Tailoring Leadership to the Phase-Specific Needs of Large Scale Research Infrastructures

29 Pages Posted: 21 Sep 2020

See all articles by David Eggleton

David Eggleton

Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex

Date Written: September 18, 2020


'Large Scale Research Infrastructures' (LSRIs), a subcategory of megaprojects which incorporate a characteristic of a high or ‘super high’ level of technological uncertainty, are often undertaken as cooperative projects with long lead times by one or more national governments. A lack of research into the effect of the LSRI project’s lifecycle on the research organisation is apparent, particularly when scientists and engineers exercise freedom to organise the project directly. Two case studies used senior leadership selection as proxy for the LSRI project lifecycle using a contingency theory framework. These were the Tevatron (Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory, USA) and the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organisation for Nuclear Research (CERN). This LSRI lifecycle is mapped onto lifecycles used in theory and in policy. Previous research did not detect that these projects become institutionalised, so influencing the selection of new research organisation senior leadership according to its needs at that stage of its lifecycle. This represents something of a novelty as most contingency theory work is theoretical with few attempts to use it as a conceptual framework for empirical evidence. The findings indicate a second new understanding, that while the literature characterises a leadership style transition from democratic to authoritarian as the project progresses, LSRIs exhibit a reverse transformation, probably as a product of the characteristically high level of organisational technical competence. The construction of LSRIs maps better onto the traditional project lifecycle and the National Science Foundation’s large facility lifecycle than onto other lifecycles. There is a policy opportunity to commission a ‘generational survey’ upon the completion of an LSRI, to understand the characteristics of the ‘next big machine’.

Keywords: LSRI, research infrastructure, megaproject, project management, lifecycle, leadership

Suggested Citation

Eggleton, David, Tailoring Leadership to the Phase-Specific Needs of Large Scale Research Infrastructures (September 18, 2020). SWPS 2020-15, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3695013 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3695013

David Eggleton (Contact Author)

Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU), University of Sussex ( email )

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