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Research project management
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Research project management

Research project management : As an administrative practice, Research project management is becoming increasingly important in the organizational environment due to its dynamic and flexible nature. This management approach provides the necessary options to achieve an expected result under specific conditions, which paves the way for organizational evolution and continuous improvement. For Winter (2006), “project management – including portfolio and program management – is now the dominant model in many organizations for strategy implementation, business transformation, continuous improvement, and new product development.”

This management approach has been widely defended in the private-business context, with special strength or tradition in some industries or sectors such as construction, software and engineering. However, there is little or no research regarding its application in the context of research, even when these organizations subsist and act through the development of research projects.

To this extent, the article seeks to characterize the management of those organizations dedicated to research projects (universities, institutes and research groups), to subsequently determine if it is really essential for them to adopt a project management approach. For this, allusion is made to five categories of analysis, which include: interaction and teamwork relationships, the inclusion of the life cycle of projects, the role of the project manager, the lack of documentation and the lack of ex-post evaluations .

For this analysis, use is completed of the project management evaluation case study in the Integrated Water Resource Management Research Group (IWRM), attached to the Cinara Institute. The results obtained in the case study are presented in the results section, which are discussed and contrasted with the theoretical references, also leading to conclusions.

Project management and research projects. Concepts

Worldwide, we find large organizations dedicated to promoting the development of the practice, science and profession of project management. Some of the most widely recognized organizations are listed, with descriptions of some of their main characteristics

These and other organizations have policy and guide publications that represent the current standards or guidelines needed to succeed in the field of project management. Among these, the PMI management standard stands out: The Guide to the Fundamentals of Project Management Project Management Body Of Knowledge (PMBOK®), as it is the most recognized and used worldwide.

What is provided by these organizations in their different professional and organizational standards and certifications, as well as what is extended in the project management literature and administrative theory, is what is understood or conceptualized in this article as a “project management approach”.

Similarly, it is specified that for the analysis of the case study, project management is understood as “the application of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to the activities of a project to meet its requirements” (PMI, 2008, p 03), as established by the Project Management Institute (PMI), in its PMBOK® Guide; and that for the characterization of organizations dedicated to research projects, what is described in the PMBOK® as “good practices” is taken as the main reference.

What is a research project?

For Tamayo and Tamayo (2009, p. 102) “in the scientific research project, the technical, administrative and control aspects, institutional infrastructure and personnel, necessary to solve a research problem, must be planned in detail.” For his part, Lerma (1999, p. 85) presents the research project as a document that “aims to present and describe in detail what is going to be investigated, the theoretical and conceptual basis, the methodological components and the human resources, technical and economic, necessary to carry out the investigation “.

According to these descriptions, the research project is immersed, or at least does not exclude, in the basic or traditional principles of project management, which assume the management of projects as the use of knowledge to carry out planning activities, control and monitoring in order to achieve the objectives of the project, once again being consistent with the definition of the main promoting organization of the field in the world: the PMI.


The findings reported in this article are based on a combination of cross-sectional methods to the case study. The data collection was carried out between 2009 and 2010, as part of the research project “Evaluation of the management of projects of the IWRM Research Group of the Cinara Institute” and continued until 2012, including a literature review for nurture analysis of relevant basic concepts and discussions of findings.

A multiplicity of techniques were used to collect empirical data from the case study: documentary research on the organization and current status of its project management, interviews with project coordinators, surveys with members of the IWRM group, focus group with the participation of the group director and the members, participation in a research methodology seminar-workshop for the group members, and observations and formal interaction during the planning and monitoring activities of the group’s projects.

The information collection instruments were designed based on the evaluation criteria of the Colombian Project Management Maturity Model (CP3M © ) of the Research Group on Management and Evaluation of Programs and Projects (GyEPRO), including some modifications, mainly in the scales of qualification.

The data obtained from the application of these instruments were processed in a matrix in order to compare the inputs across the informants. Subsequently, these results were discussed with the members of the IWRM group, in order to validate that they corresponded with the internal agreements and interpretations, and were satisfactorily received.

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