The Handbook of Research Management is a unique tool for the newly promoted research leader. Larger-scale projects are becoming more common throughout the social sciences and humanities, housed in centres, institutes and programmes. Talented researchers find themselves faced with new challenges to act as managers and leaders rather than as individual scholars. They are responsible for the careers and professional development of others, and for managing interactions with university administrations and external stakeholders. Although many scientific and technological disciplines have long been organized in this way, few resources have been created to help new leaders understand their roles and responsibilities and to reflect on their practice.

This Handbook has been created by the combined experience of a leading social scientist and a chief executive of a major international research development institution and funder. The editors have recruited a truly global team of contributors to write about the challenges they have encountered in the course of their careers, and to provoke readers to think about how they might respond within their own contexts.

This book will be a standard work of reference for new research leaders, in any discipline or country, looking for help and inspiration. The editorial commentaries extend its potential use in support of training events or workshops where groups of new leaders can come together and explore the issues that are confronting them.

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This chapter offers a series of reflections on how to access the ‘field’, based on personal experience as a (junior) researcher, grant-maker and (senior) professor. This is done in sections that temporalize the ‘field experience’ in pre-field, field, and post-field practices, all the while arguing for a more expansive notion of field that allows for – or, better, requires – mutual and political engagements with a variety of different actors who may not be inside one's (narrowly defined) field but who nevertheless have important impact.

In ‘The préterrain’ I build on the work by Condominas (1973) and Pels and Salemink (1994) on the work that is done – and often needs to be done – before entering the field proper, namely of building the ...

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