Title: Project management for academic research projects: balancing structure and flexibility

Authors: Hélène Riol; Denis Thuillier

Addresses: Department of Management and Technology, Université du Québec à Montréal, P.O. Box 8888, succursale Centre-ville, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3P8, Canada ' Department of Management and Technology, Université du Québec à Montréal, P.O. Box 8888, succursale Centre-ville, Montreal, Quebec H3C 3P8, Canada

Abstract: Academic research faces new methods of knowledge production that trigger a need for managing research by projects. However, the literature reports friction between management and research. In this study, we investigate whether and to what extent academic research projects can be managed using classical project management (PM) principles. An analysis of managerial facts from interviews with ten university researchers indicates that research projects are PM-compatible considering certain structural similarities and a cultural acceptance of PM value. However, the human factors and uncertainties inherent in research are not addressed by classical PM. A grounded analysis allows for modelling a PM perspective that integrates soft and hard contingent aspects equally by combining structured and flexible approaches adapted to managing projects of an exploratory, uncertain and complex nature. We thus developed a prescriptive framework for facilitating PM implementation in academic research at the institutional, organisational and operational levels.

Keywords: academic research projects; scientific research; exploratory projects; project management; research management; contingency; complexity; uncertainty; project structure; project flexibility; human factors; modelling; university research.

DOI: 10.1504/IJPOM.2015.070792

International Journal of Project Organisation and Management, 2015 Vol.7 No.3, pp.251 - 269

Received: 08 May 2021
Accepted: 12 May 2021

Published online: 24 Jul 2015 *

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