RM Roadmap is a project funded by the HORIZON Europe Programme (Grant Agreement 101058475), which aims to create a framework for Research Management (RM) by establishing a roadmap for the future of the profession and a community to support researchers in order to strengthen the European Research Area. The Preliminary Report on the ERA-wide landscape showcases the first results in the timeframe of the 3-year project, developed by Virág Zsár, (Senior Grant Advisor of HÉTFA) and Blanka Csite (Junior Project Manager of HÉTFA) in August, 2023.

The investigation consisted of multiple methods serving qualitative research, including literature review, focus group discussions, online interviews and the summary of the results of an in-person workshop. Following the literature review and the presentation of the preliminary results, the main gaps and needs are highlighted in order to give orientation to the project work for the upcoming two years. The richness of the preliminary results enables us to formulate recommendations to the various stakeholders, which can be found in the end of the report.

The most important findings are grouped into 5 different topics, as they follow:

1) Definition and terminology of Research Management

Defining Research Management is a complex task due to the diverse and constantly evolving nature of the profession. The complexity of RM roles and responsibilities makes clear identification challenging, hindering the establishment of a professional identity. To get a better understanding, however, it is worth analysing the verbs to underline the support role of research managers shared by participants of the focus group discussions & interviewees: help, connect, translate, guide, facilitate and enable. Our findings underscore how RMs support researchers in their research activities in many possible ways but often without recognition. Therefore, clarifying RMs’ role is vital to highlight its added value.

2) Job categories in Research Management

There is a significant diversity of RM job areas and categories across Europe. Professionals in RM can be found in services including pre-award, post-award, finances, research communications, legal issues, knowledge and innovation management, research policy, research funding, research infrastructure management and research data management, and so on. Therefore, given the diversity of the fields, it is even more important to underline the importance of the profession to stakeholders. One solution could be to create a Charter or Code of Conduct to facilitate their recognition and also allocate dedicated budget line and sufficient resources for research management related tasks.

3) Professional development and career path

There are existing Professional Development Frameworks (PDFs), however, our preliminary findings revealed the lack of official career framework for RMs within the European countries.

Both interviewees and focus group participants reported that there are some research managers, who are proactive and individually develop their expertise by looking up available trainings or webinars. However, in most cases professionals do not have time or resources to exploit these trainings and build their personal career. As a solution, it would be important to establish professional associations (if they do not exist yet) and incentivise opportunities for professional development including certification programmes and trainings.

4) Relevant skills and competences of Research Managers

RM professionals “possess a wide range of skills and abilities”. Based on our discussions with RM roadmap ambassadors and workshop participants we created a preliminary table of skills and competences, which reconfirms the variation of skills needed across RM roles. The identified skills were categorized into four groups: 1) transversal skills, 2) RM related soft skills, 3) RM related hard skills, and 4) specialization or role-related skills.

It is important to underline that different job roles and categories require different skills. To ensure a comprehensive understanding of required skills, it is recommended to form a Europe-wide competence matrix aligned with the specific job roles.

5) Institutional best practices

The best practices identified through the interviews are excellent examples to clarify and develop relation with other colleagues at the research performing organisations. However, internally, they can also enable to make supportive and motivating environment for the colleagues working in RM. Some examples also showcase how Research Supporting Organizations (RSOs) can increase their strategic role and demonstrate their added value.

The report ends with the formulation of recommendations for stakeholders including national and European policymakers, research funding organisations, research performing organizations and professionals on the field.

We can conclude that our findings are in line with the literature but give a more recent and detailed overview. In order to get a more detailed picture, we are working on the full report by analysing the online survey results collected from the survey, which is available here, (open till May 2024) and validating these results through the co-creations organised by the project RM Roadmap. The full report is due to be completed by June 2025.

The Preliminary Report is available on this link.

More information of the RM Roadmap Project can be found on this website.