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Institutional Strategic Awards includes a team of Research Project Managers which provide SFU researchers with the support for developing, implementing and sustaining complex research and research-related projects.

While project management standards have been the norm in certain sectors for many years, they are relatively new to the world of academic research.  In recent years, as we have seen a shift toward larger grants and greater collaboration across research institutions, sectors, private agencies, and disciplines, the need for intentional project management within research has become more apparent.  A project manager can help manage resources and ensure coordination and oversight of research activities, schedules, budgets, and risk.  This frees investigators up to focus on delivering research results, rather than on administration and paperwork.  SFU values the contributions Project Managers can make to research proposals and projects, and therefore has a team of Research Project Managers within its Institutional Strategic Awards (ISA) team. 

What a project manager can do for you will depend on the needs and scope of your project. Below is a list of sample tasks a PM can perform.

Proposal Development Management

  • Serve as the liaison between the researchers, the funding agencies, partnering institutions, administrative units, and SFU academic units (e.g., Faculties, Departments, Schools)
  • Facilitate communication and collaboration across activities, researchers, collaborators, funding agencies, internal units and departments, and external stakeholders, including end users
  • Facilitate internal and/or peer reviews
  • Coordinate the timing of proposal sections
  • Provide budget development support
  • Ensure eligibility of expenses
  • Ensure general compliance of the proposal with both SFU and funder requirements
  • Ensure that downstream barriers to the success of the project are identified and that plans are in place to remove barriers and minimize risk
  • Ensure that partner contributions are firmly committed and reflected appropriately in the budget, proposal, and letters of support
  • Coordinate institutional letters of support and associated cash/in-kind contributions from internal units and departments
  • Provide appropriate templates/resources/tools that facilitate the development of successful proposals, with particular attention to non-research criteria (e.g. EDI, risk, etc.)

Post-Award Management

  • Serve as the liaison between the researchers, the funding agencies, partnering institutions, administrative units, and SFU academic units
  • Facilitate communication and collaborative relationships across activities, researchers, collaborators, funding agencies, internal units and departments, and external stakeholders
  • Assist with project launch, including coordination of account set-up, agreement execution, defining project leadership roles, and template preparation
  • Develop management, schedule, and funding plans that provide project structure
  • Coordinate the overall administration of the project
  • Develop tools and processes to facilitate project goals and needs
  • Coordinate all reporting
  • Recommend the allocation of funds and administer expenditures
  • Ensure the project stays in scope, on schedule, and within budget
  • Monitor expenditures to ensure that funds are spent as planned and within budget
  • Develop performance measurement indicators and assess variances
  • Identify risk and compliance issues and develop possible solutions
  • Provide direction and advice throughout the project lifespan
  • Troubleshoot problems so as to remove barriers to successful project completion
  • Serve as the project sponsor; it is the role of the PI to lead the project
  • Serve as a technical expert or provide reporting on technical subject matter
  • Coordinate technical staff on the project
  • Assist in performing research
  • Replace the role of the project accountant, Faculty-based research facilitators, or departmental/school/Faculty managers
  • Provide clerical support
  • Write grants

There are many advantages to utilizing an ISA Research Project Manager instead of trying to find your own.  ISA Research Project Managers:

  • Have extensive project management experience 
  • Are familiar with SFU processes and systems
  • Are familiar with funding agency programs
  • Are already continuing SFU employees; you do not have to go through a formal hiring process to utilize their services
  • Are part of a larger team of project managers, providing backup support in case of illness or vacation
  • Can typically help for the entire duration of your project rather than potentially leaving early as they try to find their next project as yours wraps up
  • Can provide flexible, as-needed, and/or part-time help with your project

Located within SFU’s Research Operations units, the ISA RPM will work directly with you to meet your project needs. Despite these advantages, there are times when it may make more sense to hire your own project manager, such as when:

  • You are seeking a project manager with a specific technical background
  • You require a project manager to assist with lab administration (Note: the skillset of a project manager and a general/ lab administrator can be quite different)
  • You need a full-time, multi-year project manager 

In general, it is best to hire a project manager who has direct project management experience.  Having a postdoctoral fellow, student, or lab administrator take on the role of project manager typically does not go well, as the requisite skillsets are quite different; they may lack in-depth knowledge of essential SFU policies and processes, and their primary responsibilities could be negatively impacted.  A project manager should be able to anticipate what is necessary on the project and put tools and measures in place to address upcoming needs, all with minimal direction from the investigator(s).  For example, a project manager should know when/how to proactively put in place a budget, schedule, communication plan, and risk matrix for the project, rather than responding to issues as they arise. 
If you have or intend to have someone managing your project who does not have much project management experience, contact ISA (isa@sfu.ca) to find out what project management resources may be available to support them.

Assignment of the time of an ISA Research Project Manager (RPM) is dependent on the project’s scope, level of risk, or institutional nature.  In some cases, RPM time may be automatically assigned to a project; in other cases, you may contact the ISA to discuss the project needs and appropriate level of RPM support.  An ISA RPM’s level of involvement on a project could range from:

  • Identifying general project management needs that another project manager can help fulfill
  • Providing support or oversight to an on-the-ground project manager
  • Assisting with particularly challenging aspects of your project
  • Conducting the full management of your project

If you are seeking a project manager for a new or ongoing project, please contact isa@sfu.ca.  If it is determined that an ISA RPM is not a feasible option, the ISA may connect you with other project management resources.

If you prepare a proposal for a project that might need project management support, include a budget line for project management.  ISA can help you determine if such costs are eligible and what amount is realistic depending on your project needs.
 

 Please see Research project management - Tools and Resources.  If you have a resource you would like us to include, please let us know (isa@sfu.ca).  We would love to hear your ideas and suggestions!

Don’t forget to join SFU’s Project Management Community of Practice so you can stay apprised of upcoming training and networking opportunities at SFU: https://sharepoint.sfu.ca/sites/its/pmo/CoP-PM/SitePages/Home.aspx.

Pre-Award

ISA RPM support is available for the following programs (please consult the relevant ISA program page for more details):

ISA RPMs can also assist with the following programs, subject to capacity:

  • NSERC Discovery Institutes Support Grants
  • Genome Canada: Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP)

Upcoming/anticipated competitions for which ISA RPM support may be available:

  • Canada First Research Excellence Fund
  • Canada Excellence Research Chairs
  • NDRIO Inaugural Funding Opportunity – Funding Stream 2
  • CFI Major Science Initiatives

Post-Award

ISA RPMs support a variety of projects, initiatives, and research chairs at SFU.  Some recent/current examples include:

  • CFI Innovation Fund
  • CFI John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF) 
  • BC Knowledge Development Fund
  • WD Regional Innovation Ecosystems
  • SSHRC Partnership Grants
  • NSERC Strategic Grants
  • NSERC Emerging Infectious Diseases Modelling Initiative
  • NSERC Industrial Research Chairs
  • CIHR Team Projects
  • Networks of Centres for Excellence (NCE)
  • Canada 150 Research Chairs
  • Canada Research Chairs
  • Genome Canada: Large-Scale Applied Research Project (LSARP)
  • Grand Challenges Canada: Stars in Global Health
  • Universities Canada: QES Advanced Scholars Program
  • BC Salmon Restoration and Innovation Fund
  • PHAC COVID-19 Sero-Surveillance and Research
  • Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation: COVID-19

Please visit our Project Management Community of Practice page for more information.