|In the years since our last Strategic Plan was formulated, the world seems to have turned upside down. Political upheaval, economic constraints, changing skills requirements, and public mistrust in research are combining to create an environment where everything we know is being questioned. How do we, as the representative body of the UK’s research leaders, managers, officers and administrators, help our members not only to negotiate these turbulent times, but also to succeed?
Our Strategy for 2018 sets out our objectives for the next three years. It focuses on the transformative actions we intend to take to reach these objectives. And it builds on the activities we already deliver that add value for our members. Our focus in this Strategy has been to identify ways to enhance our offer, increase value for money, and deliver even more benefits for our members.
ARMA Strategy 2018
Our mission is to enhance the profession of research management and administration, and to facilitate excellence in research through identifying, establishing and exchanging good practice in research management and administration.
We work to deliver our mission by:
- Delivering training and development events
- Providing information, advice and support through regular newsletters, communications and guidance materials
- Facilitating networking for the exchange of best practice and for mutual support amongst members
- Promoting strategic partnerships within and around the sector
- Facilitating one-to-one mentoring and providing financial support for individual professional development
- Representing the collective view of UK research managers and administrators through engagement with government, industry, charities and third sector organisations, and policy makers and influencers
- Raising the profile of research management and administration as a profession.
By now, we’re familiar with the scenarios that the polls failed to predict, both here and across the Atlantic. Outcomes of both the EU referendum and US elections have spawned policies that are at odds with the higher education principles of diversity, collaboration, and academic excellence. We are on the road to leaving the European Union, with little understanding of how this will impact our research funding, or the movement and right to work of foreign nationals. Against this background, the Higher Education and Research Bill has been enacted, receiving Royal Assent in April 2017. The Act includes the creation of a new body – UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) – that will be the ‘strategic centre of the UK’s research and innovation funding system’, and Research England, designed to ‘oversee the England-only functions in relation to research and knowledge exchange’. At the same time, we’re preparing for the next Research Excellence Framework, and work on a Knowledge Exchange Framework is underway. Both are likely to be affected by the new UK Industrial Strategy, published in late 2017.
This unstable political situation means that funding sources for research are, at best, uncertain. There are opportunities – not least, the Global Challenges Research Fund and the new Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund – but continued access to European Union assets has not been confirmed. The new funds will support capacity building in the UK and developing countries, and provide resources for university collaborations with industry and business, all with a focus on finding solutions to the world’s biggest problems. Success will be driven by effective networks, and the sharing of information and knowledge, both in the UK and overseas.
Building partnerships will be an essential factor in benefiting from these opportunities, just one part of the skillset that will be necessary for any successful research office. Transformations in technology, globalisation and demographics mean that the traditional roles of research administrators and managers are changing. More complex teams will be created, bringing together multiple disciplines and areas of expertise, much of which will be based outside of the research office and the institution. Technological advances will continue to affect the ways in which we work and communicate with others. And leadership skills – being able to act as an influencer, a translator, a learner and a teacher – will grow in importance across all career levels. We will work on further aligning our training & development programme, annual conference and qualifications with a refreshed professional development framework to reflect these changing requirements.
All of this is looking in towards our research activity. But we also need to look beyond our institutions, engaging the public and restoring their faith in the research that institutions deliver. Growing public trust in research will be essential in securing access to funding in the future, and – more importantly – to enable the research outputs to be translated into effective solutions to the challenges we face. This means putting an even greater emphasis on research integrity, being confident in our research data to evidence results, and conducting all our business in a more transparent way.
The review of governance in 2017 established a set of guiding principles against which to test decision making, activities, and commitments. These guiding principles our also underpin the Strategy for 2018.
We’ll work to improve ARMA’s ability to make a positive contribution to the research policy landscape and to strengthen representation of research management and administration as a profession. We’ll continue to develop our member services and activities to assimilate the emerging research and funding landscape. We’ll encourage debate and discussion with external bodies, linking our members with the broader sector.
Engage and influence objectives
- Working with senior ARMA members – the Advocacy Group, SIG Champions, and others – to identify key policy topics to focus our attention
- Delivering Research Policy Forums and Executive Roundtable events to influence policy makers, brief members and gather opinion
- Developing a series of policy briefings and guidance for members
- Designing and implementing a system to engage and manage relationships with external stakeholders
- Developing a framework to involve members in policy responses
- Exploring the appetite for changes to the Association with members, including merging with other associations, moving towards chartered status and/or shared services
- Reviewing the name of the association to ensure it reflects status of the profession and the membership, retaining the brand value
We’ll strengthen relationships with sister associations and related professional bodies, in the UK and internationally, to benefit the member offer. We’ll create opportunities for greater networking and sharing of practice among members, and link to our members to professionals in associated fields. We’ll work with partners to develop a new bursary programme. We’ll create a legacy from the INORMS 2018 Congress, making resources available to INORMS members around the world.
Build and connect objectives
- Establishing regional networks for our members
- Developing and supporting the SIG networks
- Exploring additional ways for greater SIG engagement with ARMA strategy and governance
- Building productive relationships with potential partners, in the UK and overseas, and working towards developing new offers, such as training and/or capacity building
- Exploring the potential to acting as a broker for a professional exchange/ secondment programme with sector mission groups/ institutions
- Exploring the potential of a bursary programme to support professional exchange
- Capturing outcomes from INORMS to share on a digital platform
- Creating relationships with other sector bodies representing related professional services within and beyond the sector, to review potential models for Executive Office and delivery of ARMA activities.
We’ll focus on enhancing skills within the profession to lead change and increase resilience. We’ll support our members to develop their understanding of both the political world and policy development. We’ll seek to understand the impact of changes in the workplace, and help our members to manage the convergence within teams and across service. We’ll update the framework that guides our professional development activities and we’ll ensure that our qualifications continue to meet the needs of the changing profession.
Transform professionalism objectives
- Explore the value of developing a code of professional conduct and professional attributes for our members
- Refreshing our Professional Development Framework, in partnership with sister associations, and delivering an associated toolkit. This be set against an understanding of the different skills required across the research team, and the include a suite of leadership events and opportunities for members to develop relevant skills (for example, networking, advocacy, and governance skills).
- Building closer working relationships with Vitae, PraxisAuril, HESA, and others to develop new Training & Development activities that reflect the changing needs of the sector
- Re-establishing the ARMA mentoring programme to meet the changing needs of our membership
- Delivering leadership summits at INORMS Congress and ARMA Conferences
- Review and evaluate all aspects of the ARMA qualifications, in the UK and overseas
We’ll support our members to recognise the value of diversity in improving organisational performance. We’ll respond to changes in the sector by supporting emerging areas of professional practice and expertise. We’ll work with partners to identify and share best practice, and work with members to uphold the principles of research ethics integrity. Our focus will contribute to building public confidence and trust in research results.
Promoting and supporting objectives
- Building partnerships across the sector to create professional guidance related to the research agenda, including JISC for Open Data; and the Forum for Responsible Metrics.
- Supporting the principles of research ethics & integrity, by working with Vitae and UK Research Integrity Office (UKRIO)
- Developing and sharing good practice in relation to audit, compliance, GDPR, due diligence, diversity, and good research governance
The new Executive Office will manage the operational priorities that support the delivery of our strategic plan, guided by the principles established in 2017. These put member benefit and value for money at the centre of the decision-making process.
Enhancing member experience objectives
- Reviewing the business model for all our activities, including proposed new initiatives, to ensure value for money and the continued sustainability of the Association
- Creating a communications strategy, to drive member engagement and support discussions across the member community
- Developing a rolling programme to review cost effectiveness and fitness for purpose of ARMA systems and processes
- Considering changes to the membership offer, including associate members and/ or institutional membership
- Gathering and reviewing information on the protected characteristics of our members and using it to inform ARMA activity
- Implementing the outcomes of the Governance consultation
- Promoting equality and diversity throughout our governance structures
- Developing a framework for reviewing Board and committee effectiveness on an annual basis