As anyone who’s seen an Avengers movie knows, to defeat the constantly proliferating arch-villains, you need a team with a variety of superpowers. The same principle is increasingly true in science: to solve the toughest problems takes a team made up of people with diverse perspectives and all the right skills.
But building a team to tackle complex scientific questions adds its own layers of complexity. Who connects the different labs and partners? Who’s keeping an eye on the timeline and making sure the funds are in order? Who is looking ahead, laying the groundwork for translating a new discovery into the real world? The answer to these questions can potentially make the difference between success and failure; between a life-saving intervention reaching patients or languishing incompleted. (Stakes worthy of the Avengers!)
For science teams, the answer is: a Project Leader.
Duke has been an early adopter of project management to support clinical and translational research. Project Leaders combine an advanced scientific education with the skills of a trained project manager—they are powerhouse organizers and planners, serving almost as an extension of the Principal Investigator to bridge the scientific and operational domains.
The role of the Project Leader, and its growing importance at Duke, is described in a recent paper published in the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science.
To give you a taste, we broke down 9 ways that a PL makes life easier for faculty investigators.
- Know the research landscape and help science teams navigate it;
- Coordinate complex initiatives;
- Anticipate and troubleshoot roadblocks;
- Help large groups of diverse stakeholders stick to the plan and hit benchmarks;
- Proactively connect teams with industry and venture capital;
- Lead efforts to obtain and manage funding/write grant proposals;
- Understand the science and make intellectual contributions;
- Communicate and build relationships with partners and collaborators;
- Oversee day-to-day research staff activities.