Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Stakeholder Analysis Report 1

On Tuesday we had our 3rd Project Board meeting. For that I prepared a short presentation with an overview of my data. I had previously emailed them a list of stakeholders I had interviewed with some comments. This gave them an idea of the kinds of (administrative/academic) areas that have participated so far. I also prepared a couple of slides to help me send a clearer message.

And this is roughly what I said:

This is an overview of the kinds of stakeholders I have met which give me an idea about their particular interests in the project and their needs of research activity data.

Top down – Bottom up (slide 2)
First, I found opposite views in terms of what stakeholders perceive of BRII. Whether some people see it as having a Top-down approach or being imposed from top levels of the University, other people see it as being a Bottom-up initiative allowing researchers make their work more visible among the administrative levels and outside the University. Mostly administrative staff at departmental and University levels have a bottom-up perception and academics have a top-down perception. The following are short profiles for these groups:

Academics already get the information and visibility they need and want. They do not have an interest beyond their field, (which can comprise interdisciplinary sub-fields), and beyond the network of connections they already have. Getting more contacts and promotion is part of their job but they do this by attending conferences and publishing.
  • To find information about finished projects, they see publications
  • To find information about current and new projects they attend conferences and request information from Research Services
PIs do not use the web as much as one would suspect. They are limited to academic journals and databases, some of them use bibliographic indexing systems and e-mail based alert systems, telling them about new publications in their area. That is how they find information about people and potential collaborations.
Some of them think web-visibility is important because they know that the sponsors see their websites - but due to their multiple responsibilities updating their websites gets pushed down. Academics belonging to competitive research areas put more effort in updating their information online.

Administrative staff‘s job involves overseeing a number of projects, mostly from the financial, project management point of view. They are driven by the need to get more money for the departments/units from external funding. Strategies are drawn to see how this can be achieved. All of these strategies also aim at increasing competitiveness to achieve better visibility and reputation in the eyes of sponsors, visibility and reputation on individual and departmental levels.

Some strategies involve recruitment, some others mentoring and some others tracking and controlling current projects. Other strategies involve promoting collaborations and finding particular expertise needed. The more competitive the area the more essential collaborations are. For all these tasks there is a need for information within and outside their fields of expertise. (within=current projects, outside= current and potential collaborations) Administrative staff have to deal with huge amounts of information which they get from multiple sources and which they format according to their needs. A system which helps them (1) manage and (2) find information would be very useful for them.

At (high) University level needs of information crossing academic fields is more essential. People here are not specialised or looking for information on their field but on information that provides an overview of what is going on in the University. Finding information on academics and/or activities using not specialised language is important as this information is being searched by someone who is not an expert and will probably be disseminated to a variety of people who may not be experts as well.
The bars in slide 2 represent a continuum of needs of information from stakeholders. If you go more to the top you will need information crossing areas and connecting information from different sources. If you go down the continuum you need to get in-depth information on specific areas, which can perhaps complement and enhance academic journal or databases? This can be connected to the idea about a zoom in - zoom out tool I wrote a few weeks ago.

The right hand side bars represent flow of information. The actual information on research activities is generated by the researchers, this is their information. Academics make use of this information, particularly publications, which is relevant to their field(s) of expertise. Requests for this information are made by administrative staff at departmental level so they can keep (financial) control of their research activities. At University level requests of information are made to departments, information which summarises and highlights some of their research.

Research Culture (slide 3)

Research culture is a spectrum of cultures which go from the Humanities to Sciences. I have drawn this as a spectrum to emphasise the fact that most researchers are not located in either extreme but in between the extremes.

Humanities: researchers tend to work on their own. Need fewer resources. Some academics have never got a research grant in their life. Outcomes: publications and books. Their findings are more permanent in time (of course I do not want to generalise to all researchers in humanities.)

Sciences: work in bigger projects (time and size), they get their money from external funding (hence the need to be more exposed to sponsors, and the more competitive mentality.) They need specialised resources, buildings and technology. Outcomes, publications, software, discoveries, findings which can be applied in practice (e.g. drugs, treatments) some of their findings are ephemeral in time. (Of course I do not want to generalise to all researchers in sciences.)

The bigger the project (size, interdisciplinary, collaborations, resources) the more need for funding. For this, being able to sell/advertise their research to sponsors is vital.

Current Systems (slide 3)

With respect to sources of information, the bigger the area the bigger the need to organise and manage data.

Smaller departments are able to manage their information manually or with spreadsheets. They centralise the control of data and the administration of research activities. There is one person gathering information to upload in the website.
Bigger departments have systems or more staff managing their data. They are able to distribute some administrative responsibilities such as updating websites and reporting.
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