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Everyday management activities that support smooth operations may seem to be a formality and generally are not exciting, but the absence of management processes for addressing employee safety, assignments, and dress codes can make for bumpy workdays. This chapter presents the aspects of these traditional workplace issues that are unique to research positions.


Investigators, administrators, and research supervisors should have a working knowledge of managing people and work collaboratively with the human resource professionals within their institution. This chapter will focus on the issues that are distinctive for research personnel and will not include discussions of standard management practices.

Where Do Managers Come From?

Investigators may manage their research staff, with or without the help of a supervisor or administrator. Their view may be that management is centered on the clinical trial conduct and view other management responsibilities as secondary. Investigators may be unfamiliar with many aspects of research operations, including delegation of tasks and managing personnel. Hiring, training, scheduling, and taking corrective action are essential parts of all business operations, including operations within a research enterprise.

It’s easy to start with the assumption that reasonable employees will manage themselves and their work well. In fact, all employees balance the competing priorities of work and their personal life. Establishing workplace boundaries regarding schedules, conducting personal business, and behavior can benefit everyone. Investigators are responsible for identifying goals and priorities that, when combined with clear boundaries on performance expectations, keep work in focus.

It is often the case that an advanced practice research professional moves into a supervisory or administrative position. This person likely possesses the specialty knowledge needed to lead a research trial, but doesn’t necessarily have management experience. The institution may be able to provide support and training on leadership, ways to enhance employee performance, and processes such as performance appraisals and hiring. Supervisors and managers can also pursue formal management and business education through traditional avenues with local or online college programs and independent reading. One of the best resources for manager education and support is peer networking. There are benefits not only to networking with other managers within the organization, but also with professional colleagues at other institutions.

An organization may also choose to hire professionals who have management and administrative experience, but do not possess research-specific specialty knowledge. This professional must attain a working knowledge of research-specific operations and finance. There may be an opportunity for these managers to work collaboratively with their peers, administrators in other departments, or members of the research team to acquire this working knowledge. There can be serious credibility issues when members of the leadership team—those making the business decisions, making assignments, and conducting performance appraisals—have significant gaps in understanding what to expect from the research team and sponsors.

The reality ...

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