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Published Date:06-07-2017
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A HANDBOOK FOR Executive leadership of research development Craig McInnis, Paul Ramsden and Don MaconachieContents Foreword ............................................ 1 Acknowledgments ...................................... 3 Introduction .......................................... 5 Executive leadership of research ........................... 7 A background briefing on the evidence ..................... 11 1. Research productivity and the individual and environmental factors related to it ....................................12 2. Leadership, management and academics in the context of changing policies .....................................17 3. Research strategy and staffing issues ........................18 4. Building a research culture: issues specific to research development in newer universities ..........................19 Principles and elements ................................. 23 Focus 1 — Setting an agenda for change ........................26 Principle 1. Create a compelling vision ........................27 Principle 2. Provide clear coordinating goals ....................33 Focus 2 — Taking an assertive-participative approach to leadership .....38 Principle 3. Create a competitive environment ...................39 Principle 4. Devolve leadership of research .....................45 Focus 3 — Expanding research capacity ........................52 Principle 5. Build on current strengths .........................53 Principle 6. Invest in research infrastructure and systems ............61 Focus 4 — Developing a research-oriented workforce ...............66 Principle 7. Focus appointment and promotion policy on the goals ....67 Principle 8. Invest in early career researchers ....................73 Principle 9. Provide direction for postgraduate research programs .....79 Principle 10. Strengthen the alignment of research and teaching ......85 References .......................................... 90 Notes .............................................. 92 About the authors ..................................... 93Introduction This handbook is a source of advice for university executives about the leadership of research. Its specific focus is on research development in less research-intensive universities that are seeking to expand their research profile, enhance their performance and compete more effectively for research funding. The advice is also relevant to senior executives faced with the challenge of rebuilding a research culture in universities that have lost momentum and are seeking to enhance their performance or change direction in a highly competitive environment. In addition to proficiency in general aspects of management and leadership, leadership for research requires specialist skills and knowledge about the organisational conditions that contribute to academic productivity. We attempt in this handbook to make available ideas and knowledge that are relevant across diverse and changing policy contexts and are useful in the long term. We do this by focusing on a series of core principles that typically guide the strategic leadership of research development. Some aspects of these principles apply to any academic environment. However, our main focus is on encouraging and supporting research in institutional contexts that do not have a university-wide culture of research and may not possess the structures and processes to enable its effective execution. The principles are based on what successful leaders actually do: they are illustrated by material drawn largely from case study universities and the observations of experienced and successful executive leaders. They are designed to provide senior executives with options for research development based on evidence of what might lead to favourable in different circumstances. They are by no means a set of isolated formulae for success. The primary audience for the handbook consists of provosts, deputy and pro vice-chancellors whose responsibilities centre on the governance, leadership and management of research. Any practical approach to research development, especially in an institution that does not have the advantage of building on a sustained culture of research excellence, must be faithful to that institution’s purpose and to the context in which its research activity is delivered. The handbook’s focus is therefore on strategic leadership — on an institution’s distinctive vision for research 5development and performance across different subject areas and on the means by which that vision might be realised. The handbook presents an optimistic picture of the potential to develop a strong institutional research profile, even in institutions that have an inconsistent pattern of output and activity across subject areas or indeed are starting from scratch. Leadership is the single most important environmental factor influencing research productivity at the level of the research group or department. We aim to show how, in a similar way, effective leadership (including clear organisational goals, collaboration, communication and effective recruitment processes) can make a conspicuous impact on institutional research performance. A handbook for executive leadership of research development 6Executive leadership of research A central theme of this handbook is the major role of executive leadership in maintaining a strategic focus on the entire institution’s research activities. Many entrants to research leadership at senior executive level will have come from a disciplinary background and have experience of leading a faculty or department. Now they must think in a cross-institutional way, addressing variations in the cultures of different fields of study and probable disparities in the maturity of the research ethos across different organisational units. Their long-term aim will be to create an environment in which all staff members are genuinely committed to research. Effective leadership at this level involves coordinating multiple challenges and is notable for its skilful approach to locating these challenges in a larger framework. This framework embraces national policies, an awareness of areas of research that are relatively open to new contenders, opportunities for cross-disciplinary and collaborative activity, acknowledgment of existing areas of institutional strength (including strengths in research administration) and changing expectations of academic work. We are convinced both from the extensive literature on this topic and from personal experience, that such leadership must be both robust and collaborative in order to enhance research productivity. ‘Assertive participative governance’, which combines unambiguous objectives with devolved ownership of projects, is the style of leadership that is the defining feature of success in transforming the research profile of universities. We also stress the importance of creating a distinctive vision for research and articulating it right across the university. At this level of leadership it is not enough to address operational issues; these matters – such as developing action plans in faculties – should be delegated to those who are closest to the staff involved. Senior executives will focus their attention on the framework in which local issues are situated and on ensuring symmetry between them and the institutional vision. We describe practical steps to achieving this aim in the principles identified in this handbook. 7Senior academic leadership for increased research performance naturally demands an emphasis on outcomes. Building and sustaining a productive research organisation involves more than discussing its characteristics and publishing a plan. It is not an abstract exercise – even though it demands some conceptual thinking about high quality research and the appropriate roads to institutional success. It requires making the strategy happen through continuous intervention. The effective senior leader will be careful to focus sharply on aspects of research productivity that are under their control; actions that may be desirable in theory are not necessarily the best way to expend time and energy. He or she will be aware that a major part of this simultaneously energetic and reflective approach involves gauging progress towards specified outcomes if the desired ethos is to become embedded in the institution. The purpose of this kind of leadership is to provide clarity about the direction of change, to propagate examples of success, to encourage constructive competition and to raise the awareness of colleagues so that they work cooperatively to deliver tangible enhancements in research activity and productivity. However, modifying an institutional research culture is a long-term project; senior executives must be ready to acknowledge that changes will happen over a lengthy period and that setbacks will be the norm rather than the exception. It is important to recognise that academic and administrative staff experience leadership for research development in an institutional context. What heads, deans and research office staff do influences the probability that academics will develop a strong attachment to a culture of research excellence. We argue that senior executives should understand and reward the efforts of managers to support research development and that they should set up mechanisms to recognise performance and inspire innovation at all levels. It is particularly undesirable to run the risk of creating divisions between different parts of the institution and its members – executive leaders, research managers, academics, research institutes, commercial activities and students. Productively connecting research and teaching, for example – rather than separating the two areas in a kind of competitive tension – is a characteristic of highly dynamic university research cultures. A handbook for executive leadership of research development 8The principles and elements are applicable to universities laying the groundwork for the future as well as those that need revitalising in response to declining productivity. In both cases a rebuilding of the organisational culture is required. The principles and elements are also relevant in the context of pressures to conduct cross-disciplinary research in groups identified and driven by the senior executive. Essentially, we identify a series of synergies between individual factors, leadership factors and institutional factors that make for a supportive environment that facilitates productivity. A research-productive institution, we argue, depends on leadership that makes that supportive environment’s features available to a well-prepared staff. Three important points we make throughout the handbook are that: research intensity has to be made to happen hence the importance of robust and far-sighted leadership; that the inevitable set backs and periods of stasis along the way can be managed if there is a strong sense of confidence from leaders about the long-term direction the university is taking; and that progress comes from meeting exacting international standards and criteria for success. Above all, research development is a highly interactive endeavour that requires effective communication at all points along the way. Executive leadership of research 9A background briefing on the evidence This section provides an outline of evidence from key research that has informed our approach to the handbook. We have included this brief summary of materials around four key themes because of our conviction that the lessons of these research findings, many of which have withstood numerous tests over many years, are often not incorporated into the decisions of senior executives who are responsible for research development. 111. Research productivity and the individual and environmental factors related to it The public sharing of research findings is frequently regarded as central to the academic mission. However, while most academics teach and undertake administrative duties, and many are involved in public service, producing research is by no means a characteristic of every member of the academic community. On the contrary, a small proportion of staff generate most of the output. Typical estimates from US, Australian and UK studies show that in research-focused universities about half the publications are produced by about fifteen per cent of the total number of academics; in newer, teaching-focused institutions half the publications come from 1 ten per cent of staff . The total outputs from many teaching-focused institutions are 2 low . Research productivity can therefore be thought of as a key discriminator between 3 academics and between higher education institutions . This implies that the task of improving research performance in newer universities presents extraordinary challenges to executive leaders. The most important indicator of research productivity is publication – in both quantity and quality. Despite the growing importance of measures such as the external impact of research and its commercial application, excellent publication outputs are still generally regarded as the main source of scholarly esteem, as requirements for individual academic promotion, as evidence of institutional prestige (and a university’s position in international league tables) and as a prerequisite for obtaining competitive research funds. If publication is central to scholarly activity and recognition, what do we know about how we might enhance it? Studies of the correlates of research productivity provide important clues for academic leaders. An early interest in research, involvement in research activity, satisfaction with reward systems and seniority of academic rank are all related to academic productivity. For example, highly active researchers produce on average more than five times as many publications as the least active group. Academics reporting high levels of intrinsic academic motivation (tending to agree with statements such as ‘I find most new topics in my subject area interesting, and often spend extra time trying to obtain more information about them’) are twice as 4 productive as the least intrinsically motivated . A handbook for executive leadership of research development 12By far the best background or environmental predictor of individual output is an academic’s membership of an active research department. He or she is, according to one study, four times more productive than his or her colleagues in one of the less vigorous units (partly because of selection effects, but also because high levels of total output stimulate individuals to do more). ‘Active research’ will vary by discipline and is related to esteem, but includes things such as being involved in research projects, gaining research funds, supervising postgraduates, editing journals, being invited to give papers and attending scholarly meetings). ‘Active’ research departments, with a strong culture of research quality and support for staff to develop 5 research careers, produce more publications for their size than less active ones . What factors hinder research engagement and productivity? In addition to the individual and environmental aspects implicit in the above paragraphs, perhaps the most significant revolve around the critical importance to a sense of academic identity, productivity and overall work satisfaction of an individual’s autonomy to pursue personal academic interests. Academics, in contrast to most workers, have usually been able to declare their preferences for the type of work that best suits their interests and the subjects about which they are enthusiastic at a particular point in time. These interests may have had their genesis as far back as undergraduate study. Being able to focus on their own interests and being able to make choices among them provides academics with a sense of personal satisfaction and credibility amongst the community of scholars; it also satisfies the desire to make an original and ongoing contribution to knowledge. The main predictor of work satisfaction for academics, clearly ahead of salary and job security, is the opportunity to pursue their 6 own academic interests . Because intrinsic motivation plays such a decisive role in productivity, it is important for leaders to consider what factors might attenuate this enthusiasm. Making choices about teaching and research is increasingly less likely for large numbers of academics. The nature of freedom and autonomy amongst tenured academics over 7 what is researched and taught can no longer be taken for granted . Self-regulation in the management of work and its implications for academic identity are easily underestimated as a defining element in academic identities. Academics place a premium on the freedom they have to manage their work in ways that suit their personal priorities and approaches to research and teaching. Autonomy over what academics will teach and research extends to setting their own priorities A background briefing on the evidence 13and organising daily work patterns within the relatively permeable constraints of institutional structures and processes. While their idiosyncratic approach to the management of time and task is often a source of tension between them and others in the workplace, it is frequently justified on the grounds that self-regulation is a prerequisite for discovery, and correlates with productivity. This creates a key point of friction with the increasingly professionalised cadre of specialists in the workplace who have less autonomy over their work, time and location, and who are entirely focused on the achievement of institutional strategic goals. The ways in which these tensions are being resolved is of considerable significance for the future of academic identity and productivity, which is in turn 8 critical to the performance of institutions . There is a common belief that ‘research concentration’ through directing resources to bigger units and research-focused universities will enhance productivity. However, larger work units do not necessarily produce better research outcomes. The quality and quantity of communication within the unit appears to be the decisive factor. Thus, although there is a ‘critical mass’ for a research group below which productivity is compromised, it also appears that there is optimum size of group, which differs 9 between disciplines. Beyond a certain number of individuals, productivity declines , implying that diminishing returns set in, most probably due to limitations imposed by scale on the quality and quantity of communications. In considering the experiences of postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows in science, Seashore Lewis 10 and colleagues argue that work group size, membership of a productive unit, individualism and collaboration all contribute to early productivity. There is, however, a tension between size and willingness to collaborate; and there appear to be differences between laboratory disciplines in experiences of organisational climate. Environmental factors associated with research productivity have been thoroughly investigated over many years. The application of the findings can be seen in the criteria and results of research performance exercises such as the UK Research Assessment Exercise (RAE) and Research Excellence Framework (REF) and the Excellence in Research for Australia (ERA) initiative. Although twenty years old, Bland 11 and Ruffin’s conclusions from an extensive literature review still hold. They identified twelve characteristics consistently linked to high productivity: A handbook for executive leadership of research development 14• clear goals that serve a coordinating function • research emphasis • distinctive research culture • positive group climate • assertive participative governance • decentralised organisation • frequent communication • accessible resources (particularly human resources) • sufficient size, age and diversity of the research group • appropriate rewards • concentration on recruitment and selection • leadership with research expertise and skill in both initiating appropriate organisational structure and using participatory management practices. A related factor that stimulates both research activity and productivity appears to be academic perceptions of whether the working environment is cooperatively 12 managed and allows high levels of participation in decision making . In more cooperative environments in that study, staff seemed more likely to show high levels of intrinsic motivation for academic work, to be less likely to be dissatisfied with the reward system, and to be more likely to be highly committed to research. The most cooperatively-managed departments had the highest productivity levels; and this was true in the older universities as well as the newer institutions. The cooperatively- managed departments were ones where staff agreed that: • staff are consulted on matters of policy even when they are not directly affected • staff in the department often discuss research issues together • teaching loads are negotiated cooperatively among staff • there is plenty of discussion on teaching and curriculum issues among academic staff • there is little professional jealousy among the academic staff • good teachers are highly respected in this department. It would be overstating the case to say that a cooperative academic environment causes higher research productivity. On the contrary, it is true that a group of highly A background briefing on the evidence 15active and committed researchers helps to create a context in which collaborative management is more easily practised. The association does suggest, however, that a focus on effective management and leadership – especially management and leadership that enables frequent, high quality communications – may be an important strategy for enhancing academic output. Many of the factors linked to research performance that have been outlined above contain clear implications for the work of executive leaders. To them we can add 13 some of the RAE 2008 features distinguishing high performing units of assessment in practical terms: • a vibrant research environment and an active research culture created through critical mass and strong leadership • investment in infrastructure (laboratories, libraries, facilities) • effective implementation of policies for recruiting and rewarding high performing academic researchers • good support for emerging researchers (including postdoctoral fellows) • (for less developed units) encouragement for academic staff to obtain doctorates • effective use of research funding to stimulate research development • clearly articulated strategic plans: ambitious, forward looking, building on strengths, widely understood and effectively monitored • support for career development, for all staff from new researchers to world- leading experts • a strong profile of external research funding across coherent academic groups • a large cohort of research students with good completion rates • significant esteem, in terms of service to the academic community , visiting academic positions, international recognition and considerable editorial work • institutional support for career development and research training • where appropriate, strong user engagement, a wider public role, and evidence of impact on policy and practice. A handbook for executive leadership of research development 162. Leadership, management and academics in the context of changing policies Changes in national policies and funding regimes for university research have led to enlarged scrutiny of research productivity and activity, which has in turn influenced university structures and processes. To the traditional focus on research as the advancement of knowledge have been added systems of research assessment, growing competition for research funding and increased emphasis on the contribution of research to the economy and its benefits to society. Research activity is more expected more than ever before to lead to outputs such as publication and commercial application. These changes have highlighted the importance of research 14 centres, interdisciplinarity and partnerships between entrepreneurs and universities . As demands for higher institutional performance have increased, so accountability requirements for individual academics have inevitably become greater than before. There is a general view that these changes may lead to tensions and have damaging consequences for academic work. Academic research is by definition about unpredictability and personal commitment; it sits uneasily with management systems that rely on command and control. Solutions to this dilemma revolve around distributed leadership, collegiality, the need to recognise the mutual dependency of different functions and the alignment of management, leadership and individual responsibilities. These strategies call to mind the characteristics of productive research environments described by Bland and Ruffin. They are relevant not only to research-intensive universities but also to institutions that aspire to a larger research role. Executive leadership for research, research management and the work of researchers 15 can be understood along a single continuum . To enable research activity and productivity to flourish at individual level, each party to needs to show mutual respect and support for the others. Research support offices and executive leadership work best in close partnership; the requirement for complementarity between management and leadership identified by classic writers on modern leadership applies accurately in this context. A particular emphasis appears to be necessary on effective and empathic communication between the groups and on creating an environment in which academics feel actively engaged. These are clearly fundamental leadership responsibilities. Executive leaders leading change in research development must A background briefing on the evidence 17manage a lively tension between institutional demands and individual requirements. It is essential for them to work alongside academics in order to identify new research directions and to support their productivity in a dynamic environment. In pursuit of this endeavour, their own competence as successful scholars plays a key part in establishing credibility, confidence and a sense of common purpose. 16 Leithwood and associates stress the need for what they call ‘contingent leadership’ in these circumstances. Contingent leadership is specific to context – its premise is that no one style of leadership works well in all conditions. In responding to the context of a newly developing research culture, the optimal leadership style is one that highlights transparency and staff involvement and does not stimulate the kind of inter-staff competition that leads to distrust and disillusionment. 3. Research strategy and staffing issues There is broad agreement that the external challenges outlined above require universities to develop coherent research strategies – strategies that are sustainable and that enable an institution to build on its successes. Effective strategies will typically include targeted development of key areas in which growth is sought, efforts to generate engagement across faculties and buy-in from staff, links to recognition and reward systems, incentives for adherence, internal competition for funding and quantitative systems to monitor progress and benchmark progress against other institutions. Molfese and her colleagues have examined the issue of how the strategic planning process can benefit research performance both in research intensive and in 17 ‘predominantly undergraduate’ institutions . The latter are, of course, organisations dedicated mainly to teaching, so that many staff will have been recruited principally as teachers and will rate teaching as their main or favourite interest. Recollecting the importance attached by academics to autonomy and self-determination, this poses a leadership difficulty that is only partly solved through the efforts of good research managers and effective coordination between leaders and managers. It is important for executive leaders to have a clear appreciation to have a clearly articulated view of why research is important to the university and how its pursuit follows from the institution’s vision and mission. Leaders will need to know how significant the links between research and teaching are in academics’ and academic managers’ ways of thinking. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the institution A handbook for executive leadership of research development 18in relation to the environment conducive to research that has been outlined above? What steps will the university use to work strategically towards a research plan that recognises scholarship, expects research activity as a normal part of academic workload, and creates a sense of ownership among all staff? What devices will be in place to deal with staff who may become disaffected as a result of a shift in the importance it attaches to research productivity? What support, prestige and recognition can staff who move in the direction of more research activity expect? 4. Building a research culture: issues specific to research development in newer universities Many issues connected with the executive leadership of research apply equally across different types of higher education institutions. However, as the work of Molfese and colleagues shows, there are important themes that are specific to the development of research activity and capacity in newer universities. Universities that have limited research capacity can no longer ignore the forces of change that propel them towards enhancing their research capability. The generation of new knowledge has become a global priority at the highest level of politics. The increasing importance of academic research to national governments around the world, together with greater competition for students, funding and commercial partnerships, have led to pressures for every university to focus on producing and sharing scholarly outputs. ‘Excellence’ in higher education is progressively more likely to be defined in terms of ‘highly active and productive in research’. As we have seen, however, research productivity is unevenly distributed between individual academics and between universities. Many newer universities were established as teaching-focused institutions, recruiting academics who were not research active; although changes in the UK and Australian higher education systems have led to a broader distribution of research activity, and some staff in newer universities have built active research profiles, there remain large numbers of academics at these universities who are neither eager to pursue research, nor capable of pursuing it effectively. Ellen Hazelkorn has systematically reviewed these issues in a series of publications 18 that embrace international perspectives on growing research from a ‘fragile base’ . Developing research in newer universities (and in older institutions that have an existing, but relatively poor record of research) presents redoubtable challenges. It A background briefing on the evidence 19represents a significant strategic redirection for the institution that must be undertaken concurrently with entry into a highly competitive market. In that market, research- intensive universities’ history of success, not only in discovering new knowledge but also in applying it in partnership with professional, industrial and commercial organisations, presents a formidable barrier to new entrants. Older research- intensive institutions are advantaged by long-standing expertise in gaining funding and administering research; and they are more likely to be imbued with a research ethos that gives priority, recognition and reward to scholarly endeavour at all levels of seniority. Refocusing on research means that academics who have made their careers in a less research intensive institution, including heads and deans, will be presented with a different set of expectations. Hazelkorn identifies ‘research active’ staff (who may become uneasy if their scholarly areas are not identified as strategic institution priorities), ‘uneasy researchers’ (who are apprehensive because they are new to doing research, but who are potential contributors in future, if properly supported and rewarded), and ‘research negative’ individuals (who are hostile to research, unsure why it is important, or lacking confidence and possibly fearful of getting started in research). An important issue for leadership is the extent to which developing an institutional research capability depends on existing staff or relies more on recruiting new individuals who have a strong research track record, or show promise of developing one. In practice, successful institutions have rarely trusted in strategies that do not involve new appointments. Table 1 presents a range of human resource strategies to address the growth of research. A handbook for executive leadership of research development 20Table 1. HR strategies to grow research (from Hazelkorn, 2008) HR strategy Indicative actions Recruit Align recruitment strategy to priority areas via experienced researchers, post-doctoral or other senior professorial posts, sometimes on contract and accompanied by relatively generous support funds and salaries, and supported by good induction programmes. Re-invigorate Incentivise, reward, and recognise research performance via promotion, salary, and other benefits, including career stream choices and new academic contracts which include research or research-only positions; clear promotion criteria and performance indicators measuring both quantity and quality across disciplines. Train Implement faculty development strategies or faculty-building plans to assist new researchers, including facilitating PhD attainment, mentoring, application writing, etc. Re-orient Encourage involvement in new fields or large-scale interdisciplinary research teams—involving the community or industry – via incentive schemes. Enable Enhance research facilities and opportunities, including flexible workload schemes to meet different abilities and capabilities over a faculty member’s career, sabbatical leave, research scholarships and fellowships, and gender specific initiatives, for example family-friendly workplace and a women’s register. Establish a Research and Technology Transfer Office to provide direct support to R&D groups and faculty in the formulation and financial management of projects, communication tasks, marketing and connections with the technological, industrial and economic environment, etc. A background briefing on the evidence 21Hazelkorn also describes the importance of a variety of reward and award systems for research activity and performance, including research time, travel funds, targeted grants, additional salary payments, achievement awards and mentoring systems. A progressively more competitive research environment has tended to favour 19 what Gibbons described as ‘mode 2’ forms of knowledge production: an emphasis on teams, a greater user focus, transdisciplinarity and problem focus, organisational diversity and broadly-based quality review (incorporating user judgments as well as peer review). In turn this has led to stronger internal management processes, increased accountability, preferences for interdisciplinary teams, the growth of research centres and institutes and the separation of undergraduate teaching from research activity. These developments are as relevant to growing research in newer university environments as they are in established ones. A core issue for executive leaders of research is working effectively with the professions. It is particularly relevant in newer universities that are developing functions in para-professional areas or growing alternative approaches to professional practice. Some fields, such as allied health, have been identified as ones that typically find it difficult to show progress in research development: capacity may be limited because many of the academic workforce are engaged in practice, or are ‘research negative’ individuals 20 (as described above), whose academic identity is not shaped through research and who may lack the intellectual orientation and skills to pursue it 21 successfully. A helpful case study of the early stages of building a research culture in a 22 primarily undergraduate institution is provided by Studman and Tshecko. The process involved developing a short research policy (strategic plan) based on a vision for academic excellence. Key challenges were identified, including lack of alignment of research with university goals, poor use of internal funds, lack of accountability, no management of output quality, no training in research management and limited postgraduate research. As a result, more transparent funding procedures, a stronger emphasis on quality and accountability, training in writing research proposals and A handbook for executive leadership of research development 22incentives to undertake research (including awards and competitive grants) were provided. Any unused research funds ‘stockpiled’ by faculties were returned to the central pool and the previous system of per capita funding was replaced by a discretionary method that was ultimately linked to performance (as measured through research productivity). The effects were monitored through observing changes in outputs and activities and by means of a staff survey of attitudes. Examples such as this, and from our case study universities, reinforce our view that implementing strategies and policies to develop research in newer universities demands visionary leadership and firm management. This will imply realistic appraisal of research strengths and weaknesses; a vibrant strategic plan; strong endorsement of excellent research as a future direction for the university by all its senior executive; explicit acknowledgment of the institutional and individual prestige acquired through research productivity; and financial support that is directly linked to 23 performance and promise. The principles and elements that follow in the next section centre on five assumptions drawn largely from the evidence summarised here: • Strategic leadership is the single most important environmental factor influencing research productivity. • Institutional leadership of research development is not simply faculty, research group or department leadership on a higher level. • Leadership of research development requires specialist skills and knowledge about the organisational conditions that contribute to academic productivity. • Strategic leadership must be simultaneously robust and collaborative in order to enhance research productivity. • ‘Assertive participative governance’, which combines unambiguous objectives with devolved leadership of research, is the key to success. A background briefing on the evidence 23

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