Online Professional Development Work Group Wants You!

A request from NORDP’s Effective Practices and Professional Development Committee

Whether you are a seasoned professional or new to the field, the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) offers a variety of ways to continue your professional development. The annual conference, lively discussions on the listserv, and the sharing of resources enable us to grow as professionals in the field as well as form a strong community. This academic year, NORDP’s Effective Practices and Professional Development (EPPD) Committee will bring you a selection of webinars designed to keep you at the top of your game.

Through the efforts of the Online Professional Development (OPD) working group of the EPPD, NORDP is building a robust library of webinars covering a variety of topics important to research development. By selecting the “Member Center” tab on the left-hand navigation bar of the NORDP website and then clicking “NORDP Professional Development,” you will find all previous webinars as well as information on our upcoming offerings. The webinars cover current topics (e.g., crowdfunding), process topics (e.g., growing your research development unit), and tips for some of the more challenging aspects of our jobs (e.g., strategies for supporting junior faculty).

The ODP’s goal is to produce six webinars over the coming year. We strive to provide topics that will appeal to the wide variety of NORDP members. With such a diverse membership, this is not always easy. Our members represent small, medium, and large institutions with ranging research budgets and strategic plans. Our experience in the field ranges from less than one to more than 25 years, and we can be a one-person shop or part of a large team. As such, finding webinar topics to meet the needs of the entire membership can be challenging, and we would appreciate your ideas and participation!

The EPPD, and especially the OPD, is a particularly active committee within NORDP, and we are always looking for more members. We have a succinct and well-developed operating manual for our activities, so jumping in is easy! Some ways you can get involved include:

  • Identifying potential webinar topics. If you go the extra mile and can find an appropriate (and willing) presenter, even better!
  • Volunteering to facilitate a webinar, which includes working with the presenter and the OPD leadership to arrange, advertise, and conduct the webinar.
  • Suggesting new ways our committee can meet the needs of NORDP members.

Your input into the OPD’s efforts is vital to ensuring the webinars meet the needs of the NORDP membership. Please consider getting involved in the EPPD!

NORDP 2014 Conference Notes: Small Investments, Big Impact

This session focused on Boise State University as a case study of an institution striving to move from teaching intensive to a research mission. They had started as a Junior College in 1932 and became a university in 1974, with 3 Masters Programs. In 2003, they hired a new president, Bob Kustra, who implemented a vision in 2005 to become a “Metropolitan Research University of Distinction.”  At that time, they had 65 Masters programs and 2 PhD programs.  In 2012, they developed a Strategic Plan to gain distinction as a research university and now have 10 PhD programs.

Initially, the central Division of Research had a very high-level view that faculty should just be submitting more proposals. The message was, “C’mon faculty!” and not surprisingly, this did not go over well with faculty. They then decided to look at institutional barriers to faculty engagement in securing external funding for their research. One helpful document is National Research Council’s Partnerships for Emerging Research Institutions Report of a Workshop, published in 2009. They identified several barriers to universities trying to make a similar transition: 1) there was insufficient reward for faculty who pursued research; 2) the teaching load is so high, it’s hard for faculty to find time to do research and pursue funding; and 3) there is limited administrative support for research and for pursuing research funding within these institutions. In order to become a successful research institution, they decided to address these barriers.

Faculty in the College of Health Science at Boise State came from a rich history as master educators, not researchers. Therefore, the absence of pilot work and publication history among faculty left them in a less competitive position for external funding proposals, and they needed a safe space to ask for help. In addition, new faculty hires were getting conflicting messages: department heads were focused on meeting the department’s teaching needs, but higher level administrators had research expectations for these faculty. Furthermore, without help, faculty who did submit grants were not generally successful, so they became discouraged.

Two tandem strategic initiatives were instituted at Boise State University to address identified barriers. The College of Health Sciences established an embedded research development office while a research development initiative was added to the central Office of Sponsored Programs. For each of these offices working individually, changing the culture would have been too heavy a lift, but they found that they could do much more together than separately, so they started working together. The advantage of this strategy was that Terri, working at the college level, understood the faculty member’s perspective and could get to know the faculty individually, while Kim, working at the institutional level, knew about higher level initiatives before they were rolled out and could promote higher level connections and strategic partnerships, for example, through senior administrators to the national labs and state agencies. This allowed strategic positioning at the institutional level while also helping to develop and assist faculty so that they could be competitive for funding.

Terri and Kim presented a matrix of activities they pursued to support organizational and culture change across three levels: 1) personal, 2) peer-to-peer, and 3) organizational/infrastructure. The matrix had two columns according to which office took on the main responsibility for spearheading the activity, the College-level Research Office or the Office of Sponsored Programs.  Examples are research trajectory planning (personal/College-level Research Office), networking events (peer-to-peer, OSP), and implementing faculty incentives to reward research (organizational/ OSP).  (Please see their slides for the full matrix.) They then discussed which of these activities worked well, which didn’t, and lessons learned.

Example activities that worked well:

  • Implemented faculty incentive pay program: Working with Department Heads, faculty who won grants could recover some of the salary savings generated from buying out their time to receive incentive payments.
  • Faculty mentoring: Seasoned faculty meet with junior faculty to discuss specific topics, for example, how to work with DOE.
  • Strategic Research Development Initiative: Institutional research development program, but not a seed grant program (which hadn’t really yielded external funding). This provided small levels of targeted investments to fund specific needs identified as bottlenecks or capacity limiters; for example the need for a particular piece of equipment to get preliminary data. Follow-up is important.
  • Individual assistance with research design: This helped faculty get to the point where they could be competitive.
  • Built up post-award infrastructure: This was a huge pain point. Post-award used to be part of Finance and Administration which resulted in disconnects between pre- and post-award management of sponsored programs. Faculty who did win awards became frustrated with administrative inefficiencies, which then became a disincentive for pursuing additional funding.   To improve the post-award infrastructure, the Division of Research absorbed the post-award administration function into the Office of Sponsored Programs. This restructure ensured consistency and continuity of service and put OSP in a stronger position to advocate for support of faculty research administration needs institutionally.

Some other things didn’t work well, and an important lesson learned is to evaluate these activities early and don’t be afraid to pull the plug if they aren’t working. Some examples they mentioned:

  • Faculty writing group: This was implemented at the request of the faculty, but after the first few meetings attrition became a problem. Terri quickly decided that there was not enough return on her investment of time, so she stopped this activity.
  • Internal peer review process: It turned out that faculty reviewers were either too gentle in their reviews because they knew the PI well and perhaps feared being identified, or they were too harsh, which wasn’t helpful to the PI.
  • Newsletter: Wasn’t being read.
  • Formal networking events: Faculty did not respond to these even though they were good about gathering at a local watering hole for social interaction. It probably didn’t help that there was no alcohol.

Lessons Learned and Successful Strategies

  • Don’t try “pushing a rope.” Top-down proposals with no faculty leadership are destined for failure. When upper administrators push these projects, it’s helpful to explain to them that a poorly developed proposal without faculty buy-in will hurt the institution’s reputation among reviewers and program officers. It’s a question of not being ready yet, not just passing up an opportunity.  The institution may be in a better position to compete in the next round. This explanation usually resonates with institutional leadership.
  • Don’t try to be all things to all people. Initially, Kim met with all departments and offered help to all comers. She tried to convince people who weren’t interested to submit. As a result she quickly became overwhelmed. She learned that it is better to focus on strengths in the institution, and this works better at the college and department level where it’s possible to get to know the faculty and their research better.
  • Establish your research development infrastructure early.  Don’t wait for successes and increased research activity to develop this infrastructure. At the college level, even just a 1 or 1.5 FTE commitment can make a big difference.
  • Educate up.  Because the institution is evolving, it is important to help the upper administrators, deans, etc. understand institutional barriers, the need for infrastructure, and research development strategies.
  • Don’t expect immediate results. The College of Health Sciences made a strategic decision to pull back from submitting a lot of proposals until they could be competitive. Terri and her colleague worked with a cohort of faculty over two years to help them get publications, do pilot studies, etc. so that they could be competitive for grants rather than encouraging them to submit when they weren’t in a competitive position yet. As a result, the number of proposals initially went down, but now it’s paying off, and they had $3.5M in proposal submissions in the last quarter.
  • Don’t be a mile wide and 1 inch deep.  They decided to refocus their research development to “work with the willing” and make small strategic investments to help develop research capacity, and that has paid off.

 Impact and Culture Change

  • They now have a larger pool of PIs who are competitive, with a critical mass in areas of research strength
  • More strategic hires based on research strengths, not just teaching
  • Momentum: This is supported by quantitative and qualitative measures of success, but it’s important for the administration to understand that value is beyond just the number of proposals that go out the door.
  • More institutional research capacity and space
  • Number of submitted proposals have doubled in the last 8 years
  • Increase in research expenditures of 87% from FY 2007 – 2013. Now 10 PhD programs

Takeaways for Others In a Similar Situation

  • Survey the landscape, and identify barriers and obstacles to research and pursuing research funding
  • Find leverage points; for example, develop relationships between college research development personnel and research development personnel in central offices such as the Office of Sponsored Programs; you can share communication, resources, experience, connections, and training which helps to align strategic priorities and institutional education.
  • Fail often in order to succeed faster – accelerated cycle of innovation (don’t be afraid to try things, but also pull the plug if they aren’t working and try something else); support from your administration is critical to allow the freedom to fail and try something else.
  • Conduct a critical appraisal of the ROI for the initiatives you try (example: Seed funding program – it didn’t result in external funding, so they moved to more strategic, targeted funding).
  • Repeat

Example of Cycle of Innovation

Terri and Kim concluded their presentation by walking through an example of how they worked together to vet and fund an internal grant project and how each of them was able to marshal resources (financial and administrative) to assess the project’s potential for future funding, address administrative and legal considerations efficiently, monitor the project, and lay the groundwork for successful deliverables.

Terri Soelberg, Director, College of Health Sciences Office of Research
Kimberly Page, Assoc. Director Office of Sponsored Projects


Scribe: Lucy Deckard

Thanks, Lucy!!

NORDP 2014 Conference Notes: Cost Effective Ways of Keeping Up With the Joneses

Bryan DeBusk and Paul Tuttle (Hanover Research)

Make the most of budget dollars; budgets are flat or being reduced, but there is still pressure to increase awards and increase services for faculty/staff.

Overview of Hanover Research and Presenter Backgrounds

Hanover: Full cycle proposal development background. Bryan: faulty that transitioned into grant development (no research office experience, but gives perspective and ability to learn from the roundtable discussion). Paul: Central Sponsored Projects Office in North Carolina (2 Historically Black Colleges/Universities and 1 Woman’s College); mostly advancing pre-pre-award (not called research development at that time); experience working with SRA, NCURA, and now NORDP.

Keys to Success

  1. 1.       Define Goals in Measurable Terms

Goals could include

  • # of submissions/awards
  • Average request and award size
  • Percent of Faculty/Staff seeking/receiving grants
  • Types of faculty/staff seeking receiving
  • Overall award amount—increasing this in single awards or submit large quantity of smaller grants
  • Award metrics by time frame or institutional unit
  • Expenditures
  • Using Top 25 University Criteria
  • “Success Rate”—this was argued as a poor metric since RD office is to provide help and if it is not weighted based on service might not be representative
  1. 2.       Know Available Resources

Once you know the goal(s), need to know what resources are available

  • Personnel, including number, experience and skills
  • Infrastructure, policy for supporting development and submission
  • Faculty capabilities
  • Funding for grantsmanship survey
  • Funding for consulting services/external support (able to extend services without having to hire new staff)
  • Libraries, databases/tools (some can be expensive)
  1. 3.       Maximize Use of Available Resources

Determine how to make the most of what you have and fill the gap between have and need

  • Facilitate the use of support
  • Broaden participation and exposure of the office
  • Identify and use institutional levers
  1. 4.       Make Use of Alternative Resources

Find are that is most ripe for cost effective usage

  • Identify other staff that can be utilized for proposal development
  • Use available funder resources
  • Leverage partnerships (i.e. library)
  • Online Resources—some are free, so can use strategic payments to supplement available resources.  Taxes pay for many resources, so not a direct cost to your office.
  • Professional Associations (NORDP, NCURA, SRA, etc.) have resources available to members
  • Colleagues and their Offices’ resources—maximize exposure—point toward their information(don’t just co-opt it)
  1. 5.       Other Suggestions 

Range from least to most costly and how difficult to use

  • Recruit funded senior faculty as mentors
    • One to one mentors
    • Mock reviews
    • RD advisory board
    • Workshop development and leadership (training workshops)—they are teachers and cost effective to present to a large group; flattered to be a part of the RD enterprise
    • Guidance on how to serve on panels
    • Share successful proposals
  • Implement/Expand Research Development Support Workshops
    • Grants 101
    • Federal Vs. Foundation Funding
    • Budgeting
    • Finding Partners, Collaborators, and Mentors
    • Grants A-Z (overview all areas of research administration to put a face to the task for faculty)
    • Time Management to Tenure (2nd year junior faculty to be more competitive to apply for grants, high qualitative feedback—faculty feels more in control)
    • Funding Trajectory Planning (agencies, funding mechanisms, timeline)—U of Michigan estimates that to put together one trajectory/road map takes ~5 person hours
    • Writing Seminars
      • Writing Clearly and Concisely for Grants (includes overviews of common sections such as Significance, Innovation, Specific Aims)
      • Grant Writing Course (1 semester for grads, post docs, early career faculty)
  • Getting Attendance at Workshops
    • Use food or other incentives to boost attendance (don’t always have to pay, just hold session over lunch in a place where food is available for purchase)
    • Identify “difference makers” who can encourage./compel attendance—people who get other people energized (especially senior faculty)
    • Announce broadly, but invite directly (ensure events are in newsletters, emails, and/or other announcements, but then contact faculty/staff individually to personalize invitation)
    • Stipend/payment for attendees (this is successful if tied to a specific outcome—must submit as a result)
    • Make attendees pay a small amount (psychologically motivated since they paid) 
  • Document Repository

Develop curated electronic/paper document repository (do a cost benefit on this, as can be time consuming and if faculty/staff will not benefit then spend effort elsewhere). Must be easily navigated. Can be protected on intranet, etc.

  • Successful proposals with reviewers
  • Unsuccessful proposals with reviews (these are more difficult to get, since faculty often believes that sharing this makes them vulnerable); Included funded and unfunded to same initiative to show how they are different
  • Utilize senior faculty to do their own highlighting of proposals before included in repository (demonstrate evolution from good to fundable)
  • Document conversations with funders and include in repository (with access at least for other RD staff)
  • RFP analysis
  • Sample budgets and other sample documents/templates (if you do not have these at your institution, direct to colleagues’ or agency pages that do have these)—e.g. NIAID’s All About Grants page
  • Webinars
    • Develop own websites (benefit is the ability to archive for future use and wide dissemination;  drawbacks include: not one on one interaction; if you have many respondents, but not everyone attends, cannot determine impact of efforts)
      • Can be restricted to campus or shared with sister institutions (potentially way to raise funds, if you charge for external access)
      • Invite people “in the know” to lead (Program Officers, etc.)—use online teaching tools to provide open facilities to crease webinars (see U of Missouri (at Columbia)’s Federal Funding Webinar)
      • Maintain an up-to-date archive
      • Leverage Institutional IT personnel to assist with creation/facilitation
  • Connect Faculty/Staff to free webinars (general, discipline-specific and advanced knowledge)
  • Develop Online Training Modules
  • Teach key skills or introduce policies, procedures tools
  • Identify if gaps exist, then good use of time to develop training to address these gaps/commons questions and challenges
  • Make available on demand
  • Develop At-a-Glace, indexed, and searchable versions of manuals
  • Demonstrate use at every opportunity (workshops, presentations, etc.)
  • Single page describing key points
  • FAQs
  • Ensure that all manuals that are available electronically are searchable (not just a scan of a document)—convert them to searchable PDF
  • If quick and easy to use and find online, people will use it—saves time for them and you
  • Collaborate with Other Offices at Your Institution
  • Essential to proposal development and submission and project management functions
  • Other offices have budgets for their missions, so if can leverage this, save money for your office
  • Coordinate your needs with their missions
  • You receive services because it is their job
  • Marketing (e.g. profiling researchers to show university capabilities, webinar/online training)
  • Other
    • Collaborate with Development and Industry Collaboration Offices (provide start-up funds for young faculty; leverage Development knowledge)

    Scribe: Alicia Reed

Thank you, Alicia!

NORDP 2014 Conference Notes: Funding opportunities in the arts, humanities and social sciences: strategies for supporting and promoting a grant- seeking culture

Presenters: Susan Gomes (Harvard University), Barbara Walker (University of California at Santa Barbara) and Caitlin McDermott-Murphy (Harvard University)

Noting that the grant proposal writing culture is not ubiquitous across academic disciplines, the three speakers delivered a three-pronged presentation: why seeking grant support is important for arts, humanities and social sciences scholars, what the funding landscape looks like for these disciplines, and how to establish a culture of grant proposal writing. Successfully funded scholars benefit both the institution (possibility of securing F&A costs and institutional prestige) and themselves  (possibility of summer salary or reassigned time, raising visibility about scholarship and having that scholarship validated through the peer review process, and the opportunity to create or expand a scholarly network).

The presenters discussed major federal funders in the humanities and arts areas, including the National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, National Archives and Records Administration (National Historical Publications and Records Commission), and the Institute for Museum and Library Services.  Social sciences researchers can look to funders like the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and the Departments of Education, Defense and Justice.  Private funders (foundations), funding at the state level, and Foundation Center tools and reports also were discussed, along with descriptions of resources like H Net Online and a forthcoming book by Barbara Walker on this topic.

Several strategies for promoting a culture of grantsmanship were shared, including programming (workshops led by research development professionals and faculty); sponsor campus visits; developing partnerships with academic deans and other key figures; continuous outreach to faculty; funding opportunity dissemination; and, faculty surveys (for the purpose of eliciting feedback while advertising services).  The presenters concluded the session by reminding participants to leverage resources on their campuses in support of arts, humanities and social sciences faculty, noting that “Everything doesn’t have to cost something.”

Scribe: Pollyanne Frantz

Thanks, Pollyanne!


7th Annual NORDP Research Development Conference April 29 – May 1, 2015 • Bethesda, MD

The 7th Annual NORDP Research Development Conference will be held April 29 – May 1, 2015 at the Bethesda North Marriott Hotel in Bethesda, Maryland. The conference is a four-day event focused on understanding key trends in federal and private research funding, large-scale proposal development by interdisciplinary research teams, and implementation of strategic initiatives that foster institutional competitiveness.

Click here for more information on the 2015 NORDP Conference.


Prominent keynote speakers will be present from several federal and private agencies, and breakout sessions will incorporate topics such as facilitating team science, proposal development, systems and tools for tracking research productivity, building research development infrastructure, research development in an undergraduate setting, and more.

Who should attend:

  • Research development professionals
  • Research administrators
  • Corporate and foundation relations professionals
  • University advancement officials

Conference Contact

Susan Carter, J.D.
Director, Research Development Services
University Of California, Merced
Phone: 1-855-RES-DEV1 (Toll Free, 1-855-737-3381), option 4