Do You Know Where You are Going?

One of the greatest catchers in baseball history, Lawrence Peter “Yogi” Berra was also known for his “Yogi-isms.” My favorite “Yogi-ism” is, “If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” While this ism is appropriate for all professional fields, I believe it to be especially true for research development. As an RD professional, do you know where your office is going?

Being in a relatively nascent field, we in RD are pioneers, developing new innovations and ideas as needs arise at our institutions. This is fantastic and exciting. But, we need to know where we are going, or we will never get there. We need a long-term strategy.

NORDP’s Program for External Evaluation of Research Development (PEERD) can help your RD office determine its long-term strategy. Whether your office is new, looking to expand, or well established, NORDP’s PEERD consulting program can help you set strategic directions.

For a no-obligation cost estimate, contact PEERD@nordp.org. More information can be found at https://www.nordp.org/peerd-consulting-program.

Submitted on behalf of Kayla Tindle

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NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Ideas Lab Workshop: Starting a Grand Challenge Initiative & Picking/Proposing a Grand Challenge Topic: Issues & Decisions from the University and the Research Team Perspectives (Part 1)

Ideas Lab Workshop: Starting a Grand Challenge Initiative & Picking/Proposing a Grand Challenge Topic: Issues & Decisions from the University and the Research Team Perspectives (Part 1)

Presenters:

  • Eva Allen, Indiana University
  • Sarah Archibald, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Jennifer Lyon Gardner, The University of Texas at Austin
  • Michelle Popowitz, UCLA
  • Sarah Rovito, Association of Public and Land-grant Universities
  • Amy Spellacy, The Ohio State University

Thanks to our session scribe, Linda Vigdor, City University of New York! 

Key points from the session. We learned:

This session was designed to be highly interactive with the audience. A broad overview of key factors to consider when initiating a grand challenge include:

  1. What are the drivers for starting a program – how might these influence the design of the program?
  2. Grand Challenge Goals vs. Themes – it is helpful to differentiate between these.
    1. Theme: (-) not that easy to measure outcomes and hard to set up requirements to meet but (+) good for generating interest and engaging participants; “no failure” with a theme; themes persist beyond the goals and offer potential of culture change
    2. Goal: (+) easier to communicate objectives but (-) narrower focus than a theme; “failure” is a possibility – thus, harder to sell to researchers or executives
    3. One strategy is to start with a theme (for ideation phase) then narrow the theme to focused goals
  3. Management of theme-driven and goal-driven challenges require different strategies.
    1. Theme-driven: open-ended management
    2. Goal-driven: defined approach
  4. Get creative with funding approaches, for example:
    1. Sell institutional assets (e.g., parking)
    2. Generate philanthropic gifts
    3. Provide campus-based funding
  5. Ideation approaches:
    1. Pre-define a broad topic – bring people together to brainstorm ideas to further refine/define the topic
    2. Run open calls – ask for concept papers and/or offer seed funding grants to explore viability of ideas
    3. Organize topics around specific person with core expertise or draw
    4. Top down – topic defined by high level administration or by external partner to achieve specified goals

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

I was surprised by the difference in focusing on goals vs. themes as an organizing structure when designing a grand challenge. Both have their merits.

  • Advantages of organizing around Smart Goals:
    • (a) unified vision;
    • (b) easier to communicate societal impact;
    • (c) promise of defined impact for participants;
    • (d) measurable;
    • (e) time-limited;
    • (f) roles more easily defined; and
    • (g) better positioned for partnerships
  • Advantages of organizing around Themes:
    • (a) flexibility;
    • (b) campus able to define or declare success at any point;
    • (c) inclusivity;
    • (d) scope can be variable;
    • (e) may generate more excitement due to fewer restrictions; and
    • (f) no predefined timeline or endpoint

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

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

An interesting question focused on best strategies for picking teams.

  • Identify people known to be team players
  • Identify people who have the requisite experience, and/or reputation relevant to the proposed theme
  • Noted: themes proposed at general meetings can be hard to manage in terms of selection, focus, etc.
  • It’s also important to have a strategy to keep faculty engaged once they sign on to a grand challenge

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

The interactive format kept the session lively and produced thoughtful ideas.

New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Jill Jividen

Jill Jividen is one of three new elected NORDP Board Members in 2018. We thank Jill for her service to NORDP!

Who: Jill Jividen, Assistant Director for Research Development
Where: Medical School Office of Research, University of Michigan
Number of years in research development: 4.5
Length of NORDP membership: 4.5

What’s your history in RD? When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?

I finished my PhD in literature just before the recession hit in 2008 and the academic job market dried up. After teaching as an adjunct for two years, I took a position as a research administrator in the U-M Medical School, where my background in editing and writing appealed to leadership and researchers. I spent a year learning the basics of NIH grants, then moved to the School of Information, where I worked on NSF and foundations proposals.Jividen - Headshot_2014_7_CROPPED.jpg

I landed my first RD position without really knowing what the field was. I sought out a couple of mentors who did RD work; they connected me to NORDP, and, locally, we started to build a grassroots RD community to share resources and best practices. One of those mentors recruited me to her position as she retired. In my current role as Assistant Director for Research Development, I coordinate a junior faculty mentorship program (the R01 Boot Camp); connect faculty to funding opportunities and resources; present grant writing workshops; provide editing; and manage limited submissions.

What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?

My mentors introduced me to NORDP. I went to my first conference two months after starting that first RD position. It was an eye-opening experience, and I was inspired by the creative problem-solving that our peers undertake to support faculty. I have attended every conference since 2014. I began volunteering at the conference registration desk and as a session scribe at the conferences. I gradually increased participation, joining the Member Services Committee and now the board. I feel grateful to have the confidence of my peers—that they know I’ll work collaboratively to ensure that we have a high-quality organization that provides resources and benefits to all members, at every stage of their RD careers.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?

While I’ve enjoyed and benefited from the relationships I’ve built with my amazing colleagues across the nation, NORDP has actually helped me build relationships on my own campus. We have a large research enterprise, spread across the city of Ann Arbor, as well as in Dearborn and Flint. NORDP has inspired us to connect with the hundreds of people who support research, in various capacities—to generate and share ideas, and to inspire interest and investment in RD activities. We are currently planning our 3rd annual “mini NORDP”—a half-day conference where we can present best practices and successful models, and really showcase the innovative programs and resources that are being developed and used in our diverse Schools and Colleges. NORDP also has helped build relationships with other in-state institutions and provides us a point of contact to share knowledge and resources with our local colleagues.

What inspired you to run for a position on the NORDP board?

I am passionate about RD and NORDP; I joke that I’m the campus “evangelist” for RD—touting the value of this field and organization to anyone who will give me a platform. I’ve had successes in rallying people around a common cause on my campus, and I want to bring that enthusiasm and momentum to the national level. I think that good things come from connecting people around knowledge and ideas. Serving as a board member will allow me to do more to improve member resources and benefits, thereby improving the value of the organization and keeping members engaged.

What initiative are you most excited about in your new role as a board member?

One of my projects will be to overhaul the member resources page to best serve both new and more advanced members. I’d like to collaborate on an onboarding tool kit that will offer incoming members a strong starting point for engaging with NORDP. I want to offer members practical resources that will guide them at their own institutions, in their own work and careers. I also hope to contribute to current initiatives like NORD, to encourage research on research, and dissemination of these results, all in an effort to continue to grow the RD field nationally.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

The Transition from Postdoc to Research Development: Christina Papke

The following is part of a limited blog series from the Strategic Alliances Committee highlighting NORDP members who have transitioned from postdoctoral positions to careers in research development.

Papke
Christina Papke, Research Development Officer, Texas A&M University

Describe your work in research development (RD): I have been in research development for 2.5 years. I provide proposal assistance and critiques to individual faculty members (mainly for NIH proposals, but I have provided assistance on proposals for a few other life science foundations, also). I also facilitate faculty writing groups, meet one-on-one with faculty to discuss their proposals, and give seminars across campus as needed. Our office also facilitates review of larger proposals and brings in an outside consultant to give a 1.5-day seminar on grant writing.

Describe your postdoc work: : During my first postdoc, I focused on the cell biology of aortic aneurysms. I used mice deficient in alpha-actin, a protein critical for proper blood vessel contraction, to help identify some cellular pathways that are disrupted during aortic disease progression. During my second postdoc, I studied on the extracellular matrix biology of thoracic aortic aneurysms. Using mice deficient in fibulin-4, an important extracellular matrix protein in the vasculature, I determined some effects of fibulin-4 loss on collagen in mouse aortas.

Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: fibulin-4 loss on collagen in mouse aortas. Two years into my second postdoc, I found out that my research mentor would be moving her lab overseas the following year. My two options were to either start completely over in a new postdoc or find an alternate career. As I thought about all of the things I enjoyed (and disliked) about working as a researcher, I realized that I did not want to pursue a research faculty position. Since I enjoyed writing and editing, and enjoyed putting grant applications together, I joined a professional organization for medical writers and began exploring writing and editing careers. Through that organization, I met someone involved in grant writing and learned about research development as a career option. I discovered that it matched very well with my skills and interests. The same individual knew about a research development job opening at Texas A&M University, which ended up being an excellent match.

Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: Most importantly, my postdoc work provided me with a solid background in biomedical research and allowed me to apply for and successfully obtain an F32 postdoctoral fellowship. Since many sections of the F32 are similar to the grants that faculty apply for, I was able to gain valuable grant-writing experience. Additionally, networking with faculty at research conferences gave me some of the skills I need for interacting well with faculty members in my current position. Also, I had the opportunity to serve on postdoctoral association committees. These experiences, along with co-chairing a Gordon Research Seminar, allowed me to gain experience with coordinating events and interacting further with faculty members.

What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? Find a few people currently in research development. Set up a meeting or phone call and talk with them about their career path, why they chose research development as a career, and what skill sets are necessary to succeed. Talk with multiple people, if possible, to get different perspectives. Research development can look different at large vs. small institutions, or in a departmental RD office vs. a central RD office. Also, consider joining a professional organization, such as the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP)! There are lots of benefits of membership that make it a worthwhile investment in your future career, including a mentoring program, and access to other mentoring resources on the NORDP website, and  access to a listserv, where you’ll see conversations about research development-related topics, and an occasional job posting. Additionally, whether or not you choose to join NORDP, I would encourage anyone considering RD as a career to subscribe to the NORDP blog at www.nordpnews.org. You can subscribe regardless of whether you are a NORDP member.

What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? Choosing just one good experience is difficult, because I have enjoyed many aspects of my work. I always enjoy hearing from faculty members that they found my critique of their grant application helpful, and I am excited to hear whenever someone I assisted received funding!

Why do you think RD is a good career choice? Research development is an excellent career choice for those who wish to remain somewhat connected to the faculty and research and who enjoy putting grants together but don’t want to be directly involved with doing bench work. Research development is also a service-oriented profession. If you enjoy interacting with faculty members, seeing a broad variety of research topics rather than just a narrowly focused set of topics, and helping contribute to the success of researchers, research development may be a good career choice for you.

Posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee

 

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: NORDP Program for External Evaluation of Research Development (PEERD): Perspectives from Evaluators and Institutions Evaluated

NORDP Program for External Evaluation of Research Development (PEERD): Perspectives from Evaluators and Institutions Evaluated

Presenters:

  • Jerilyn Hansen, Utah State University
  • Susan Carter, Retired, UC Merced
  • Kay Tindle, Texas Tech University
  • Peggy Sundermeyer, Trinity University

Thanks to our session scribe, Mary Jo Daniel, University of New Mexico!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • PEERD is a new (formalized in 2017) service offered through NORDP that currently has a pool of 8 reviewers.
  • PEERD reviews are planned collaboratively by institutional leadership and the PEERD team.
  • Review team composition is critical; there needs to be a balance of personalities, skill sets, and experience levels.
  • Reviews engage campus leadership, the RD office being reviewed, and faculty groups.
  • Reviews result in actionable recommendations.


What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Not a surprise, but a good idea: it’s best to plan for a follow-up meeting to share review recommendations broadly with those who participated in the review (e.g., other administrators, faculty members).

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

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

An audience member pointed out that evaluations can be judgment-based/draw from experience, or more data-driven (e.g., use of repeatable protocols). The audience member felt that PEERD appears to emphasize the first, and wanted to know how this was decided upon. The presenters explained that individual campus goals determine the approach taken by the PEERD group. So, if a campus requests an analysis of data, the PEERD group is able to do this.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Cost of a PEERD review is dependent on individual campus goals and the design of the review itself, but a “ballpark” figure for the service is between $12K – $18K. The PEERD reviewers are paid a fee and NORDP is paid for its administration of the program.

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Resiliency: Research Development Strategies to Engage and Promote Faculty Flourishing

Resiliency: Research Development Strategies to Engage and Promote Faculty Flourishing

Presenters:

  • Kerry Morris, Valdosta State University
  • Susannah Gal, Penn State-Harrisburg
  • Marilyn Korhonen, University of Oklahoma
  • Barbara Wygant, Van Andel Research Institute

Thanks to our session scribe, Laura Sherwin, University of Nebraska at Omaha!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Listen to faculty and customize your approach to each of them. You want faculty to see you as a partner in their success.
  • Target specific faculty or groups of faculty. In particular, look for faculty with a passion for their research who are struggling to obtain external funding. Your work with them can have high impact.
  • Identify faculty key players to develop funding strategies. Look to where students are gravitating.
  • For new faculty, start with internal seed grants, then foundation and corporate seed grants to collect data for larger grant submissions.
  • Connect first with a small group of key “champions” and build from there.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

  • Many research development offices have a close working relationship with institution development officers.
  • It is more common in research development offices to “cold call” faculty than I realized.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Aspirational 7” – seven concepts for research faculty: scale up, stabilize, re-direct, diversify, re-invent, engage, persevere.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

Q: What is the role of the institution’s development office vs. the institution’s sponsored programs office?

A: There can be some overlap and confusion on which office performs which functions. The presenter recommended working with the institution’s development office to create a checklist that each office can use to decide if a particular funding mechanism is a grant, contract, or gift. This is also important because money for philanthropic vs research efforts is located in different “buckets” in an institution.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Some specific things presenters have used to engage and promote faculty:

  • Facilitate writing groups for proposals and papers
  • Hold an annual networking event for researchers and business/industry contacts
  • Publicize researchers and their work via free videos (YouTube)
  • Include a “Research News” button on the research development or institution’s website that highlights overall research, not just research that has been funded externally.

Also, see the handout from the presentation: NORDP resiliency session handout

The Transition from Postdoc to Research Development: Maile Henson

The following is part of a limited blog series from the Strategic Alliances Committee highlighting NORDP members who have transitioned from postdoctoral positions to careers in research development.

Henson photo
Maile Henson, Research Development Associate, Office of Research Development, Duke University School of Medicine

Describe your work in research development (RD): Our office facilitates the development and submission of complex (i.e. multi-investigator, multi-institutional, multi-component) and individual grant proposals, mostly to NIH. I work with principal investigators and research teams to develop their study designs and grantsmanship strategies, providing advice on programmatic intent, content, organization, and presentation, as well as critical editing and writing support. Besides proposal development, I assist with grant writing workshops and develop project management tools for defining RD best practices for our office.

Describe your postdoc work: I studied the process by which connections, or synapses, between neurons in the developing brain are weakened and eliminated. I manipulated the strength of synapses by treating brain tissue with drugs, and determined synaptic changes with confocal imaging. My work showed that synapses have to be weakened multiple times to be eliminated, which requires gene and protein synthesis, as well as activity by enzymes involved in cell death and brain functions (such as learning and memory).

Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: Close to the end of my NIH postdoc, I realized that my motivations for getting the PhD had changed and I no longer enjoyed the bench work. I needed a different kind of challenge. Through an internship opportunity in the Scientific Review Branch at NIH/NIEHS, I helped manage the grant peer review process for two reviews, and participated in several others. I then worked briefly with small biotech startups applying for non-dilutive NIH research funding through SBIR/STTR grants. These experiences solidified my decision to pursue a career away from the lab. During this time, I met my soon-to-be supervisor through an informational interview, where we shared our mutual interests in the art of grantsmanship and the drive to help scientists get funding to do their great science. I applied later for an opening on her Office of Research Development team, and here I am in my third year of RD.

Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: Trained as a neuroscientist with extensive experience writing and editing scientific manuscripts and grant applications, I had a solid foundation moving into research development. My many years spent in lab research helped me to understand the grant applicant’s perspective. However, I also brought a unique perspective to the job: managing both grant proposal preparations and peer reviews after submission gave me key insights into the behind-the-scenes processes of the NIH funding world. I interacted with multiple parties (PIs/applicants, peer reviewers, scientific review staff, program staff, grant administrators), managing deadlines; observing and documenting review panel deliberations; advising investigators on funding opportunities, proposal strategy, content, organization, and requirements; and ensuring successful integration of grant components. These experiences frame my RD work every day.

What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? Learn all you can about the field. Talk to an RD professional. Find an institution with an internship program that will give you exposure to the type of work and skills required to be successful in RD.

What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? I enjoy working with the faculty on strategies in developing their proposals. The gratitude from the investigators for all we do to help them submit polished, competitive proposals, and the thrill of getting funding to enable cutting-edge science are wonderful affirmations to me. I know I made the right career choice.

Why do you think RD is a good career choice? I love my job! RD suits my strengths and interests well. I know this is what I am meant to be doing in my career and I think many others would agree if they had an opportunity to explore RD.

Posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee committee