The DARMA blog offers an opportunity to share your thoughts or start a discussion on any topic relevant to Research Administration and Research Management.

The blog is open for everyone to read. However, you must be logged in to write new posts and comment on existing posts. This is a forum for DARMA members and affiliates to share knowledge with peers.

You are welcome to systematise and sharpen your reflections on your recent conference participation, discuss your learning of a workshop, start a debate about our profession, share tips and tricks on best-practice etc.

If you have a suggestion for something that should be covered or someone who should be invited to contribute, please contact the DARMA Secretariat.

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  • 14 Jun 2016 09:02 | Anonymous

    Som varslet på årsmødet (tak for sidst til dem af jer, som var der), så har vi den årlige DARMA-tur til Bruxelles i støbeskeen.  I år ligger turen tirsdag den 8. november til onsdag den 9. november 2016.

    Udover moules, chokolade og belgiske øl så er der jo også et fagligt indhold. Temaerne er indtil videre:
    • EIC
    • Midtvejsevaluering
    • Implementering – evt. simplificering – her overvejer vi besøg af revisorerne til snak om, hvordan ansøger undgår fejl. 

    De har i Bruxelles på nuværende tidspunkt fået følgende aftaler på plads:
    • Chris North – policy officer i DG Research
    • Morten Helveg Petersen – MEP – sidder i ITRE-udvalget.
    • Peter Hertwich – ansvarlig for implementering af H2020
    • Christian Walther Bruun - Dansk medarbejder udsendt til kommissionen og arbejder med midtvejsevaluering af H2020

    Det betyder dog ikke, at der ikke kunne komme andre spændende ting på programmet (eller vi kan i hvert fald forsøge). Så sidder du med noget, som vi skal prøve at få nogen til at komme at fortælle om, så skriv til Stine (stbj@via.dk) senest torsdag den 23. juni, og så vil vi se, om vi kan få det hele til at op.

    Når det kommer til processen, så bliver det lidt som 90-års fødselsdag. Same procedure as every year James. I hvert fald lige som sidste år. Der er et begrænset antal pladser, så på baggrund af tilmeldingerne vil vi fordele pladserne til institutionerne. Institutionerne må herefter selv fordele de tildelte pladser. I august følger en mere detaljeret plan for turen samt link for tilmelding.. Alle får besked først i september.

    Så lige nu og her er det med at skrive det i kalenderen og tænkte på gode emner, som vi skal sende til Bruxelles og få med i programmet.

    Med ønsket om en god sommer med masser af moules frites


    På vegne af DARMA bestyrelsen

    Stine og Jakob

  • 07 Jun 2016 22:15 | Olaf Svenningsen (Administrator)

    One week has passed since DARMA’s Annual Meeting 2016, where c. 70 delegates met from lunch-to-lunch to listen to talks and discuss relevant topics. Over half of the delegates have evaluated the conference (the evaluation is still open...), and to my great pleasure, the meeting was a success: it would seem that we have found a good format for future Annual Meetings that we will fine-tune based on the constructive and relevant input from the delegates. 

    Here I would like to share some of my own thoughts about the Annual Meeting—and about this kind of conferences in general—with you:

    About presentations and topics: The presentations at this meeting scored an aggregate average of 4.5 out of 6 possible in the evaluations. As always, opinions were strongly divided about the presentations, which can have many reasons. Presenters can have good or bad days, technology can interfere in different ways – bad sound, weak projector, slide problems etc. Murphy’s Law – anything that can go wrong, will go wrong – definitely applies to conferences, and the program caused major headaches this year, but I have already written about that.

    We do make an effort to make the program as generally interesting as possible, and balance it to be as attractive to as many of DARMA’s members as possible. Anyone who thought that the program was not interesting to them, should to tell me and/or the board what was missing or wrong. I of course thought the program was very interesting, but anything else would be silly. I do realize that people have different preferences, but very few members do communicate their wishes and opinions. I would personally wish that many more did; it does not have to be elaborate and we really do listen…!

    Talking about listening: if it is difficult to hear the presenters, please say so and ask for a microphone! There is no shame or error in asking. When you are up front, it can be impossible to tell whether the sound is good in the entire meeting room. Also, I personally intensely dislike wearing microphone headsets, but it is often necessary.

    About technology: All delegates at the meeting noticed the technical problems with the video connection to Stockholm – that was not my most pleasant moment, I assure you. However, we had tested the connection and ran through the presentation the week before, and also just before the session started, and it worked perfectly both times. Still something went very wrong. Why? The server at Vetenskapsrådet in Stockholm crashed fatally, exactly when the session started, so this particular kerfuffle just could not have been prevented.

    About Hot Topic Discussion Roundtables: This session format got good reviews, and scored 4.8 out of 6 possible. Next year, we will repeat the roundtable discussions, and I have noted that a discussion leader should be appointed in advance for each topic, and that the discussions will be done in at least two rounds, so that it is possible to change group. Suggestions for topics are always welcome, and can be sent to me or the board anytime.

    About the Funders’ Forum: This scored 5.4 out of 6 in the evaluations and was the smash hit of the conference. To my smug satisfaction, the panel members have also expressed that they really liked the discussion and the format and would like to participate again next year, so DARMA’s Funders’ Forum is here to stay! 

    Some commented on the composition of the panel. The intention was to balance basic and applied, as well as wet and dry sciences. DFF's chair, Peter Munk Christiansen wanted to, but could not attend, so Jørgen Frøkiær represented DFF and the Villum-Velux Foundations were both represented by Lars Arnskov Olsen from the Villum Foundation. There was thus no intentional bias against social sciences and humanities – there never is within DARMA, I would like to stress.

    About the meeting format and the venue: The lunch-to-lunch format, the easy-to-reach location and the possibilities for social interactions all received high scores, and almost exclusively positive comments. The auditorium at Sinatur Hotel Storebælt is probably one of Denmark’s best meeting rooms, and the location gave me a feeling of both attending a professional conference, as well as being on something suspiciously like a holiday, and it seems I was not alone. The conference venue received as high score as the Funders’ Forum in the evaluations – 5.4 out of 6 – and we have already booked it for next years Annual Meeting, which will be on 4-5 May 2017.

    So mark your calendars already now, because the Annual Meeting in 2017 will be at least as good as this years conference – and there will definitely be dessert to the dinner… ;-)

    Finally, if you wondered about the word "kerfuffle" used above, it is a very useful term that is explained here... ;-)

  • 21 Apr 2016 13:08 | Olaf Svenningsen (Administrator)

    Today’s topic is annual meetings in general, and the 2016 Annual Meeting in particular:

    DARMA’s annual meetings are important events, and they should feel important to all members; they should be the kind of meetings you just would not want to miss. However, organizing them to live up to this ambition is a challenge. As the chair of the association, I would really like to be able to say that our annual meetings are the best, but how does one accomplish that?

    To meet the justified wish that the dates of annual meetings are announced in good time, the Board has decided to set the dates at least 18 months in advance, the Annual Meeting in 2017 will be on 4-5 May: you can reserve the date already now. 

    I attend some of our sister associations’ meetings, for example EARMA, ARMA, SRA, and just recently NARMA. One can learn a lot and DARMA will borrow (steal) good ideas shamelessly, whenever possible. However, even if DARMA has a large international presence, much thanks to you, our active members, we are a comparatively small association—no surprises there: “Danmark er jo et lille land”. This means that our annual meetings cannot ever become like e.g. NCURA’s or SRA’s gigantic spectacles of annual meetings, which gather c. 2,000 delegates each year (you really should attend one of those at least once in your life!). Those conferences have almost as many parallel tracks as DARMA has members… or at least it can feel that way.

    As you know, DARMA has experimented with the format of our annual meetings during the past couple of years, and with the experiences and feedback we have received, the Board tries to develop the concept and will be testing a couple of new things this year. Here is how how the Board and I have been thinking:

    The one item that received unanimously high ratings from last year’s annual meeting was the conference dinner. That makes a lot of sense: good food together with colleagues and friends in a nice setting can’t go all that wrong, can it? However, we have noticed that when we hold the conference in a university town, local people tend to not attend the dinner, also understandable, but a little disappointing for the organizers of the conference. The same pattern is obvious for our Nordic sister associations.

    This has prompted us to keep the lunch-to-lunch concept, which has several advantages; delegates can leave home at a reasonable hour, and also get home in reasonable time, so that your spouse can have picked up the kids and have dinner ready and waiting when you arrive (just kidding; keep on dreaming…). For the above-mentioned reasons, we also decided to not have the conference in a university town, to make it easier to enjoy the social part of the conference. It also solves a “fairness” issue that has been discussed many times, since all delegates need to travel. Nyborg is fairly in the middle of the country, with easy access from most places, and Hotel Sinatur is beautifully located right on the beach with a spectacular view of Storebælt and the bridge. Even if hotel rooms will be included, the price for the conference can be kept at about the same level as previous years.

    The content of the conference is more challenging: Presentations are a given, but finding good presenters is a gamble. A presenter that looks really interesting may turn out to be a dud, and conversely, a presenter that may have seemed uninteresting may turn out to be a fantastic presenter and a real hit. Also, people have very different preferences, and during my years in DARMA’s board, not a single presenter at an annual meeting has ever received unanimously high ratings; someone always dislikes it thoroughly, regardless of what the topic is or how the presentation went.

    That said, there will be some interesting presentations at the 2016 meeting; we are inviting presenters from our Nordic neighbors, and maybe an Englishman or two, to talk about many relevant topics—peer review, gender, impact, costing and overheads and much more—more details to be released as soon as possible. Changes tend to happen at the last moment…

    This year, we will introduce a couple of new session formats, as an experiment:

    • Hot Topic Round Table Discussions: this will be open thematic discussions, which will close the first day, so discussions can continue into the ocean, if someone would dare a swim, or more realistically, over a drink and then dinner. A Hot Topic Round Table can either conclude at the meeting, or lead to a new or old Special Interest Group or maybe to the organization of a Westensee Workshop or something completely different; the possibilities are endless.
    • Funders’ Forum: we have invited leading representatives of the largest research funders in Denmark to a panel discussion, where they will present their view on the present situation and outlook for the future, followed by a discussion about where research funding in Denmark may be heading. Delegates are invited to suggest questions and topics, by sending me mail, or writing a comment below.

    The board has discussed the possibility of organizing a poster session, but we are not sure of the level of interest from the members; please feel free to comment on that.

    So, this is basically where the planning is at the moment. We are close to having all speakers confirmed, sponsor agreements are being negotiated, and the program will soon be available. If this year’s meeting turns into a success, we will keep the format, and as you may have noticed, we will set the date for future annual meetings at least 18 months in advance (in 2017, it will be 4-5 May).

    Now, please give us your input; answer or comment on these questions:

    • What would make DARMA’s annual conference a must-go-to event, so that you felt that you really needed to attend?
    • What do you think of the ideas outlined above? Are we on the right track? Do you have any additional ideas?

    The board would really appreciate your input. You can reply either in the comment field below or by sending me mail.

    Have a really pleasant weekend!

  • 05 Feb 2016 15:11 | Olaf Svenningsen (Administrator)

    My second blog post is an abbreviated version of a piece in EARMA's newsletter about the EUFORI Study:

    Did you know that private foundations in Europe spend a minimum of EUR 5 billion on R&I annually? This is a conservative estimate, and the real number is most certainly larger. Over a period of 7 years, private foundations will thus spend at least EUR 35 billion, i.e. more than half of the Horizon 2020 R&I expenditure.

    The EUFORI Study is the first report to give an overview over research activities of private foundations in 29 European countries: 27 EU countries as well as Norway and Switzerland. Out of almost 13,000 foundations that were approached, 1,591 were included the study. The report—that can be downloaded for free from this web page—consists of one main synthesis report, and 29 accompanying country reports, altogether 1,277 information-rich pages guaranteed to keep you occupied for a very long time, if you endeavor to read them all.

    The EUFORI report is a unique source of insight for anyone working with—or interested in—research funding and research policy.

    Private foundations are interesting for research managers and administrators because, unlike public funders, foundations are often free to set their own rules, and tend to be less bureaucratic than e.g. the EU Commission or many national funders—or at least that is often the intention. 

    Large private foundations can also play important roles as drivers of change in research policy. For example, the Knut & Alice Wallenberg Foundation (KAW), Sweden’s biggest private research-funding foundation, initiated and funded the process to adopt a full-cost model for the recovery of indirect costs in Sweden. Without the support of KAW, the full-cost reform would have been much more difficult—or impossible—to realize. As the EUFORI Study points out, one of the characteristics of private research funding is that foundations prefer to only fund “direct support of research”, and tend to be reluctant to cover indirect costs (overhead).

    The EUFORI study report is a cornucopia of interesting facts that can be useful, important, or just interesting. There are plenty of facts for the statistics enthusiast, and these facts tell a story, which has never before been supported by facts and data. It may not come as a surprise that Europe has developed a large, heterogeneous and also fragmented private foundation sector, but did you know that:

    • The number of public benefit foundations in Europe is unknown, but estimated at c. 110,000.
    • The estimated assets of 1,052 of the biggest foundation amounts to EUR 127 billion in 2012.
    • 90% of the foundations expenditure is at a national or regional level, mostly due to limitations in their statutes; the European or international dimension is still subordinate.
    • Medical and health sciences are by far the most popular research area amongst European foundations. 44% of the foundations, and 63% of the expenditure of the EUFORI foundations are directed towards the health sciences.
    • 61% of the EUFORI foundations support research only and a surprisingly low 6% supports innovation only, the remaining foundations supporting both. Other purposes than R&I are quite common.
    • 83% of the foundations focus on applied research, while 61% support basic research (there is obviously some overlap here). Interestingly, the distribution of expenditure is evenly distributed between basic and applied research.
    • 47% of the foundations reported to be grant making only, while 41% claimed to only carry out operating activities. Curiously, this appears to be geographically determined: 85% of Scandinavian foundations are grant making, while 80% of the foundations in the Mediterranean are of the operating type.
    • The biggest of them all is the British Wellcome Trust, responsible for 44% of the research expenditure in the UK. If Wellcome had been a country, it would rank as the second biggest in Europe in terms of research funding(!).
    • Similarly, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation in Portugal is responsible for 50% of the country’s foundation expenditure on research, and is both grant making, and operating its own research.
    • In contrast with most public funders, but maybe not surprising, private foundations primarily support individuals, not institutions.

    The list could be made very much longer than this, and the themes are clearly relevant also for those not primarily working with private foundations. Four countries top the list of highest expenditure on research by private foundations: the UK, Germany, Denmark, and Sweden, followed closely by Belgium, Norway, and Spain. These are also countries with comparatively old, and well-established foundations. Denmark tops the list in terms of private research expenditure per capita.

    Something that attracted my particular interest is the UK’s Association of Medical Research Charities (AMRC), representing charities working in research, development and patient information. Although membership is voluntary, the AMRC plays a fundamental role by setting the standards for the infrastructure regarding e.g. best practice in proposal review, ethics clearance, clinical trials, access to open data, and other issues that we recognize from the public sector. In fact, AMRC also operates at a European level and reading the UK EUFORI country report made me curious to know more about this organization—maybe they should be invited to a DARMA event?

    In this short review, it is not possible to give more than a small sample of all the interesting material that makes the EUFORI Study so interesting for research managers and administrators. As pointed out in the EUFORI Synthesis Report, the importance of private research funding is growing, and can expected to become increasingly more relevant. This might be particularly true for Denmark, considering the bleak financial future facing higher education and research in this country.

    Link to the EUFORI Study portal: http://euforistudy.eu

    Link to the EUFORI Study download page: http://euforistudy.eu/results/

  • 28 Jan 2016 16:30 | Olaf Svenningsen (Administrator)

    The Chair’s Corner – introducing DARMA's blog and my recap of 2015

    2016 is already well on its way, but I still extend my best wishes for the new year to all of DARMA's members and friends! DARMA’s board decided to launch a blog in the autumn of 2015, and now I finally managed to pull myself together and do it. To read the entire text, click "Read more" below! 

    One purpose of this blog is to share the activities of the Chair, the Board and other members with the DARMA community. Another important purpose is to encourage discussion, so please feel free to comment, either by using the "Add comment" link below, or by sending me mail.

    In this blog, DARMA will post contributions from interested members, and we will also invite guests to write on relevant topics. If you wish to write, or have a suggestion for something you would like to read, please contact me.

    The language of the blog is either English or Danish. I am writing in English now to be able to share with our international friends, but also because having grown up in Sweden, I actually have no formal training in the Danish language at all. Since Danish and Swedish are dangerously similar, I am constantly at risk of being unintentionally entertaining. The so called "false friends" tend to occur mainly below the belt, so for example, using the common Swedish expression for brainstorming (“bolla idéer”) in a Danish context could lead to all kinds of interesting situations. So I will stick to English for the blog.

    After this long introduction, let me briefly recapitulate 2015 from the Chair’s point of view:

    DARMA’s Annual Meeting 2015 (AM) was held in Odense, attended by c. 70 members + presenters. For the first time, a lunch-to-lunch format was tested, and another new feature was to have the General Assembly before the AM, not after. According to the evaluation, the participants were happy with these changes. Among things to improve are to announce the AM earlier—which we have not been able to do for DARMA 2016, but for 2017, we have already decided that the DARMA Annual Meeting will be 4-5 May. My next blog post will be about the annual meetings, so enough for now.

    I attended our British sister association, ARMA's Annual Meeting in Brighton because the INORMS Steering Group held a meeting there. There is so much going on with INORMS that I will write a separate blog post on that topic, too. At the ARMA meeting, I was inspired by some session formats, which DARMA will steal… I mean borrow, of course. The first is the Funders’ Forum, where leading representatives from the major research funders in the country participate in a panel discussion about the current and future state of research funding. The second “loan” is the “hot topic roundtable discussion” format, which is a great and relaxed way to encourage discussion, follow up on Special Interest Group (erfa-gruppe) activities, and maybe spark new ideas for activities. Both the Funders’ Forum and Hot Topic Discussion Roundtables will be features of the 2016 DARMA Annual Meeting.

    The next conference was EARMA’s Annual Conference in Leiden, which DARMA members also attended. The highlights from Leiden included me stepping down from EARMA’s board (to be honest, that was not so much of a highlight as it was a necessity; being on two boards simultaneously is too difficult to reconcile with having a daytime job, family and an undecided number of cats). I attended many interesting sessions, and was part of starting a new Cultures and Diversity Working Group within EARMA. One important result of the Leiden conference was that the heads of all the European research management associations (RMA) met as a group for the first time. The RMA’s from Denmark, the UK, Finland, Norway, Iceland, Germany, Poland and Austria, EARMA of course, as well as the BestPrac network were present at this meeting. This was my idea, it was positively received and we have formed an informal network of RM chairs, the Leiden Group. This group is currently discussing, among other topics, whether or not to establish a European research management and administration professional magazine or journal. I will of course keep the DARMA membership posted on the progress of this project.

    The next INORMS meeting was in Washington DC in August, at the NCURA Annual Meeting, so I went on a quick trip to a desperately hot US capital. Temperatures outside reached 39°C in the shade, which was very different from the Danish summer. I presented at a few sessions, and the most interesting was also the one that attracted the smallest number of participants. It was a discussion group on the experiences of setting up and managing RMA’s. In spite of the few attendants, the discussion was spirited and interesting, and together with the experience from Leiden, I learned that RMA’s in some countries are seen has highly controversial . This will surely be a theme at the INORMS conference in Melbourne in September.

    Then there was just one more conference; the SRA International Annual Conference 2015, which was held at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada, this epicentre of good taste and elegance—or not. SRA International has special connections with DARMA, since both the president of the association, John Westensee, and the International President, Annedorte Vad, should be familiar to DARMA members. The conference was spectacular and a success. I “only” gave one presentation, an exploration of responsible conduct in research administration, which started a really interesting discussion. The outcome of this session was brought to the INORMS steering group meeting already the next day (!), and ended up in a decision to explore the possibilities of an international code of conduct for research administrators. I will certainly get back to this topic in the future. In the slightly less serious end of the spectrum, the Las Vegas conference was rich in Elvis impersonators and everywhere one walked on The Strip, there was people dressed as Olaf, which was a little disturbing.

    This is a quick and extremely brief summary of the activities of the chair in 2015. In 2016, I will keep the members updated continuously through this blog. Through this blog, I look forward to sharing my—and hopefully other’s—thoughts and experiences with the members, ultimately leading to an even better association.

    Please feel free to comment (use "Add comment")below or by mailing me. 

    Det går selvfølgelig fint at skrive på dansk... :-)

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