The Advice

Shelley Abercromby - RAC Student


What prompted you to enroll in the Research Administration Certificate?

I enrolled in the Research Administration Certificate course after my colleague joined CARA and invited me to attend an introductory webinar. The program peaked my interest, as I had been working in Clinical research for 10 years and most of my skills were learned from hands-on experience and advice from colleagues and Industry-sponsors. I started out working as a research assistant and worked my way up to a study coordinator role, where I was managing over 20 studies in various stages of completion. I am always interested in expanding my knowledge base and skill set personally and professionally. I am passionate about clinical research and have shifted to a role which focuses on regulatory, budgets, contracts and compliance. The Research Administration Certificate program appeared to provide the perfect combination of topics and materials relevant to my career and provides me with the added opportunity to expand and document my knowledge in Clinical Research Administration.


How many courses have you completed to date?

I am currently taking Contracts and Reporting which is my third course in the program. This course was one of the main reasons I was eager to take this certificate program. I have been negotiating budgets with Industry sponsors for many years and have developed guidance documents for our research department on study fees and budget negotiation, but I have no formal training in this area. In my role, I receive all of the industry-sponsored confidential disclosure agreements (CDAs) and Clinical Trial Agreements (CTAs) and then forward them directly to our institutional team for language review. This adds a lot of time onto the process of contract reviews, so I am really interested to learn about what is required in these legal agreements and possibly start assisting in the pre-review of these agreements. Additionally, I was previously unaware of Material Data Transfer agreements, as I generally do not work on investigator-sponsored studies. So this is a new area that I am eager to learn about.


What advice would you give someone considering the Research Administration Certificate?

I would highly recommend this program. During the pandemic research restrictions, I took a contract with our university’s clinical research ethics board. This position aligned perfectly with the research ethics and integrity course I was taking and I was absolutely amazed by how useful the course material was for my role. Taking the course in parallel with my ethics position provided a solid foundation when reviewing new study submissions for TCPS2 compliance. I think it is very beneficial for a research administrator to have a well-rounded education and it is nice to finally have a program available that focuses on areas that are not typically taught in post secondary education and in the past have only involved on-the-job training. Although I may not currently require all of the skills and information that is part of the curriculum, I know that in the future, having this knowledge and certification will be beneficial for my continued career trajectory.


What do you wish you had known before you enrolled in the certificate?

One thing I wish I had known before enrolling, was the workload. Every term I struggle with the decision about how many courses to take. My first term, I only took one course, as I wasn’t sure what the overall course structure and workload would be like. Additionally, I have been out of school for a number of years and the idea of having “homework” was daunting. I could probably handle more than one course per term, but as I already have a very heavy workload, I am continuing to take the program one step at a time. One thing I would recommend for others taking this program is to map out all of the courses and when you will take them, as not all courses are offered each term. I have mapped out my courses and will finish the program in Dec 2021.