SRA Leaders Speak on the Future of SRA – Victoria Molfese

This is a repost of an SRA News issue featuring interviews with five key SRA officers. The original issue included the five interviews in the same article. For our purposes, we have separated the original post into a five-part series.

This issue of SRA News features interviews with the five keys SRA officers. The SRA leaders discuss the future of research administration and the challenges that lie ahead. The SRA leaders include 2000 President Victoria Molfese, 2000 President-Elect Elliott Kulakowski, 2000 Immediate Past President Lynne Chronister, 2000 Secretary Marcia Landen and 2000 Treasurer Fred Mesler.

Victoria Molfese (2000 President)

SRA News:  As the 1990s come to a close, what are your thoughts on the progress that SRA has made?

Molfese: In the past five years, SRA has undertaken two strategic planning initiatives. The first of these in 1994 identified goals and objectives that were completed much sooner than the typical five-year time frame needed for most strategic plans. Thus, a second strategic planning process was begun in 1997. This second strategic planning process entailed several data gathering activities-a leadership questionnaire completed by SRA board members, section and division leaders and committee chairs, a membership needs assessment survey, and sessions at section meetings at which attendees were asked for input on assessing the trends expected to impact research administration in the coming years. These data were compiled to and used to develop SRA’s vision and mission statements, strategic goals, principles and objectives. The strategic objectives state in simple terms the seven areas toward which SRA’s energy and resources are directed- professional development, educational and networking opportunities; state-of-the-art mechanisms to deliver educational and training programs; define the core elements of research administration and develop programming to address these elements; identify, collect and disseminate “best practices” in research administration; increase the visibility of research administrators and administration to external constituents; maintain SRA’s financial viability and stability, and monitor the strategic plan. These ambitious objectives were conceptualized as relating to one or more of SRA’s standing committees and each committee was charged with developing activities to address these objectives. Now in 1999 and into 200 we can see evidence of accomplishments in achieving these strategic objectives in many areas and can relate these to progress made in the field of research administration. Examples include: the development and elaboration of information available on the SRA web page that provides information to members on jobs, funding information, the SRA membership Directory, the benchmarking performance and best practices for sponsored projects administration performance; the SRA Journal and SRA News that provides information useful for professional development and advocacy issues; the programming at annual and section meetings that focuses on the types of professional development need identified by members in the needs assessment survey and identified by the joint SRA/NCURA RAPID on core elements of research administration; and continuing efforts to increase the visibility of SRA to new domestic and international members, potential vendors and other organizations with complementary activities to those of research administrators. SRA has come a long way toward meeting the objectives it has set for itself.

SRA News: As the first SRA president in the year 2000, what challenges do you see ahead for the Society?

Molfese: The challenges facing SRA in the future are similar to those that SRA has faced in the past. Each year our membership is characterized by 30% of members who have been in research administration less than 1 year, 35% who have been involved for 2-5 years, and 18% who have been involved 6 to 9 years and over 20% who have been involved longer than 10 years. This range of research experience has characterized our membership for many years and is likely to continue. The highest priority of our members is for SRA to address their needs: to improve professional skills, effectiveness; maintain currency on professional issues; learning about regulations, laws, policies and procedures; and networking with other research administrators. These priorities of SRA members are fundamental to planning for SRA meetings, providing information in the SRA Journal, SRA News and Web Page, committee activities, and providing services to members. These priorities are identical to those upon which SRA was organized in 1967. A reasonable expectation is that these priorities will remain in the year 2000 and beyond. Continuing challenges will be identification of new members who will both benefit and be benefited by SRA, expansion and elaboration of services to members so that information is available when needed and in a usable format, and to identify the financial and personnel resources needed to meet the expectations of the membership.

SRA News: How do you plan to address those challenges during your term as president?

Molfese: During the presidencies of Bill Schweri and Lynn Chronister, committees and task forces have selected activities to focus on form among those recommended by the Strategic Planning Committee. Now, in the third year of our strategic plan, there still are more recommended activities remaining. I have three major goals for this year that derive from the Membership Survey and Strategic Plan and from activities undertaken by SRA leadership and other members in the past year. First, utilize the five SRA committee structure to review progress and recommend further actions needed to meet strategic planning objectives. Second, an examination of how the committees and board function and how functioning might be improved in efficiency, cost effectiveness, and benefits to members. Third, review mechanisms of interface between SRA management/ headquarters and sections/divisions and chapters to enhance SRA information management procedures. The field of research administration is no doubt different today than it was at the beginning of decade.

SRA News: Given all the internal and external forces that are driving change in areas of research and research administration, what do you think the field will be like by 2010?

Molfese: One common perception that cuts across the various organization employing SRA members is that none of them has sufficient funds to accomplish the activities expected of that organization. Because the types and levels of activities expected to be successfully engaged in by each of these organizations are increasing each year and the funding bases of the organizations are not keeping pace with the activities, each organization is looking at other organizations as a potential funding source. There is no reason to believe that this situation is going to improve in the next 10 years. What makes this situation especially interesting is that SRA is composed of all the organizations who are looking at each other for funding support- colleges and universities, university-affiliated hospitals and medical centers, non-university affiliated hospital and medical centers, foundations and other grant giving organizations, industrial and commercial organizations, and federal agencies. If SRA members can work as well together in the future as they have will be marked by organizations that have a better understanding of each other’s mission, policies, and sensitivities. Ideally, there will be established networks among organizations that will enable productive interactions. This understanding can field more fruitful interactions so that it may indeed be possible to share resources to accomplish activities that would have been difficult or impossible without such sharing.

SRA News: What would you say are the greatest strengths of SRA? 

Molfese: SRA has two great strengths: the diversity of its membership which enables different perspectives to be brought to the discussions of issues, educational programming, and to SRA leadership and planning activities, and its member-volunteers who undertake the leadership, programming, and planning activities from which all members benefit. We cannot give enough recognition to those member-volunteers of SRA who over the years have contributed their know-how and unfailing follow-through behavior s to meet the needs of SRA.  It is these member­ volunteers who have done the work that SRA needed to be done on top of their own job schedules, who have made opportunities possible for other SRA members that would not have been possible but for their efforts, and who personally contributed to solutions rather than problems to SRA’s functioning. It is the membership and the growing number of member-volunteer s who make SRA the international organization for research administrators.

SRA News: Looking ahead to the year to come, is there anything else you would like to address, or any message you would like to convey to SRA members?

Molfese: SRA’s mission statement is simple. SRA is an international organization dedicated to the professional development of research administrator s, the promotion of the profession of research administration, and the enhancement of the research enterprise.  Working together, SRA members can exemplify the fundamentals of this mission statement and show others by our competencies that research administration is a profession.