Notes from the 2014 NORDP Conference: Strategies for Increasing the Competitiveness of Team Science and Center Grants

PRESENTERS:      Christine Black, University of Michigan, Jeff Horon, Elsevier

Center grants are a GIANT undertaking, and institutions may or may not have a department devoted to supporting these efforts. Below are a few low- budget tools that can research development staff can make available to faculty to support their efforts with Center grants.

  • Having someone to write the administrative cores and/or stock language about the cores that can be re-purposed.
  • Providing a reference list of freelance editors that can be hired
  • Providing a library of successful proposals that faculty can review and learn from
  • Matchmaking/Speed-dating meetings that allow people within the research community to learn about others and what research they are doing

–Notes by Anita Mills

Thank you, Anita!

NORDP 2014 Conference Notes: Presidents’ Chat

Panelists:  Alicia Knoedler, NORDP President; David Stone, NORDP President Elect; Ann McGuigan, NORDP Immediate Past President

This conference session was guided by audience questions and comments, resulting in a lively and wide-ranging session.

Regional NORDP groups: 

An audience member asked about regional NORDP groups and the presenters noted the NORDP NE group. All agreed that regional groups can be useful but volunteers are needed to run the groups and meetings can be difficult even within a compact region. The presenters suggested looking at NCURA’s regional structure. Ann noted that, as someone who has recently moved, she can see the value in regional groups.

EPPD coordinates the NORDP mentoring program, which may consider regional ties as requested by participants.  It might also be useful to provide a model for using NORDP membership lists for new members, i.e. people new to NORDP visit and review the membership list, then contact people.

The recent email traffic about bylaws and membership

Alicia noted that adoption of Bylaws does not require membership feedback. Nevertheless, the Board is developing a mechanism to allow members’ comments on policies and procedures. On the question of the difference between membership for individual consultants versus individuals working for larger consulting firms, the Board has adopted the ACA definition for the right cut-off between small and large firms. For-profit organizations with 25 or more employees will be affiliates. Firms with 25 or fewer employees will be a regular member. On the question of other models, such as one from NCURA, David and Ann said the Board was looking for a national standard and a more inclusive definition.

Professional development

Following from the general session on research development and future research leaders, discussion moved to the topic of professional development in RD.  For example, Notre Dame has a ‘Professional Specialists’ category for individuals not on the tenure track, while an audience member noted that at UW-Milwaukee, indefinite status (a kind of academic staff equivalent of tenure) may be attached to some positions. With regard to professional development for non-faculty administrative positions, Alicia noted that the institutional culture matters. Ann noted that RD professionals interact with many other groups and people, e.g., federal relations, communications, etc., which may provide other paths to professional development and career trajectories. There are also research development career opportunities outside of the academy; rather than working only in the ivory tower, it’s possible to engage with agencies that engage with the ivory tower. Panel members suggested that, as a profession, we think broadly about RD and how to engage, promote, and facilitate it.

They also discussed the importance of educating the broader research community about RD; members should work to write for publication, participate in conferences, and utilize open source venues, etc., to establish NORDP’s role.  NORDP could provide the structure for open-source publication and outreach. One example was given of a former VPR who is now VP for Economic Development; this change points to development of a new pillar at universities to engage industry, thus helping to connect research and economic activities. Industries often lack understanding of federal agencies and universities.

The conversation moved to evaluation of RD offices. NORDP recently did an evaluation of the UC Merced RD office. As a new institution, Merced wanted a review of their program. A staff member was hired in 2008 and the review happened in 2010. Two NORDP members conducted the evaluation, meeting with the VPR, deans, heads of research institutes, faculty, and the president. NCURA also did a review of the sponsored projects office.  The reports of both evaluation reports were made public. Although the reviews were different, they were complementary, outlining a clear path for growth of the offices. In the case of the RD office, staff has been increased from two to six.  In addition, based on the UC system analysis of research activity, UC-Merced showed a 57.5% increase from last fiscal year, which the director attributed in part of the peer review process. She concluded that having a peer review of the campus RD is valuable to the overall professional development of the office and the campus.

Another topic focused on what can we do to increase industry engagement. One suggestion was to work more closely with CFR and Technology Transfer staff. CFR staff do not necessarily discuss how to engage with industry and Technology Transfer may not think as broadly about RD; each also has different cultures.  It can be very informative to work with them.

Other suggestions for improving professional development processes included:

  • Adding elements to the membership survey, gathering information about individuals’ past experience and expertise in non-profit, for profit, and government sectors and explore ways to leverage the vast range of experience we know exists in our membership.
  • Develop career tracks/paths to help members envision ways to move through their careers.
  • Develop some kind of mechanism for taking stock of the expertise we have and articulating what we can do.

Overall, the point of the job is not to be boxed in and restricted.  Part of developing as a profession is explaining what RD is not is as important as explaining what it is. Looking at how other professions have developed over time, for example HR over the last 25+ years, may help us imagine development of both the field and individuals.

A related question was then raised: How do we recruit people to the RD field? One audience member mentioned her experience as a post-doc in RD; panelists suggested she write an article about that experience. Some universities do have similar post-docs; it was suggested that we try to identify where these exist, and how they are structured.  This could then be presented as part of next year’s conference, as one model for RD career development.  It was also suggested that stronger career and professional development sessions could be incorporated into the annual conferences.

Another focus was on refinement of mentoring in RD.  In addition to the traditional mentoring model, suggestions were for more across sector mentoring, such as academia and government.  The mentoring program also needs more volunteers to fulfill the requests made each year and the idea of mentoring may need to be broadened from the model of expert and novice to one of interaction of equals who bring new perspectives and “fresh eyes” to issues and situations. It may make sense to rename the mentoring program to reinforce this idea; the term may actually limit membership participation, particularly if members think they need to have extensive formal RD work experience.

Notes by Kari E Whittenberger-Keith.

Thank you, Kari!

NORDP Northeast Regional Group: A Report on Our Progress, Activities, and Plans

By Caitlin McDermott-Murphy (NE Secretary; Harvard University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences) with contributions by Kathy Cataneo (NE Chair; University of New Hampshire) (corrected to reflect actual authorship)

NORDP NE 2014In In the Fall 2013 NORDP newsletter, the NORDP Northeast (NE) regional group published an article on the history and impact of our small and relatively new faction. We briefly delved into the value our participants receive: rich presentations and problem-solving in our bi-annual conferences; relationships and collaborations that extend beyond the borders of our meetings; and open exchange of tools, ideas, and business cards. In this latest article, we share our progress over the past year, including a debrief of our most recent – and largest! – conference to date.

To cater to our diverse member needs and develop a robust program, we solicited ideas for our anticipated July 2014 NORDP NE conference agenda via several avenues. First, those New England-based RD professionals who attended the May 2014 NORDP Conference in Portland, OR participated in a breakfast brainstorming session. Our NORDP NE advisory committee members—Anne Windham, Kathy Cataneo, and Susan Gomes—facilitated the session while NORDP NE communications coordinator Caitlin McDermott-Murphy organized and synthesized the session output. Second, in order to include input from those unable to attend the National conference, we disseminated this information to our NORDP NE July conference planning committee. We expect to continue to seek input for future conferences through a similar variety of methods in order to best serve our diverse constituents.

Our July 2014 Northeast Regional Conference

In July, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) at Durham and current chair, Kathy Cataneo (UNH Director of Research Development & Communications) hosted our Summer NORDP NE conference. The conference theme was “Inter- and Intra-Institutional Collaboration,” a theme not just evident in our session topics and activities but in our attendees as well. We welcomed ­­­fifty-five participants—our highest attendance since the founding of NORDP NE three years ago. This number included attendees from states previously unrepresented and, in fact, Research Development professionals arrived from every New England state, a first for our burgeoning group. In addition, we welcomed special guest Karin Scarpinato from Georgia Southern University. Karin is launching a regional group, analogous to NORDP NE, to serve RD professionals at institutions in the Southeast. With this goal in mind, she requested to attend and observe our July conference to gain insight, ask questions, and share her own ideas and impressions. We look forward to learning about the Southeast region’s progress and to share tips and pitfalls as both our groups grow.

The format of the NORDP NE July conference mirrored that of the NORDP Annual Conference.  After Anne Windham (NORDP Board Member and founding NORDP NE chair) and Kathy Cataneo (current NORDP NE chair) welcomed attendees, keynote speaker Dr. Jan Nisbet, UNH Senior Vice-Provost for Research, spoke on the topic, “From Center Director to SVPR: How my journey informed research development at UNH.” Dr. Nisbet’s speech was followed by NORDP NE member-led concurrent sessions on member-driven topics. These included:

  • Communicating Funding Opportunities to Faculty
  • Balancing Sole-Investigator Proposals with Multi-Investigator Proposals
  • Strategic Deployment of University Resources
  • Managing the Proposal Development Process for Multi-Investigator Proposals
  • Building Teams Around Programmatic Proposals
  • Creating Center Proposals
  • Evaluation Planning

More often than not, session co-presenters hailed from separate institutions, resulting in rich debates with alternate perspectives, experiences, tools, and methods, as well as new cross-institutional partnerships.


In addition to concurrent sessions, the NORDP NE July conference included two new activities. To kick things off, each institution offered 2 to 4 current institutional research strengths (or “pillars”) as well as 2 to 4 aspirations (See image 1). As attendees settled in, networked and enjoyed the lavish breakfast spread, they also took a moment to paste their institution’s name beneath different research areas written across one wall, signifying that area as an institutional “pillar” or “aspiration.” This shared resource will encourage and assist institutions to seek new collaborations and partnerships across our region.

The second new activity occurred over lunch: each roundtable featured a representative from those offices that collaborate with UNH RD staff most frequently. UNH provided the hosts, who hailed from: Research Administration; Commercialization, Technology Transfer, and Innovation; Cyberinfrastructure; Corporate and Foundation Relations; Graduate School and Graduate Student Support; Government Relations; Broader Impacts, Engagement, and Cooperative Extension; and Communications For and About Research. These “Themed Roundtables” provided an opportunity to ask questions about the scope of these offices, where Research Development might intersect, and how to develop partnerships to add value to what we individually and collectively offer our faculty.

Our National Institutes of Health (NIH) Webinar

Moving forward, NORDP NE will look for opportunities to extend our regional collaboration even further. With Federal budgets tightened—and tightening—program officers receive less travel funding at a time when our faculty arguably need their close guidance and influence more than ever. As such, RD offices—and the faculty we serve—benefit from organized collaborative events that serve not just one institution but an entire region. Our region has, for example, benefited from such an event. This past September, UNH organized a webinar on the “Fundamentals of the NIH and the NIH Grants Process”, featuring Megan Columbus, Director of the Office of Communications and Outreach in the NIH Office of Extramural Research. UNH advertised the webinar to its NORDP NE partners and, as a result, recorded over 275 faculty, postdoctoral, graduate student and staff participants across New England (with a few in Canada, New York, and Texas no less). This proved to be a “win-win” for NIH and NORDP NE institutions. We plan to seek additional opportunities to share such resources and to leverage our regional numbers to entice program officers to visit and interact with our researchers. There is power in numbers!