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Research Support Officers

Working Group

Chair: Matthias Röder

Dr Matthias Röder works as head of international funding at the Research Management Division of the University of Cologne. He was awarded a PhD in Physics by Ruhr-Universität Bochum for his work in particle physics at Forschungszentrum Jülich GmbH. After two years as a Post-Doc, he joined the administration of the Forschungszentrum and started to work in research management.

Vice-Chair: Mari Riipinen

Mari Riipinen is the Head of Research Development Unit at the University of Turku since 2017. The unit has 20 development specialists and it is responsible on developing research ethics, organizational research policies, research impact, open science, research infrastructures, CRIS-system, coordination for research flagships and multidisciplinary research profiles. Riipinen has been active in research collaboration networks, open science task forces and expert groups. Riipinen began her research support career in the research funding (pre award) already in 2009. Before her career in research administration Riipinen worked as a researcher in international research group and she did her PHD in human geography.

Focus of Working Group

Research is an integral priority enshrined within the institutional strategies of each member of the Coimbra Group.  Together with education and innovation, research is critical to addressing, not only national and European challenges, but global challenges also.  The Coimbra Group provides a unique and valuable forum to its Members to influence European research and innovation policy and to share and develop best practice in research support through the mutual exchange of ideas and experience. 

The increasing complexity of the research landscape, research policy, research programmes and funding, and in particular, the European Union’s Framework Programme underscores the rationale for greater and enhanced cooperation across research.  This is underpinned by the individual experience of each Member University in such programmes which collectively provides an important platform from which to share experiences, inform best practice, and shape policy. 

The Research Support Offices of our universities are important enablers of research that provide supports for researchers and institutions in the development and delivery of their research objectives and strategies.  The Coimbra Group Research Support Officers Group brings together representatives from the Research Offices of each of the Member Universities.  The membership of the Research Support Officers Group comprises in excess of 60 members from across the Network. Additionally, the institutions regularly choose send experts to the topical meetings.  The Working Group aims to explore, develop and provide intelligence on common areas of interest while at the same time making provision for enhanced communication and an exchange of ideas/experience across the different levels of experience.

Through the core areas of activity, the Research Support Officers Group seeks to:

  1. Support the Executive Board to shape research policy in the development of position papers to European Research Policy and through increased interaction with similar networks and national stakeholders for joint advocacy purposes.
  2. Share best practice and experience in research management and support;
  3. Promote knowledge exchange through the exchange/hosting of research support staff;
  4. Synergise with other Coimbra Group Working Groups to add value and support the objectives of other Working Groups as they relate to Research and Innovation;

Priorities for 2022-2025

  • Research Advocacy:  With a focus on the European landscape, understand shifts and changes in the research landscape to inform emerging shifts in policy and funding programmes and priorities.
  • Research Policy:  With a focus on the European research landscape, understand the policy background to the funding programmes and examine policy foresight/megatrends to respond to changes in research policy and increase the awareness of researchers to these changes and evolving best practice.
  • Training for Research Support Officers:  Continuous professional development – developing and enhancing the skills base around the professional support of research and research leadership – though exchanges, hosting arrangements and training events aligned to specific themes.
  • Sharing of Best Practice of Research Management and Research Support:  Developing and enhancing knowledge and experience in supporting and managing research.

Recent highlights

  • The RSO WG members jointly contributed to the second iteration Covid Report.
  • Throughout 2021 and 2022 the RSO WG has been in continuous contact with the Executive Board to inform upcoming changes in Research Assessment Reform, ensuring the needs of researchers and universities are at the forefront of developments.
  • In November 2021 the RSO WG initiated a joint WG meeting to disseminate and discuss the SHAPE-ID toolkit for supporting interdisciplinary research, which a number of researchers and universities are now implementing as a result. This was followed by a focused RSO WG meeting on specific measures for RSOs, and where we shared practices between RSOs for supporting the development of Interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research.
  • In March 2022 the RSO WG invited the new EARMAimpact thematic group to a collaborative working meeting where the novel evaluation of ‘Impact’ during the first year of Horizon Europe was reviewed. This productive meeting allowed members to share experiences and learnings across universities and formulate recommendations for universities, actions for the RSO WG and EARMAimpact, and recommendations for the European Commission towards simplification.

Ongoing / Forthcoming activities

The Work Plan organises around a bi-annual meeting of the Group, supplemented by other opportunities to progress the work of the Group, e.g., Stakeholder engagement/consultation opportunities, the Coimbra Group General Assembly and the Coimbra Group High-Level Policy Series.  Furthermore, the Group will explore the use of other mechanisms to enhance communication and the exchange of information within the Group. Leveraging learnings from 2020-2022, meetings may be completely online, face to face or in a hybrid format. All members of the Group are consulted on agenda items of common interest and in the identification of guest speakers for meetings on matters relating, not only to research and innovation, but also to the professional development of the members of the Group.  

For the timeframe of this Plan, the host for the Q3 meeting of the Group each year has been agreed as follows:

2022 – Brussels Office

2023 – Uppsala University 

2024 – TBC

In determining the timing and content of meetings, consideration will be given to the timing of other events/annual conferences which may present a conflict for members, e.g., ARMA/EARMA/LERU meetings.  Clashes shall be avoided as much as possible, notwithstanding time and budgetary efficiencies that shall be considered in terms of complementarity of timing.

Given the dynamic nature of the research landscape and the ever-evolving and ever-changing drivers, priorities and agenda, the Work Plan is not intended to be overly specific or descriptive.  Rather it reflects an intent to explore and prioritise themes of common interest as they emerge.  Up to date, such matters included the Shaping of Horizon Europe, Research Impact, Mission-oriented research, Open Science and Data Management. As additional themes for the timeframe of this plan, the members of the group identified the University Alliances, the Research Assesment Reform and the Higher Education Transformation Agenda.

To support the professional development of its members, the Group will seek to provide training on matters such as communication styles, leadership psychology, managing upwards, and motivating researchers also. Concerning the training of professional skills, the members of the group prioritise the writing of Impact Plans, the support of interdisciplinary research and policy implementation. As funding programmes the European Research Council and Marie Skłodowska Curie Actions will be in focus.

The Coimbra Group through its membership has links with EARMA and the Society of Research Administrators (SRA) in the US and historically we have evidence that emerging issues within the US research landscape cross the Atlantic to Europe, examples include Research Integrity.

Successful delivery of the Work Plan is dependent on the active participation of all members of the Group.  In that regard, the Work Plan is intended as a living work in progress document that will be updated annually in line with scaled-up activities and emerging priorities. The Workplan actions have been sequenced under each Core Area by the level of prioritisation as indicated by the members of the Working Group.

The Chair and Vice-Chair are continuing to work with the Group and the Executive Board around strategic research topics where the Coimbra Group can have an influencing voice at the EU level for the good of its members.

Contact person at the CG Office: Benjamín Martínez Sanchis (martinez@coimbra-group.eu)