Recognizing excellence in UA research administration

In a clear demonstration of the knowledge and expertise that can be found among employees at UAF, a record number of UAF research administrators will be testing to earn a prestigious national certification this November.

While it is common for children to declare their intentions to be firefighters, astronauts or scientists when they grow up, very few children dream of being research administrators. In fact, it is an unknown field even to many adults, but it is integral to modern research. Universities are complex systems, and today all major research universities have departments devoted to the development and management of research initiatives. Whether this means developing collaborations and partnerships, strategic planning, proposal preparation and submission, contracts negotiation and management, financial management and oversight, or compliance – major research institutions require experienced, trained individuals to function smoothly.

On Friday, Oct. 18, a group of 26 research administration staff from UAF, UAS and UA Statewide attended an on-campus intensive review session conducted by the Research Administrators Certification Council. This session, coordinated by the UAF Office of Sponsored Programs, was held for potential applicants taking the Certified Research Administrator exam on either Nov. 9 or 16 at UAF. Of these 26 participants, 24 will be sitting for the exam, which tests overall knowledge and expertise of research administration. CRA certification is recognized nationwide as a standard of excellence in the field of research administration, much like the CPA license for public accountants.

The review session was in addition to a series of biweekly study sessions OSP has conducted over the last five months, which have also had promising turnout. Every two weeks the group focused on a new topic and portion of the exam, from audits to intellectual property to contract negotiation. While OSP often presented the material directly, the group was also fortunate enough to have a number of guest lectures from UAF experts. The series was coordinated after an overwhelming number of UAF staff members communicated a desire to become certified, and also have regular review sessions to prepare for the exam.

The last time UAF offered regular review sessions was in 2008, when 11 staff sat for the CRA exam and nine passed. There are currently only 18 CRAs in the state of Alaska, with 14 at UAF and four at UAA. This will be the first time that the exam will be offered at UAF, representing a significant cost savings for departments. In the past employees needed to travel to Anchorage to take the exam and become certified.

Special thanks goes to the UA Foundation, SW Office of Academic Affairs and SW Office of Human Resources for helping to fund the RACC review session.