NORDP NE 2015 Summer Conference at Brown University

by Caitlin McDermott-Murphy, Harvard University and Kathy Cataneo, University of New Hampshire

The NORDP Northeast Regional group (NORDP NE) held a full-day conference at Brown University in Providence, RI on July 27, 2015. The group welcomed 59 attendees, representing 18 institutions and all New England states. Special thanks go to Amy Carroll, Brown University’s Director of Research Development, her staff, and David Savitz, Brown’s Vice President for Research, for their hospitality.

Because NORDP NE values the wide range of perspectives, experiences, institutions, and RD offices represented at our conferences and meetings, we emphasize interactive, discussion-based sessions that provide room for debate and problem solving. An important aspect of this and previous NORDP NE conferences is the opportunity to connect, which can lead to: sponsor programming made available across our New England institutions, shared resources (e.g., funding newsletters), shared best practices (e.g., metrics-gathering methods), and a level of comfort when reaching out to point-people for specific RD questions, such as how and when to hire external consultants.

As with NORDP NE’s past conferences, the July 2015 gathering featured keynote guest speakers, six different topic-specific sessions with expert panelists and group discussion, themed lunch roundtable discussions, and a business meeting. Following the conference, many attendees stayed to enjoy networking over appetizers and drinks.

Keynote speakers Savitz and Lawrence Larson (Brown University’s Dean of Engineering) offered valuable high-level perspectives on the importance of Research Development to not just individual faculty members but also to the larger institution. The RD role is especially important when it comes to large-scale future planning needed to grow modern universities. Dr. Savitz called Research Development a “connecting field,” and described it as the art of adapting strategies to pursue and win funding. With an increasing emphasis on the “research + education” model, Research Development professionals offer important support to assimilate faculty needs with institutional needs.


Following the key-note address, the July conference offered the following topic-specific sessions:

Career Strategies for Developing the Next Generation of Research Leaders

Karen Drew, Northeastern University; Carol Inman, Independent Consultant; Anne Windham, Brown University

Evaluating Research Development: Metrics and Satisfaction Surveys

Jennifer Corby, Harvard University; Sarah Marina, Tufts University; Loren Walker, University of Massachusetts, Amherst

Strategic Support for Faculty to Determine the Best Funding Opportunities

Erin Cromack and Caitlin McDermott-Murphy, Harvard University

It Takes a Campus…To Submit a Proposal

Brown University’s Tristan Barako (Research Development), Patrice Carroll (Sponsored Projects), Brian Demers (Technology Ventures), Catherine Nellis (Foundation Relations), and Douglas Wilkie (School of Engineering)

Government Relations as a Research Development Partner

Amy Carroll, Brown University; Rele Ritter, Office of U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Rhode Island

Creating a Research Development Office or Function at Your Institution

Kathy Cataneo, University of New Hampshire


And, the conference’s roundtable lunch topics covered the following:

  • Broader Impacts Summit Debrief, Facilitator: Barbara Pearson, University of Massachusetts, Amherst
  • Exploring Regional Collaborations, Facilitator: Tristan Barako, Brown University
  • Incentivizing Research, Facilitator: David Savitz, Brown University
  • General Networking, All others

At the general business meeting, the NORDP NE Chair Kathy Cataneo and the Advisory Committee introduced an organization chart and position descriptions (modeled on NCURA regional positions) for the Past Chair, Chair, Chair Elect, Communications Coordinator, Membership Coordinator, and Secretary. Attendees agreed to transition NORDP NE into a more formal organization with defined roles and responsibilities, a succession plan, and opportunities for professional development through service to the regional group. The Advisory Committee intends to hold elections in 2015-16 in order to fill these positions prior to the next NORDP national conference.

For the first time since NORDP NE’s inception, we evaluated the impact of each individual July 2015 conference session and asked attendees to complete a brief survey before departing the conference venue. The sessions deemed most helpful were those on government relations and strategic support to faculty. And, the most salient topics proposed for future conferences and meetings include:

  • Funding trends and policies, presented by agency representatives
  • Project management: strategic planning and project management tools
  • RD office development: tangible tools for RD professionals
  • Collaboration: working with other university units or functions

NORDP Northeast extends a big “thank you” to NORDP National for their continued support and leadership. We also welcome questions from burgeoning RD groups in other regions, and look forward to (re)connecting with all of our colleagues in Orlando in May 2016.

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