Managing Science and Research

Managing science and research requires a unique skill set that are not the same as general management skills required for other types of businesses.  General management theory is applicable to science and research management, but not sufficient to cater for the specific requirements of science and research management.  For that purpose we assume in this article that the reader is already familiar with general management principles and approaches.  Our focus here is to look at the specific requirements of science and research management.

An important aspect is understanding what would constitute good science and how to create an environment that would allow the knowledge generation aspect of science and research to flourish.  Important aspects that differ from general management principles are:

  1. Quality assurance often supersedes the process-focused approach in organization generally.  Especially where the problems are not standard and therefore require unique approaches to be solved, it is very difficult to provide consistent quality assurance and performance indicators.
  2. Science and research management requires a careful balance between investment and creating utility for current use.  Unless a considerable effort is made to constantly invest in more capabilities and growth of existing capabilities, management of science and research finds itself over the medium term with an increasingly stale and unproductive scientific research capability.  This requires a financial management approach that does not optimise for short term profit only, but also caters for the capability building of ongoing the investment.
  3. The people performing the science and research work are usually a scarce commodity, and replacing them require considerable investment of both time and money.  For this reason retention and ongoing development of existing experts needs to be a focus in the business model (this is true for all knowledge-intensive innovative environments).
  4. The work environment need to enable innovative and creative work, and facilitate and value team work.  The performance indicators for these are often difficult to define (they might even be intangible).  But giving attention to them and getting them right for the specific type of science and research work is very important for a successful science and research capability.

In addition to all of this there is the aspect of “managing science where it happens”, namely to ensure the scientific work itself is of a good quality and make the best use of the available capabilities.  Usually this is catered for by the various conventions that scientists and researchers of specific disciplines adhere to professionally.

However, the various sciences have a number of differences and commonalities that make maintaining the scientific rigour when work is done in more than one of the major branches of science very difficult.  For this reasons many research capabilities either restrict themselves to only selected branches of science, or they retain the barriers between the various sciences and never really get to an integrated scientific capability that spans across the boundaries of the sciences.  In the complex and highly connected societies we live in that is becoming an increasingly untenable situation.  We need to be able to integrate the sciences to be able to provide relevant and useful new knowledge, utilising the best that science offers. Using science in an integrated way  unlocks most value in situations like this.  We need to keep in mind that

  • All the sciences share a common goal to search for the “truth”, or “facts”, or “evidence.  This common goal provides the background against which we are able to identify a number of similarities.
  • There are some legitimate differences between the sciences that we cannot remove by forcing one approach on all the branches of science.

Accomplishing this is not easy. However, there are two sets of features that are common to all branches of the sciences.  They can be used in all branches of science to ensure that we are able to integrate our scientific work across the traditional branches of the sciences.  They are

  • The scientific productiveness features:  These are the features of science that facilitate its success in knowledge generation.  Knowledge can be generated in a number of ways, but these science has illustrated over the centuries that where these features are present and used appropriately they facilitate a level of success that is not otherwise possible.
  • The Scientific Capability Features:  These are the features that describe the way to go about knowledge generation utilising the scientific productivity features.

We have used these two for integrated scientific work in a number of cross-disciplinary applications (mostly to solve complex real life problems in strategic management decision making).  They have proven themselves to add value in the rigor, quality and relevance of cross-disciplinary scientific work.

Why Would a Focus Group Facilitator Be Necessary?

When a business decides to launch a new product, it must invest millions of dollars in order to bring the product to the market. These dollars are spent primarily on research and development (R&D) and there is no guarantee that these dollars will ever be recouped. If the product is a complete flop, it will lose millions of dollars and cripple the company’s finances. For this reason, many companies use focus groups to determine how consumers feel about a specific product before producing and releasing it. Companies that bring together a group must hire a facilitator to lead the group’s discussion. This article takes a look at how group think works and what role a group facilitator plays.

A focus group is a form of qualitative research in which a set of consumers who match the target demographic are asked their opinions and attitudes to a specific idea, product, or service. The group facilitator asks participants a wide range of questions and participants are able to interact with other group members. Ideally a focus group will sustain a conversation and all participants will feel that they can speak freely. This free exchange of ideas allows the company to get the most honest reaction to a proposed product, service, or marketing campaign.

There are three phases of focus group planning that a group facilitator will have to complete. He or she will complete work before, during, and after the focus group. This professional will actually start working right after the company decides it is time to hire a facilitator. The group leader will help plan the event by identifying objectives for the discussion, determining a location and group of participants based on the objectives and the target market, and finally he or she will develop a script. This script will include an opening section that explains how the event will work, a section with open-ended questions that spur conversation, and a closing section that thanks the participants.

Once planning is completed, the group facilitator will conduct the focus group. He or she should record the session either with a voice recording or a video, with participants made aware that they will be recorded. The facilitator will follow his or her script during the session, but an experienced professional will know when to ask spontaneous questions. He or she will also focus on getting full answers, keeping the discussion on-track at all times, and making sure that every participant is given the chance to speak. The group facilitator will also keep an eye on time so that all questions are addressed.

When a business decides to hire a facilitator, it will also have help dealing with the results of the focus group. The group facilitator will use his or her notes and the recording of the session to create a written summary. This summary can then be analyzed to determine whether a product or service is ready for the market, or if a marketing campaign needs to be retooled before the product or service is released.

Companies that hire a facilitator to lead their focus groups will minimize the occurrence of costly product or service flops.

Selling Products Online Is A Rewarding Enterprise

Anybody planning to undertake online business opportunities is concerned about two major concerns. The first is to be able to generate the maximum amount of quality traffic. The second is to succeed in promoting and selling one’s goods and services successfully. You only have to develop your networking skills and get a computer with an internet connection. However, you also need to do product research, determine customers’ demands, budget and spending habits.

Customers’ Online Practices
Incidentally, it is a must for internet marketers to examine and understand the online habits of consumers. This is important in getting their attention and conveying to them the right message for internet marketing campaigns. Take note that each user has peculiar preferences and tastes even with respect to the use of the internet. Study online habits of people carefully so you will know how to send a marketing pitch. The ability of an online strategist to formulate a thriving internet marketing program is one of the keys to a highly successful venture. Along this line, there is a need to build and put into action short and long-term strategies to stimulate more traffic to your site. Your technique must be effective to sustain the efforts and time that you have invested in your venture.

Develop a Potent Brand
Building a strong brand is also a priority in internet marketing. You need to invest in your brand online by putting a concept that will reverberate with your customers and compel them to come back again and again even when there is no promotion to attract them. Fortifying your brand online will undoubtedly intensify responsiveness and bolster your reputation. The more people are fascinated by your brand, the greater the chances that they will assertively look for it and stay loyal to you. One thing is sure that you will reap benefits for investing so much in your brand. Your brand is what customers, friends, suppliers and rivals know and understand about your enterprise. The conviction of most people is that the theory of branding is all about logos and packaging. Actually, the aspects of branding – logos, websites, marketing, layouts and content are not all that matter. There are other essential factors such as enhancing customer knowledge and interaction with your commodities and services. It is vital for you to make use of marketing tactics and strategies to facilitate continuous interface with your base of customers.

Not a Fad
In online business opportunities, you also need to realize the value of social media. Social media can make three things happen. One is to grow the business, the second is to make a business organization more personal and lay down the essential foundation for success in any online activity. This concept also makes us understand about social networks and brand conversations. When entrepreneurs use this approach, it starts to generate viable results. The brand becomes known and benefits about this brand spread rather quickly. Conversations begin to happen and proposals are passed from a single individual to hundreds and even thousands of uninformed people. Positive information saturates the search engines and the result is website traffic shoots up. Social media marketing does not stop at acquiring potential customers. It transforms these customers into loyal and satisfied patrons. You are then assured of a thriving business.

How Taking Part in Qualitative Market Research Makes You See The World Differently

If you have ever taken part in a market research focus group or group discussion, it’s possible that you might have come out of the process unclear as to exactly what was achieved. When we talk to people about their experience of research participation, they nearly always report having had a fun and interesting time -but sometimes they wonder exactly what the people commissioning the research can have learned from their contributions, and how exactly they earned their cash incentive payment (typically £30 to £50 at current UK rates)

Of course sometimes the exercises used in research are very direct and obvious: If the research facilitator asks the group to compare two images and discuss what they like about each of them, which is most effective, which they prefer and why… as a research participant you will surely listen to the question and consider it, then try to respond to it as honestly and fully as possible.

That is fine, when this kind of considered response is required. But sometimes researchers need to go deeper. We relate to the brands around us in a wide range of ways, some of them consciously (‘I love Brand X, but Brand Y has gone down hill lately’), but other relationships are much more subtle. You might have sentimental feelings for brands from your childhood, or unconscious connections and memories suggested by a logo or piece of packaging. An advert or theme tune might really grate on you for reasons you have never thought about, and probably don’t really care about… but the people marketing that brand do care, and that is why they are paying for these focus groups!

So the researcher might ask you to do some things that seem a little bizarre at face value. We have seen participants asked to close their eyes and imagine what a brand of detergent would be like if it were a country – what kind of climate it might have, what governance, what the national dish might be. Sometimes people have said afterwards that they felt they gave a silly answer, because they had no idea what they were supposed to say… but that ‘top of head’ response can often tell the market researchers a great deal about the impressions their products are making, especially when they compare the responses from a range of different research participants.

Other researchers might get you to draw a picture of how an event made you feel, or imagine two different makes of car were people you met at a party – and then think about how they might introduce themselves and what they’d be wearing, and so on.

It’s all about getting you to think about the familiar in new and different ways, and it’s fascinating to observe or be a part of. We all make hundreds of tiny decisions every day, to buy that kind of shampoo or visit that website over there… each of our individual decisions might seem inconsequential, but when we’re talking about brands used all over the world these decisions scale up staggeringly. Market Researchers seeking to understand and learn from this behaviour have evolved intriguing tools to explore how our minds make these decisions, and being part of this is great fun.