I was given this book by a friend after a conversation that included two loosely connected facts about me:
This BBC article and the accompanying comments exemplify the complex relationship most people have with their work email. In addition to being the communication tool that was intended to be, email and how one manages it now have the added elements of reputation, performance, ownership and personality to contend with. Email has also expanded its role from communication to be a filing and archive system, a reporting tool, and a time management system. But it is a tool and not a master, and it should be something that we manage, not something that manages us.
I'm occasionally asked about how to become a project manager (and sometimes about how to become a good one, which is the better question). Usually these questions come from someone looking to make a transition from some other role in research (sometimes from a trainee looking balefully ahead to a life as a PI, casting about for a more palatable alternative), but sometimes also from someone inquiring about our team and how it came together and works so well.
I've been in this environment for over 10 years now, and one thing I've learned - every season is grant season. While the spring and fall have the majority of the fixed deadlines, RFAs, PAs and other special announcements from various funders introduce additional deadlines at random times of the year. There are also those grants that require peer review panel presentations, the ones with multiple levels of application (the LOI, followed by the full application, followed by the "opportunity" to submit supplemental info), and the ones with extensive post-award pre-launch processes that make for much scrambling around on short notice - made all the more intense by the allure of the almost-funding. Once you have the grant, the deadlines just continue, with reporting requirements, meetings, advisory boards, interim reviews. And those are just on the science side. On the admin side, there is also the perpetual prospect of an audit that might suddenly appear on the horizon.
I read almost daily the observations and ruminations of others in the genomics and scientific fields, and thought perhaps someone somewhere might be interested in the perspective of a non-scientist imbedded in a scientific environment. I work within a large genome centre in Canada, and over the past 11+ years, we have established a team of project managers and coordinators, working with our PIs and collaborators to manage project and research activities, including facilitating grant applications, planning budgets and schedules, report writing and compilation, and just about anything else required to support successful projects.
While there are many people at other institutions that support researchers in their project and grant endevours, I've found that our team here is unique in both its structure and role within the centre. We are neither strictly research administrators nor grants facilitators, but do fulfill those roles in part when required for our projects. Our primary role is to manage the projects, taking responsibility for communications, cost, schedule and scope management. We don't DO the research - we ENABLE the research.
I feel extremely fortunate to have found myself within a centre that truly values the contributions of project managers to the research activities. I get to work in a dynamic, intense, fun, and rewarding place to be, and I'm proud to be a part of what we do here.
My aim with this blog is to share my experiences and lessons learned, as we continue to manage projects within our research environment. Things like strange encounters with PIs, challenges with funding agency rules, frustrations with submissions, and the day-to-day successes and oddities of this line of work.
Who is Robyn?
My career as a research project manager is rewarding, dynamic, challenging, and fun. I'm looking forward to sharing my knowledge and experience in communication, organization, and common sense approaches in research management and leadership, and to enabling others to learn and grow in this exciting career.