Perceived non-value added activities in the research grant application process through a lean Six Sigma lens: Lean Six Sigma in higher education.
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Brennan, Attracta, & Dempsey, Mary. (2020). Perceived non-value added activities in the research grant application process through a lean Six Sigma lens. In Jiju Antony (Ed.), Lean Six Sigma in higher education: A practical guide for continuous improvement professionals in higher education. United Kingdom: Emerald Publishing Limited.
Universities as part of Higher Education Institutions (HEIs) operate in a climate of reduced state funding and increased oversight and competitive performance pressures. Universities are mandated to award degrees and other qualifications in addition to promoting and facilitating research. A university’s income typically stems from student fees, state funding and research awards. Ranking schemes such as the Times Higher Education (THE) and the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings have meant that a university’s performance is readily visible and is increasingly being used as one of the selection criteria by students in their application decision. Meanwhile, the increased competition for research funding from both an inter- and intra-university perspective has resulted in researchers having a lower probability of funding success (Opipari, Lumeng, Youmans, & Silverstein, 2019). This in turn can negatively impact university income generation while increasing waste associated with research time and other resources. Unsuccessful research funding bids can also result in “opportunity costs in lost research output” (p. 1) (Barnett, Herbert, Clarke, & Graves, 2014). The drive towards better quality publication output coupled with increased competition for funding, has meant that researchers can spend between 2-8 months preparing research grant applications. Un-intended internal process complexities and extant barriers aggravate the challenges inherent in research grant application preparation. Consequently, universities must examine research grant application process steps to identify value and waste while integrating the voice of the applicant as a driver for efficiency. Efforts to maximise the success rate of research grant funding applications can provide gains not just for the researchers in terms of output and for the university in terms of reputation and financial stability, but also for society in terms of new knowledge generation and innovation. This chapter presents the results from a study which addresses the research question; “Using a Lean Six Sigma Lens, what are the perceived non-value add activities in the research grant application process in an Irish university?” Based on the results analysis, a number of recommendations to enhance the research application process are provided.