreements
  • Establish and maintain healthy collaborator and stakeholder relations.

Topic content

Read the following notes.

The issues around project governance are dealt with more extensively in ‘Module 3: Governance and Compliance – Protecting Yourself, Your Research, and Your University’.


Complete this activity after you have worked through the subtopics.


Safeguarding the Murray–Darling: Management arrangements for a medium-sized project
Using the core case study, ‘Safeguarding the Murray–Darling’, and using the principles of good management outlined in this topic, consider and identify a basic management structure for any one of the eight research sub-projects. Assume that the project represents a collaboration between your university, the MDBA, and the local Indigenous community. This would fit the model of 'medium-sized project' as explained in this module.

You will need to identify and describe the following roles/responsibilities: Director, Chief Operating Officer (COO), group leaders, executive, and advisory board. Spend about 15 minutes on your response to this task.


Using the information in the module that relates to the size of the project you are currently involved in, identify changes (if any) you would make to the current organisational structure of that project and identify the outcomes you would help achieve by making those changes.

Additional Reading/Activities

Most universities offer a range of support services to researchers. Some services that can be useful at the commencement of your research project include:

  • Academic mentoring services (usually offered at a faculty or school level)
  • Workshops and information sessions on topics such as research project management, financial management, staff recruitment, and legal and contractual requirements for accepting funding. These sessions are usually run by university research offices, finance offices, human resources, and legal offices.

Management mechanisms and funding agreements for large research projects (Centres)

Examples of the management roles and responsibilities for large research projects are outlined in the following documents:
Australian Research Council (ARC) Centres of Excellence Funding Agreement 2005 Schedule B of the agreement sets out management mechanisms required for ARC-funded Centres of Excellence (including participants, senior centre management, and advisory board)
(Note that the following link is to an rtf file.) 

Department of Industry: Cooperative Research Centres Funding Agreement:

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