Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Developing and heading up a research center is a most challenging charge. Anyone entrusted with such a task should, as Dr. Coombe of HCT has rightfully suggested, seek out best practice in this area because very few of us, if any, receive specific training to take up such a job. After all, most of us hail from teaching, and later develop skills and competencies in administration, spilling sometimes into management protocols and practices. It is not immediately clear which is the best model to follow, a business model or an academic model. For all I know, it may be that the distinction between the two is outdated; there has been much talk, for quite a while about the so-called BET model: Business and Education Together Model, signaling a shift in academic thinking that institutions of higher education are no longer ivory towers, islands of sorts that neither affect nor get affected by a sea of change around them. There is more to say about this model, for now, it may be safe to assume that the right combination of business interest and academic pursuit will produce a new breed of researchers and research centers that will have a real, useful and measurable impact on the socioeconomic environment.
Despite the temptation to make this relationship between academics and the business world the centerpiece of this post, I will maneuver myself in the direction of pragmatism and try to answer instead the question at hand, about how to build and govern a research center. I should like to allocate another post to bad/worst practice in research center building, but for now, I wish to produce off hand, in list form, the elements necessary for a research center planner to factor into the process.
In the circumstances, a research center planner has to think through the following points, not necessarily in this order:

1. The BET Model and the question about the balance of power
2. Mission statement
3. Vision
4. Logo
5. Program of action
6. Sponsor’s goals and agenda
7. Budget
8. Recruiting human resources including researchers and staff
9. Socio-economic environment outreach: associates and partners
10. Publicity campaign
11. Products and services
12. Returns for sponsor and participants
13. Physical headquarters
14. Web site
15. System of communication among members (possibly in the form of a wiki or FTP)
16. Management best practice.
It will be interesting to look into each one of these factors to determine more specifically what is at stake in each and how to go about implementing them in such a manner that they create a cohesive whole.

More on each soon.

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