Impressions from the ARMA 2017 annual conference

Last week I attended my first ARMA conference which took place in Liverpool. There hasn’t been a better time to bring together research support managers from across and outside of the UK to discuss and reflect on our role in driving the global research strategy. It was popping! The number of people, exhibitors, sponsors and the variety of sessions was incredible and probably quite an effort to organise. So well done to ARMA!

Along with other Jisc colleagues and a stand, we actively participated in the conference, talking about open access, research data management, and other support services for researchers. We engaged with a number of attendees on open access, Jisc monitor, article processing charges, research data shared service, equipment data and call for participants.

The conference started with multiple suggestions to deliberate on the events that took place over the last year: BEIS, the Higher Education and Research Act and UKRI, BREXIT, general election and the international political landscape. Many of these are external, and the speakers tried to engage the audience in reflecting on the actions needed now to meet these challenges and create new opportunities in advance of the next REF.

The ARMA board, for instance, is preparing a 3-year action plan post-BREXIT and the post the Higher Education and Research Act. As part of this effort, the board encouraged everyone to get in touch to provide feedback and suggestions. It is absolutely impressive and worth noting that ARMA was able to come out of a £122k deficit in 2016 into a £10k surplus this year. Amongst the cost-saving efforts is the relocation of the headquarters from Cambridge to Edinburgh.

Anyone who has ever attended the conference knows that the event is packed with sessions. The keynotes were particularly interesting. Lesley Thompson, ex-EPSRC and now Director Academic & Government Strategic Alliance at Elsevier, who happen to also be the main conference sponsor encouraged the mostly-female audience to think about geography and the effect it has on the sector’s research strategy. The second day keynote could not have been better timed with his talk ‘Public Engagement in Populist Times’. Ehsan Masood, Editor at Research Fortnight, had 4 tips for engagement: build trust, talk about the research process not just outputs, avoid tribalism, and finally engagement cannot be about self-interest. And the parallel sessions were similarly informative. Anything from the analysis of the REF impact case studies, to reporting functionalities of PURE and other CRIS systems, to open access and other research information management tools.

We are now all looking forward to the next INORMS (International Network of Research Management Societies) congress, which will be taking place in Edinburgh on 4-7 June 2018.

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