Stimulating Change: Inspire, Innovate, Engage

Dr. Jill StJohn, ARMS Conference Awardee from UWA, writes about her first impressions, highlights and thoughts on follow up.

I buckled in for the flight home after from the recent ARMS conference realizing the next stage of my journey as an Research Development  Adviser was just starting.

Preconference Impressions

The conference title “Stimulating Change: Inspire, Innovate, Engage” intrigued   me because “Stimulating Change”, for the better of course, is the holy grail.  And change in what? Did it mean change in process, change in people, either researcher or research manager or group change?  The rest of the conference title was Inspire, Innovate, Engage. I hoped to experience the trifecta.

First Impressions:

I have never attended a friendlier conference. The conference organisers were so welcoming and helpful, setting the scene for a really personable conference and a great buzz.  My first impressions were spot on as I found it really easy to meet and talk with new people at all times. Best of all I had my fill of networking – one of my primary aims in attending.

Conference Highlights: Inspire, Innovate, Engage

Among the programme pickings, I couldn’t go past Jason Fox for Inspiration. Jason is a motivational researcher, idea challenger and red-haired extraordinaire. He kicked off the conference with a fresh approach, entertaining us while he explained his conference role. Jason would watch the main speakers and provide us with a conference summary and our a-ha moments as take home comics! I loved the concept of him sitting up high above the stage watching on from his non-research management perspective. At the end of the two days Jason did not disappoint us with his quirky views and takes on all he saw.  His comical presentation of a-ha moments is the first, and best, summary I have ever received from a conference. I can’t help wondering how he would have drawn our conference dinner had he been there – the packed trams, the dancing and the singers in their shiny gold dresses.

Innovation for me was covered by Paul Wong in his presentation “Crossing boundaries: Research Managers as Researchers and Educators”. He outlined two cases where academic staff and students helped solve technical problems in their Research Management Section.  He used the knowledge within the University to provide solutions for research management to improve their practices while doing research with post-graduate students. This win-win for all demonstrates that we are not siloed within our universities and we should use our strengths to our advantage wherever possible to find new ways of working better.

Engage: The International Perspectives Panel was most engaging. DVCR Mike Brooks brought the panel members to life with insightful questions of interest to the audience. The discussions in medical research investment turned my views upside down when we were told how Singapore and other Asian countries are increasing funding while USA is decreasing. Cultural aspects of collaborations were discussed reminding me of how culture can influence situations. Another a-ha moment for me was understanding just how fast the world can change, so I should be careful when making assumptions!

Bringing it home: So in the weeks since the conference I have begun the most important phase – bringing it all back into my job. I’ve had a few nice email exchanges from new friends, I’ve signed up to Jason’s ‘museletter’ to remind me to be inspired and to have a laugh.  I’ve mulled over and started to initiate some great new ideas on engaging with some of my new-made contacts.  As the conference title promised, I’ve been stimulated and now I am going to change some of my activities and my behaviours to find new ways to support my researchers and improve research. Hopefully my changes can help stimulate change in researchers, both individually and as a group, as well as the process where needed. I thank the ARMS WA Chapter for their support.

Yours in Stimulating Change: Inspire, Innovate, Engage.


Dr Jill StJohn is a Research Development Adviser in The Faculty of Engineering, Computing and Mathematics at University Of Western Australia. 


Researchers and Research Managers – How to get things done

On Monday 23rd September the ARMS WA Chapter hosted a professional development workshop on Researchers and Research Mangers – How to get things done. The workshop was run by Hugh Kearns, an internationally recognised public speaker, educator and researcher from Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia. He is widely recognised for his ability to take the latest research in psychology and education and apply it to high-performing people and groups. Hugh also has a company called Thinkwell and provides resources for students, academics and other people involved in or with research.

Check out his website for more great information:

The session was really well attended with over 35 participants from 5 organisations/universities.

The session covered how we see ourselves (1st person position), how we see others (2nd person position) and how we see and overarching view as a fly on the wall (3rd person position). We looked at different questions based on these perspectives and i thought it was a particularly interesting way of thinking about researchers and research managers working together.

Firstly we talked about the 1st person position and our view of why research management is important in our minds, i.e. we are experts that support the administrative functions of research – superheros of admin if you like.

Then we talked about the 2nd person position from the researchers view of research administration and what they think of it. There were comments around rule makers, gatekeepers, see us as providers of support and also see us as making things more difficult, not being seen as enablers etc.

The 3rd person position discussed how and outsider would view researchers and research administrators. This was particularly interesting with comments ranging from – appears inefficient, through to looks like its a logical great idea!

From here we discussed how researcher managers and researchers think and how this differs enormously. Of particular interest was that researchers think (about themselves) the following:

  • My discipline rules
  • All about discovers
  • Rewarded by papers
  • See themselves as self-employed
  • Critical of process
  • Hard working
  • Loyalty to discipline and less to organisation

Whilst research managers think more from and organisational standpoint and about deadlines, compliance and consequences.

I think this highlights the importance of tailoring how we communicate with researchers and that we need to tap into their way of thinking to make it attractive to them to do the mundane paperwork or form that we may need them to complete.

One of the key take homes for me was that we need to develop better working relationships with researchers, meet them, go for coffee, make their life easier and this will improve communication with them.

All in all a great workshop and i particularly loved the final video to sum up our roles as herding cats – See video clip here

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ARMS 2013 Conference report

Written by Tamika Heiden

As you may be aware the conference was held in the beautiful city of Adelaide from 11-13th September. Coming from Perth on what was a rainy drab day it was quite pleasant to land in the sunny city. After missing last years conference I was keen to make the most of this year by having a poster on display and that’s exactly what i did. On arrival I put up my poster “Twitter and the Research Manager” and quickly proceeded to practice what I preach, that is I tweeted its existence at the conference. (See tweet and link below – still shamelessly sell promoting!)

The conference included some great speakers and panel sessions and did a particularly great job at book-ending the program with vibrant and thought provoking speakers, Anders Sorman Nilsson, Futurist and Innovation Strategist, presented the opening keynote to the conference by admitting his man crush on Jason Fox!! Yes this was going to be interesting…. Anders covered topics around innovation and highlighted Australia having a proud tradition of innovation with the example of the cochlear implant. His focus was on the cross over between the analogue and the digital and the innovation needed in this context. He had some great gems such as “[Research managers] are the curators of the context that enables the (innovation) content”, “we have digital minds but analogue hearts”, “is your research sexy enough, does it twerk in a really cool way”. He suggested that perhaps crowd sourcing solutions could answer research problems, and that we need to visualize research data in new ways to gain context – that’s innovation!.And of course there was some self promotion of his book Digilogue!

At the other end of the conference we had Dr Jason Fox, Making Cleaver Happen. I highly recommend checking out this website! He talked around motivation and gamification. The essential message was around how people need to be challenged and rewarded, that’s what makes video games so addictive! Click on the link below for the doodles from Dr Jason Fox.

Dr Jason Fox Doodles from ARMS 2013_optimised

Here are some of the tweets from the conference and a link to see some photos!

ARMS WA EVENT – Managing People 8th April 2013

Based on the feedback from our end of year survey in 2012 we went ahead and planned an event around managing people. We were very fortunate to have Nick Northcott, Head of People and Culture, at the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, to run this event for us.

Nick is an experienced HR and Organisational Development professional, having worked and studied in the UK, Europe, US and across Australia. Nick recently joined the Telethon Institute for Child Health Research, where he leads the People and Culture team, a role that encompasses HR, change management, organisational development, payroll and occupational health and safety. With career experience in consulting, professional services and government Nick is passionate about growing the emphasis of social responsibility, ethics and governance and making a positive difference to the lives of others.

The session was well attended and started off somewhat interestingly with a group exercise involving spaghetti, string, sticky tape and marshmallows. I guess you are now very intrigued as to exactly what went on here….well in our groups we were asked to build a tower using only the provided objects. The brief was to build the tallest tower that would remain standing on its own.

Needless to say i was very proud to be on the winning team and below you can see the lovely work of art that came of our team work.

The session also involved some more serious elements around managing people and was an informative and valuable session. 

Hopefully the events continue to be well attended and of great value to all of our members.


My role in research management – Kristy Le May

Ok here goes – my very first blog and I have to admit to being a tad nervous!

I started working life as a physiotherapist in tertiary hospitals. My clinical specialty was hand and upper limb trauma and I absolutely loved the frantic and exciting pace of a busy teaching hospital and working in multidisciplinary teams. I moved into physiotherapy management and then to hospital management before making the jump to the outside non-government world.

This change in direction from clinician to health management led me to the Telethon Institute where I have been for the past nine years in a variety of roles including Executive Officer to the Director and Directorate Manager. Both these positions are really hard to describe to people as they involved such a diverse range of things from advisor, confidant, writer, policy, process, desk top research, risk management, profile management – basically keeping all the balls in the air and making sure that everything was in place so that the Director could do their job as successfully and seamlessly as possible.

My current role at the Telethon Institute is Manager of Corporate Governance and Strategic Projects, as well as Company Secretary. The title’s a bit of a mouthful but basically means that I am responsible for all things governance related such as the Board, policy and risk management frameworks, business continuity, and compliance with the newly formed Australian Charities and Not-for-profit Commission. Most of these things are long term projects and I am slowly making my way through them and learning A LOT of new things!

I suppose I didn’t always consider myself to be in Research Management as such as I am not involved very closely with day to day research or grants. But then I realised that research management is actually a very broad and encompassing field and if I am in senior management roles that affect the day to day business of the Institute then I am definitely involved in research management!

Looking forward to reading about some other people’s stories on the blog.

Will I get the grant?

The Research Whisperer

“Dear research whisperer,

Before I start thinking about my next grant, I just wanted to get your gut feeling for what you think is going to happen with the application that I put in this year. Any thoughts?”

Dear applicant

That is the hardest question that I face in my job, and one that I always resist answering. It comes in many forms: researchers want to know whether they will win the grant; administrators want to know whether they will meet targets; and bosses want to put hard numbers into workplans.

I know that some other research whisperers like to predict who will be successful and who won’t, but I don’t play that game. I like your application. I think that it is really strong. However, as Mark Bisby (former VP Research for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research) puts it,“It’s not a test, it’s a contest”…

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