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Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

Excellence Everywhere - National University of Ireland, Galway

What is Project

What is Project Management?Project management is a series of flexible anditerative steps that gives you a system for layingout what you want to achieve and a reasonableway to achieve it, with specifics as to who will dowhat and when. Formal tools have been developedfor complicated time-sensitive efforts such asconstructing large buildings with all of the sitepreparation, building materials, carpenters,plumbers, electricians, painters and other kindsof workers moving through at the right times andin the proper order.The strategies used in project management can beuseful for anyone in any size project, and the tools(especially software) that have been developedto keep track of fluctuating resources and activeworkers can be useful for managing complicatedprojects in the laboratory. Project managementcapabilities are increasingly becoming requiredcomponents of clinical research projects and multisiteprojects. Formal training in project managementmay be available to you through your institution,government, or international NGOs.It should also be borne in mind that biomedicalresearch in the South, especially in diseaseendemiccommunities, relies heavily on fieldsurveys involving several people andcomplicated logistical issues. Personnel andtransport management and financial administrationare major components of projectactivities involving field surveys. However,many emerging science centers in low- andmiddle-resource regions do not have sufficienthuman resources with adequate skills inproject management.”Moses Bockarie, Papua New GuineaDECIDING ON A PROJECTYou may have an endless number of ideas forprojects, but your resources (i.e., research funds,number of students and other people working inyour lab, time, etc.) are limited. Deciding whichprojects to pursue within the limits of yourresources and considering your laboratory mission(see chapter 4) will help you get the best use outof what you have.Finding funding can itself be a complex project.Though finding money is seldom easy, you maydecide that to accomplish the research or publichealth goals you would like to achieve, you willneed to look for more funding. Imagine that youhave identified a grant program that seems to fitthe work you would like to do. The grant deadlineis in eleven months, but you see that it is a verycompetitive program. To have a chance of beingfunded, you will need to have at least one publicationthat connects the work you are proposing todo with the new grant money to work you havedone in the past.So you have two complicated but fairly welldefinedtasks in front of you: to get a new paperaccepted for publication and to submit a grantproposal by a given deadline. If you decide touse formal project management tools to organizeyour efforts as you work toward submitting theproposal, you should ask yourself the following:n What experiments do I need to conduct to write aresearch paper and submit it for publication beforethe grant deadline?n Do I have enough time to obtain the necessarydata?n Are there members of my group who could helpgenerate these data, or a student or trainee towhom I might delegate the work?Once you have defined your overall objectives,how to get there, and from whom you need buy-inand participation, you can start the process ofplanning your project, working backwards fromyour stated objective:82 excellence everywhere

My project is to get a grant funded within ayear-and-a-half.Thinking from the goal backwards, you can putdown what steps will make that dream a reality.You might say:I will need to:n Submit the grant with preliminary data(11 months).n Submit a paper for publication (6 months).n Integrate data and start writing a manuscript(5 months).n Complete the initial set of experiments(1-5 months).The sections below outline the tools that can helpyou plan each step of this multipart effort. One ofthe most important benefits of project managementis that it helps you accurately anticipate how muchtime a project will take and what resources youwill need. Even if some back-of-the-envelopethinking convinces you that a project is worthpursuing and that you can generate preliminarydata for your grant in five months, you will needto plan each step more carefully to answer thefollowing questions:n How long will the project really take?n Do we really have the people to do this?n Do we really have the funds to do it?n Can we get it done in time?Think of these questions as tools for your ownuse. You are not trying to convince a funder orimpress an influential scientist—you are realisticallyconsidering what you will be able to get done,given other demands on your time and resources,in the next week, month, year, and beyond.Q u e s t i o nq&aDo the strict definitions you impose when you set up a project management systemlimit scientific creativity?answerNot necessarily. All projects, including highly innovative ones, rely on defined resources. Projectmanagement helps you take stock of resources before you start working. If a creative idea comes along,you will have a better idea of how much money, materials, and “spare hands” you have to follow theidea through, or which sub-projects you might delay to free up the resources you need. Knowing what youhave available helps you bring your best ideas to completion, rather than leaving them foundering whenyou run out of some critical resource. Regardless of the scientific goals of a project, project managementhelps you determine whether your ideas can be implemented with the resources at hand and how bestto approach these ideas. If you realize ahead of time that you do not have the resources you need, you willknow you need to get them.project management83

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