Consortium and System Strategies

This article is the first in series of articles to discuss the Consortium or System approach to implementing a Research Administration solution.  While this article intends to discuss the meaning behind the approach and the ‘whys’ of employing such an approach, future articles will discuss the implementation, support, and technical details that should be understood before adopting this type of implementation

Before continuing, it is probably best to define what is meant by a Consortium or ‘System’ approach to a Research Administration system.  Although both will be implemented using the same methodologies, we can separately define a ‘Consortium’ and a ‘System’.  A consortium, in this setting, is a group of institutions that have agreed to work together for the common good in order to provide information back to a higher organization, such as a governing body, that can then be cumulatively combined and analyzed.  Usually there is a memorandum of understanding (MOU) or Mutual Agreement that is put in place to govern the collective and future decisions.  In a Consortium, each member institution uses the research administration software to securely and uniquely enter information for such objects as proposals, protocols, patents, profiles, outputs, etc.  The higher level organization or governing body, which may also be a sponsoring agency, is then able to pull together data to create a picture of the research administration landscape across the whole of the consortium.  This approach is most definitely a way for a developing nation, who relies heavily on government subsidies, to account for and promote its proliferation of research to the world, while at the same time allowing the government to review the progress being made on the institutional level.

The ‘System’ approach to a Research Administration implementation is defined as a group of individual institutions, each having their own unique business practices, but sharing a common goal usually as directed by a governing body.  In this scenario, it is not necessarily the case that the governing body is looking for the cumulative results of the member institutions, but the economies of scale regarding implementation, support, and technical resources make it worthwhile to support the approach.

That leads to the next question….what is the approach?  So as to not confuse moving forward I am going to use the term ‘multi-institutional ‘ to describe either the Consortium or System approach that I defined above because each would be implemented in the same way.  In a multi-institutional approach, the concept of the parent/child relationship is employed.  The parent is the ‘top level’ organization at which all configuration and business workflow decisions are made for the collective.  The parent, depending upon the needs of the member organizations, can be as heavily or lightly configured as necessary to model the elements that should be conducted the same way by every child institution.  The child is the individual organization that can both inherit the properties of the parent, but also be configured uniquely so as to model the way the child institution conducts its research and business.  In some cases, this may be an extension of the parent or an alternative approach to the parent’s configuration that will still result in the same data being captured.  The extent to which a child can configure its own business process will be a direct function of the security rights that are provided by the parent.

So what are the benefits of this multi-institutional approach to a research administration system.  Here is a list of some

  • Cumulative reporting allowing for detailed analysis of research administration activities across a number of institutions.
  • Compilation of Researcher Profile data that provides details as what types of research are being done and where gaps may need to be filled in the future
  • Cost benefits from purchasing a single solution for multiple institutions, rather than multiple solutions for multiple institutions
  • Standardized operations that lay the groundwork for data collection, but that can be uniquely tweaked for particular institutional needs
  • Adding new institutions to the multi-institutional models because easier and much more cost effective
  • Uniquely defined configuration items such as pick lists and pop-ups
  • Allows a sponsoring or governing agency to ensure that data is being provided consistently so compilation and analysis can be quick and efficient
  • Economies of Scale regarding resources for implementation, functional support, and technical support

Now that the definitions have been laid and the benefits have been discussed, in the next issue, we can begin to explore the intricacies of this type of implementation and the things to think about when proceeding down this path.

Need more information on this topic or how this approach may be useful for you, please contact Bill Kupiec – Vice President International Market Development at

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