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Project Manager (Science Research Infrastructure Projects)

The Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC)
Didcot, England, Oxfordshire
£39748 - £44166 per annum
Closing date
4 Nov 2021
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The RAL Particle Physics Project Support Office supports the management of many of the UK's national and international particle physics research programmes. As project manager you will manage one or more of a wide range of science research infrastructure projects. Our growing portfolio includes DUNE, Hyper-K, CMS, SWIFT-HEP, LHCb, AIT and AION. The role is UK-based and non-technical. Working conditions are flexible reflecting the geographically distributed nature of the projects, although it is primarily office-based.

The projects involve the definition, design, construction, co-ordination, delivery and commissioning of significant technical and scientific contributions to international experiments, ranging from mechanical hardware (such as large detector components), civil engineering (underground tunnels) through state-of-the-art electronics to software for experiment control and data analysis. They are mostly waterfall but there is an element of agile. Once commissioned, these experiments contribute to the fundamental understanding of the building blocks of the universe in a field where only a few people in the world have such enviable access.

The main challenge for the project manager is the management of the collaborative aspects of the projects. The projects nearly always involve many scientific institutes from all over the world, each contributing specific components and expertise to the central experiment construction, commissioning and operation based at (for example) CERN (France/Switzerland), Fermilab (USA) , J-Lab (Japan) or Boulby (UK). The projects are long-term (>3 years) and often part of longer running programmes (~20 years). In the UK this can involve national collaboration of typically 15 university physics departments as well as STFC national laboratories each contributing, and working together. A typical large international collaboration consists of over 1,000 members from 30 countries. UK project costs range up to the tens of £millions. There is a strong element of financial management required for the role.

As Project Manager, you will work alongside the Principal Investigator to ensure that UK contributions are delivered most appropriately to the international projects within the established constraints and to maximize the benefits. You will ensure that suitable management of the project is in place to enable credible planning and informed decision making and will undertake accurate and informative reporting as well as ensuring the maintenance of appropriate project tools. A rigorous approach to formal project management is essential. The Project Support Office follows closely the approach promoted by the UK Association for Project Management whilst being tailored for use within a complex collaborative science environment. You will also be expected to help develop these methods and processes as a member of the Project Support Office team in the interests of continuous improvement.

You must exhibit a pragmatic attitude towards the work of others, particularly in a collaborative environment where there is no line-management control of participants, whilst having a good eye for detail interpreting and presenting project performance data.

Technical expertise is not required as part of the role of project manager, since this is provided by the projects' scientific and technical participants, however an ability to interpret, simplify and document requirements is essential, particularly in developing plans and identifying risks - this can be achieved by asking sensible questions and intelligent interpretation of answers. An analytic approach to the interpretation of project (management) data is vital, as is an ability to drill-down and investigate project issues. Some experience of complex procurement would be beneficial.

The role would equally suit an applicant who has a background in science and technology or an applicant from a completely different field. Both of whom we believe would bring valuable skills to the role in different ways. Either way the candidate must demonstrate genuine excitement and commitment to the projects.

Some project support is provided via processes and support staff within the Project Support Office but it will be the successful candidate's responsibility and accountability to ensure that the project is managed in the appropriate manner following guidelines, making up shortfalls in support where necessary.

Not only is this an exciting role at the forefront of science and technology, but you will also gain excellent experience of formal project management in a collaborative environment, as well as further training, aiming to reach Chartered Project Professional within a suitable time frame.

The role gives considerable scope for personal and professional development as well as the opportunity to get involved in some of the most complex and exciting projects in the world today.

Closing date 31st October 2021.

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