Research and Information Officer

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Andy Roadnight is Research and Information Officer at the University of Warwick

About you?

What is your background?
I was a VAT inspector and trade union negotiator for fifteen years before leaving to do a BA in Comparative American Studies and then a PhD in American diplomatic history of the twentieth century. I chose to do a PhD because of my enthusiasm and excitement about the topic and the influence of my inspiring supervisor, the late Callum McDonald, a world-renowned expert in this field.

What initially attracted you to your job?
Like many highly educated jobseekers, I changed his mind about going into academia and I started looking for a role that would allow me to develop his flare for research, while remaining an ‘academic groupie’!

Define your job?
Research Support Services work with academics across disciplinary boundaries in all four faculties (the humanities, social sciences, sciences and the Medical School). They offer ‘cradle to grave’ support for funded research projects, and they also encourage junior academics that they can apply for funding and will be guided through the process. One RSS team supports academics developing research proposals; a second team works up research budgets and negotiates contracts while a third team administers the funds once they are awarded.

Can you walk me through your day to day activities?
Within the team, my specific function is to research the background information needed to make funding applications. I also manage the university research web pages and drafts reports. My role relies heavily on project management skills – for example, I am the secretary to the Warwick Commission, a year-long project designed to raise the international research profile of the university.

What are the key issues facing your sector?
Traditionally scientists have needed to win more funding in order to cover their high research costs, and to achieve a strong project-delivery profile. This was less true of the arts subjects where, until recently, researchers often ploughed a lone furrow. However, this is now changing and even arts funding councils are rewarding collaborative, cross-disciplinary projects. For these projects, funding is needed to develop networks between academics from various universities who are collaborating.

How does government legislation affect your job?
Decisions made by the government regarding student funding and, of course, charitable giving have a direct impact upon my job.  For example, the introduction of Gift Aid in 2000 was, and still is, an important part of what we do.  The Gift Aid regulations mean that UK charities are entitled to a 28% tax reclaim from the Inland Revenue on every £1 donated by UK taxpayers.  The fact that we can increase gifts by almost a third so easily is absolutely fantastic, therefore Gift Aid can be a really strong factor in influencing people’s decision to make a donation.  The recent decision by the government to give £1 for every £2 that universities raise from graduates and philanthropists from 2008 is great news and will potentially have a very large impact on our work over the next few years.

What attributes do you need/what are you looking for when hiring someone in your role?
The transferable skills provided by doing a PhD (although they can be acquired in many other ways): research, project management, writing and interpersonal skills.

What are your tips/advice for those starting out?
Working in university management, you don't have to abandon academic work completely. I give one lecture a year in my specialist subject and I provide cover whenever necessary.

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Click here to read Working for a university in non-academic roles - From PhD to Research Support.

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