No one could have anticipated a global pandemic; yet, that’s exactly what happened. As the pandemic swept societies across the globe, virtually every industry was forced to answer a call for change. For research administrators, this meant not only adapting to a virtual or hybrid working environment, but also a new way of managing the entire research process. 

We aren’t out of the woods yet. The pandemic is still at the forefront of many minds. In fact, many organizations have extended COVID safety precautions, including continued remote or hybrid working environments and proof of vaccination requirements. We must approach the new year with cautious optimism, and embrace the technologies and processes that will support flexible work styles, promote mental health, and propel research forward. 

Let’s take a closer look at the current state of research administration by exploring results from Cayuse’s research administration industry benchmark report, and how we can rebuild and strengthen our path forward via key insights from a recent discussion between industry experts Brian Littlefair, CEO of Cambridge Cyber Advisors and Richard Forrest, SVP of Global Operations at Cayuse.

Current state of research administration

To better understand how the pandemic affected the global research community, and to gauge the current trends, priorities, and challenges facing the industry, we conducted an in-depth industry survey. Results from the 2021 State of Research Administration Benchmark Report highlighted some significant opportunities and challenges that researchers are facing today, including:

  • Ensuring compliance with constantly evolving regulations 
  • Adapting to increased workloads with fewer resources 
  • Protecting research data, especially in a remote or hybrid environment
  • Managing a “COVID backlog” of projects that were either delayed or put on hold in favor of more urgent research needs 

Many research organizations are leveraging advanced technology to not only adapt to the changes posed by the pandemic, but also modernize their systems and workflows. In a sense, the pandemic has served as a catalyst for modernization and digital transformation in the research community. For example, technology solutions, like the Cayuse Research Suite, are helping organizations reduce administrative burden, increase funding, and streamline processes for reporting and analytics.  

Connecting the pieces 

Breaking through siloes and streamlining processes is not a unique challenge to the research community. Yet, although many industries combat these same challenges, it can be argued that research organizations and educational institutions have higher stakes to get it right. 

The challenge many professionals face is choosing the “right” path or solution. Getting from point A to point B is not necessarily as straight of a line as one may think (or hope). There are actually many options to get there, which creates a challenge when trying to identify a standard and common approach for all.  

“People had to rapidly find their feet,” said Bryan Littlefair, CEO of Cambridge Cyber Advisors. “Academics had to turn into TV presenters and generate that new skill of how to communicate with their audience when not in the room. Which meant a lot more time spent planning teaching, and therefore a lot less time to focus on their research topic. So, there was a lot of drive to change how research was done.”

The drive to adapt to the needs of students and researchers today has opened up myriad opportunities to learn, grow, and be even better than before. In many ways, the pandemic has given researchers and educators an opportunity to innovate, break down barriers in communication and processes, establish a solid foundation for growth, and tap into technology resources that can truly make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.  

Bridging the gap with technology 

At Cayuse, our mission is to empower the global research community. Through greater adoption of technology, research collaboration has vastly improved, creating strong and effective connections between teams and institutions across the world. One of the foremost examples of such collaboration is the development and testing of Covid-19 vaccines.

“The pandemic . . . has really driven that digital agenda in terms of how we provision the right tools and capabilities, and the right environment, so that people can continue to interact, knowledge-share, and collaborate on research going forward,” commented Bryan Littlefair.

It’s true that the pandemic served as a catalyst for digital transformation and modernization in the research community. We were all forced to challenge the status quo and imagine new ways of interacting and collaborating. On-prem and homegrown systems became difficult and cost-prohibitive to manage internally, causing many organizations to look outside their four walls and explore cloud-based technology that could be accessed anywhere. 

Integrated technology that connects systems and improves workflow is essential to maximize growth potential. According to our benchmark report, institutions overwhelmingly favor integrated solutions that are easy to use, simple to maintain, and offer superior customer support. Cloud-based solutions that are securely and remotely accessible tend to be the primary choice.

“We’re talking about integration points,” Richard Forrest, Senior VP for Global Operations, Cayuse. “And not only do we find that institutions might have different business processes, they have different systems doing the same thing. Streamlining that technology and those business processes can really help.”

Our survey found that this rapid advancement and implementation of technology has allowed people to become more at ease with accepting and adopting technology as a part of their working and personal lives. If the pandemic has taught us anything about digital transformation, it is how innovation has allowed us to save time, stay safe, and make our lives immeasurably easier.