World class research deserves world class support.

The world moves forward, understanding improves, and research needs become ever more sophisticated. As research administrators and researchers alike have pointed out for years, the needs of the sector evolve as research sophistication increases.

Bluntly put, more sophistication demands more funds.

But it’s not just the rising costs of facilities, staff and materials, or the ceaseless march of advancing technology drives those costs. Sophisticated and complex research is a magnet for ever-evolving regulation.

Here’s just one example: the more universities commit to digital transformation (an enabler of greater sophistication in not just research but also in education), the greater their cybersecurity risks. In response, legislative amendments have made cybersecurity obligations levied upon universities more complex. Other examples might include the iterative changes to ERA and EI, which always levy their own administrative costs upon universities and take thousands of hours of labour, or perhaps how increased international collaboration in research has been met with a new national security process.

The problem of funding more and more complex research always attracts commentary about revenue. It should also create conversations about the costs of administration, because—if we’re honest—rising research sophistication is very rarely accompanied by concomitant rises in systems or process sophistication. Unsophisticated and inefficient systems and processes exacerbate administrative overheads, and in the end, they mean that universities don’t really extract the full value from what funding they do get.

Australian universities are doing world-class, complex and sophisticated research, but their support structures are often decades out of date, and no longer fit for the purposes to which they’re put. They’re still subject to old and inefficient systems and processes, like:

  • Systems lack integration and require data to be exported, rearranged and imported again elsewhere
  • Research budgets are kept in spreadsheets which are then emailed around to relevant recipients
  • Accrued technical debt encumbers processes, leaving them inappropriate for their modern uses
  • There’s double, and even triple, handling of information, exposing processes to unnecessary human error

All of these inefficiencies take time and cost money, and every one of them can deliver stronger return on investment than the current industry standard. An evolving landscape of research sophistication and cost, universities must ensure their systems and processes are the equal of their sophisticated, complex, world-class research outputs.

ResearchMaster is an industry-leading research management system, designed to help you streamline your research administration. For more information, contact us.

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