Closing the Gap: Bridging Researchers' Vision and Operational Realities in the Fast-Paced Research Landscape

A significant challenge is faced in the fast-paced research field—a gap between what researchers dream of and operations processes. In this blog post, We talk about the importance of science-derived personal in the operational layer of a research organization
Closing the Gap: Bridging Researchers' Vision and Operational Realities in the Fast-Paced Research Landscape
Photo by Icons8 Team / Unsplash


A significant challenge arises in the fast-paced world of scientific discoveries—a gap between what researchers dream of (and immediately want) and the operational processes. Researchers have big dreams in the lab, but for those dreams to happen in real life, they need to work smoothly with the teams who make things happen within the institutions they belong to.

This blog post highlights the gap between researchers and the operational layer: the people who get things done. We'll talk about the challenges but not focus on just saying there's a problem but figuring out a solution. That solution is simple: it involves bringing more science-rooted personnel into the teams that make things happen. The goal is to make things run smoothly, get people working together better, and ensure scientists can do what they know best in a fast-changing and competitive world. Why is this important? Because being quick and good at what we do is the key to scientific progress before the research topic or proposal itself becomes obsolete. During my career in research, I witnessed funded trials that take years to start because of this disconnect. In this post, I will talk about the gap between researchers and the operational teams: whether they are program managers, from the procurement or contract side, why it's essential for everyone to speak the same language, and how having science-rooted personnel within each group can make a real difference. We'll discuss how program managers can help connect researchers with these entities. We'll also look at the challenges procurement, contracts, and finance teams face and why they're essential for helping researchers. We'll talk about decision-makers at different levels and why they must also understand science. The main goal is to stop working in separate groups and start working together better. 

Miscommunication: The research-operational divide

Imagine a researcher discovering a groundbreaking method to accelerate the development of a new intervention. They're eager to get it out into the world to help people. Still, when it comes to turning that idea into reality—ordering materials, setting up contracts with suppliers, navigating through budget approvals—that's where the disconnect and the lengthy process come into place.

Often, the issue comes from people handling these operational tasks not fully grasping the scientific urgency. They're caught up in paperwork, finding the right vendors, and ensuring everything aligns with the rules. It's like the left hand speaks a language the right-hand doesn't quite understand.

I witnessed one scenario: Picture a team of scientists gearing up for a crucial clinical trial. They've identified a specific biobanking and data platform that aligns perfectly with the intricacies of their trial process. It's not just about having any platform; it's about having the right one tailored to their unique needs. Enter the procurement team, armed with their knowledge of the market and a list of available platforms and vendors. In their willingness to expedite the process, they present alternative options that, on paper, seem like they could do the job. However, what they might not fully fit for their needs.

The miscommunication happens when the procurement team, focused on timelines and cost-efficiency, proposes platforms that, while technically functional, don't seamlessly integrate with the researchers' methodology. It's like offering a pair of running shoes to a ballerina—both serve a purpose, but one is far from ideal. Now, faced with a platform that doesn't align with their methods, the researchers try articulating their specific needs. However, the procurement team, possibly due to a lack of in-depth understanding, insists that the alternatives are "close enough." It's a scenario where the right tool is crucial. The disconnect hampers the seamless progress needed for a successful clinical trial, and this miscommunication and differing priorities slow down its launch and implementation.

Speaking the same language: The importance of science-rooted staff

In the world of fast-paced research and getting things done, here's a smart move: Mix in people with science backgrounds and experience on the ground with those who make things happen at the research organization. This strategy is a game-changer. These are a couple of examples where science meets action, showing that having science experts on the team is the key to success. 

1- A scientist stepping into an operational role within a pharmaceutical company. They understand the intricacies of drug development, the urgency of clinical trials, and the delicate balance of scientific precision. In this new role, they bridge researchers and the operational machinery to streamline the launch of a clinical trial. The scientist-turned-operational expert comprehends the specific platform needs of the researchers. Instead of offering generic alternatives, they work closely with procurement to identify, negotiate, and implement a platform that meets operational benchmarks and seamlessly integrates with the scientists' workflow. The result? A clinical trial that kicks off without unnecessary delays, harnessing the power of both scientific rigor and operational efficiency.

2- In another scenario, a tech-savvy researcher transitions into an operational role within a technology company. This individual understands the scientific potential of new software and the practical challenges researchers face in adopting it. They become the linchpin between the developers and the scientists, ensuring that the technology aligns with the research goals. This collaboration leads to a software solution that enhances research capabilities, showcasing the impact of having someone who speaks the language of science influencing operational decisions.

These examples highlight the value of integrating science-rooted professionals into operational roles. It's not just about filling positions; it's about having individuals who can translate its researcher's needs into active strategies and implement initiatives forward. These collaborations result in a harmonious blend of innovation and efficiency, where the operational layer becomes not just a support system but an integral part of the scientific efforts in discovery. 

Bridging the gap: Science-rooted research project and program managers as science ambassadors within the organization's operational layer

A science-rooted program manager will excel in project coordination and boast a solid scientific foundation. This individual translates the intricate goals of a research project into practical operational strategies. This person can understand the critical milestones of the research journey because they walked a similar path in the scientific world. These profiles handle not just paperwork but crafting operational plans that align with scientific projects' unique challenges and timelines.

For instance, when procuring specialized equipment, the program manager doesn't just see it as a checkbox on a to-do list. They recognize the importance of specific features that scientists require for their experiments. They negotiate with suppliers, ensuring that the purchased equipment isn't just functional but optimally caters to the researchers' needs.

In budget discussions, this science-savvy program manager becomes the voice of reason. They understand the investment required for cutting-edge research. They can effectively convey to the financial team why specific allocations are not just expenses but essential investments in pursuing knowledge.

This unique blend of project management skills and a scientific mindset and experience transforms the program manager into a mediator who speaks both languages fluently. They navigate the complexities of research ambitions and operational constraints, ensuring that the two worlds understand each other and collaborate seamlessly.

Bridging the gap from decision-makers perspective

In the real world, decision-makers and C-levels in any given organization are likely to decide which projects to invest in, where to allocate resources, and how to navigate the challenges of the market. For a decision-maker, it's not just about looking at financial reports and operational plans; it's about setting a direction to lead the organization to success.

Let's look at a simple example: a decision-maker in a tech company. They have to decide whether to invest in developing a new software or improving an existing one. If they lack a science-rooted understanding, they might see this decision purely from a financial standpoint—what brings in more money right now? A person in the same position who understands the science behind these software projects. They see beyond immediate profits. Although costly upfront, they recognize that the new software could revolutionize how their product works, attracting more customers in the long run. Their decision isn't just about numbers; it's about investing in innovation that will keep the ship sailing smoothly into the future.

Another example could be in healthcare. The decision-maker must choose between focusing on immediate operational gains or investing in a clinical trial that might not immediately show profits. If they understand the science behind the research, they see the potential for groundbreaking treatments that could set their organization apart in the long term.

In simpler terms, decision-makers with a science-rooted understanding make choices that balance the crew's needs (operational efficiency) with the quest for new territories (scientific innovation). This ensures that the organization doesn't just follow the crowd—it decides where to go and works towards innovation.

Charting the path forward

We discussed the problem when scientists and the team making things happen don't speak the same language. This gap causes issues, slows things down, makes it confusing, and misses chances to make significant discoveries faster. We've also proposed how having people who understand science and how to get things done—especially in operational roles and decision-making—can fix this problem.

Actionable Steps:

  1. Get Science people in operations: Put science-minded folks in the teams that make things happen. This helps turn scientific needs into practical plans that everyone can understand.
  2. Hire scientists to new positions within the organization: Educate scientists in other fields like procurement, basics legal and finance requirements to enable their employment within operational teams within the organization.
  3. Make program managers science-savvy: Teach the people who coordinate projects to understand science or, even better, be scientists who converted their careers into management. This way, they can help scientists and the team work together smoothly.
  4. Make teams talk to each other: Encourage everyone to work together. Scientists and the operational team should regularly speak to understand each other better.
  5. Keep learning together: Make sure everyone keeps learning. Teach the operational team about science and vice versa. This way, everyone knows what's going on.
  6. Use technology and channels to communicate better: Use technology to help teams communicate better. Platforms that keep everyone on the same page can make things smoother.
  7. Reward everyone equally: Make sure everyone gets credit. Recognize and reward the scientists and the operational team for their hard work.
About the author
Rym Ben Othman

Rym Ben Othman

Co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at RAN BioLinks, Rym brings over 20 years of experience leading sizeable clinical research projects in academia and Industry

Supercharge Your Research Skills

Research has come a long way, but the way we manage it has yet to catch up. Join us in pioneering a transformation! Subscribe to get new resources weekly.


Great! You’ve successfully signed up.

Welcome back! You've successfully signed in.

You've successfully subscribed to UNSCRIPTED.

Success! Check your email for magic link to sign-in.

Success! Your billing info has been updated.

Your billing was not updated.