Announcement of my new role as ‘Research Community Manager’ at the University of Melbourne

I’m pleased to announce my new job as “Research Community Manager” at the University of Melbourne.

Note: please do take a moment to update any contact details you have for me: <– this link is where I try and keep an up-to-date version of my contact details, for when you are wondering which email of mine to use 🙂

Hello to my new colleagues at the University of Melbourne, I look forward to meeting with you in person.

Ok, so what is my new job about? As an elevator pitch to ‘Jane Citizen’ (aka so my friends & family outside the sector will know what I do!):

The University of Melbourne’s Research Community Manager will make sure the left knows what the right is doing, that duplication is limited, that people feel a sense that you want them to do the best, most innovative research they can muster; all within a climate of innovation, accuracy, freedom, and limitless information empowerment!

But why have a Research Community Manager (or more importantly, why doesn’t your University have a Research Community Manager?) – Let’s consider some numbers from the No.1 University in Australia:

3,500 Staff
5,000 Research Staff
16,000 Taught Postgraduate**
800 Doctoral and Post Doctoral Students*
=> 25,000 Researchers (that’s a very large community)

This number is massive for a community[2], and when you consider how many more people these +25k researchers collaborate with beyond the walls of the institution internationally it almost feels impossible to imagine how change could be affected… or is it?

Tools+Data Research Connection Pyramid

Researchers might not see it yet, but there is an interwoven community waiting to emerge via tools+data.

To quote from Dr. Steven Manos (my new boss and leader of the #ResBaz movement[1], from which my new job is founded):

“The paramount objective of this position will be to inspire researchers with new ways of doing their research through building the community around the new core research paradigms of tools+data. Researchers and research students** interact with information technology every single day, and they are becoming more and more dependent upon digital tools to do their work. These digital tools along with the IT skill levels differ widely between disciplines. The traditional IT helpdesk simply cannot support the breadth of tools and the depth of support needed by the community. The University has already undertaken a multi-million dollar programme of works in the last three years to build IT services tuned to the needs of researchers, including cloud and data storage infrastructure. However, there’s still a long way to go in solving the researcher’s problem of ‘what does this mean to me?’, and mapping their research problem to solutions that are supported by the technology.

The above problem provides us with a great opportunity to establish communities that are cross-disciplinary which can support one another in new technology adoption (helping create a more porous University, bringing researchers out of their departments to work across new tools+datasets. This model will engage and inspire researchers, help solve their everyday research problems and (most importantly) address the needs of the digital era within which we live. After all, researchers don’t consume IT services, they consume collaborations.

It’s safe to say that taking this approach across an institution the size of Melbourne is a world-first.  This is pivotal role that will have a direct impact on the University’s ability to achieve its strategic aim of being one of the leading universities in the world.”

So what are the pragmatics of this post, how do I even begin to support Dr. Manos’ world-first vision!?  First and foremost, is the team I’ll be working with (who thanks to previous engagements I’ve already had the pleasure of working with, and am looking forward to doing so more).  I’ll introduce my new team via a further blog post, hopefully over on their blog.

Second, is the audience.  If the above vision is going to have an effect on 25K+ researchers then we’ve got to find a way to get their attention.  I believe that attention can be obtained through early career researchers, or more specifically though the seventeen-thousand postgraduate and doctoral students at the University.  In short, we must approach the community from the bottom-up if we are going to get top-down attention[4].


To achieve top-down engagement we must balance out how we engage our research community from the bottom-up, this will be through the 68% foundation of our community: postgraduates.

**So why do we feel that postgraduates are the key to affecting the entire research community?  Well, other than the democracy of the situation (68% of the community are postgraduates), is that postgraduates are the ones sitting in the lab atop the data+tools most of the time, and are also the people who can get the professors attention (well sometimes, see cartoon below).

Even at 17k people the community is too large to engage, hence the need for champions.  In the coming months, as part of the #ResBaz initiative I’ll talk more about how we are recruiting postgraduate students as research community ambassadors.  We’ve already had some success via events like #ArtsHack – stay tuned to the #ResBaz channel!

In the next couple of months we’ll roll out several more initiatives aimed at recruiting postgraduate students as champions.  For example, we are working on a similar postgraduate workshop utilising tools such as #RStat through global movements such as Software Carpentry via Mozilla and ‘School of Data’ via the Open Knowledge Foundation.  This is perhaps one of the most important parts of my job: that we remain outward looking and collaborative in our approach.

Melbourne University geographically sits atop the city of Melbourne - the 'most livable city in the world' and will accordingly embrace that entire community.

Melbourne University geographically sits atop the city of Melbourne – the ‘most livable city in the world’ and our research community will accordingly embrace that entire hive of minds.

Finally, I’d like to state some personal objectives for what I am hoping to achieve in my new role (I’m not sure I know how to track these metrics, but I want to ‘go big or go home'[5]):

There are three main metrics in which I would like my new job as Research Community Manager to impact:

  • No.1: The University of Melbourne will increase its world ranking as a top-tier University.
  • No.2: The graduates from the University of Melbourne will be the most highly sought after skilled talent in Australia.
  • No.3: The research community at the University of Melbourne achieves more start-ups than any other University in Australia.

Wish me luck!!! 🙂


[1]= Please see the #ResBaz initiative which Dr. Manos has spearheaded, an overview is available here:

[2]= As a long time community manager, a more realistic number for a community manager is somewhere nearer Dunbar’s number of ~200 people, which can then be inferred to around 2,400 people (200 champions via the smaller events they can put on of about a dozen people => 2400 ‘communally’ engaged).  The question will be: ‘how do we break past this number to affect even more of the research population!?’

[3]= not to be confused with a pyramid schema, more akin to the network effect.

[4]=  As a manager responsible for writing the justification of this community, I’d like to comment on the importance of having both a top-down strategy for engaging world class researcher as well as bottom-up initiatives for engaging researchers who will soon be the new world class researchers.  Culturally speaking, my observation of Australia’s research community (in comparison to the UK & USA) has been one where the top-down is preferred over the bottom-up (government funding through eresearch initiatives seem to prefer this approach?).  I don’t wish to suggest one is better than the other, just that you need both bottom-up and top-down to affect change.  Accordingly, the strategies I will put forward in my new management role will aim to provide this balance, and further-to  encourage other Universities to consider (via their own #ResBaz initiatives) how they can help better balance their research engagement processes across their entire research community (not just the top of the pyramid).

[5]= I’ve pleased to say that through this job I’ll be able to apply for permanent residence status in Australia making Victoria one of my new ‘homes’ alongside Colorado and England.


~ by dfflanders on July 16, 2013.

4 Responses to “Announcement of my new role as ‘Research Community Manager’ at the University of Melbourne”

  1. Congrats. Flanders. Looking forward to many research events.


  2. Congratulations! Will be interesting to see what the difference is when trying to do this within one (large) organisation, as opposed to within in a specific area of research.

    But definitely agree with you, postgrads are the future!

  3. Congratulations 🙂

  4. Looking forward to more great work with the Great Flanders!

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