The Senior Research Officer: experience, role, organizational structure, strategic directions, and challenges

Research commercialisation Research institutes Research management Universities United States of America

The senior research officer is an extremely important position at major research universities, playing a principal leadership role for what is typically a vast research enterprise. To examine the role within these institutions, the authors of this report interviewed 44 incumbents at US research universities during summer and early fall 2020.

Key findings:

  • Many research offices have grown substantially but there is considerable institutional variation.
  • Research revenue and research competitiveness are vital strategic priorities.
  • Research support is seen as a major competitive edge and is often a management challenge.
  • Growing tensions with China have produced a spike in compliance work and concerns about talent flows.

The senior research officer oversees an increasingly complex set of responsibilities. At the end of the report, the authors offer some reflections about how this role may change in the future and some of its possible implications for the structure of the research university more broadly.

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