BY PAUL SMAGLIK
Most scientists worry about how to secure grants. But a select few make
a career out of managing those grants to ensure that the money is well spent.
This is the job of the scientific administrator. Broadly speaking, scientific administration
involves the awarding, spending and tracking of funding at the grant, programme or policy
level. Grant-level administrators assign or manage funds given to individual investigators. Programme administrators look after the needs of multi-investigator or multi-institution
projects. And policy administrators oversee funding for entire departments, institutions
or even university systems.
Jobs at all levels exist at universities, federal agencies and foundations, and scientific
administrators often flip between these worlds at different stages of their careers — perhaps
awarding grants at institutions such as the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) or UK biomedical charity the Wellcome Trust at one time, and managing funds at universities at another.
Scientific administrators have a crucial role in the research process, says Ginny Cox
Delaney, an organizational consultant in the Oakland Office of the President of the University of California system, which administers ten research universities and five medical centres. “For me, science administration means the value-added role of advancing an organization’s research goal, besides doing the actual