Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Research Administration & Accounting

No single course of study or degree program is required for entry to the field of research administration. Many professionals are drawn to the field based on an affinity for science, engineering, or federal policy. Others have a background in accounting or law. Science Magazine (August 2008) reported “In a 2006 report published in the journal Research Management Review, a sampling of 230 research-administration professionals showed that 12% of the group held doctorate degrees and 32% held master's degrees. Though the report didn't specify how many of those degrees are in science, people in the field say the ranks of scientists are increasing. Those who work in grant writing and administration say a growing number of professionals also hold Ph.D.s.” Many institutions develop their own in-house ‘grant and contract’ training programs and there are newly emerging ‘specialization’ certificates available within graduate and professional degree programs.

The two largest membership organizations devoted to professional development In the US are the Society of Research Administrators (SRA) International and the National Council of University Research Administrators. MBARI’s Grants Office maintains a membership in SRA and regularly participates in national and regional educational seminars.

The required ‘body of knowledge’ for a professional research administrator is comprised of four parts:

Project Development and Administration – this includes identification of funding opportunities and proposal development including construction of the budget; proposal approval and submission; grant and contract award administration in accordance with applicable sponsor regulations and award negotiation with sponsors to achieve consistency with institutional research policy.

Legal Requirements and Sponsor Interface - there are numerous regulations and statutes both from federal and state sources as well as foundations, corporations, and foreign sponsors that are incorporated into the text of each research award. Research administrators must review and confirm compliance with the rules which are ever changing in parallel with the advances in science and technology.

Financial Management - all aspects of grants management involve proper stewardship of funds including budgeting/accounting, oversight of direct and indirect costs, cost sharing and matching funds, cash drawdowns, sponsor financial reporting, and working with institutional as well as federal auditors.

General Management – may include purchasing and procurement systems review, electronic research administration systems, equipment and property management, recordkeeping and time/effort reporting, as well as facilities space measurements.

Professional organizations related to Research Administration include:

Society of Research Administrators International
National Council of University Research Administrators
Council on Governmental Relations
The Federal Demonstration Partnership
National Council of College and University Business Officers


Last updated: Jul. 26, 2011