MSI Member Cameo: Brooke Gowl

As an organization, NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion, and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession for decades to come.  

To further enable a richly diverse and robust national peer network of research development professionals as well as organizational representation, we are highlighting members from minority serving institutions (MSIs) in a new blog series.

Our second cameo introduces Brooke Gowl.

Who: Brooke A. Gowl, Ph.D., Research Liaison Officer
Where: University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work
Number of Years in RD: 10+
Length of NORDP Membership: 6 years

What attracted you to NORDP?Brooke Gowl.jpg

I was attending a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas conference, and a colleague mentioned NORDP, asking me if I had heard of it. I had not, but I looked into it and joined the trial access listserv. I really liked what I saw in the listserv and became a member.

How does your NORDP membership enhance your own career? Your institution’s or departmental goal-setting related to advancing research?

NORDP has truly enhanced my professional life through networking at the conference, participation on the Member Services Committee, and serving as Regional Representative in the Southwest since 2017. I have also been involved in the mentoring program both as a mentor and mentee, and both roles have enriched my own RD experience.

My college and university have benefitted with the access to the wide range of resources NORDP has at its disposal. We were able to bring an NIH K Award expert to campus who I had heard present at a prior NORDP conference. Membership has also helped us educate our campus on what the RD profession is and also recognize our value to its mission.

What have you enjoyed most about your NORDP membership?  

I have really enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people from all over the U.S. and the world. It has gotten me out of my shell to network and make connections and gather resources. NORDP allows us all to bounce ideas off and ask questions of colleagues about RD as well as career development, especially on the listserv!

Have you implemented something you’ve learned at the annual Conference in your RD career?

I implemented the Houston Research Developers Network (HRDN), an informal network that provides Houston area RD professionals a way to stay connected, ask each other questions, bounce ideas off one another, etc. Although HRDN is not an official part of NORDP, I attribute the idea for the network to discussions I had with colleagues at the 2017 NORDP Annual Conference and my experiences serving as Southwest Regional Representative and member of the Member Services Committee.

What recommendations do you have for other Research Development professionals from similar institutions considering NORDP membership?

I would say just take the plunge and volunteer! I have always found NORDP to be enriching, but that enrichment grew exponentially after I became more involved. However, if you are not sure just how involved you want to be initially, then start small.  NORDP will take whatever time you can give. Don’t feel like you need to commit to being a board or committee member. Volunteer at the conference. Seek out committee chairs to see if your expertise can help on a project. We truly value our members and want you to feel connected however works best for you.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Joanna Downer

Joanna Downer is one of two new elected NORDP Board Members in 2019. We thank Joanna for her service to NORDP!

Who: Joanna Downer, Ph.D. – Associate Dean for Research Development
Where: Duke University School of Medicine, Research Development Office
Number of Years in RD: 10
Length of NORDP Membership: 8 years

When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?


I entered RD in the spring 2009 to help the institution respond to the federal stimulus package, otherwise known as “ARRA”. Funded by Congress to keep the economy moving after the economic downturn of 2008, the stimulus package included a lot of funding for NIH and “shovel ready” projects. After working on three construction grant applications that spring and summer, the School invited me to start an effort to facilitate development of complex research grants. At first RD activities were on top of my other responsibilities, but over time I negotiated an exclusive focus on RD. The office has since grown to 5 FTEs, including myself.

Our primary charge is still facilitating development of complex research grants (providing project management, expert guidance, critical review, comprehensive edits, and compilation, among other services). We complement this effort through direct support for a small number of individual investigators and by offering training sessions through existing programs for faculty and grant managers. As a School of Medicine, our portfolio is largely NIH, but over the past year a colleague has proactively enhanced faculty awareness of DOD and NSF opportunities, and so applications to other sponsors are increasing.

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

I joined NORDP in 2010 after learning about it through a Duke colleague at the time, Rick Tysor. However, I wasn’t able to attend a conference until 2015, when the timing was moved to late April/early May and – finally – away from the NIH deadline for P-type grants. I happened to be part of a panel that first year, after responding to a request on the listserv from Eva Allen of Indiana University Bloomington for co-presenters on teaching faculty to write. Working on a presentation with other NORDP members in advance of the meeting allowed me to start making connections early, and the camaraderie of everyone at the meeting sealed my fate – I found the conference to be so engaging and invigorating that I committed to bringing my whole team every year, a request the School agreed to. I’ve presented at each Conference since then, which I find to be a great way to both contribute my knowledge to the RD community and gain insights from others, through development of panel presentations and through discussions at and after the sessions. I also have hosted a networking dinner each year except 2019 – my topic of choice was always “work-life balance.”

Since 2016, I’ve also been involved in committee work, joining and then quickly volunteering to co-chair the Professional Development Committee. Last year I also joined the Strategic Alliances Committee as a member of its Training Working Group and as the liaison to the National Association of Science Writers. This year, I was honored to be among NORDP’s Rising Star awardees.

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

Joining NORDP and attending NORDP conferences has been my principal avenue for meeting others engaged in RD outside of Duke, and I’ve found the listserv and conferences to be invaluable. The only downside I can detect at this point is that now that I’ve made so many friends and contacts through NORDP, it can be hard to find time to meet new people for time spent catching up with folks I’ve met in years past! One way I’ve tried to carve out time to meet new people – even if just in passing – is volunteering for the registration desk at the conference.

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

I feel at “home” in NORDP and I’m eager to give back, to help shape the organization’s next 10 years, and to make sure others feel as welcome as I did.

What are you most excited about as a board member?

I understand the organization is taking part in a strategic planning process over the coming year, and I very much look forward to participating in that process. I’m also very excited about advocating for new professional development opportunities that the Professional Development Committee and others will be working toward in the coming year, including enhanced online and electronic learning opportunities and a full roll-out of the “NROAD to RD” training program framework that Samarpita Sengupta of University of Texas Southwestern is leading. These expanded resources are also likely to help drive re-design of the NORDP website, and so I look forward to being at least familiar with those efforts.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Faye Farmer

Faye Farmer is one of two new elected NORDP Board Members in 2019. We thank Faye for her service to NORDP!

Who: Faye Farmer, Executive Director – Research Development
Where: Knowledge Enterprise Development, Arizona State University
Number of Years in RD: 10
Length of NORDP Membership: 8 years

When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?Farmer head shot medium July 2019.jpg

I came up through the ranks in Research Development. I began as a proposal editor and am now Executive Director of Research Development at Arizona State University (ASU). I describe myself as a scientist who loves writing, so proposal development is my happy place. In 2009, as a proposal editor, I recognized the value of industry proposal management practices as a reproducible and scalable approach to academic proposal development. In 2011, I brought that experience to the university research office. While I joined the office of research at ASU in 2011, the current configuration of Research Development as a functional unit was established in 2015. The office includes proposal management and graphics, competitive intelligence, limited submissions, and research related events and has a staff of 10. My team works with ASU research faculty, staff, and leaders to improve funding success and grow the research enterprise, we seek to empower and embolden every faculty, staff, and student member at ASU to increase their competitive edge in support of the expanding quality and quantity of the research enterprise.

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

Like many, I’ve found ways to work contributions to NORDP throughout my career whenever I could. In fact, building a presence at Arizona State has consumed my time and attention for the past few years. During that time though, I’ve managed to serve as a mentor and mentee, present at a conference or two, coach workshops at conferences, and stay active on the listserv. For the past several years, ASU has sent a rather large group to the conference (hovering around 10 each year). I’d like to think that is in some way because of the enthusiasm I bring to the RD landscape at ASU.

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

It is a common refrain from members….It all started at my first conference. What seemed like an impossibly big conference in California in 2011 pales in comparison with our current conference configuration. But, like others, I was inspired to return back to ASU and implement some of the ideas! I remember many of the presentations, the keynotes, and the networking. Since that time, I’ve never hesitated to reach out to anyone in NORDP to ask a question, get an opinion, recruit to co-present, and connect on a topic. In addition, my network of consultants has increased exponentially. I am able to connect departing faculty with their new RD office or use an RD office as a connecting point for incoming faculty. At conferences, I make a special effort to find new faces at conferences because I am excited to watch their career grow. My relationship landscape is continually changing, which I truly enjoy.

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

Karen Eck was my mentor in 2017. (She’s the past-president of NORDP.) In addition to being an amazing mentor, she was also extremely positive about my taking a leadership role in NORDP. Because of our discussions, I (still) have post-it notes up over my desk, two small, yellow tabs that are sandwiched between a shelf and artwork from my kid, that say “LEADERSHIP” and “NORDP”. But, I wasn’t prepared to take that step until 2019. The decision took a lot of reflection on my skills and abilities, my vision for the organization, and wanting to be a part of the community of great people who are already serving in volunteer leadership roles. Because of the deep respect I have for my immediate office, I wanted to be certain they were also okay with my taking this step. Finally, with the blessing of my family, I put my name in the hat. It was a great reminder for me that we are a constellation of networks that rely on each other and support one another. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve NORDP as a board member.

What are you most excited about as a board member?

I am committed to bringing my best and most authentic self to NORDP leadership. If you were at the conference, you heard my candidate speech. The premise was a simple concept: #ISeeYou. I am committed to celebrating the many and varied paths that led us to NORDP; creating a community of inclusivity that encourages continued growth of our professional selves and our organization; and ensuring that NORDP remain a safe space to share our stories in order to grow our collective expertise and diversify our knowledge base. I am convinced that we all work hard to grow research at our institutions and businesses, but I’m also certain that NORDP can more clearly reflect and nurture all ages, races, genders, skill levels, education levels, and aspirations within our organization. The national research agenda requires that we try to prepare ourselves and those we work with for whatever climate is next. NORDP is the place where we make that happen!

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Go or No Go? Critical Decision-Making for Developing Large, Complex Grant Proposals


  • Jessica Venable, McAllister & Quinn
  • M.S. (Peg) AtKisson, AtKisson Training Group, LLC
  • Joanna Downer, Duke University School of Medicine
  • Michael Gallo, University of California-Irvine

Thanks to our session scribe, Samarpita Sengupta, PhD, UT Southwestern Medical Center!

Have you ever been in a situation where a faculty member wants to submit an application for a big grant that is due in a month? Who am I kidding, you are research development professionals, of course you have!

How do you make a go-no-go decision? What are your criteria? This was the topic of the talk given by the four presenters listed above at the 11th Annual NORDP conference in Providence. Each speaker approached the topic from their individual research development perspectives.

Large, complex grants, as defined by the presenters, could be “Super-big institutional opportunities;” large multi-investigator, multi-site, multi-disciplinary projects, some involving construction, renovation or building centers; or they could have non-standard requirements.

There are several points to think about while making go-no go decisions on such large grants, especially in a time sensitive situation, such as the presence of internal resources, whether the project met unmet needs, whether external resources could be tapped into, what is the return on investment, and whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Internal resources should be factored in when making such a decision, such as project management, team facilitation, graphic design and domain-specific expertise, proposal building and administrative capabilities. In cases where the internal resources are tapped out or otherwise unavailable, external resources, such as consulting firms or freelance RD personnel, can be brought in to fill those unmet needs. A hybrid model, whereby the internal team works with an external team to submit the application, are particularly useful when the application is a priority of the institution and a no-go decision is impossible to make.

Every time an external consultant/freelancer is brought in, it is important to weigh the costs with the benefits, especially at smaller institutions. When bringing in external consultants, a shared vision for success is necessary. It is important to set expectations early, asking for references for each consultant to answer questions like: have they worked with similar projects before, are they reliable and timely, do they set and manage expectations, do they have good communication skills across diversity in teams, cultures and discipline, are they team-players, do they make you look good, and do they have a good network that you can tap into.

If tapping into external resources is not a possibility, then the internal team needs to reevaluate the go-no-go decision tree. At times, it is useful to bring in an external team just to get an outsider perspective and to reiterate the no-go decision.

In conclusion, the presenters reiterated that having clear SOW with external consultants, starting early with internal team with planning, idea generation, brain storming, and being cognizant of your own limitations can help with these decisions. The ability to create a dedicated team of internal and/or external contributors and seek out highly specified individuals to fill gaps in expertise is key to successful go-no-go decision making.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Models for Career Progression in RD

Slides: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Models for Career Progression in RD


  • Kim Patten, University of Arizona
  • Tisha Mullen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Gay Cookson, University of Utah
  • Gretchen Kiser, University of California San Francisco

Thanks to our session scribe, Daniel Campbell, Old Dominion University!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • The path matters for recruitment & retention and a poorly defined math can lead to low morale that can be an issue with all of the other demands on RD.
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Office of Proposal Development utilized a tier structure already approved by HR for other units across campus and massaged RD positions to fit within the structure.
  • Using an existing/approved structure makes promotion easy within the unit, provides flexibility in hiring, supports future growth, is not static and can be revised.
  • University of Arizona – Central Research Development Office combined the UA Career Architecture Project and the NORDP community’s input for definition of RD, past & present job postings, salary survey, and previous conference presentations to create career levels that were more appropriate to RD.
  • It can be beneficial to focus on the Soft Benefits of RD and use them as a recruiting tool. Items such as; a flexible schedule, academic environment where opportunities abound, community, mentoring, & team building activities, and Professional Development opportunities for which many places have significant budgets.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Titles are an important issue to consider. Consider using working titles in addition to HR titles as titles can affect retention.

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

Question: How did you work with your teams to build these progression ladders?


  • Be involved as early as possible
  • Survey the landscape
  • Engage with RD staff
  • Ensure appropriate levels; entry, mid, senior
  • Tie progression to functional skills and experience
  • Salary bands are broad enough to accommodate time in office
  • Develop clear job descriptions associated with career levels
  • Consider your office environment
  • Develop and maintain metrics – helps with expansion and recognizing change over time

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Make use of NORDP’s resources as they can be a great tool when working within your campus human resources structure.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Designing, Developing and Evaluating Team Science Support in an RD Office


  • Betsy Rolland, University of Wisconsin-Madison Carbone Cancer Center
  • David Widmer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Elsevier and Northwestern University

Thanks to our session scribe, MaryJo Banasik, University of Michigan Medical School!

Three seasoned research development professionals shared their expertise about how team science initiatives can be facilitated and supported by research development offices, including a discussion about the use of collaborative tools.

Holly Falk-Krzesinski provided an overview of what team science is, and how research development professionals can support team science by engaging in activities such as: facilitating collaboration, engaging in proposal development through funding opportunity identification and grantsmanship support, providing team science training, and policy advocacy that aligns appointment, promotion, and tenure guidelines with participation in team science work.

Betsy Rolland described how a new research development office with an emphasis on team science adopted several team science-specific areas of focus to build a team science infrastructure, such as support, education, interventions, and research. To work toward supporting team science, the research development office conducted a needs assessment and identified organizational barriers. A suite of services was developed along with manuals of operation that could be prototyped with small teams. Metrics were identified, such as quantifying demand for services and numbers of individuals and teams trained, as well as assessment of services and impact through satisfaction surveys.

David Widmer described a funding development team, including a position that will focus specifically on complex grants. The team is responsible for stimulating collaboration as well as providing hands-on support for complex proposals. The team is working to increase complex grant proposal submissions to add strategic value to the institution. Toward increasing submissions, the office is working on growing teams through sponsoring events such as speed dating on scientific techniques, maintaining a database, and incorporating empirical research, communication strategies, and best practices into their complex grant development activities.

Holly Falk-Krzesinski closed the session by presenting a number of tools that are available to facilitate team science, such as the Team Science Toolkit and the Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide, both developed by the National Cancer Institute. Holly also pointed out a repository of literature about team science available through an open access Science of Team Science (SciTS) group on Mendeley. Additional resources that Holly highlighted include the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, the Individual Collaboration Readiness Tool, the Matrix Assessment Tool, and the Collaboration Success Wizard developed by UC Irvine. Holly recommended to learn to perform transdisciplinary, team-based translational research for research development professionals, which she described as a good resource for research development professionals. Additional resources include the Science of Team Science Listserv and a professional society for the Science of Team Science.

Downer and Farmer join NORDP’s Board

NORDP is pleased to welcome two new members to its Board of Directors in 2019. Joanna Downer and Faye Farmer join current Board members for four-year terms beginning July 1.

NORDP provides professional development, networking and means to develop, evaluate and implement effective practices to support the efforts of researchers at the nation’s public and private research institutions. The organization’s members develop strategic research activities in response to the extramural funding landscape, catalyze new collaborations and partnerships and inform funding agencies about ongoing and emerging research efforts at their institutions.

“Research Development is a critical facet of institutions pursuing research,” said Karen Eck, outgoing President of NORDP. “As a fast-growing organization that reflects the nation’s dynamic priorities related to discovery and innovation, NORDP is committed to providing professional development and leadership for those involved in advancing research nationwide. I’m enthusiastic about Joanna and Faye joining our Board.”

Joanna Downer founded the Office of Research Development at the Duke University School of Medicine in 2009 and now leads a team of five research development professionals. She previously worked in science writing and media relations, first at Duke Medicine and then at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

“I am intensely interested in developing effective ways to build a pipeline of talented Research Development professionals,” says Joanna. “In my own office, we have carefully defined what we do and how and why we do it and have begun to redesign our work to enhance sustainability, satisfaction, and effectiveness at Duke. As NORDP enters its second decade, answering questions such as how the organization could or should improve will be crucial.”

Faye Farmer founded the Research Development office at Arizona State University in 2015 and today manages a staff of 10. The group’s work involves bringing faculty and staff together for research, which includes designing events, competitive intelligence gathering, proposal management and managing the university’s limited submissions process.

“I envision a NORDP that is attractive and welcoming to entry level professionals who stay for the course of their career,” says Faye. “I see an organization that allows our members to grow their passion, leverage their place, and do some good in the world. I am excited to be a member of an active board and profession that continues to make an impact on global research endeavors.”

NORDP was established in 2010. Membership in NORDP has grown from a grassroots movement of 60 individuals to nearly 1,000 members today. The membership reflects organizational leaders in research, including vice presidents of research, as well as professionals involved in grant proposal preparation. NORDP serves as the pre-eminent professional organization for individuals and organizations seeking to improve their competitive edge.

For more information about NORDP activities and members, visit

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.