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Building a strong research support network

‘We can only achieve this if we work together.’ This is what Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl emphasised as she spoke about professional research support at the opening of the second Research Support Conference at PLNT on 14 June. For the 80 research support staff present, learning and inspiration was the main theme of a day full of best practices, knowledge exchange and inspiring workshops.

In her opening speech Hester Bijl explained why cooperation is so important. The world of research is becoming more and more competitive. ‘Budgets are limited and legislators, regulators and funders are issuing increasingly strict and complex rules and regulations. Researchers have to produce, maintain and preserve sustainable data and software. Completed research has to be reproducible and the underlying data reusable. At the same time, they have to retain existing funding from research organisations and third parties while tapping into new sources of funding.’

We can only achieve all of this if we work together, said Bijl. ‘For me, “together” also means the collaboration between researchers and research support staff. You’ll achieve the best results as a team.’

Rector Magnificus Hester Bijl addresses the audience

Sense of community

We asked a few members of the research support staff how it had been to come together at the conference.

‘If you don’t know who to turn to for what, simple questions can soon become an enormous quest.’ 

Marian Csillag (Luris): ‘It’s important to have a good overview of who provides research support at the University. If you don’t know who to turn to for what, simple questions can soon become an enormous quest and you end up trying to reinvent the wheel. I think it’s a real shame if more than one staff member (or colleague) is working on the same wheel. If you know one another, it’s easier to share knowledge. That’s more efficient and is therefore important for the progress of the University as a whole and the service for researchers.’

Zsuzsanna Angyal (Leiden Institute of Physics, LION): ‘An annual meeting where all research support staff come together is important to building Leiden’s research support community. The conference was an excellent opportunity to share ideas, knowledge, best practices and solutions.’

David Herman (FGGA): ‘Apart from a sense of community, it’s important to be able to share knowledge. And to hear how others solve problems.’


Various workshops were given during the conference. We highlight a few of them.

‘One of the keys to successful proposals is to think ahead about data management.’

Angyal: ‘I attended the workshop Data Management as a Collaborative Research Support Service. This topic has been getting more attention recently. A thorough knowledge of data management is crucial to advising on research proposals. For a proposal to be successful, it’s important to think ahead about data management and have a good implementation plan.’

Herman: ‘I took part in a creative workshop where you had to make a poster about your role at the University. How do you visualise what you have to offer? We presented the posters at the end of the day. It was a fun way to get to know others and share knowledge.’

Csillag: ‘I attended the Lump Sum Funding within Horizon Europe workshop. Within Horizon Europe there’s also the opportunity to receive lump sum funding, which means no need to report actual costs. In short, a lump sum is a bag of money. That sounds great but it means you do need a much more detailed budget when applying. And the lump sum is only paid upon completion of the full work package. This had me thinking about what shape the consortium agreement should take. What do you do, for example, if one of the participants in a work package doesn’t perform? Then the rest won’t get any money either.’

More events

The conference is part of a series of events organised every year by the Leiden Research Support (LRS)programme. These events focus on building a strong Research Support Network with our researchers and research support staff and are all about meeting one another, sharing knowledge and experiences, and discussing current developments. See the calendar for a list of upcoming events

Leiden Research Support

LRS aims to support individual researchers and research groups who are applying for research grants and managing and reporting on externally funded research projects. We encourage collaboration, both within and between faculties, between support staff with different areas of expertise. The focus lies on grant advice, financial project management, project management, data management, legal support and ethics.

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