Knowledge allows a person to interpret information, identify the implications of that data, and choose to ignore or apply an action based on the information provided. Davenport and Prusak (1998) provide a comprehensive definition of knowledge:
Knowledge is a fluid mix of framed experience, values, contextual information, and expert insight that provides a framework for evaluating and incorporating new experiences and information. It originates and is applied in the minds of knowers. In organizations, it often becomes embedded not only in documents or repositories but also in organizational routines, processes, practices, and norms. (p. 5)
While data is a separate and distinct fact, knowledge provides an additional layer of interpretation and lays the groundwork for action. Knowledge is the cornerstone of any institution and forms the foundation of our professional lives.
1. Institutional Knowledge
The scientific, technical, and administrative documents that create the tangible assets of an institution are invaluable to an organization. These are the physical resources that offer explicit and measurable information are, more often than not, found in a binder, filing cabinet, or stacked on the corner of your desk. Research often produces multimedia resources, such as photographs, videos, maps, and other interactive resources. The research administrator is often asked to prepare, catalog, and store these resources.
2. Tangible Assets
Research administrators are also asked to help prepare scientific and technical publications and reports. This may include a journal article, an institutional policy or standard operating procedures. And lastly, the educational and administrative documents necessary to initiate, plan, and execute research are considered tangible assets.
3. Intangible Assets
An institution also has intangible assets which, although they are not physically evident, add significant value to the intellectual property and the overall reputation of a research program. The corporate culture of an institution is difficult to define, but it includes the shared basic assumptions, beliefs, and values of a professional group (Schein, 2010). Some of this information may be housed in the mission and vision statements, but it also includes the personal, unspoken principles and ideals of the employees (McDermott & O’Dell, 2001; Schein, 2010).
4. Other Assets
Other intangible assets include the knowledge exchange and capture that’s rooted in everyday communications with both informal and formal knowledge sharing. This can best be described in the statement: “That’s just how we’ve always done it.” Other intangible assets could include business methodologies and business intelligence, organizational memory, and administrative methodology. Research Administrators are often asked to manage both tangible and intangible assets of a research program.
- Davenport, T. H., & Prusak, L. (1998). Working knowledge: How organizations manage what they know. Boston, MA: Harvard Business School Press.
- McDermott, R., & O’Dell, C. (2001). Overcoming cultural barriers to sharing knowledge. Journal of Knowledge Management, 5(1), 76-85. doi:10.1108/13673270110384428
- Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.