NORDP 2017 Conference Notes: Research Development: Results from and Opportunities through a NORDP Approved Study

Research Development: Results from and Opportunities through a NORDP Approved Study


  • Michael Preuss, Executive Director, West Texas Office of Evaluation and Research, West Texas A&M University
  • Kimberly Eck, Director, Research Development Team, University of Tennessee Knoxville
  • Mary Fechner, Proposal Development Specialist, Office of Research Development, University of Massachusetts Amherst
  • Loren Walker, Director, Office of Research Development, University of Massachusetts Amherst

Thanks to our session note-taker!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  1. The dataset for this study included 442 position descriptions collected over the course of 10 years (2006-2016). They found that the most frequent postings come from R1 or R1-aspiring institutions.
  2. Director was the most commonly posted Position Description.
  3. 73% of all PDs had a requirement or a preference for a graduate degree.
  4. Only 60% of all PDs required # of years of experience.
  5. Chose 1 term –“funding opportunities”– to determine its use in the PDs. Focused on 6 job titles out of the 14. Half included “funding opps” in the PD. 94% of the Specialist job title included “funding opps” in the PD. Expected this task to be primarily entry level, but found it at all levels.
  6. Looked at every instance of the term “research development” in all PDs and conducted a qualitative analysis. Research development conceived as being distinct, organized, person- and knowledge-based, interactive, targeted, and measurable.
  7. Proposal development vs. research development – RD had many more descriptors but proposal development was used as a noun as a commonly understood concept. Proposal development is experienced-based while research development is knowledge-based.

 What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

It was surprising that half of director positions included funding opportunities as part of the job description. The similarities in responsibilities across job titles could be due to the limited number of RD personnel at institutions.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters’ response?

Q: It would be helpful to cross-analyze job descriptions versus the number in the RD office. Funding opportunities might not be part of a job description but they might supervise someone who does.

A: Not possible with current data set, but possible in the survey. We don’t collect how many people you have as direct reports. Could consider adding this as a question with renewal/new members.

Comment: Original definition of RD posted in 2009. Developers of PDs often use the described set of activities as a basis for developing their PDs.

Q:  Would be interesting to see how the RD term has shifted over the years.

A: That Q was one of the motivating factors for doing this work. Haven’t forgotten it but it’s on the back burner.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

  • If you haven’t taken the survey, please do so.
  • Also, they would love help if anyone has data visualization ideas.
  • Next steps: analyze survey data. Conducting focus groups with the NE region. Then, conduct another survey.


One thought on “NORDP 2017 Conference Notes: Research Development: Results from and Opportunities through a NORDP Approved Study”

  1. Excellent piece here – thanks for posting! Couple of thoughts – the term “research development” gets confusing due to its closeness to “research & development,” which is a term used at corporations to describe business activities, and “development,” which is a term used in fund-raising. More studies like this should help clarify and differentiate among the terms/professions.


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