Research Development: Reflections from ARMA

It was great to attend the Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA) conference in Liverpool this week. Despite battling the wind and rain to get to the venue it was a great couple of days. It was good to catch up with colleagues and clients, old and new, over the three days. There were a variety of interesting discussions and key notes which reflected the ever changing landscape of research management, particularly within the context of Brexit and the election today. Some of the key take away messages and impressions for me from the conference were:

1) It is really important to keep applying for EU funding. The UK currently puts around £2 billion into the EU research funding pot and receives just over £3 billion back which is an excellent return on investment. By applying we not only continue to access this important funding stream but it continues to highlight the importance of it and keep it in the mix in Brexit negotiations.

2) The breadth and quality of research done at small and specialist institutions is really impressive. At Cloud Chamber we are lucky to work with a number of them including Newman, Harper Adams, St Mary’s and Bucks New universities and given the tight budgets and resources that they have access to they really do punch above their weight and do impressive work.

3) Despite being so great at punching above their weight the challenges at small and specialist institutions can be huge. The session on Managing current awareness at small institutions which was delivered by Arts University Bournemouth provided a great insight into the day to day life of running a small research office and the tensions that can exist between operational and strategic tasks. This highlighted an appetite for an ARMA group to be established to look at supporting those who work in research development in smaller institutions. This group could help them to network, learn from and support each other.

4) As a professional group we need to find effective ways to lobby funders for more realistic time-scales to develop applications. This is particularly important for calls that require complex partnerships, often those which require overseas partners like Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Coupled with this, given this is a new and emerging research area it is really important that feedback provided to applicants is clear and constructive as this will help all university partners to develop stronger, more relevant and timely applications.

5) The research management community is incredibly supportive and people are always willing to share experiences, resources and ideas. This is really evident amongst those that work in small and specialist institutions. What was clear is that there are lots of free resources out there ranging from blogs to templates for different documents, polices and procedures and that these can be really helpful in making sure your research office is in the best possible place to support research in your institution.

Next year ARMA is joining up with international partners to deliver INORMS in Edinburgh. It will be a great opportunity to build collaborations and learn from international research development partners. It should be a great event but in the meantime there is much to do, including voting today!