Chapter 8 Management & Coordination Area

The Management & Coordination Area of URSSI is designed to manage the project (assign and monitor work, usually in work packages; monitor, mitigate, and respond to risks; provide reports; adapt work to community feedback; and ensure project sustainability) and foster collaboration between the four other areas of URSSI: Policy, Education & Training, Incubator, and Outreach & Community.

8.1 Management resources

The PI and Co-PIs are funded at 0.25 FTE and are supported by staff at their home institutions for writing reports and budgeting, etc. The Work Package Leader roles are filled by PIs and/or senior personnel and are funded at around 0.1 FTE for leading a work package. The Sustainability Officer, Diversity Officer and Evaluator are each planned at 0.1 - 0.25 FTE depending on the phase of the institute. The initial phases of ramping up the institute, defining work packages (see definition below) and services, as well as detailed project plans with 1-year to 5-year goals will require more effort at the beginning, and we will revisit the level of effort after about 18 months and 48 months. In addition to continuous monitoring of progress and risks and potential refactoring of work and addressing risks, work on sustainability, evaluation and diversity, will be major topics.

8.2 Work packages

All work to be done in URSSI (including management and coordination) is structured into work packages (WPs), which are organized around the project’s goals and areas, with an additional WP that is concerned with quality and risk management, project coordination, sustainability, and reporting activities. A WP defines a discrete unit of work over some period, and can be part of one or more areas. The duration of a WP can be a fixed period (e.g., six months to organize and run a single training event) or can span the full lifetime of the project, such would be the case for the maintenance of the website or regular distribution of newsletters. For example, a WP to support a new open-source project might last a year and span three areas: education & training, incubator, and outreach & community.


Fig. Areas and WPs: A WP can exist in one or more areas. The WP “Project coordination, risk management and reporting” spans all four areas and lasts for the duration of the project. WPx, for example, is part of Education & Training, Incubator, and Outreach & Community. WPy, WPz, and WPw each exist in a single area.

8.3 Management structure and procedures

Management of URSSI includes activities that occur at different levels, appropriate to the size and structure of the institute. This section presents the project’s organizational and decision-making mechanisms, as well as its process for ensuring effective information interchange between the individual work packages. Central to the project’s management is a key set of roles and committees, which are described in detail below: the PI, the Co-PIs, the Work Package Leaders, a sustainability officer, an evaluator, and the Steering Committee. Work Package leaders may be Co-PIs or other URSSI staff.

The PI and Co-PIs have overall responsibility for project activities and will work with the evaluator to make periodic revisions to ensure the project’s continuing success.The PI will manage the administrative and financial aspects of the project, with the assistance of one or two staff members. The PI will also oversee the day-to-day management of the project, with the support of the Co-PIs. The PI and Co-PIs are responsible for reviewing the overall progress of the project. They will work closely with the Work Package Leaders to manage the technical work of the project. Work Package Leaders will be responsible for the progress of their individual work packages, the timely production and quality of deliverables, and the achievement of milestones. The Sustainability Officer will work towards ensuring the sustainability of the overall institute. The Diversity Officer will ensure that URSSI meets its internal and external diversity goals, and will suggest additional activities as needed. The Evaluator will ensure that URSSI activities progress towards the overall goals of URSSI are measured and, and will suggest corrective actions when needed. The Steering Committee will advise and support the PI and Co-PIs. Senior Personnel are responsible for tasks assigned to them by Work Package leaders. Tasks include administrative tasks for the project.

This structure has been developed to:

  • Ensure effective management of the project;
  • Ensure clearly defined communication channels both internal and external to the project;
  • Establish clear procedures for making decisions and resolving conflicts;
  • Ensure the project proceeds within the framework of the budget, including efficient reallocation of budget if necessary and according to administrative, financial, and legal principles defined by NSF; and
  • Ensure that the participants meet their obligations in the project.

8.4 Project Management Team

The project management team comprises

  • Leadership Team (the PI and Co-PIs)
  • Work Package Leaders
  • Sustainability Officer
  • Diversity Officer
  • Evaluator
  • Senior Personnel

In addition to this team, the project will rely on a Steering Committee.


The Project Management Team will meet on an annual basis, starting with an initial meeting in the first month of the project to promote effective and efficient work among all participants. This meeting will include the whole project management team along with invited experts. The PI can call additional meetings at any time. The annual meetings will be face-to-face when possible. Additional meetings may be via telephone conference, video conference, or both. In addition to the core project team, the PI can invite any person knowledgeable about an area of concern within the URSSI scope to attend Project Management Team meetings in an advisory capacity.

The Project Management Team will contribute to the strategic orientation of the project and represents the interests of all participants. Its main tasks are to:

  • Collect feedback from potential user researcher communities and developer communities;
  • Disseminate the project’s latest results via publications and presentations at conferences and workshops; and
  • Accomplish the work packages.

8.4.1 Steering Committee

The Steering Committee will be formed at the start of the project. It will consist of 6-8 experts invited by the Leadership Team, drawn from diverse areas including sustainability, software engineering, and domain researchers. Steering Committee members will be asked to serve for two-year terms, though initial terms may be longer or shorter to set up staggered terms for the committee. Members can continue for additional terms if both the member and the project (PI and Co-PIs) agree.

The Steering Committee will be the ultimate advisory group in the running of the project. Its role is to

  • Give guidance to the PI, Co-PIs and Work Package Leaders;
  • Exchange experiences and formulate ideas for interoperation with other SI2/CSSI projects (e.g. MolSSI, IRIS-HEP) and on sustainability;
  • Advise in scientific decisions.

The Steering Committee will be invited to every Project Management Team meeting.

8.4.2 PI

The PI will coordinate the project and will:

  • Address all recommendations submitted by the Steering Committee and the Project Management Team, taking appropriate actions;
  • Address ethical, legal and diversity issues relevant to the project;
  • Approve project budgets;
  • Ensure the project proceeds according to administrative, financial, and legal principles defined by NSF;
  • Participate in annual NSF PI meetings; and
  • Report to NSF.

8.4.3 Leadership Team (PI and Co-PIs)

The PI and Co-PIs form the Leadership Team: the decision-making body of the project. They will:

  • Set the strategic direction of the project;
  • Ensure effective operation of the project and ensure that all efforts are focused towards achieving its objectives;
  • Define work packages and the assign work package leaders;
  • Invite Steering Committee members;
  • Address risks that may impair progress towards the project’s objectives and propose strategies to address those risks;
  • Direct the project according to the work plan taking corrective actions as needed;
  • Ensure the free flow of information between Work Package Leaders and ensure cooperation and liaison between the individual work packages takes place;
  • Ensure that the work packages interact effectively;
  • Ensure deliverables are of good quality and on time;
  • Assemble progress reports and deliverables;
  • Monitor the progress of work packages towards their milestones and deliverables.

8.4.4 Work Package Leaders

A work package leader is responsible for the effective planning, execution, and reporting for an individual work package. They will be responsible for:

  • Coordinating the communication and work between partners within their work package;
  • Understanding work package constraints and coordination issues, especially if a work package falls into several areas;
  • Ensuring progress towards work package milestones and deliverables;
  • Ensuring all work package reports and deliverables are produced in a timely fashion;
  • Ensuring all results and outputs are disseminated effectively to other work packages;
  • Ensuring good communication with other work packages;
  • Reporting the progress of their work package to the PI and Co-PIs;
  • Providing support for the PI;
  • Setting up regular meetings (about weekly or bi-weekly) between participants within their work package via telephone conference, video conference or both.

8.4.5 Sustainability Officer

The sustainability officer ensures that all actions and work packages are analyzed regarding their contribution to the sustainability of the institute. Work packages might be effective at the beginning of the institute but might phase out over time or need to be redefined with different metrics, for example. The sustainability officer can suggest and lead work packages such as building additional collaborations and analyzing and/or applying for additional funding streams. They would collaborate closely with the incubator area to use its methods for spinning out work packages to be self-sustainable beyond the duration and funding of the project. The sustainability officer is planned as part of the advisory board, not as a Co-PI, so they are not involved in day-to-day management of an area or work packages. The goal is that this role maintains and provides a high-level external perspective on impact and measures for sustainability.

8.4.6 Diversity Officer

The diversity officer ensures that all actions and work packages are analyzed regarding their contribution to the diversity of the institute and the overall community. The diversity officer will also be an ombudsperson for any diversity-related issues that arise, where individuals inside or outside the project want to privately point out problems or make suggestions. The diversity officer will also help in building partnerships with communities that enable the project to increase diversity.

8.4.7 Evaluator

The evaluator is responsible for assessing the performance of the project, including by defining appropriate metrics, and suggesting appropriate measures if performance is found to be lacking or goals of the project are not met.

8.5 Risk management

The leadership team as well as the steering committee are well experienced in project and risk management. The leadership team will maintain a risk register that is refreshed at least annually, and will address risks that may impair progress towards the project’s objectives by proposing strategies to address those risks and directing the project according to the work plan, taking corrective actions as needed. The project plan will be designed to accommodate appropriate and proven risk management practices.

Some risks common to any type of project of this size and complexity, including coordination risks, problems in tasks delivering, loss of a project team member and a low impact on community building and community growth. Other risks are specific to this institute plan, such as little interaction between existing institutes for complementing each other’s activities.

Risk Likelihood Impact Rating Mitigation
Coordination risks
The coordination of many project team members can be difficult and problems in communication and organization can upset the project. 2 2 4 Prevention: Clear communication channels; regular meetings. Measures in the case of occurrence: Improve communications among team members with scheduling more meetings and adding communication channels
Problems in task delivering
A task will be not or late delivered due to several problems: financial, organizational or technical. 1 2 2 Prevention: The implementation and execution risk is minimised by the detailed work package descriptions and resources allocation, by the complementary expertise and roles in the work packages; the project plant will continuously assess project risks based on input from the project team. Measures in the case of occurrence: Appropriate corrective actions will be decided as necessary, and tracked to completion to avoid or reduce the effect of any risk detected.
Loss of project team member
Parts of the intended results cannot be delivered and the expertise of the team member is missing. That could delay or - dependent on the team member and on the point of time - endanger the whole project. 2 3 6 Prevention: Have overlapping expertise between team members; code of conduct to avoid conflicts between team members. Measures in the case of occurrence: Providing clear communication channels if conflicts occur; redefining goals and responsibilities and acquiring staffing if a team member leaves.
Low impact on community building and community growth
Activities may have less impact as expected 1 3 3 Prevention: Evaluation of work packages and tasks and collecting feedback from the community on different activities. Measures in the case of occurrence: Adapting of the work plan and further outreach activities.
Choice of communities to engage with are not at the right point in their lifecycle / do not have sufficient effort to engage 2 3 3 Prevention: Interviews with community leaders and selected community members before engaging on a large scale. Measures in the case of occurrence: Planning the engagement with the community beyond low effort such as newsletters for a later point of time.
Impact is affected by community politics for a specific community 2 3 3 Prevention: Interviews with community leaders and selected community members. Measures in the case of occurrence: Analyzing whether a change of community politics is expected and if yes, invest larger community building effort;regular check of impact of actions on the community for recognizing slow or minor uptake.

8.6 Management metrics/milestones

The Management & Coordination Area provides the structure to efficiently manage URSSI. There are three main phases for building and evaluating the structure and defining tools for supporting the management process.

First phase (1-3 months):

  • Announcing and filling open job positions of the institute, and strongly considering diversity while doing so

  • Defining the project management framework and tools supporting this framework, e.g., following the concept of Traction and working with Trello Boards

  • Defining the mission, vision and culture of URSSI

  • Defining 1-year, 3-year and 5-year goals

  • Defining work packages, starting with the first 18 months

Second phase (4-18 months)

  • Evaluating the efficiency of the management structure, e.g., are additional roles/positions needed, are fewer positions needed

  • Evaluating the project management framework

  • Evaluating and revisiting active work packages

  • Defining work packages for 18 - 60 months

  • Define sustainability metrics for work packages

Third phase (18-60 months)

  • Evaluating and revisiting work packages

  • Distinguishing and preparing to ramp down services that can be managed sustainably by the community and services that should be sustainably delivered by URSSI

8.7 SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats)

A SWOT analysis helps find the best match between environmental trends (opportunities and threats) and internal capabilities.

  • A strength is a resource or capacity the organization can use effectively to achieve its objectives.
  • A weakness is a limitation, fault, or defect in the organization that will keep it from achieving its objectives.
  • An opportunity is any favorable situation in the organization’s environment. It is usually a trend or change of some kind or an overlooked need that increases demand for a product or service and permits the firm to enhance its position by supplying it.
  • A threat is any unfavorable situation in the organization’s environment that is potentially damaging to its strategy. The threat may be a barrier, a constraint, or anything external that might cause problems, damage or injury.

The SWOT analysis is based on experiences in the conceptualization phase of URSSI.


  • Conceptualization of URSSI created already awareness and some community involvement

  • Experience with winter school

  • Results of survey and ethnographic studies


  • Awareness of URSSI in a large set of communities


  • Close collaboration with existing NSF sustainability institutes, carpentries, UK SSI, US-RSE, ReSA, BSSw, …

  • Yearly surveys on research software engineering


  • Overlapping effort from projects hindering uptake of URSSI activities

  • A plethora of target communities