Who said July and August were slow months? An update from NORDP President Gretchen Kiser

by Gretchen Kiser

I had wanted to dedicate some substantive time to writing my first post to you all, my valued colleagues in research development, to say something prophetic and inspiring for my first blog post.  Alas, I must tell you, at the risk of revealing too much, that my “The first month or so” blog post has now become “Who said July and August were slow months?” blog post.  This is the life of a research development professional.

I hope you will forgive this delay, especially as I tell you that your Board has not been at all idle. Here’s some of the things we’ve been working on over July and part of August:

  • On-boarding Keith Osterhage, our new Executive Director, who is an enthusiastic advocate for our goals, and has already been diving right in to help with several important tasks!
  • Working with our event planners, Designing Events, and our Executive Director to vet and select our conference venue in the DC area for 2018. We’re close to making a decision.
  • Goal-setting and planning. Board member Terri Soelberg and her university Boise State University generously hosted our Board leadership meeting at the end of August. In preparing for this meeting, I had the privilege of speaking individually with each Board member and will just say that NORDP is well-served by a diverse set of insightful and dedicated professionals.  As a means of understanding the strengths of ourselves as a Board and how to best work with each other, we utilized the StrengthsFinder tool to assess our individual professional strengths.  Not surprisingly, collectively we have a lot of strength in the tool categories of Learner, Strategic, Relator, and Achiever.

We tackled quite a few topics in our 2 days in Boise and I look forward to working together to execute our ambitious strategies to: realize our academic RD research arm (aka NORD), enhance and expand our professional development offerings, including into leadership development (LDRD), drive new sources of revenue, further engage critical partners outside of NORDP, thus expanding our sphere of influence and bringing new and valuable resources to our membership, work to implement more effective communication methods, develop a framework for regional and other affinity groups within NORDP, and define ways to help increase diversity in research development.  Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll focus a set of communications on a few of the topics that we discussed at the leadership retreat and hope to then give you all a good understanding of the direction that we’d like to take NORDP this year.

Let me start with some of the changes that we’re planning for the Effective Practices and Professional Development (EPPD) Committee.  Three very important programs have been nurtured under the EPPD umbrella: Online Professional Development, Mentoring and Pre-Conference Workshops.  As we pivot to further expand our professional development resources, we are going to pull ‘professional development’ into its own committee.  The new Program Development Committee will be focused on online as well as other professional development resources, and now including Leadership Development in Research Development (LDRD) content as well. Kari Whittenberger-Keith and Ioannis Konstantinidis will be the Board co-chairs of this committee.  The newly stand-alone Mentoring Committee will continue the fantastic work they have been doing now with Karen Fletcher serving as the Board representative for that committee.  Finally, the Pre-Conference Workshop group (still led by Kari Whittenberger-Keith) will slide over to sit under the Conference Committee, headed this year by Michael Spires.

I’m so excited about working together to meet the challenges and potentials for NORDP over the next year –  setting-up NORDP for organizational success and providing our membership with valuable resources for career development and doing their jobs more effectively.

NORDP 2016 Conference Notes: Empowering women leaders in research through alternative pathways

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Empowering women leaders in research through alternative pathways

Presenters: Alicia Knoedler
Key points from the session:
  1. About 74 – 76% of NORDP members are women.
  2. Leadership Development in Research Development (LDRD) – The skills developed from RD activities qualify RD professionals for leadership roles within higher education institutions and/or within NORDP.
  3. As an RD professional, you are already following the 5 tenets of leadership as defined by Ron Heifetz (these are listed in the session’s Powerpoint presentation).
  4. To be successful in RD today, you must be entrepreneurial, creative, innovative, and not afraid to take risks.
  5. NORDP will work to identify the broad base of skills/ ideas/needs for LDRD. The question of how we, as a professional organization, can empower RD leaders was discussed.
What resources did you discover at this presentation?
Dispatches from 20 North Wacker
A white paper that outlines the concepts and missions of both NORD (New Opportunities for Research Development) and LDRD. (You must be a NORDP member to access this document.)
What else from this session should NORDP members know?
  • It’s not always the RD professional who gets the recognition; RD professionals often lead in the background – working with faculty leaders.
  • Potential next steps were discussed: NORDP could have leadership development cohorts within their LDRD programming. A NORDP curriculum for leadership development could be advanced. The organization could promote leadership development opportunities within the NORDP community – best practices – annotated experiences.

If you are interested in joining the discussion on LDRD, let Alicia know.

NORDP 2016 Conference Notes: Developing research capacity and grant readiness in investigators

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Karen Fletcher

Developing Research Capacity and Grant Readiness in Investigators

Presenters: Marjorie Piechowski and Sarah Polasky

Key points from the session:

  1. Get yourself involved in Faculty Orientation.
  2. Find out how much managerial experience/personnel awareness (HR) your new researcher has – most do not have any; and then provide guidance.
  3. Provide templates on anything you can.
  4. Consider providing editorial assistance for publications.
  5. All recommendations depend on context.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

The suggestion to host a workshop for graduate students before they leave your institution to train the next generation of faculty (focus on managerial skills).

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

An Assessment Tool: PI Grant Readiness, worksheet/list. This is a self-assessment for PI’s on how much preparation they had already completed in order to be competitive for a grant; this could be used as a talking point with junior faculty. Contact presenters (sarah.polasky@asu.edu and piechow4@uwm.edu) for a copy.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

  • Don’t scare faculty with too much information – consider providing them with no more than 5 funding opportunities that are due within the next 6 months.
  • Find out if your new researcher has a research plan with their mentor. Junior faculty usually know little about what grants have been awarded in their area – help them identify those.
  • Grant Readiness should include: 1) Strategic Planning for Research Funding; 2) Ability Assessment; 3) Mentoring Support (individual/internal or external), Departmental, Institutional; and 4) Logistics (lab space, how do you fill out a purchase order, etc).
  • After creating a Strategic Research Grant Plan for a faculty member, re-meet with them after a year to update the plan. Consider asking for a report from them.
  • Provide them project management support.

NORDP 2016 Conference Notes: Research development to build strong core facilities

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Karla Ewalt

Research Development is Fundamental to Building a Strong Core Facilities Infrastructure

Presenters: Karin Scarpinato & Fruma Yehiely
Key points from the session:
  1. Core facilities are often integral resources to an institution’s competitiveness (faculty recruiting and retention, sponsored research) and innovative potential.
  2. They serve as loci that foster campus collaborations. Research development strengths with strategic planning, interdisciplinary work, and collaboration can be effectively leveraged in the management and oversight of core facilities.
  3. NIH annual reports and FORMS D (effective with proposal due dates of May 25, 2016 and beyond) require more rigor, transparency, and validation. Core facilities can serve as the institutional experts for producing robust, rugged, and reliable analysis needed to satisfy these requirements.
  4. Funding programs fall into three main categories: shared instrumentation, instrumentation and technology development, and user/core facilities.
  5. Selected case study examples:
    • NIH P41 – Biomedical Technology Research Resource grant. Four key components of these proposals are: collaboration, training of external users, administrative management, and dissemination of information beyond the core. The research development team came in after the first submission was unsuccessful. They facilitated a careful review of all reviewer comments on the rejected proposal, drafted the administrative management component, carefully developed and brokered the institutional support, and connected the PIs to national networks for the national dissemination plan component, brainstormed on stronger projects and collaborators, and prepared for site visit.
    • NIH P30 – A very prescriptive RFA for funding equipment or services, not research, that requires multiple PIs with demonstrated funding bases. This example illustrated support by research development with modest resources to facilitate competitive proposals for the P30 mechanism. Initially, a 1/2-day workshop on P30 grant writing was held. The workshop was organized with a panel of successfully funded faculty members and opportunities to discuss what each faculty member might bring to the table. This resulted in a better understanding of potential PIs for P30s, a proposal resource library, and knowledge of potential teams for this limited submission opportunity. The workshop led to a team comprised of people from the engineering and medical schools. Once the RFA was announced, the team realized that they needed to skip an application cycle while faculty got funding lined up (8 PIs with RO1s) to meet the requirements specified in the RFA. Funding was provided for external review of R01 submissions to increase chances of getting the R01s so the team could apply for a P30. Also, seed funding was supplied to allow for a 2-day, off-site workshop to allow the team to brainstorm the proposal.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Research development principles can be applied to core facilities to create more effective administrative management, decision-making practices, and a central oversight structure. Centralized management of core facilities can provide the opportunity to conduct regular program review, develop meaningful reporting practices, evaluate resource allocations, enhance efficiency, and develop a management cohort amongst the facility leaders.

Presenters shared information on setting up a core directors meeting and a facility advisory committee. The core directors group meets monthly for rotating presentations on a particular facility and for round table discussions on common issues (rate structures, dealing with customers, etc.). The core advisory committee, which includes faculty users, core directors, and research administration staff, is charged with establishing policies and management practices, including reporting and metrics. Attendance is not required, but centralized management provides incentives for participation. In addition to enhancing facility management and decision making, the groups served to connect people who otherwise might not know each other and gave the facility directors a beneficial visibility and status.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

FASEB report Instrumentation: Federal Grants and Programs for the Life Sciences

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Consider an incentive (voucher) program for faculty who bring in sponsored research support for equipment (>$300,000).  Vouchers are provided to a PI of a funded equipment grant to pay for use of the equipment if it’s placed in a core. Such a program is designed to reward faculty who are successful in securing external funding for capital equipment and to strengthen the use and commitment to core facilities by researchers. The vouchers can’t be used for any other research expenses.


NORDP 2016 Conference Notes: Demystifyng the U.S. Dept. of Education

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Kristin Wetherbee

Demystifying the U.S. Department of Education

Presenter: Marjorie Piechowski

Key points from the session:

  • The U.S. Dept. of Education isn’t very consistent with funding opportunities. Programs may not be offered every year and there are few established due dates. Formatting and page limit requirements can vary. Also, some submissions must go through grants.gov while other must go through the U.S. Department of Education’s e-grants system.
  • Notices are announced via the Federal Register and the U.S. Dept. of Education website with a minimum 30 day notice (often, only 30 days’ notice is given).
  • Proposals should cite literature from the National Clearinghouse which holds documents about the current state of research.
  • Proposal components:
    • Personnel – must adequately describe role and credentials relative to the proposal
    • Project design and need – often weighed most heavily by reviewers
    • Adequacy of resources – need to address the specifics of what you’re asking for (cost per student, cost share, institutional resources)
    • Evaluation – often weighted heavily, up to 20% of total points. The Department seems to prefer external evaluators so you must provide excellent justification if using your own evaluation tool.
    • Special and competitive priorities – these may or may not be required. Bonus points may be given for addressing them so don’t make reviewers hunt for this language; state clearly and boldly in the proposal.
  • Program officers don’t have to be experts in the field and some PI’s have found that program officer comments are in direct conflict with what the review committee wants.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

The consistency of the Department’s lack of consistency.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?
What else from this session should NORDP members know?
You must routinely visit the U.S. Dept. of Education website to stay current on offerings and deadlines and must thoroughly review calls for proposals for changes from year to year. Also, if you’re interested in being a reviewer for the U.S. Dept. of Education, a Ph.D. is not required (master’s preferred). Register at http://www.g5.gov/.

NORDP 2016 Conference Report: Beyond the RFP

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Suzanne Lodato

Beyond the RFP: Ann Introduction to Diverse Methods and Resources for Identifying Funding

Presenters: Katie Keough, Christina Leigh Deitz, and Susan Clarke  

Key points from the session:

  • Both static (e.g., web pages on which information does not often change) and dynamic (e.g., regularly updated databases and lists) can be valuable tools for searching for funding opportunities.
  • For cash-strapped institutions, an impressive number of free online databases, lists, and digests are available from federal agencies, foundations, scholarly societies, professional organizations, and others.
  • Novel searching methods can be highly effective. Examples are:
    cited reference searching using award announcements and lists to identify opportunities, investigating peer institutions and organizations, checking the membership lists of funder affinity groups, read annual reports, strategic plans, foundation 990 forms, etc.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Although the presenters all subscribe to multiple lists and digests that sometimes overlap, they do not find overlapping listings to be a problem because they scan them quickly. The extra time it takes to scan duplicate listings is well worth the discovery of a good funding opportunity for their faculty.

What resources did you discover at this presentation? 

The slides list numerous sources – both free and subscription-based. We did discuss Guidestar, a free online database containing information on non-profit organizations, including foundation 990 forms that often contain the names of grantees and grant amounts.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Move beyond your daily opportunity list and do some detective work. It will pay off in the end!


NORDP 2016 Conference Report: Abstracts cannot be abstract

This post is part of our NORDP 2016 Conference Reports. These reports capture the take-home points from a variety of sessions presented at the NORDP Annual Meeting in Orlando.

Session Scribe: Angie Shotts

Abstracts Cannot Be Abstract: Crafting the Grant Proposal’s Sales Pitch

Presenter: Robert Porter 

Key points from the session:

  • Reviewers decide within the first 1-2 pages if a proposal will be funded. The decision is fast and can be based on 1-2 paragraphs.
  • The NIH Specific Aims, NSF Project overview, etc. should be understandable to the Research Development professional – use this to determine if jargon is present. This applies to all funding agencies. Accessible language is critical.
  • Include something that will surprise the reviewers in the beginning and get their attention.
  • The best proposals/abstracts teach the reviewers something they don’t know.
  • The abstract should: 1) get their attention; 2) explain why the status quo must change; 3) explain why the idea proposed will work.
  • Spend the most amount of time improving the abstract. It is the sales pitch.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

When working with a faculty member who is not focusing on the sales pitch portion of the proposal, ask “How long does it take you to decide if a student’s paper will get a C or an A?”

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

The NORDP website has an additional presentation by Robert Porter, “Thinking Like a Grant Reviewer: Know the Score!” on the NORDP website.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

This presentation has a 3-paragraph template that can serve as a useful guide for research development professionals and PIs.