Research Administration

Creating a File System That Works: The Ultimate Research Administrator’s Guide


Have you ever created something that wasn’t immediately useful for any reason other than to just understand a process better in your mind?

I always think about my brain as a huge cavernous warehouse with giant floor-to-ceiling filing cabinets full of random information. Random papers spewing out of some corners, slowing falling down at random moments. Every now and again, I try to reorganize the filing system of my brain and put things back into perspective. I LOVE to create folder hierarchies to organize complex systems. (I know, it’s crazy and I should probably see someone about this obsession, but it does prove to be useful.) There’s something about putting it all down on paper—organizing every single facet of a detailed process—almost as if you are setting up the filing cabinets in your brain to store and organize all this information. Am I making sense?

So, recently I took it upon myself to try and organize the world of research administration. If you were to make a filing cabinet and folder system for ALL of research administration—what would it look like? There are so many options, so many moving pieces, so many different departments. It’s truly overwhelming how many different ways you could take to organize the folders and categories.

So, let’s start small. Let’s define the boundaries. First, this is designed for (and from the perspective of) the Research Administrator. (So, for the PIs in the audience, this is way too detailed for your needs.) Second, the purpose is simply for information management and comprehensive comprehension. I chose to think of this project as the outline for a book titled, “The Research Administrator’s Bible.”

The Research Administrators Certification Council website was a huge help to me during this process. If you are attempting a similar project, I would recommend checking out their “Body of Knowledge” at:

Now, to get started we have to sketch the biggest buckets of research administration:

  • Research Administration
  • Funding identification
  • Proposal Development and Submission
  • Budget Development
  • Sponsor and Public Interface
  • Legal Requirements
  • Award Management
  • Fiscal Management and Compliance
  • Reporting and Closeout
  • Resources

Yes, I know, there are a MILLION different ways you could categorize this…but we must start somewhere! So now that you have your broadest and biggest buckets, it’s time to take a deeper dive into the tiniest cracks. Now, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is in no way a complete list and still needs a lot of work, but here’s what I’ve come up with.

Click here to Download: The_Research_Administrators_Bible

If perhaps, you’re a weirdo like me and find this useful, let me know in the comments section and tell me how you used it in your work!

Further Reading