Managing a Research Project

Sound management of research contributes to the successful completion of research activities and can aid in maximizing research outcomes. Desired outcomes of research may include: the publishing of research results, training highly qualified personnel such as graduate students and post-doctoral fellows, or the development of a new technology.  In order to realize a research outcome, resources have to be identified and planned.  Resources include the people, equipment, facilities, and materials required to conduct the identified research. In order to produce the desired outcome, or to maximize the outputs of the research, these resources and the associated research activities have to be carefully managed. Project management processes can be applied to a research project to aid in the planning and management of these resources within the confines of the project objectives (scope), project timeframe (schedule), and project funding (budget), in order to maximize the success of a project.

For a more detailed overview of Project Management, please view the ‘Introduction to Project Management’ video. Researchers are also encouraged to review ‘A Project Management Guide for Researchers’ which is an educational guide that introduces the concept of project management and helps communicate the potential value that project management can add to research projects.

Downloadable PDF Guide: Research Project Management Guide – January 2018

Video Link: Introduction to Project Management

To further aid in the management of research projects, a Research Management Methodology has been structured to provide a foundation of common practices in the management of research projects within Memorial University of Newfoundland. Through a research project life cycle approach, this methodology can be utilized to identify and implement recommended project management processes, tools, templates, and learning resources applicable for each phase of a research project. Furthermore, the research project life cycle approach allows for the identification of possible institutional/sponsor requirements that maybe applicable during the life of a research project.

Using this research project life cycle perspective, the Research Management Methodology categorizes the management of a research project into five (5) distinct phases:

  • Proposal Preparation
    • A funding opportunity is identified and a research proposal is prepared that addresses the funding requirements of the sponsor. Creating a project plan that incorporates the project scope, schedule, and budget is a fundamental aspect of this phase. For the majority of projects, the proposal will form a baseline or preliminary plan for the project.
  • Pre-Award Services
    • Once a proposal has been approved by a sponsor, the required contribution agreements are developed and a research account is created prior to commencement of project activities. In order for an account to be opened there may be some key institutional/sponsor requirements (i.e. Ethics, Intellectual Property Management, Non-Disclosure Agreements, Material or Data Transfer Agreements, etc…) that have to be completed.
  • Plan Project Execution
    • This phase involves refining a project baseline plan (the proposal) in order to carry out project activities. The baseline plan may need to be updated to reflect sponsor imposed conditions on funding. Also at this phase, further project scope, schedule, and budget planning can be carried out to detail and clarify project execution plans.
  • Conduct Research & Review Progress
    • Once a research account is in place the research activities can begin and project related expenditures can be incurred.
    • As research is carried out, results are analyzed, reports are prepared for relevant parties, and corrective actions against research activities may be taken. In practice these monitoring activities are carried out while you are conducting the research.
  • Final Reporting
    • Finally, once all research activities have been completed, a final report for the relevant parties may have to be prepared depending on the funding requirements, and/or administrative actions are carried out to end project activities.