Who: Bob MacDonald, Coordinator for Partnerships and Grants
Where: Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Number of years in research development: 5
Length of NORDP membership: 5
Number of NORDP conferences attended: 5
I was hired by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in December, 2010, as its first Coordinator for Partnerships and Grants. My charge was simple but broad – to help ARS scientists to be more successful in obtaining soft funding. I had previously been with a Federal granting agency for 17 years, so I was very knowledgeable about Federal grant programs and grantsmanship – but this assignment was broader and, as I came to find out, very closely aligned with the emerging field of research development. I was both thrilled and anxious about my new task of helping ARS’ 2,000 scientists located in 90 locations across the nation. One of the first things I did was to visit several universities to learn what they did. I quickly ran into Ken Gertz, Associate Vice President for Research Development at the University of Maryland and one of the NORDP’s founders. He told me about NORDP, and I quickly joined and started attending the meetings.
What I learned at NORDP annual meetings was indispensable to my standing up a successful research development program at ARS – even though there are significant differences between universities and ARS, a Federal agency with units dispersed across the country. I learned what works and what does not work, could discuss strategies and programs with the wonderful members of NORDP, find and vet the tools and contracted support I needed, as well as be part of an exciting, growing organization of fantastic people. And the annual meetings are where this really takes place. The sharing of experiences, best practices, and hallway conversations are invaluable – as of course are the dinners out together! Today, in large part thanks to the shared experience of NORDP, I have a program that my scientists (who, like most scientists, are not fans of administration) love and avidly support.
The 2015 NORDP Research Development Conference will be held April 29 to May 1 in Bethesda, MD. For more information or to register, visit http://www.nordp.org/conferences.