NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Plenary: Diversity Panel – Inclusive Excellence and the Research Enterprise: The Role of Research Development Professionals


  • Kyle Lewis, University of California Santa Barbara
  • Beth Mitchneck, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Roland Owens, Office of Intramural Research, NIH
  • Barbara Endemaño Walker (Moderator), University of California Santa Barbara

Thanks to our session scribe, Don Takehara, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  1. Why is diversity important for science? The literature shows that diverse teams produce better science and create more publications. Women have been shown to be highly collaborative on teams. In the same vein, having a diverse team creates stronger cultural competence which allows for a wider dissemination of the results.
  2. How can research development professionals engage diverse faculty? The presenters encouraged RD professionals to be proactive in attracting, recruiting, and retaining diverse teams. They also suggested the benefits of attending an anti-bias workshop. A recommended book was Why So Slow? by Virginia Valian.
  3. How can diverse faculty be retained? Attracting, recruiting, and retaining a diverse faculty needs to be considered simultaneously. If a faculty member feels isolated, they will be less likely to stay. The question, “Is she/he ready to be a full professor?” needs to be treated with objectivity and not subjectivity. Additionally, mentoring is important at every step when retaining faculty.
  4. What else can RD professionals do? The presenters argued that when RD professionals engage directly with diverse faculty, it makes a difference. Institutional transformation is often necessary, and it is also important to be informed of your institution’s data and trends in this area. Another resource to consider is NSF’s ADVANCE program.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

There is extensive literature on the benefits of diversity that RD professionals should seek out and consider when approaching their work.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

The panel members may create a suggested reading list based on the topics discussed in this session.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s) response?

An audience member asked how the use of mentors might be more effective. The presenters explained the importance of choosing mentors carefully, providing mentors with appropriate training, and considering a faculty member’s interest and ability to serve as a mentor throughout their careers.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

RD professionals can make a difference in encouraging diversity both within team science and their universities as a whole. It is important for RD professionals to be educated on these issues, and also to help communicate their importance to decision makers.



The Transition from Postdoc to Research Development: Kathryn Partlow

Kathryn Partlow, Senior Proposal Development Coordinator, University of Nebraska, Lincoln

Describe your work in RD: I’ve worked in RD for almost 6 years. I recently advanced from being an entry-level specialist to a senior-level coordinator. My role in brief is to support proposal development for early-career and tenured faculty with research interests spanning engineering, life and social sciences. This includes refining project ideas, finding collaborators, identifying funding opportunities, and ensuring timely submission of a competitive proposal. When developing the proposal, I work to present the proposed research in a way that is logical and easily understood by reviewers, including development of the storyline or schematics. I also ensure the proposal meets the evaluation criteria, funding agency priorities, and other requirements such as broader impacts.

Describe your postdoc work: I developed a passion for research during a summer internship at a pharmaceutical company and went on to earn a PhD in molecular cell biology. My postdoc experience involved the development and characterization of novel drugs for cancer.

Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: While conducting cancer research during my graduate and postdoctoral training, I always gravitated toward interdisciplinary research and enjoyed communicating with people from different backgrounds and areas of expertise. During this time, I became passionate about facilitating interdisciplinary research. I believe bringing researchers together from diverse disciplines and backgrounds is the only way to address some of society’s greatest challenges. Often times, developing a proposal for a funding opportunity can be the nucleus that brings these teams together.

Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: For success in research development, it definitely helps to have a strong background in science and research. One of the most rewarding experiences during my postdoctoral time was mentoring the undergraduate and graduate students within the lab. I enjoyed sharing my experiences, challenging students to think outside the box, assisting them in coming to conclusions on their own, and aiding in their development as scientists. These same skills definitely help when working with early-career faculty and teams.

What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? During my postdoc, I did some informational interviews with NORDP members, which was beneficial. I also attended an annual NORDP meeting before starting my job in research development, which was a great way to be introduced to the field. I found research to be consuming and struggled with work-life balance. Although I still work hard, the one degree of separation and the fact that you can work from anywhere has been good for me.

 What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? I find helping teams become greater than the sum of their parts extremely rewarding. I also really enjoy working with early-career faculty. I was surprised with how much I enjoy working across disciplines, including with the social sciences. When you’re doing your own research, you are so focused and don’t realize you have a limited view. I am a better-rounded person now and have greatly expanded my scientific knowledge and expertise.

Why do you think RD is a good career choice? I’ve found research development to be a rewarding career that builds upon my experience and training. I also feel like I’m able to use my skills more fully in research development than if I had taken a research path. Working at a higher level within the research enterprise enables you to make a bigger impact.

Posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee

New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Kimberly Eck

Kimberly Eck is one of three new elected NORDP Board Members in 2018. We thank Kimberly for her service to NORDP!

Who: Kimberly Eck, MPH, PhD, Director of Research Development
Where: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Number of years in research development: 9
Length of NORDP membership: 4

What’s your history in RD? When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?Eck_Pic.jpg

I started in RD in 2009 working for a small consulting company with clients in the healthcare and public health sector. Like many RD professionals, I had never heard of “research development” and didn’t know I was a research development professional until I had been working in my role for several years. After several years of consulting, I moved to higher education and found my niche. Today, as the Director of Research Development at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I lead a team that specializes in interdisciplinary teaming, long-range planning, and supporting major, multi-million proposals. I have taken a major leadership role in a university-wide cluster hire and grand challenge initiative and am increasingly involved in supporting our university centers and institutes.

What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?

During the past year, I served as the Chair of the Southeast NORDP Region (SE NORDP). In this role, I led the region and SE NORDP Executive Committee in becoming an officially-recognized affinity group, launching a regional meeting series, and creating a regional RD job shadow experience. I’ve also regularly presented at the NORDP conference with colleagues and contributed to committees. I’ve really enjoyed presenting my original research with a great group of collaborators that I met through NORDP.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?

Being a part of NORDP has allowed me to develop a nation-wide network. I know so many people at so many institutions throughout the country that I would have otherwise never met. In particular, working with my collaborators on research projects and my fellow SE NORDP Executive Committee members has been very rewarding. It is great to have a group of professional colleagues to learn from, bounce ideas off of, and share frustration with. I love catching up with colleagues every year at the NORDP conference.

What inspired you to run for a position on the NORDP board?

I am passionate about the field of research development and NORDP. Over the next four years, I hope to help NORDP continue to grow and serve its members. 

What initiative are you most excited about in your new role as a board member? 

I have often commiserated with fellow research development professionals about the lack of understanding and consistency in titles, roles, and responsibilities. There is a new initiative that I am planning to propose that relates to cataloging and describing the typical titles, roles, and responsibilities of research development positions. This a complex task that builds on the original research conducted by myself and colleagues and will require substantial input from the NORDP community. Ultimately, I hope to lead a working group to create a set of guidelines that will be useful to NORDP as well as human resources, administration, and institutional leadership.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

Do You Know Where You are Going?

One of the greatest catchers in baseball history, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was also known for his “Yogi-isms.” My favorite “Yogi-ism” is, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” While this ism is appropriate for all professional fields, I believe it to be especially true for research development. As an RD professional, do you know where your office is going?

Being in a relatively nascent field, we in RD are pioneers, developing new innovations and ideas as needs arise at our institutions. This is fantastic and exciting. But, we need to know where we are going, or we will never get there. We need a long-term strategy.

NORDP’s Program for External Evaluation of Research Development (PEERD) can help your RD office determine its long-term strategy. Whether your office is new, looking to expand, or well established, NORDP’s PEERD consulting program can help you set strategic directions.

For a no-obligation cost estimate, contact More information can be found at

Submitted on behalf of Kayla Tindle


NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Ideas Lab Workshop: Starting a Grand Challenge Initiative & Picking/Proposing a Grand Challenge Topic: Issues & Decisions from the University and the Research Team Perspectives (Part 1)

Ideas Lab Workshop: Starting a Grand Challenge Initiative & Picking/Proposing a Grand Challenge Topic: Issues & Decisions from the University and the Research Team Perspectives (Part 1)


  • Eva Allen, Indiana University
  • Sarah Archibald, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Jennifer Lyon Gardner, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Michelle Popowitz, UCLA
  • Sarah Rovito, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • Amy Spellacy, The Ohio State University

Thanks to our session scribe, Linda Vigdor, City University of New York! 

Key points from the session. We learned:

This session was designed to be highly interactive with the audience. A broad overview of key factors to consider when initiating a grand challenge include:

  1. What are the drivers for starting a program – how might these influence the design of the program?
  2. Grand Challenge Goals vs. Themes – it is helpful to differentiate between these.
    1. Theme: (-) not that easy to measure outcomes and hard to set up requirements to meet but (+) good for generating interest and engaging participants; “no failure” with a theme; themes persist beyond the goals and offer potential of culture change
    2. Goal: (+) easier to communicate objectives but (-) narrower focus than a theme; “failure” is a possibility – thus, harder to sell to researchers or executives
    3. One strategy is to start with a theme (for ideation phase) then narrow the theme to focused goals
  3. Management of theme-driven and goal-driven challenges require different strategies.
    1. Theme-driven: open-ended management
    2. Goal-driven: defined approach
  4. Get creative with funding approaches, for example:
    1. Sell institutional assets (e.g., parking)
    2. Generate philanthropic gifts
    3. Provide campus-based funding
  5. Ideation approaches:
    1. Pre-define a broad topic – bring people together to brainstorm ideas to further refine/define the topic
    2. Run open calls – ask for concept papers and/or offer seed funding grants to explore viability of ideas
    3. Organize topics around specific person with core expertise or draw
    4. Top down – topic defined by high level administration or by external partner to achieve specified goals

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

I was surprised by the difference in focusing on goals vs. themes as an organizing structure when designing a grand challenge. Both have their merits.

  • Advantages of organizing around Smart Goals:
    • (a) unified vision;
    • (b) easier to communicate societal impact;
    • (c) promise of defined impact for participants;
    • (d) measurable;
    • (e) time-limited;
    • (f) roles more easily defined; and
    • (g) better positioned for partnerships
  • Advantages of organizing around Themes:
    • (a) flexibility;
    • (b) campus able to define or declare success at any point;
    • (c) inclusivity;
    • (d) scope can be variable;
    • (e) may generate more excitement due to fewer restrictions; and
    • (f) no predefined timeline or endpoint

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters(s)’ response?

An interesting question focused on best strategies for picking teams.

  • Identify people known to be team players
  • Identify people who have the requisite experience, and/or reputation relevant to the proposed theme
  • Noted: themes proposed at general meetings can be hard to manage in terms of selection, focus, etc.
  • It’s also important to have a strategy to keep faculty engaged once they sign on to a grand challenge

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

The interactive format kept the session lively and produced thoughtful ideas.

New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Jill Jividen

Jill Jividen is one of three new elected NORDP Board Members in 2018. We thank Jill for her service to NORDP!

Who: Jill Jividen, Assistant Director for Research Development
Where: Medical School Office of Research, University of Michigan
Number of years in research development: 4.5
Length of NORDP membership: 4.5

What’s your history in RD? When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?

I finished my PhD in literature just before the recession hit in 2008 and the academic job market dried up. After teaching as an adjunct for two years, I took a position as a research administrator in the U-M Medical School, where my background in editing and writing appealed to leadership and researchers. I spent a year learning the basics of NIH grants, then moved to the School of Information, where I worked on NSF and foundations proposals.Jividen - Headshot_2014_7_CROPPED.jpg

I landed my first RD position without really knowing what the field was. I sought out a couple of mentors who did RD work; they connected me to NORDP, and, locally, we started to build a grassroots RD community to share resources and best practices. One of those mentors recruited me to her position as she retired. In my current role as Assistant Director for Research Development, I coordinate a junior faculty mentorship program (the R01 Boot Camp); connect faculty to funding opportunities and resources; present grant writing workshops; provide editing; and manage limited submissions.

What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?

My mentors introduced me to NORDP. I went to my first conference two months after starting that first RD position. It was an eye-opening experience, and I was inspired by the creative problem-solving that our peers undertake to support faculty. I have attended every conference since 2014. I began volunteering at the conference registration desk and as a session scribe at the conferences. I gradually increased participation, joining the Member Services Committee and now the board. I feel grateful to have the confidence of my peers—that they know I’ll work collaboratively to ensure that we have a high-quality organization that provides resources and benefits to all members, at every stage of their RD careers.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?

While I’ve enjoyed and benefited from the relationships I’ve built with my amazing colleagues across the nation, NORDP has actually helped me build relationships on my own campus. We have a large research enterprise, spread across the city of Ann Arbor, as well as in Dearborn and Flint. NORDP has inspired us to connect with the hundreds of people who support research, in various capacities—to generate and share ideas, and to inspire interest and investment in RD activities. We are currently planning our 3rd annual “mini NORDP”—a half-day conference where we can present best practices and successful models, and really showcase the innovative programs and resources that are being developed and used in our diverse Schools and Colleges. NORDP also has helped build relationships with other in-state institutions and provides us a point of contact to share knowledge and resources with our local colleagues.

What inspired you to run for a position on the NORDP board?

I am passionate about RD and NORDP; I joke that I’m the campus “evangelist” for RD—touting the value of this field and organization to anyone who will give me a platform. I’ve had successes in rallying people around a common cause on my campus, and I want to bring that enthusiasm and momentum to the national level. I think that good things come from connecting people around knowledge and ideas. Serving as a board member will allow me to do more to improve member resources and benefits, thereby improving the value of the organization and keeping members engaged.

What initiative are you most excited about in your new role as a board member?

One of my projects will be to overhaul the member resources page to best serve both new and more advanced members. I’d like to collaborate on an onboarding tool kit that will offer incoming members a strong starting point for engaging with NORDP. I want to offer members practical resources that will guide them at their own institutions, in their own work and careers. I also hope to contribute to current initiatives like NORD, to encourage research on research, and dissemination of these results, all in an effort to continue to grow the RD field nationally.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

The Transition from Postdoc to Research Development: Christina Papke

Christina Papke, Research Development Officer, Texas A&M University

Describe your work in research development (RD): I have been in research development for 2.5 years. I provide proposal assistance and critiques to individual faculty members (mainly for NIH proposals, but I have provided assistance on proposals for a few other life science foundations, also). I also facilitate faculty writing groups, meet one-on-one with faculty to discuss their proposals, and give seminars across campus as needed. Our office also facilitates review of larger proposals and brings in an outside consultant to give a 1.5-day seminar on grant writing.

Describe your postdoc work: : During my first postdoc, I focused on the cell biology of aortic aneurysms. I used mice deficient in alpha-actin, a protein critical for proper blood vessel contraction, to help identify some cellular pathways that are disrupted during aortic disease progression. During my second postdoc, I studied on the extracellular matrix biology of thoracic aortic aneurysms. Using mice deficient in fibulin-4, an important extracellular matrix protein in the vasculature, I determined some effects of fibulin-4 loss on collagen in mouse aortas.

Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: fibulin-4 loss on collagen in mouse aortas. Two years into my second postdoc, I found out that my research mentor would be moving her lab overseas the following year. My two options were to either start completely over in a new postdoc or find an alternate career. As I thought about all of the things I enjoyed (and disliked) about working as a researcher, I realized that I did not want to pursue a research faculty position. Since I enjoyed writing and editing, and enjoyed putting grant applications together, I joined a professional organization for medical writers and began exploring writing and editing careers. Through that organization, I met someone involved in grant writing and learned about research development as a career option. I discovered that it matched very well with my skills and interests. The same individual knew about a research development job opening at Texas A&M University, which ended up being an excellent match.

Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: Most importantly, my postdoc work provided me with a solid background in biomedical research and allowed me to apply for and successfully obtain an F32 postdoctoral fellowship. Since many sections of the F32 are similar to the grants that faculty apply for, I was able to gain valuable grant-writing experience. Additionally, networking with faculty at research conferences gave me some of the skills I need for interacting well with faculty members in my current position. Also, I had the opportunity to serve on postdoctoral association committees. These experiences, along with co-chairing a Gordon Research Seminar, allowed me to gain experience with coordinating events and interacting further with faculty members.

What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? Find a few people currently in research development. Set up a meeting or phone call and talk with them about their career path, why they chose research development as a career, and what skill sets are necessary to succeed. Talk with multiple people, if possible, to get different perspectives. Research development can look different at large vs. small institutions, or in a departmental RD office vs. a central RD office. Also, consider joining a professional organization, such as the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP)! There are lots of benefits of membership that make it a worthwhile investment in your future career, including a mentoring program, and access to other mentoring resources on the NORDP website, and  access to a listserv, where you’ll see conversations about research development-related topics, and an occasional job posting. Additionally, whether or not you choose to join NORDP, I would encourage anyone considering RD as a career to subscribe to the NORDP blog at You can subscribe regardless of whether you are a NORDP member.

What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? Choosing just one good experience is difficult, because I have enjoyed many aspects of my work. I always enjoy hearing from faculty members that they found my critique of their grant application helpful, and I am excited to hear whenever someone I assisted received funding!

Why do you think RD is a good career choice? Research development is an excellent career choice for those who wish to remain somewhat connected to the faculty and research and who enjoy putting grants together but don’t want to be directly involved with doing bench work. Research development is also a service-oriented profession. If you enjoy interacting with faculty members, seeing a broad variety of research topics rather than just a narrowly focused set of topics, and helping contribute to the success of researchers, research development may be a good career choice for you.

Posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee