Reprint 1987: Research Administration in a Time of Change.

Author:Brandt, Edward N.
Position:Editorial - Reprint


If you removed the dates and the referenced NIH increased funding, this article rings as true today as it did thirty years ago. The world's universities continue to serve as an unparalleled knowledge generator, solving some of our most difficult questions. Yet, as the pace of research seemingly quickens each year, and correspondingly its administration, it is useful to turn back the clock and see from where we came.

As the author suggested, we, as research administrators, focused considerable time and attention to the issues of protecting researcher time, promoting interdisciplinary research, determining efficient facilities use and sharing, creating effective accounting systems, and planning the growth of our research enterprises. Yet, our field is ever expanding into other areas, such as information security and scientific misconduct. Thirty years ago, the thought of a multi-faceted class of professionals dedicated to the efficient and effective management and administration of research would be an unrealized dream of a stalwart few, yet, here we are.

I wonder what the next thirty years will look like and, when we arrive, what Journal article will we look back upon and realize that the path forward was laid out before us the entire time.

- Tim Linker, JRA Editor-in-Chief

Change. It is a very small word...only six letters...and yet, the meanings connoted arouse great emotions, including fear, anxiety, and occasionally great enthusiasm. Like all people, those of us involved in biomedical research are full of paradoxes. We deal in change virtually every day. New discoveries, new insights into biological processes, and scientific advances are the life blood of our activities. Yet, change that is not under our control is strongly resisted. Unfortunately, there is a lot of that.

Let me just review a few of the changes going on in the world around us.

First, the last 5 years [1981-1986] have seen massive increases in funding for biomedical research. Indeed, the NIH budget alone has risen over 50% in the past 5 years. That amounts to nearly $2.5 billion more funds available than in 1981. Yet, at the same time, we have seen competition for those funds also increase dramatically. In fact, at a higher rate. As a consequence, the percentage of submitted proposals deemed to be of scientific merit that are funded drops each year and is now at about 25%. This competition forces investigators to spend a great deal more time developing proposals and creates increased pressures to produce quickly.

Second, the rapidity of advances in...

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