A Glossary for Research Development: Exploring core language for tracking and qualification

They said what!? Or how to use language for collaborations in research development

Language is a foundation for effective communication, especially when navigating the complex terminology of research development.

The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) co-led an international project with University of Zimbabwe to encourage and improve shared language, process and resource use of pre-award services between UK and Zimbabwean institutions to ensure that our dialogues are more equitable, effective and efficient. The project was supported by the International Research Management Staff Development Programme (IRMSDP), which brought together six teams drawn from over 50 research management professionals across the UK and Africa to strengthen cultural understanding and collaborations between UK and African partner institutions, and improve the capacity of research managers within institutions. 

Learn more about our team members here. Full details of the programme can be found here. The final output from the project, a glossary of pre-award terminology, can be downloaded here.

Project abstract

Language is a foundation for effective communication and our project aimed to develop a glossary of pre-award terminology and best practice guidance for monitoring pre-award terms, and make software recommendations to undertake these activities. It will allow institutions to better engage other research offices for ongoing research applications and encourage stronger relationships between research managers. Having knowledge of applications within and across Zimbabwean universities and their devolved units will allow managers to make connections between potential collaborators and communicate them easily with UK partners.

In delivering this project, our team engaged with UK and Zimbabwean universities, research management associations and funders to connect the language of research development across our networks.

Project phases

The project ran from September 2020 to April 2021 with three phases of implementation and two events.


Phase 1: Pre-award language definitions

Activities: Identification and compilation of pre-award terms and definitions. The team defined the areas of pre-award service that could be included in the glossary and guidelines. We analysed documentation from funders, institutions, networks and other organisations to identify key terms under the five categories in Output 1 below. Once complete the terms were compiled into a master spreadsheet.

Output 1: The master spreadsheet includes terms relating to five categories of the pre-award phase of the research lifecycle. It identifies synonymous and similar terms, the organisations that commonly use them, definitions and the source of information. The five categories are:

o   Costing and Pricing: all aspects of budgets, costing and pricing considering both sponsor/funder terminology, funding models as well as internal costing and price recovery terms

o   Forms of Engagement: funder driven ways of engagement, including the different partner/collaborator/sub-awardee models, and the ways in which they are demonstrated via letters and statements, as well as the more bottom-up partnership and engagement activities

o   Ethics: activities related to compliance with funder and institutional ethical and data management and protection approvals and processes. This area has an additional health focus for clinical trials and material transfer

o   Knowledge Exchange and Impact: the way that knowledge exchange and impact is framed during proposal development, especially with a view to monitoring and evaluation, and with a highlight around the impositions of Official Development Assistant (ODA) stream funding

o   Personnel Categories: how we identify staff in research applications, including the terms that reflect the different levels of experience expected for a role, defined by the funder and institutional definitions. 

Phase 2: Pre-award tracking for terms

Activities: Building on Output 1 we expanded the utility of the sheet to include common uses for the terms in management information and qualification criteria, where applicable. We consulted our networks to understand the most commonly used metrics in each of the five Output 1 categories, and mapped those tracking options to the terms. 

We considered how these tracking metrics could be used to provide evidence in proposals, qualification questionnaires, and due diligence forms.

Output 2: Expanded spreadsheet. 

Phase 3: Booklet comprising glossary and management information guidelines

Activities: design and production of the final booklet and engagement with end-users.

Output 3: A digital booklet comprising a glossary in a user-friendly format for a research management and administration audience. It will seek to act as a starting point for institutions building tracking and qualification capabilities for the 5 core categories.

The booklet does not seek to replicate existing MI booklets and frameworks, such as snowball metrics, but takes a light-touch approach to introducing the user to tracking their application pipeline and maintaining oversight of research in development for the purpose of collaboration. It will be disseminated via the relevant research management and administration networks and across our university and funder contact groups. 

Download the booklet here.


Events: Panel and Workshop

Panel: The panel covered each of the categories above and our experiences as research managers during this project. The Q&A session delved into more effective collaborations and expanding the glossary to other areas.

Workshop: The workshop covered five case studies demonstrating the use of the glossary and qualification and tracking metrics for two fictional institutions in Africa and the UK. The studies demonstrated the barriers in place for institutions to apply and qualify for funding directly through funders, and with limited resources, as well as evidencing how pre-award tracking can be put in place to help with this.

Team members

Africa University Clinical Research Centre (Zimbabwe)

Mandla Tirivavi

Bindura University of Science Education (Zimbabwe)

Professor Courtie Mahamadi

London School of Economics and Political Science (UK)

Grace McConnell

Melissa Anderson

Ikenna Acholonu

Midlands State University (Zimbabwe)

Professor Laurine Chikoko

National University of Science and Technology (Zimbabwe)

 Dr Paul Makoni

School of Oriental and African Studies (UK)

 Dr Ying Chen

Angelica Baschiera

University of Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe)

Thokozile Mashaah


This work was supported through the Research Management Programme in Africa (ReMPro Africa) and the Association for Research Managers and Administrators UK. ReMPro Africa seeks to build the expertise necessary to create and sustain robust research enterprise and environments by addressing systemic level challenges at African institutions. ReMPro Africa is implemented through the Alliance for Accelerating Excellence in Science in Africa (AESA), a funding, agenda setting, programme management initiative of the AAS in partnership with the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD) and with the support of Wellcome, United Kingdom, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), the Royal Society, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and the UK Department of Health and Social Care (UK-DHSC). We would also like to thank the Universities of all participating team members who allowed us to dedicate time to this project and facilitators and trainers who supported our development.