Can research be managed?

laboratory management When I started BioData I had a clear idea where I was going. I'd seen science from the inside and knew what change I wanted to promote.

This blog post is my reply to a Science Careers paper that was posted a few years back. In short, the article suggests that young researchers do not believe in applying (PM) Project Management to research while  veteran researchers do.

I disagree. Project Management in research has nothing to do with age. We (shameless self promotion here) have about 650 active projects on our BioKM platform. They are being used mostly by students - not by their managers. Why?

Our research project module was born after I saw there was just too much stuff in some of the accounts. There was no way to understand the research story - you had a plasmid but you couldn't understand why it was there, if it was ever used, what were the results, which protocol, etc.

Since I don't like to write software that no one uses, I decided to talk with a few researchers that were collaborating with us at the time. All said - "No project management in academia," "it will never work," "you can't manage research,"  "you can't really plan ahead."

We heard that, and yet all that discouragement helped us understand the real challenge. Project management in research is a totally new concept and should be addressed in a different manner and with a different set of tools. Ganntt Charts won't work, constraints and other limiting factors are obviously there, meeting deadlines is there, but they are just not the point.

The point is to understand the path and the questions you are asking. The point is not to repeat yourself (well at least not too much), and to let your ideas and imagination thrive so you can see the progress of your research. A good tool (even a notebook) would be a place for you or any future researcher working on your project to understand what you did, share your ideas and pick it up to take it elsewhere.

A research project is different from an industrial projects since it is mostly a sequence of question and answers, not milestones and products.

Research can be managed it just requires attention and thought.