Employee Engagement: An Exploration in Engagement of Research Administration - Grant and Contract Officers - The Gamut Runners

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Research administration is a fairly new profession that is growing at a rapid speed. Research administration is a process that includes tasks that take place during the entire lifecycle of a research project (Spencer & Scott, 2017). The office of research administration (ORA) is an important component of research administration because it provides operational infrastructure, regulatory compliance oversight and guidance, financial management and reporting, and administrative services in support of research programs, faculty, staff, and students who are part of the campus research community (UCLA, 2017a). The field of research administration has undergone many changes and has continued to implement new processes since its inception in the 1940s. Research administration is initiated with the pre-award process, which includes finding funding; developing budgets; and preparing, reviewing, and submitting grant proposals. Grant proposal applications were once submitted via paper forms and required wet signatures; now, grant proposal applications are submitted electronically and can be signed digitally with the click of a button. Grant and contract officers are the personnel who work in the ORA and provide institutional administrative grant support to faculty, staff, and departments. It is evident that the grant and contract officer role is experiencing a growth in its scope of work in terms of quantity and complexity. In the years following WWII, grant and contract officers were responsible for proposal formats that were flexible, deadlines that were fluid, and terms and conditions that were negotiable. Today, grant and contract officers are responsible for proposal review and submission; contract negotiation; grant and contract management; the establishment of subaward agreements with collaborating sites; assistance with closeout processes; and administrative oversight of grants that involve the use of hazardous materials, human subjects, animal subjects, biosafety, recombinant DNA, debarment and suspension, misconduct in science procurement integrity, and conflict of interest. Existing literature illustrates that research administrators feel overworked, stressed, and underappreciated. This research study explores the topic of engagement in grant and contract officers by conducting a qualitative exploratory study using phenomenology to understand how grant and contract officers define employee engagement and how they feel about engagement in the workplace; it also explores the factors that affect their engagement.
A Dissertation Submitted in partial fulfillment of the Requirements for the degree Doctor of Public Administration
Public Administration