Message from the President- Growing the Scholarly and Research Enterprise

By Vivian Holmes posted 03-05-2014 14:17

This issue’s theme Growing the Scholarly and Research Enterprise resonates soundly with me and
my institution, the Broad Institute.  So many of us work in environments in which the science is
extremely high level and fast moving. Often we may be intimidated by words or technologies we may
not understand and may be tempted to focus solely on our administrative role as if it were a separate
operation. Not only is this not necessary, it is depriving us of a richer experience where we may have a
positive impact. 

How gratifying it can be to align your mission as a research administrator with the research itself! To
recognize that the advances made in the treatment of diseases may have started with a proposal for
which you had calculated the needs and costs.  How powerful to play a role ensuring legal and ethical
compliance requirements were met prior to landmark discoveries. 

My institution requires everyone, regardless of role, to take training in the Protection of Human Subjects. The Broad’s goal to transform medicine with the power of genomics obviously requires human subjects and data. Incoming scientists and non-scientists learn basic principles of the ethical treatment of humans including the historical perspective as well as current regulatory and ethical issues. That our entire community understands and respects the responsibilities related to this research forms a connection.

In the early 2000’s, my Harvard Medical School (HMS) colleague, Shannon Connell, and I founded a seminar series we called “Fulfilling the Mission.” We enlisted busy and successful faculty researchers to share their projects and visions, in layman’s terms, to all members of the administration. Consistent with the HMS mission, their endeavors described in these seminars helped us to make that fundamental connection, reminding and assuring us that our administrative support was contributing to a truly greater good.

Here at the Broad, we have “BroadWay,” a similar forum for science and administration to come together. BroadWay has fostered the sense of community throughout our institution. Technical and non-technical presenters recognize the crucial link between all areas of administration and all levels of scientific pursuits and identify opportunities to join forces. Surely, the closer connection between these great endeavors and the administrations prepared to support them brings greater success. Learning the details is fascinating; knowing you have helped in any way to facilitate the progress, is exhilarating. 

If you can, find ways to better understand the research you are administering. Very talented faculty, postdocs, and graduate students are frequently skillful with “out of the weeds” descriptions of their work. In turn, share with them your non-technical explanation of overhead, conflicts of interest, export controls. Communication is crucial and even basic understanding improves the dynamic from either standpoint. 

A mutual appreciation and understanding throughout our research communities will make our jobs easier and our service more valuable.  We should also realize and appreciate that we, as research administrators, prove to be a vital component of extraordinary world-changing missions