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BOA team to help secure external funding

Beatriz Balino is the new leader of UiB's administrative support for external funding. "We will increase the competence of our research administration to assist in the preparation of competitive research proposals, she says.

HEADING FUNDING EFFORTS: Beatriz Balino knows the challenges scientists face when applying for large and complex research projects. Since May 2016 she heads the so-called BOA team at the University of Bergen. Photo: Walter Wehus, University of Bergen
HEADING FUNDING EFFORTS: Beatriz Balino knows the challenges scientists face when applying for large and complex research projects. Since May 2016 she heads the so-called BOA team at the University of Bergen.
Walter Wehus, University of Bergen

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"Application preparations and the management of research projects demand a lot from scientists. I have been a researcher myself, and know what it is like. Making life easier for the scientist has always been my goal throughout my career in research administration," says Beatriz Balino.

How to compete internationally

Balino has been heading the BOA team at the University of Bergen (UIB) since May 2016. BOA is a Norwegian acronym for externally funded research activities. In its strategy for 2016-2022, the university leadership stresses the importance of increasing this part of the university's financing. The BOA team was established to coordinate the provision of research management services by the central administrative divisions, faculty and institute administrations. The ultimate goal is to assist researchers in their quest for external funding.

"Two things are needed for proposals to be competitive. First and foremost, is excellent science, preferably outstanding. Secondly, it must show that the project has a realistic budget, a data management and dissemination plans, explain its impact on society, and so on. This is where the BOA team can help with its expertise," Balino says.

Supporting large and complex grant proposals

The BOA team consists of thirty people from across the central administration at the university: the Division of Research Administration, Financial services, the Communication Division, the Division of Human Resources and the University of Bergen Library. Personnel from the Centre for the Study of the Sciences and the Humanities (SVT) also contributes to the team.

"The BOA team is set up to support large, complex applications that involve significant in-kind contribution from the host institution. This include all proposals to EU’s Horizon 2020 as well as the large programmes from the Research Council of Norway such as Centres of excellence (SFF), Centres for research-based Innovation, Centres for environmental-friendly energy research (FME) and infrastructure. When two or more departments collaborate on a proposal like these it requires the coordination of administrative services across departments, faculties and institutes. The goal is to serve the scientists with professional and effective administrative services throughout the life cycle of a research project, i.e. from proposal writing to contract negotiations and project management. This way they will be motivated to apply and coordinate new projects in the future as well," Balino says.

International experience

Originally hailing from Uruguay, Balino came to Norway around thirty years ago to get a major and a PhD in marine biology at UiB. For the last twenty years she has worked in research administration both nationally and internationally, among other things as assistant director at the IGBP secretariat in Stockholm, senior advisor for marine research at UiB’s Division of Research Administration, and as head of administration at the Bjerknes Centre for Climate Research.

"Research has become more complex. When institutions from different countries come together to cooperate, there is a need for management and coordination services. I think it is very exciting to work with large international research programmes and scientists from different cultures. When I realized how important the research management support functions are, I put my own research on hold to focus on that," Balino says.

Working with UiB’s Brussels office

The BOA team will cooperate closely with UiB´s office in Brussels, among other things to help researchers be in the forefront of calls from EU programmes.

"Until now UiB has been rather reactive when it comes to responding to EU calls. If researchers are to succeed in the competition, then EU programme calls must be relevant for them. Along with Kristof Vlaeminck from the Brussels office we will help researchers influence and position themselves for the upcoming Horizon 2020 calls and contribute to the shaping of EU´s next framework programme," Balino says.

As BOA team leader she will be spending her time coordinating and improving the services internally in the team and aligning them with local administrators at faculties and institutes.

"The BOA team is a unique opportunity to show what a professional and reliable support system at the service of our scientists is capable of. We will make it easier for them to apply for funding and to manage projects. Together we can produce high quality grant proposals to maximize the chances of success in the competition" Balino says.