Managing Research Projects

Managing Research Projects

Why develop a research team?

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Working as part of an effective project team can be an immensely rewarding experience, both in terms of personal satisfaction and achievement of the project goals.  It can also be incredibly frustrating, especially if researchers in the team have different working practices, priorities or agendas to either the Research Team Leader, or to each other.

The Pros of Effective Team Development

Time spent on ensuring that the research team is working effectively, is time well spent.  A team will only operate at its best if every member is working effectively both individually and as part of the overall team.

In order to achieve this, the Research Team Leader needs to help researchers understand:

  • their role in the project and how that integrates with the roles of other team members, including administrative and support staff
  • the contribution that they are expected to make to the project, with deadlines and timescales
  • how communication and decision-making will be managed
  • how they will be supported, by other team members and by the Research Team Leader  

In order to be able to do this, the Research Team Leader needs to understand:

  • the particular skills and capabilities of each member of the team
  • the context that each team member operates in – culture of the country, culture of the organisation, culture of the discipline
  • the aspirations, personal circumstances and professional development needs of team members
  • the range of team development, communication and decision making tools available to them  

The Cons of Effective Team Development

If adequate time is not spent on building good team working then individual researchers may continue to work as individuals rather bonding together as a team.  This may cause difficulties in managing individual’s contribution to the project goals and it may mean that researchers do not naturally help and support each other through project pressure points.  It will also mean that team synergy is lost and that teams struggle to achieve something that is `greater than the sum of its parts’.

Conflicting rather than harmonious working relationships may have farther reaching repercussions on future project work, for example under-achieving teams will have greater difficulty in securing further project funding and individuals may refuse to work together on future projects.

These resources will provide support and guidance in three main areas:

  1. Operational issues
  2. Managing team dynamics
  3. Obtaining and maintaining engagement

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