Researching Research Development

A project responding to David Stone’s call for “empirical research into what [research developers] do” was approved by the NORDP Board in the fall of 2016. Its long-range goal is to provide information that will “improve our performance as professionals and…connect what we do to constituent groups and institutions to whom we bring value.” The investigation will address “type, scope, [and] scale” questions and seek to identify knowledge, skills, and aptitudes essential in research development. This project will be undertaken to help formalize research development in its structures, functions, and definitions–and this in turn will in turn address one of the major goals of the research effort, which is, as Stone notes, to “provide a standardized basis from which to create benchmarks, develop quality improvement guidance (and programming), devise assessment mechanisms, and establish best or promising practices within the profession.”

To accomplish these purposes, two gaps in the research development corpus will be addressed: the characterization of activity in the field and the delineation of knowledge, skills, and aptitudes believed to be necessary for entry into and advancement within research development. This material will be developed through analysis of job descriptions and survey and focus group investigation. Interpretation of the results will be informed by work already completed by the NORDP Special Programs Working Group in 2013 and by the existing descriptions of research development.

A team of four research development professionals who are all NORDP members will complete the study in 2017 and 2018. Reports of findings will be made at NORDP and other conferences as well as through publication.

Arriving at an evidence-based understanding of the purposes, practices, and key characteristics of research development has broad application relevant to current and future practitioners, institutional structures, organization of knowledge, and acceptance and advancement of the field. As Stone noted regarding practitioners, “Such work could…help us better understand what kinds of individuals, with what kinds of training, skills, and abilities, are best suited for various roles within research development, as well as what their professional trajectories are like. Findings in these areas might improve our capacity to recruit, retain, and provide succession planning and longer-term career paths for individuals in research development.” The research team and NORDP Board are pleased to announce that these goals will be pursued beginning this year.

All NORDP members will be invited to participate in this project, so stay tuned for more information.

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