A research and development professional performs cutting-edge work. Whether she supports or leads efforts, her job objectives are to establish and implement research plans that advance new or existing products and processes. She helps her company address target customers' interests while outperforming competitors. Although a research and development employee can work in all kinds of sectors, her efforts are specialized according to her position and her field -- such as IT software or food manufacturing.
Plan and Manage Projects
A research and development employee engages in highly technical projects. She takes part in investigations that have lots of moving parts -- often requiring one or more teams, and presenting both expected and unanticipated challenges. For example, in the investigation of an ideal airport layout, she develops a project management plan that outlines risks, activities, time lines and success criteria. Regular meetings take place to adjust details of the plan, as needed, and ensure objectives are met.
Test Products and Concepts
Job objectives include testing for many purposes -- from developing prototypes of new products to confirming that existing ones meet quality standards. An employee at an education testing company recruits schools to field-test a promising online assessment product. She applies her data-collection and monitoring abilities. She often works shoulder-to-shoulder with other researchers -- for instance, developing study designs and data models. Her research is scientifically sound, and honors her company’s budget and other regulations.
Support Analysis and Reports of Findings
An additional objective is to translate data into findings that challenge or support theories or claims. A research and development worker may take a quantitative or qualitative approach. She documents results in a number of ways, such as measuring a product’s physical features or recording focus group responses. She shares findings through multiple channels, including internal reports, white papers, peer-review publications and books. Proprietary information is carefully protected -- especially in sensitive industries such as biotechnology.
Translate Research into Real Results
A research and development professional’s work results in conceptual designs and real products. At times, this requires additional testing. Her many phases of research may lead to a pacemaker that can be sold in the medical devices market. She may help to develop a manufacturing plan based on tests of the pacemaker’s mechanical and electrical systems design, aesthetics and functionality. Or she may help identify manufacturers to mass-produce the pacemaker, and work with marketing personnel, as well as legal and regulatory specialists. Her goal is to ensure that her company produces safe, high-performance and innovative goods and services.
- National Institute of Standards and Technology: Planning Report 05-1 – Measuring Service-Sector Research and Development (pages 2-1, 2-2)
- Sensirion: Field Report - R&D Project Management @Sensirion
- Jennie-O: Day in the Life of an R & D Intern
- Science Talents: Jobs Descriptions: Research & Development (Preclinical)
- Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images