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Professional Spotlight: Scientific Manager

BY DENISE HABERGER

Whether at a research institution or a company: scientific consultants and scientific managers are needed everywhere that scientific research is conducted. Scientific managers ensure that scientists are able to complete their work by creating the optimal work climate and good framework conditions.

Professional Spotlight: Scientific Manager © private Nina McGuinness sees her work as a scientific manager as a bridge between science and administration
Like many of her colleagues, Nina McGuinness fell into scientific management more by chance. The 34-year-old studied German, History and European Studies in Dublin and Hanover. She was first involved with scientific management whilst working at the University Medical Centre Göttingen as a consultant on EU projects - and she stuck with it: first at the University of Hanover and subsequently at the University of Hildesheim. She completed the MBA in Management of Higher Education & Science at Osnabrück University of Applied Sciences alongside her job.

Since August, Nina McGuinness has been the scientific manager of the Department of Cardiothoracic, Transplantation and Vascular Surgery (HTTG) at Hanover Medical School. Her task is: to facilitate research by advising and supporting researchers in the administrative aspects of research funding. Those with questions on funding options or needing help with funding applications can get in touch with her, for example. "My job is to act as a bridge between science and administration," McGuinness explains.

Checklist - Facts on the Role of a Scientific Manager

1. Definition:

Scientific management is understood to be the organisation of scientific research. Good scientific management creates the ideal framework conditions and ensures a positive work climate. Scientific management forms part of academic management that concerns itself with the institution as a whole and includes aspects such as strategy and the curriculum.

2. Career entry:

The career prospects are good. Opportunities exist at universities and non-university research institutions as well as in industry. Increasing company research spending and an ongoing professionalisation process at universities make positions such as that of scientific manager urgently necessary.

3. Tasks:

At research institutions, scientific consultants advise scientists on matters such as funding applications and budgeting. Within companies, the focus is on the coordination of different research projects. Scientific managers are the contact for scientists in the event of problems and responsible for reviewing whether specific research projects should be continued or not. Depending on the position, they also have management responsibilities.

4. Requirements:

At universities, a doctorate can be helpful for the dialogue with scientists, though it is not essential. In companies, specialist expertise is crucial.

A willingness to deal with different disciplines and to continually familiarise oneself with new aspects are important. Organisational, team and communication skills are required in scientific management.

6. Salary:

Depending on the pay level, scientific managers earn between 40,000 Euros (TV-L 13, level 1) and 68.000 Euros (TV-L 15, level 5) gross per year in the public sector. Scientific consultants working in industry can expect a gross annual starting salary of 62.000 Euros upwards.

7. Career prospects:

At universities, the opportunities for advancement are limited. The highest positions, such as that of chancellor and vice president/prorector for research, are currently limited to the total of around 430 universities. In industry, a number of different positions in scientific management are available within one single company. Theoretically, even a position on the company board is possible.

Personal experience of research enables communication on equal terms

For Dr. Daniel Stietenroth (41) from the Network of Research and Technology Departments at German Universities who is himself head of the research department at Bochum University of Applied Sciences, good scientific management must above all ensure a good work climate at the university: "In research and innovation, a positive atmosphere is very important. Scientists must have fun, be curious and have good partners," Stietenroth explains and adds: "The task of a scientific manager is to promote cooperation, and to support all parties in the development of common aims and attainment of these."

Besides the scientists, he also advises university management and keeps them up to date with the latest developments. Personal experience in research can be advantageous in this. "A title is not essential for the job, however, it is definitely easier if you have worked in science for a time. It enables discussions on equal terms and to understand the work processes in science." According to Stietenroth, an understanding of administrative matters is also necessary though. For administrative issues are part of everyday business in scientific management at universities and non-university research institutions.

Success is important for scientific management in companies

Professional Spotlight: Scientific Manager © Bayer HealthCare Helmut Haning
Within companies, mediation between administration and the scientists is not an issue for scientific managers. Dr. Helmut Haning's main tasks are management and coordination. "We set up research projects and support them but also weigh them up against one another," says the Head of Medicinal Chemistry at Bayer HealthCare in Wuppertal. "Our research is always geared towards new active agents for concrete end products," the 47-year-old continues. "We are essentially doomed to succeed." Yet it is exactly this pressure to be productive that led the chemist to go into industry after completing his doctorate and a one-year post-doc phase. Helmut Haning first joined Bayer in 1995 as a medicinal chemist. Today, he is responsible for around 200 employees on all chemistry projects in the cardiovascular field as scientific manager. "This allows me to contribute to cardiology research and important developments," he describes his motivation.

Organisational talents with an eye for the bigger picture is required

Professional Spotlight: Scientific Manager © Forschungszentrum Jülich Norbert Drewes
He advises aspiring scientific managers to first gain in-depth specialist knowledge. For primarily experts in their field are required within the research departments at companies. According to Haning, those aspiring to a leadership position in scientific management after a certain amount of time must above all be interested in other disciplines and afford strategic and business expertise but also management skills. An ability to take a broader view is also a decisive requirement at universities and non-university research institutions emphasises Dr. Norbert Drewes, head of the corporate strategy department at the interdisciplinary research institution Forschungszentrum Jülich. Organisational talents prepared to familiarise themselves with new areas are also considered strong candidates. "It is important to also have a pronounced service orientation," Drewes continues. "The focus is on science as a product, and scientific managers are the service providers for this."

The opportunities for career entry are good for aspiring scientific consultants and managers in the research landscape of Germany. "In recent years, a professionalisation process has begun at the universities," Daniel Stietenroth explains. "The universities need people to provide the scientists with high-level advice and support." Companies with large research departments also need scientific management experts. Annual research spending suggests that for the time being, this is unlikely to change. According to the Stifterverband, German companies spent around 50.3 billion Euros on internal research and development in 2011. Indeed, this is a slight upward trend.

Is a Scientific Manager the same Role as a Research Manager?

No, although the two titles are closely related, the positions are in fact different. Research managers coordinate market research. They plan implementation, define target groups, develop research questions, interpret findings and draw conclusions.

Primary employers are companies and market research institutes. Depending where and on which hierarchical level the research manager works, personnel management, project management and customer support also are their responsibilities.

Opportunities for advancement are limited at universities

Both developments offer interested parties countless opportunities to find a foothold in scientific management, though according to Stietenroth, the opportunities for advancement tend to be limited - at least at universities. "The administration department, which is headed by the university chancellor, is often assigned responsibility for scientific management. On the science side the vice president or prorector for research is the superior authority. The career path therefore ends latest when these positions have been attained - and often before this."

Differences also exist in the salaries: in public services, scientific managers are mostly classified within pay grade TV-L 13, which (depending on the level) corresponds to a gross annual salary of between just under 40.000 Euros and around 49.000 Euros. The highest possible pay grade is TV-L 15. In a best-case scenario (Level 5), this means a gross annual salary of approximately 68.000 Euros. According to the PersonalMarkt salary database, scientific consultants (with no personnel responsibilities) working in industry can expect to earn just over 62.000 Euros gross per year. No upper pay limit exists in scientific management.

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academics :: September 2013