#TuesdayTip: managing risks like a (research) boss

Research and Innovation Development Office

Category: #tuesdaytip

23 August 2016

Let's face it - if this post was titled "Why you need a Risk Management Plan," you probably wouldn't have clicked through, and even if you did, you might have dozed off by the end of this sentence.

That's because Risk Assessment and Risk Management, although epically important, have often been considered (dare we say it?) - B-O-R-I-N-G.

But you know what's not boring? Arriving to Heathrow to fly to your international data collection site, saddled with equipment and that gleam of researcher curiosity in your eye, all to find out your non-refundable flight was cancelled and you have no travel insurance to cover the reimbursement. Grant funds down the drain. Or finding out that your Co-Investigator is dropping out of the world of academia to finally pursue that career as an underwater basket weaver, and no one at his institution is available to take his place on the project. Loads of weavin', no data analysin'.

We're sure you can see the point by now - sometimes BORING is BEST. Wouldn't it be lovely to be faced with the above situations, and know exactly what to do? To have some sort of guidance to rely on in times of distress? Then the Risk Management Plan is for you! These are required by many funders upon application, but also highly recommended for best practice in research, and for good reason. If you are thinking about the potential risks to your project before you even begin it, you can build in solutions and make back-up plans, and then voilà - you're free to actually do your research. Imagine that!

If you're an ARU researcher, Anglia Ruskin's Research and Innovation Development Office (RIDO) will provide you with a Risk Assessment template prior to application submission, with the following steps:

  1. Identify potential Risk - Are you recruiting staff and might take longer than expected? Do you have partners and fear the complexities of financial management? If the funds you're receiving are being converted from a different currency, is there a chance the exchange rate will be unfavourable?
  2. Consider the Reason - Why is this a risk to your project? Thinking about this can help you figure out solutions or other options for management.
  3. Clarify the Result - How will this risk affect your project? Will it delay milestones? Cost the project money?
  4. Rate Impact and Likelihood - How serious is this risk, and how likely is it to occur? The combined ranking and traffic light color (Red - high, Amber - medium, Green - low) assigned to these factors will help you see the urgency for management.
  5. Make a Plan - Think of ways you can both head off these risks in the actual construction of the project, and back-up solutions in case these prescriptive actions fall through.

After performing the above steps, you'll have an organised, thought-out plan to turn to in your time of need. Of course we all hope research projects will run with immaculate perfection and these plans won't ever be consulted, but life is messy, and therefore, research can be messy. As the Boy Scouts say - be prepared. And when that doesn't work, please feel free to reach out the ARU Research Services Team for more suggestions and assistance.


The views expressed here are those of the individual and do not necessarily represent the views of Anglia Ruskin University. If you've got any concerns please contact us.