Research Infrastructures and Core Facilities are a vital element for the realization of the European Union as a knowledge-based society. They are at the core of the Open Science and Open Innovation strategy and standing pillars for excellence in science.

But who exactly are the leaders of those institutes? What kind of competencies do you need to successfully run a RI or CF?

RItrainPlus aims to design a training program to fulfil the competency requirements for current and future managers of European RI and CF, with first pilot courses to be published at the end of 2022. The final goal of the project is the creation of the European School for Management of RI (ESMRI).

To create the best possible training materials for the managers, empirical research was made to better understand their specific needs. Mixed-method research was conducted at the end of 2021 and in the beginning of 2022 and was shared with the rest of the RItrainPlus group in January 2022. The research included a quantitative online survey with 330 participants and a qualitative expert survey among 17 participants and was conducted by Dimitri Prandner and Philip Sinner from Johannes Kepler University in Linz (Austria). 

The managers are a diverse and highly-educated group

The aim was to find out what makes these institutions successful and what their members with diverse backgrounds need in their career development. What kind of challenges do they encounter? What kind of training do they need?

Out of the respondents of the survey, around

  • 45% are working in natural sciences or engineering
  • 20% come from the social sciences or humanities
  • 15% are in field of medical or life sciences
  • 20% are not affiliated with a specific scientific discipline

The respondents were highly educated. Around two-thirds of the staff had completed a PhD (60%) and another 5% aimed to do so. The majority of the respondents were quite experienced: more than 10% had spent 25 years or more in the domain, while half of the respondents had at least 11 years of professional experience at a RI or CF.

This is also reflected in their current positions: around a third of the respondents were responsible for managing a RI, CF or another institute. Another third was leading smaller teams and projects, while the rest were either junior staff or not interested in taking or qualified to take over leadership roles.

“One of the key tasks for RItrainPlus is to respond to the needs of these highly educated, highly experienced professionals”, says Philip Sinner from Johannes Kepler University, who was the Head Researcher in the project. “It is a demanding audience, so we are definitely looking to tailor the courses to their specific needs.”  

What skills are needed the most?

The most central skills for managing an RI or a CF were communicative, interpersonal, networking and management skills. The open answers highlighted, additionally, the importance of interaction and communication skills. Other responses emphasized the importance of excellent writing skills, going beyond proposals for grants and scientific publications, which were not seen as essential. Legal and intercultural skills were not as much in demand as the others – an interesting observation considering the international nature of many RIs.

Technical skills were most in-demand by respondents coming from the natural sciences and engineering, while representatives from medical and health science RIs and CFs had the highest demands of interpersonal and management skills. Social scientists and humanities had the highest scores for publication, networking, grant acquisition, intercultural and legal skills.

The research also looked into what kind of qualifications managers were looking for in employees. The main four categories were scientific excellence, flexibility and curiosity, interdisciplinarity, communication skills and service orientation. 

What do you think, does the survey reflect the situation in your RI? Join the conversation in the Community of Practice Facebook group.


Have a look on our survey
What do you need to run a Research Infrastructure? Here are three skills managers need the most