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I think it's clear from the Help and actual questions/answers here that questions about the academic side of research are on topic. However, are questions about research administration on topic?

By "research administration" I mean things like:

  • Interpreting uniform guidance regarding things like allowed costs for federal grants
  • Submitting or preparing grant applications
  • The IRB approval process and standards
  • Disclosing industry partnerships and conflicts of interest
  • How to handle intellectual property and business interests that stem from research

It's less clear to me whether these are on topic. On one hand, they are related to academic research. On the other hand, the Help says this site is appropriate for academics and these questions may be more appropriate for people with professional experience in research administration, rather than academics themselves.

  • All the example you give are probably very specific to the US and the answers to some of them would probably change with the institution. I'd thus consider most of those questions too localized, unless you find a way to generalize them for a broader audience. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 1 '18 at 20:36
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    I think research administration should certainly be on topic since it is a big part of academia, but I agree with Massimo's concern about localized questions as well as several of the bullet points you raise leaning towards legal questions that are often unanswerable in a broad sense. – Bryan Krause Aug 1 '18 at 21:54
  • @MassimoOrtolano - the only issue that might be US-specific is the IRB one (and even Europe has analogous regulations on human subjects, right?). The bigger problem is that the resolution of such issues is intimately dependent on university/local/state/federal/EU interpretations... – Jon Custer Aug 2 '18 at 13:58
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    @JonCuster Other countries do not have "federal" grants, and the allowed costs of government funded research can be completely different. Also the way in which grant applications are submitted and prepared can be different. – Massimo Ortolano Aug 2 '18 at 14:20
  • @MassimoOrtolano - Individual countries in the EU most certainly do fund research, separate from the EU mechanisms. But, we agree that the mechanics of how it all happens can be quite specific. – Jon Custer Aug 2 '18 at 14:23
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As a general rule, the best way to make a question a good fit is to ensure the question could be asked by someone else not in your exact situation. Asking about very specific details of policy manuals is probably not a good idea, but if the question could be expanded to cover different agencies or cover different research areas, then it’s usually OK.

But there’s certainly nothing wrong a priori with research admin questions.

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Research administration is certainly on topic.

Notably, practically every academic starts as their own research administrator. Even if you are provided shared staff with this specialty, you must check everything as you learn the strengths and weaknesses of those that support you. I think learning good research administration is as important to achieving success as good research design. Sadly, possibly more so...

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