Successful collaborations hinge on clear roles, responsibilities, and expectations. Without these rules in place, important tasks may be missed or duplicated, team members may feel uncertain of their value or purpose, and, ultimately, the project may fail. To avoid this terrible end, all projects should begin with a clear definition of roles and responsibilities. All kick-off meetings should end with all team members agreeing upon the RASIC. Chart.

The RASIC Chart or matrix is an acronym which stands for “Responsible”, “Approving”, “Supporting”, “Informed” and “Consulted”. You can use these designations to define your relationship to other employees for different roles as you work on a shared project.

These roles transcend all project activities or process steps, (e.g. from start to finish of a project). The roles should be described in a generic way prior to the project startup-meeting. Then, within you can assign names in the columns to show the actual person taking over that role.

Starting from the first meeting, it is the PI’s role to discuss with all team members who is doing what, which means who is Responsible, Approving, Supporting, Informed and Consulting. It is important that only ONE role can be responsible for a process. Other roles may support, consult or be informed by the responsible role.

In cross-institution collaboration projects, the same role(s) could be assigned to several people each within a separate company, (e.g. such as suppliers, authorized representatives or business partners).

Another important aspect is the active involvement of the decision maker(s) at all involved institutions. This role also needs to be shown in the RASIC Chart. Typically, a decision maker’s role is to approve purchases, decide policy-level questions, to receive data or financial information. Identify the required decision maker(s) at each institution and detail when, how, and how often you will contact them regarding the project.

After filling the RASIC Chart, a role can be further developed and outlined through the use of other project management tools, such as the research plan or a Gantt Chart. For the project manager or PI, it is important to facilitate the development or adaptation of the RASIC for the life of the project. Everyone with a role should clearly know all of their assigned responsibilities from the first to the last day and, they should understand accountability and implications if they are unable to complete their role.

Experience with the RASIC Chart shows that repetition is your friend — meaning that  using the team setup, the same type of roles, and the same processes for communication, coordination and collaboration allows your research lab to flow more smoothly from new project to new project in future.