About research management

I very much enjoy my work in research management with many interesting areas of responsibility. If you are looking for a more general overview of research management, different areas of work within research management, core competencies for working as a research manager and helpful resources, you’ve come to the right place.

What is a research manager?

There is no clear definition of research management, mainly because this professional field is highly diverse, non-coherent and covers a wide range of tasks and activities. Research managers work in the so-called “third space” (in addition to research/teaching and administration) at resreach institutions or research-supporting institutions (see Carstensen 2015). A research manager provides services for research and teaching, supports and designs core processes (Müller & Grewe 2020, p. 10). While researchers predominantly conduct research and teach classes, research managers predominantly support research and teaching (Krempkow et al. 2019, p. 20).

However, to clearly differentiate research management from administration is more difficult. Research managers (in Germany) often have a higher academic degree (e.g. PhD or master’s degree; see Höhle 2023a, p. 47) and are better paid on average than administrative staff. Many research managers in Germany are in pay group 13 (Entgeltgruppe 13; Scheider et al. 2022, p. 7). They perform activities with a service, consulting and management function and often act as “bridges” between administrative staff and researchers (Grewe & Müller, p. 20). The proportion of research managers with a permanent employment contract is relatively high compared to researchers (Höhle 2023b, p. 92).

Areas of work

Research managers work in the following fields at research institutions or research-supporting institutions:

  • Information and communication (e.g. science communication, public relations, marketing)
  • Equal opportunities, diversity and family (e.g. equal opportunities office, family service)
  • International cooperations (e.g. international office, welcome centre)
  • Controlling and evaluation (e.g. quality management for teaching and research)
  • Student services and teaching (e.g. student counselling, higher education didactics)
  • Organization and coordination (e.g. coordination of research projects, coordination of graduate programs, organizational development)
  • Transfer (e.g. technology transfer, knowledge transfer)
  • Financing (e.g. allocation of funds, support for researchers regarding funding and proposals)
  • Faculty and rectorate management (e.g., personal consultant for university president or rector)

(see Müller & Grewe 2020, p. 20; Krempkow et al. 2019, p. 21; Krücken et al. 2010)

Competencies for research management

Of course, different areas of work require different subsets of skills and competences. However, there are some core competences that are required for most positions in research management:

  • Communication skills
  • Analytical thinking
  • Organizational skills
  • Flexibility
  • Networking
  • Independent working style
  • Service affinity
  • Interdisciplinary competencies
  • Internationality
  • Understanding of science policy

(Müller & Grewe 2020, p. 23)

For positions at universities it also helps to be familiar with their structure and administration. You should also be able to write and edit texts for different occasions and audiences (e.g. speeches, blog articles, summaries, presentations, publications). Some positions also require good assertiveness and presentation skills. For positions in faculty management or administration management it is good to be experienced in academic self-administration while positions in financing often require knowledge of the acquisition of third-party funds and preparing proposals.

Statistical expertise is important for jobs in evaluation and controlling. Experience with the development and maintenance of websites and affinity for social media are helpful in jobs that involve outreach and (science) communication. For the coordination of research projects it is helpful to be familiar with communication and collaboration tools and platforms like Trello, Slack or Miro.

Word cloud of competencies in research management. The larger the font, the more frequently the corresponding competence was mentioned. Source: Rathke et al. 2023, p. 119
Word cloud of specific communication requirements in research management. Source: Rathke et al. 2023, p. 122

The two word clouds are from a recently published study that included surveys among research managers in Germany. The left word cloud highlights the importance of non digital competencies in research management. ‘Communication’ was the most frequently mentioned competence, but other non-digital competencies such as ‘structuredness’, ‘leadership’, ‘conflict management’ and ‘patience’ were also mentioned.

The word cloud on the right results from a more thorough analysis of interviews with research managers to identify different aspects of the specific nature of communication requirements in research management. These requirements include ‘mediation’, ‘translation’, ‘moderation’ and ‘networking’ (Rathke et al. 2023).


The following resources relate primarily to research management in German-speaking countries, particulary Germany.

Netzwerk Wissenschaftsmanagement

Newsletter Netzwerk Wissenschaftsmanagement

Zentrum für Wissenschaftsmanagement (Weiterbildung)

Podcast Wissenschaftsmanagement

AgileUS – der Podcast für agiles Wissenschaftsmanagement

If you are not yet working in research management and are interested in finding your way into this exciting field, I recommend the book “Wissenschaftsmanagement als Beruf – Strategien für den Einstieg”.

Also very important: Talk to people who work in research management! I am happy to answer questions about my career and my entry into research management.


Carstensen, D. (2015): Third Space an Hochschulen. Ein Raum für neue Aufgaben. Wissenschaftsmanagement 21 (2015) 1, 50-51.

Höhle, E. (2023a): Der Weg ins Wissenschaftsmanagement: Qualifikation und vorhergehende Tätigkeiten. In Krempkow, R., Höhle, E., Janson, K. (eds.): Karriere im Wissenschaftsmanagement? UVW UniversitätsVerlagWebler, Bielefeld, pp. 47-60.

Höhle, E. (2023b): Beschäftigungssituation: Vertrag, Gehalt und
Anerkennung vorangegangener Tätigkeiten. In Krempkow, R., Höhle, E., Janson, K. (eds.): Karriere im Wissenschaftsmanagement? UVW UniversitätsVerlagWebler, Bielefeld, pp. 85-114.

Kempkow, R., Harris-Huemmert, S., Hölscher, M., & Janson, K. (2019): Wissenschaftsmanagement, quo vadis? Ansätze zur Definition, Personal- und Organisationsentwicklung. Personal in Hochschule und Wissenschaft entwickeln 4/2019, 17-29.

Krücken, G., Blümel, A., & Kloke, K. (2010): Hochschulmanagement – Auf dem Weg zu einer neuen Profession? WSI Mitteilungen 5/2010, 234-241.

Müller, M., & Grewe, O. (2020): Wissenschaftsmanagement als Beruf. Strategien für den Einstieg. Campus Verlag, Frankfurt am Main.

Rathke, J., Krempkow, R., Janson, K. (2023b): Kompetenzen im Wissenschaftsmanagement. In Krempkow, R., Höhle, E., Janson, K. (eds.): Karriere im Wissenschaftsmanagement? UVW UniversitätsVerlagWebler, Bielefeld, pp. 85-114.

Schneider, S., Mauermeister, S., Aust, R., Henke, J. (2022): Paralleluniversen des Wissenschaftsmanagements: Ein Vergleich zwischen Hochschulen und außeruniversitären Forschungseinrichtungen (HoF-Arbeitsbericht 119’2022), Institut für Hochschulforschung (HoF) an der Martin-Luther-Universität