The RSO Project Managers team – services that enable scientists to do science
Coordinating EU collaboration projects implicates a large administrative load to handle. Since 2019 the Research Support Office provides the service of administrative project management support and the team now consists of three managers – Suat Sevencan, Daniel Vare and George Papathanasiou and team leader Jeanna Ayoubi, all with many years of experience of EU grants agreements and routines.
Today the team supports 14 projects, mainly within the former EU framework programme, Horizon 2020. As the awareness of their professional skills grows, so does the demand for their expertise. The earlier they are engaged in a project, the better for the whole project lifecycle. The projects benefit from a proactive rather than reactive approach and there are ways to enable this already in the proposal stage.
The main tasks of the RSO Project Managers are to support in the three phases; pre-project i.e the proposal and the contractual writing and processing, the actual running of a project, which is an assignment of several years, and the final closing of a project. The last part is changing within Horizon Europe, as the European Commission now require a 4- year follow-up after a project’s closure, to evaluate the dissemination and exploitation of the project.
The caddy of a scientist -finding the best solution for the right problem
- We are appreciated, says Daniel Vare with a smile, because we can navigate the EU systems and the KTH processes. We are the single point of contact for the EC project officer and we know whom to contact at KTH for special support, such as research ethics, financial issues or contract law. Since we are part of RSO we work closely with the lawyers and understand what kind of documentation they need and vice versa.
- The Principal Investigator (PI) can´t keep track of all the details of the agreements, says Suat Sevencan. We have more experience with this and make sure that KTH follows the EU Grant Agreement (58 articles), and the Consortium agreement of the participating partners. Today a scientist is also expected to know about GDPR, Ethics, Impact, Gender etc and it is not doable for just one person.
- So, we see ourselves as the researchers´“caddies”, carrying the administrative “weight” and providing the the project with the right tools at the right time and place, adds George Papathanasiou, with a golf reference. In short, we manage a broad range of tasks such as compliance and reporting, submitting data to the EU portal, making amendments, handling project meeting logistics and risk evaluation.
A personal service to individual PIs but competences gained for KTH as a whole
- An important part of my function as a team leader is to match a PI with the right Project Manager, since it is also about personal chemistry and you will be working together for a long time. This is a very personal service, which makes it very different from other services provided by RSO, explains Jeanna Ayoubi.
- The European Commission are simplifying their administration processes by relying on more input by the project coordinators. This is why we see central project management services as essential for KTH. Professional administrative project managers ensure better performance and build this competence within KTH. This is better than relying on post-docs or doctoral students who should focus on their research and whom also might leave KTH after the project end.
What is most challenging and rewarding in the job as administrative Project Manager?
- Communication, communication, communication, exclaims Suat Sevencan and all agree. We are constantly chasing partners - by emails, calls, etc. If you set up a good system for communication and community, you stand a chance of submitting reports and deliverables ahead of deadlines.
- We are good at what we do and enjoy doing it, the team answers in unison. In our way, we contribute to science since we free the time of professors to research and supervise. We make things happen and make people happy! If a project has a named PM in the proposal, it often scores higher as this promises efficiency. This is an important aspect of our work - that KTH is regarded as a trusted and professional partner!
A network for project management support as a complementary service
The services of the project manager function will most likely be permanent and grow as there is an ambition to increase the number of coordinated projects by KTH in the Horizon Europe programme period. In order to provide support for those who have other solutions for their project management, the PM team provides a network, meeting once a month, sharing best practice and challenges.
Want to learn more ? Link to RSO support for Project Management
Come and meet the Project Managers at RSO Day – book a speed date over lunch!