Research at universities is today often conducted as projects. This is especially true in the engineering, natural science, medicine, and social science disciplines. Research projects are typically carried out by different categories of employers, such as professors, associate professors, assistant professors, and PhD students. These projects are typically managed by the person that applied for the project money, or the person that is the most experienced researcher at the department, which is often a professor or associate professor. From such leading persons, miracles are expected. Except acting as project managers, they are also engaged in many other parallel activities, e.g., supervision of PhD students, undergraduate and graduate education, conference organization and administration, project application writing, and representing the department internally as well as externally.
In this report, a survey of project management competence within research projects at Karlstad University is presented. Empirical data have been gathered through two questionnaires and six complementary interviews. Professors and associate professors as well as PhD students have participated in the study. The survey shows that the active project managers have learned to lead projects based on experience and very few project managers have a formal leadership education. This implies that long established project management methods and tools are seldom used.
Based on the outcome from the survey and our own observations, four concrete activities to improve project management skills are proposed in the report. The first activity is to provide a suitable and well-balanced course in project management methods that is offered to both active and future project managers. The second activity is to establish experience networks among active project mangers at Karlstad University. The third activity is to create a mentor program for new project managers. The fourth activity is to establish a group of experienced project managers that can assist in and give support to ongoing and planned projects.