EARMA Conference Prague 2023


Networking – a critical soft skill for RMA



EARMA Conference Prague 2023

Format: Fifteen-Minute Discussion Tables

Topic: Professional Development and Recognition

Session: 🟣 15-min Discussion Tables with José Santos, Monique Horstmann and Olaf Svenningsen

Wednesday 26 April 12:45 p.m. - 1:45 p.m. (UTC)


Networking is a critical skill for the success for RMA, both individuals and the profession. Still, efficient networking skills are not well defined, and often implicitly taken for granted or not explicitly addressed in, for example, training for RMA’s.

Based upon our own professional RMA journey—in which networking has been critical for our careers, learning, and development—we argue that networking is essential for the professional development of RMA, for the individual as well as the profession. The importance of networking is underlined in, for example, the first of the Five Laws of Success: “Performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks drive success” (The Formula, Barabasi 2018).

But precisely what is efficient networking?

The Vitae Researcher Development Framework (RDF) was developed to help researchers realize their full potential within different areas and it is used by many institutions. In the RDF, networking and external collaboration are critical skills for researchers (domain D: Engagement, influence and Impact). We identified three specific RDF subdomains that are also relevant for RMA: Collaboration (D1.7), Public Engagement (D3.2) and Global Citizenship (D3.6).

The skills described in these subdomains highlight the need to engage, network and collaborate with external partners to maximize impact and mutual benefit, as well as to enhance one’s leverage to achieve intended results.

However, the RDF is specific for researchers, and not fully compatible with the RDF equivalent for RMA, which is ARMA’s Professional Development Framework for Research Managers and Administrators. The ARMA-PDF describes RMA functions and activities in relation to required skills and underpinning knowledge at operational, management and leadership level. For many of these functions (e.g. Developing Proposals, Project Lifetime, Translation, Postgraduate Researchers, Policy and Governance, or Management Information), networking is mentioned as an Indicative Skill to mainly to build relationships, identify and share good practices.

Based on our combined experience as RMA’s, we argue that the role of networking is far more important as professional skill for RMA’s than what is currently formally recognized. We argue that networking skills for RMA’s deserve more explicit attention, in line with the Vitae RDF model. Such a model would help individual RMA’s to understand both the requirements and effects of networking, and also to explore the concrete results and potential impacts of networking.

For the RMA profession to receive the recognition that is necessary for a well-functioning research system—and indeed the European Research Area—we need to stake out the path to become professional networkers.

Take aways:
- Understanding how and why networking is necessary to develop your own RMA career.
- Deeper understanding of why networking matters for the RMA profession.
- Concrete examples of what networking entails.
- Allows participants to identify and make practical use of networking opportunities.