The definition of ReOps
Working as a user researcher, design researcher, etc. means paying attention to things outside of research itself: liaising with stakeholders; managing ethics applications and consent forms; managing data; organising the why, when, and how much — and this is all before you’ve even started the research! This is where ResearchOps begins.
ResearchOps is an emergent consequence of knowledge work at scale. As an organization scales its research practice, it must also scale the operations of its research.
What does that entail, you might ask? We wondered the same thing. After our global series of workshops in 2018 (where we asked the question, “what is ResearchOps?”) we arrived at the following definition.
ResearchOps is the people, mechanisms, and strategies that set user research in motion. It provides the roles, tools and processes needed to support researchers in delivering and scaling the impact of the craft across an organisation.
The value of operationalizing research
There are lots of reasons why ResearchOps is important, and these are implied by the framework. Some of the most notable include:
- Protecting participant privacy
- Making research easier to do (i.e. “democratizing” research)
- Operationalizing respect for the people who participate in our research
- Magnifying the impact of our research (knowledge sharing)
Why should someone specialize in ops? ResearchOps is related to research, but distinct; and not all ResearchOps professionals (for example, participant recruiters or research librarians) are professional researchers. ResearchOps is important in its own right. Just as a professional violinist benefits from a good violin, so too do researchers benefit from dedicated attention to ResearchOps.
Researchers need tools and processes that work. Your research and the people who give you their time deserve it. ResearchOps is an emergent profession in its own right. People who practice ResearchOps help researchers do their best work.
Community activities and projects
A community of more than 15,000 people never stops. Our work emerges according to the needs of the profession and the capacities of our community members.
At a high level, our work aims to answer the what, why, and how of ResearchOps. We started with 'what' in 2018; now our challenges are the 'how' and 'why'.
In 2019, we focused on a global pieces of research aimed at helping us help researchers - the Research Skills Framework Project. In 2019/20, our focus turned to helping us help ourselves.
The eight pillars that connect Research with Ops
We created a model for ResearchOps comprised of eight pillars. This not only comes from the voice of people around the world but helps in both near-future and ongoing work by that same community of voices.
We are using these now to help us focus our community efforts.
Recruitment and admin
Data and knowledge management
Tools and infrastructure
ResearchOps includes managing the logistics, tools and resources for off-site events, onsite events, team meetings, sharebacks, retros and arranging for speakers to attend events where the socialisation of research is involved.
ResearchOps is as much about people and forging relationships and connections as it is about efficiency, support, and data.
Budget for research
All those tools and spaces and things come at a cost. ResearchOps is about tracking operational spend and helping researchers go through budgetary processes and submissions. Strategic Operations involves working with research leadership to ensure there is sufficient budget in place to purchase or design and develop tools ahead of researcher need. There is an Ops function in tracking the impact of all of that socialisation of the research.
Researchers do research in all kinds of places. Out in the field, in labs, in offices, in workshops. Researchers need space to move and talk. They need tools to collaborate online and offline. They need walls and tables, pens and yes, sticky notes.
Socialising, communicating and evangelising about research
Researchers spend a lot of their time socialising their research and evangelising about the need for research. ResearchOps has a role to play in assisting with, or doing this socialisation work.
Where a mature knowledge structure exists, there also exists the capacity to socialise that research on behalf of researchers, taking on the complex governance of extending access to research to the right people within the boundaries of existing rules regarding ethics and consent.
Recruitment is one of the most challenging aspects of conducting research. Good Ops management of recruitment includes the tools, databases and schedules but also the small things that make a difference- managing effective incentives, saying thank you. Maintaining relationships with external recruiters or with a customer panel, ensuring the participants meet the needs of the research. That means having an in-depth understanding of research and the goals of the research. The ResearchOps Toolbox includes tools for recruitment.
We also have several community based projects in the works.