The Europe-wide action supporting the capacity building and knowledge exchange of Research Managers and Administrators (RMA) came to the end of its current funding period. BESTPRAC, the Voice of Research Administrators funded by the COST programme from 2014 proved to deliver impressive results regarding the number of professionals involved, organized conferences, meetings, trainings and staff exchanges. HETFA became an active member of the Action in the last two years since Virág Zsár, the Coordinator of the Division for International Cooperation became the Vice-Leader of the working Group 1.
The final meeting lasted for two days. The first day, on 5 September was dedicated to Working Group meetings organized along the different focus points of RMA work, namely administration, finances and legal issues. Working Groups concluded their work and also widened the knowledge of their members with regard the closure of Horizon 2020 projects and the planning of the next EU funded research framework programme, Horizon Europe. The plenary session attended by all participants focused on the importance of the RMA profession by presenting the results of a recent study completed by hands-on experiences and suggestions for the future.
The study presented by Virág Zsár was conducted by HETFA Research Institute, primarily through an online survey circulated among BESTPRAC members. The Discussion Paper under the title ‘Research Management and Administration: a profession still to be formalized’ analysed the advantages and disadvantages of this almost non-existent profession and also aimed to provide a basis to design an educational programme to train RMAs at higher educational institutions.
The outcomes of the study were illustrated by practical insights and future vision by Nik Claesen, managing director of the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators (EARMA). As a conclusion it can be stated that RMAs love their job and face very similar challenges in their work throughout Europe. The key issue underlying their support is to increase the efficiency of research management. Through the efforts taken towards the professionalization of RMA job the future is promising, however, important efforts are needed through various measures, such as lobbying for Europe-wide support and recognition, training and networking opportunities. (The presentation is available here.)
The second day of the event took place at the headquarters of the COST Secretariat in Brussels. Besides presenting the outcomes and results of the action, testimonials were presented. On behalf of RMAs, the experience of our colleague, Virág Zsár was shared. Accordingly, BESTPRAC not only represented opportunity for networking, knowledge exchange and professionalization for the Division for International Cooperation of HETFA, but also enabled our colleagues to start coordination of H2020 and COST projects. Moreover, the Erasmus + project recently approved under the title foRMAtion gather some members of BESTPRAC and will strive to elaborate an international module for potential RMAs at partner universities, and hopefully, beyond. (The presentation is available here.)
Then the discussion led by Ronald de Bruin, Head of the COST Secretariat aimed to point out the most pressing issues of the European research landscape in general, and particularly for RMAs. The competition is increasing, whereas cooperation and knowledge sharing is needed to support those countries which are lagging behind in research and innovation. The gami is changing the EU funding landscape, and the rules will never be really simplified. RMAs represent therefore a clear competitive advantage for any research organization.