It’s Here! NORDP Resource Creates Inroads into RD Careers: NROAD to RD

Why formal RD training?

Research Development (RD) is a career of strategists, planners and figure-it-outers. Most of us “fell into” the role and realized later that what we do is RD. We’ve figured out and honed our skills along the way.

However, the field is growing (if the first-ever sold-out NORDP conference is any indication!), and so a considerable need exists to shorten and ease that learning curve. Similarly, people looking at RD as a potential career may feel unsure about how to get started, or how to “test the waters” given the variability across RD offices.

With this in mind, NORDP launched a working group in June 2018 under the Strategic Alliances Committee to create a resource to help RD offices develop training programs relevant to their own needs. Indeed, the “NROAD to RD” training program framework is based on the idea that some RD-relevant skills and knowledge can be taught – and it offers a menu of options from which to choose.

The NROAD to RD, or the NORDP Resource for Organizing and ADapting a Training Program toward Developing an RD career, is the culmination of a year’s worth of work by the working group (with input from each of NORDP’s standing committees), a beta test at Duke University’s School of Medicine, and a soft launch at the 11th Annual NORDP conference in 2019.

How does NROAD to RD work?

The goals of NROAD to RD are to “provide RD offices with a framework to (1) develop their own training/apprenticeship/internship programs, and (2) employ that framework to introduce, recruit, and train individuals interested in a RD careers.” RD offices can choose among the suggested components and add additional components as necessary to ensure relevance to their individual office and institution’s missions.

The resource provides a guide for decision-making in designing an appropriate training program (Fig 1). Each decision affects the others, collectively defining parameters for the training program.

Figure 1: Decisions to be made while designing an NROAD-based RD training program.

NROAD to RD also offers curriculum modes, or training delivery methods, from which to choose (Fig 2). Most programs will likely include a range of delivery methods, from self-study to shadowing to live or simulated work projects, as suits their goals and mentoring capacity.

Figure 2: NROAD’s recommended curriculum modules

Curriculum suggestions include RD basics; navigating large grants, individual grants, and limited submissions; project management; team science; diversity and inclusion; and other institutional/research-related/career related topics. The curriculum module section is further broken down into sub-categories with recommended reading resources and suggested assignments for each.

Finally, NROAD to RD offers suggestions for program and trainee evaluation to ensure refinement and success.

Interested in NROAD to RD?

The NROAD to RD framework is available to all NORDP members and may be requested HERE. In the coming months, the “Phase II” working group under the auspices of the NORDP Professional Development Committee will create additional resources (e.g., case studies and job simulations), navigate the logistics of hosting these resources on the NORDP website, and evaluate resource usage.


The Phase I working group was chaired by Samarpita Sengupta, and consisted of the following members: Peggy Sundermeyer, Trinity University; Joanna Downer, Duke University; Page Sorensen, then at the University of California San Francisco; Sharon Pound, University of Tennessee, Knoxville; Rebecca Latimer, University of Virginia; Nicole Frank, University of Utah; Beth Moser, Maricopa County Community Colleges District; and Sarah Messbauer, University of California, Davis.

NROAD to RD was developed initially using resources generously shared by UT Southwestern Medical Center’s NeAT program (Samarpita Sengupta), University of California San Francisco’s Internship program (Page Sorensen), The University of Tennessee, Office of Research & Engagement’s Onboarding Resources (Jennifer Webster), and University of Nebraska–Lincoln’s Onboarding Resources (Kathryn Partlow).

Current Phase II WG members are Joanna Downer, Rebecca Latimer, and Samar Sengupta with several new members: Danielle Matsushima at Columbia University; Elaine Lee, Boston University; Maile Henson, Duke University; Alexis Nagel, Medical University of South Carolina, and Dawn McArthur, BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute. Peggy Sundermeyer remains on the WG as a consultant with supplementary assistance from Jacob Levin, MIT.

Submitted by Samarpita Sengupta

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

A Message from NORDP’s President

Greetings, NORDP!

I would like to welcome you to a new year as your President. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you this year.

This year, your Board is working on putting together a Strategic Plan to move NORDP forward over the next decade and beyond. Many of you (over 1/3 of you!) participated in the Member Services survey earlier this year, which was our first step to finding out how you, as members, are using NORDP. Thank you for your participation! This information is helping guide us in our activities in the coming year.

In the next few months you may receive a phone call or an email from First Point, the organization working with us on your Strategic Plan. Please be candid with them. They are gathering information for a SWOT analysis and getting reports ready to inform your Board during the retreat in September. 

In fact, you can help us with the process right now! Every week or so leading up to the Strategic Planning in September, we will be posting a short poll, posing a question to you to help us gather information for our Strategic Plan. To participate in the first question, please visit here to let us know what you think NORDP should focus on.

Throughout the year, please make use of the listserv to ask your colleagues about RD, and don’t forget to subscribe to the NORDP Blog for relevant NORDP and RD news.

Also, I want to know what matters to you. I am starting a two-way communication avenue called “Ask the President.” Please, if you have any questions or comments about NORDP and/or the Research Development field, just “Ask the President” by emailing

I look forward to working with all of you next year!


Karen “Fletch” Fletcher

Karen Fletcher
Director, Grants Resources & Services
Office of Research | Appalachian State University
John E. Thomas Hall | ASU Box 32174 | Boone, NC  28608

President 2019-2020
National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP)

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Building the RD Professional’s Toolbox and Skills for Developing Project Evaluation Plans for Grant Proposals

Slides: Building the RD Professional’s Toolbox and Skills for Developing Project Evaluation Plans for Grant Proposals


  • Katie Allen, Kansas State University, Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation
  • Morgan Wills, Kansas State University, Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation
  • Makenzie Ruder, Kansas State University, Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation

Thanks to our session scribe, Paige Belisle, Harvard University!

This highly engaging NORDP session presented by Kansas State University’s Office of Educational Innovation and Evaluation team offered attendees tools and resources for considering grant proposal evaluation plans. The session explored terms and ideas common to evaluation plans and provided guidance for Research Development professionals who are new to this aspect of proposal development. Defining evaluation as determining the value or worth of a project, the presenters suggested that evaluation can also be described as a means to document the success of a particular program.

The presenters explained that first, you will need to determine criteria indicators for making your assessment. Many funding agencies will have a list of required documents and specific instructions for what is required within the evaluation plan. An internal evaluation will require the research team to evaluate their own work, while an external evaluation will be conducted by someone independent from the project. Essentially, an evaluation asks whether a project’s overall purpose is being met, given the requirements of the program solicitation. For example: do the PIs need to produce publications, or gather and report on a specific form of data? Have they met these goals successfully?

As a Research Development professional, there are many ways that you can help the PI prepare their evaluation plan. You can help a PI identify the supplemental documents that they will need to gather to be compliant with the solicitation. The RFP language used to describe similar types of evaluation plan components can vary from sponsor to sponsor, as will the agency’s specific guidance for things to include within those components. This sponsor-specific language and terminology will be important to ensuring the proposal’s competitiveness. PIs may need assistance in considering what to budget for their project’s evaluation. The presenters advised that an external evaluation budget should be roughly 10% of the total proposed budget for the project. In the budget justification, you might suggest that the PI specify why the evaluation will cost what they are proposing. For example, will the external evaluator need to travel to the PI’s lab to assess the project? You can also provide assistance by reviewing the proposal’s project communication plan and timeline.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Because I do not personally assist faculty with budget preparation, I was interested to learn that an external evaluation budget is often roughly 10% of the total proposal budget.

What resources did you discover at this presentation? 

The presenters put together a comprehensive list of links and additional resources on the topic of evaluation, which can be found here:

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

One audience member asked how to approach the topic of developing an evaluation plan with a faculty member who may be apprehensive about the process of an external evaluation. The presenters explained that one way to frame evaluation is to think of evaluators as “critical friends” who can help bring a project to the next level. The presenters explained that, in their own experience, when a PI works with an evaluator once, they begin to appreciate the process and benefits of evaluation.

Tales from the Listserv: What does it take to cultivate multiple effective science teams in a targeted focus area?

The below blog consists of catalogued answers to an RD question posed on the listserv. 

NORDP Listserv Question from:

Jeff Agnoli, Education, Funding and Research Development
The Ohio State University

Hello NORDP Colleagues: we are searching for resources (programs, curricula) to develop university-level interdisciplinary faculty leaders—so, going one level up from “what does it take to be a great leader of a science team” to “what does it take to cultivate multiple effective science teams in a targeted focus area”?

There are programs out there to develop leadership skills in faculty, but they often aim toward becoming a dean or a department chair. How do we develop and support faculty leaders tapped with growing a new strategic interdisciplinary focus area/center?


Melanie Chase, Ph.D., Facilitator, Advisor, Coach
Change Solutions

This Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Program is an exciting opportunity to advance interdisciplinary research for health equity: Interdisciplinary Research Leaders is a leadership development opportunity for teams of researchers and community partners, including community organizers and advocates. These teams use the power of applied research—informing and supporting critical work being done in communities—to accelerate that work and advance health and equity. Their innovation helps build a Culture of Health, one that enables everyone in America to live longer, healthier lives.

Kim Patten, Director of Research Development Services
The University of Arizona

We’ve been looking at developing a similar program.

Sarah Bronson, Ph.D., Associate Dean for Interdisciplinary Research
Penn State College of Medicine

I just met Suresh Garimella last week at a BTAA Academic Leadership Seminar and he told me about this program he is running for the first time this year. It sounded neat although I have not contacted him yet for the syllabus, see

M.S. AtKisson, Ph.D., President
AtKisson Training Group

Since peeling off my former company, I’ve worked to fill exactly this niche—research leadership development. My approach has been to translate some of the work that has a long history in the business world to the language and the needs of researchers. The business programs often start from the idea that the person sits in a hierarchy, which people answer to them and they answer to people above them. For center directors or leaders of multidisciplinary teams, the other researchers are really their equals.

For developing research leaders, I do an individual coaching program over 8 weeks. I use a combination of an adapted a curriculum and just straight up leadership coaching (I’ve trained through CTI).

If anyone would like more information, please contact me off list.

Susan Carter, J.D., Research Development Director
Santa Fe Institute

There is a leadership development component to the faculty and leadership retreats that have been a part of our CREDITS (Center for Research Excellence and Diversity in Team Science) project in California…the lead PI for that NSF funded project is Barbara Walker at UCSB.

Holly Hapke, Ph.D., Director of Research Development
University of California-Irvine

  • First, there is a Science of Team Science listserv that “facilitates knowledge sharing among individuals engaged in, studying, facilitating, and supporting team science, in the US and internationally. It is maintained by the SciTS Team of the National Cancer Institute of the U.S. National Institutes of Health.” ( You may want to subscribe and consult its members as well since interdisciplinarity is certainly a component of many team science undertakings.
  • Second, the Robert Woods Johnson Foundation Interdisciplinary Research Leaders Program provides fellowships to support the development of interdisciplinary research leadership skills for scholars working in the area of health equity. See: It might be a resource to consult.
  • Third, at UC-Irvine the Institute for Clinical and Translational Science (ICTS) supports the ICTS Team Science Support Committee, which implements theoretical and evidence-based tools to improve, assess, and evaluate the capacity of interdisciplinary translational science teams. Its members provide consultations. See for more information and contact information.

Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski, Ph.D., Vice President of Research Intelligence
Global Strategic Networks

Other than perhaps some offering at the annual Association for Interdisciplinary Studies conference (you’ll need to check the web site), I’m not aware of any particular training/professional development program. Here’s a set of resources I recommend if you consider developing something anew:

  • Creating Interdisciplinary Campus Cultures: A Model for Strength and Sustainability, by Julie Thompson Klein à Julie is amazing, she’s been a collaborator for years, you may want to invite her to campus at some point;
  • Julie and I published an article about P&T policies for interdisciplinary research (IDR) and team science (TS), Interdisciplinary and collaborative work: Framing promotion and tenure practices and policies;
  • Breaking Out of the Box: Interdisciplinary Collaboration and Faculty Work, by Marilyn J. Amey and Dennis F. Brown;
  • Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, National Academies Press;
  • Practising Interdisciplinarity, Peter Weingart and Nico Stehr;
  • A Guide for Interdisciplinary Researchers highlights the essential attributes and support required for successful interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research, at the individual, team and research environment levels;
  • Another collaborator of mine, Prof. Michael O’Rourke, is the Director of the Michigan State Center for Interdisciplinarity is also an expert worth reaching out to. He presented a webinar last year November to the Intereach group.

Jill Jividen, Director of Research Development
University of Michigan

Another resource for us – consultants – Hanover has been working with our Law, Business, Glenn, and ASC folks on some other projects. This ppt describes the resources available to faculty at different career stages.

Members can login to Circles and learn more about Developing Research Faculty Leaders HERE

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

MSI Member Cameo: Brooke Gowl

As an organization, NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion, and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession for decades to come.  

To further enable a richly diverse and robust national peer network of research development professionals as well as organizational representation, we are highlighting members from minority serving institutions (MSIs) in a new blog series.

Our second cameo introduces Brooke Gowl.

Who: Brooke A. Gowl, Ph.D., Research Liaison Officer
Where: University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work
Number of Years in RD: 10+
Length of NORDP Membership: 6 years

What attracted you to NORDP?Brooke Gowl.jpg

I was attending a Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas conference, and a colleague mentioned NORDP, asking me if I had heard of it. I had not, but I looked into it and joined the trial access listserv. I really liked what I saw in the listserv and became a member.

How does your NORDP membership enhance your own career? Your institution’s or departmental goal-setting related to advancing research?

NORDP has truly enhanced my professional life through networking at the conference, participation on the Member Services Committee, and serving as Regional Representative in the Southwest since 2017. I have also been involved in the mentoring program both as a mentor and mentee, and both roles have enriched my own RD experience.

My college and university have benefitted with the access to the wide range of resources NORDP has at its disposal. We were able to bring an NIH K Award expert to campus who I had heard present at a prior NORDP conference. Membership has also helped us educate our campus on what the RD profession is and also recognize our value to its mission.

What have you enjoyed most about your NORDP membership?  

I have really enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people from all over the U.S. and the world. It has gotten me out of my shell to network and make connections and gather resources. NORDP allows us all to bounce ideas off and ask questions of colleagues about RD as well as career development, especially on the listserv!

Have you implemented something you’ve learned at the annual Conference in your RD career?

I implemented the Houston Research Developers Network (HRDN), an informal network that provides Houston area RD professionals a way to stay connected, ask each other questions, bounce ideas off one another, etc. Although HRDN is not an official part of NORDP, I attribute the idea for the network to discussions I had with colleagues at the 2017 NORDP Annual Conference and my experiences serving as Southwest Regional Representative and member of the Member Services Committee.

What recommendations do you have for other Research Development professionals from similar institutions considering NORDP membership?

I would say just take the plunge and volunteer! I have always found NORDP to be enriching, but that enrichment grew exponentially after I became more involved. However, if you are not sure just how involved you want to be initially, then start small.  NORDP will take whatever time you can give. Don’t feel like you need to commit to being a board or committee member. Volunteer at the conference. Seek out committee chairs to see if your expertise can help on a project. We truly value our members and want you to feel connected however works best for you.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Joanna Downer

Joanna Downer is one of two new elected NORDP Board Members in 2019. We thank Joanna for her service to NORDP!

Who: Joanna Downer, Ph.D. – Associate Dean for Research Development
Where: Duke University School of Medicine, Research Development Office
Number of Years in RD: 10
Length of NORDP Membership: 8 years

When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?


I entered RD in the spring 2009 to help the institution respond to the federal stimulus package, otherwise known as “ARRA”. Funded by Congress to keep the economy moving after the economic downturn of 2008, the stimulus package included a lot of funding for NIH and “shovel ready” projects. After working on three construction grant applications that spring and summer, the School invited me to start an effort to facilitate development of complex research grants. At first RD activities were on top of my other responsibilities, but over time I negotiated an exclusive focus on RD. The office has since grown to 5 FTEs, including myself.

Our primary charge is still facilitating development of complex research grants (providing project management, expert guidance, critical review, comprehensive edits, and compilation, among other services). We complement this effort through direct support for a small number of individual investigators and by offering training sessions through existing programs for faculty and grant managers. As a School of Medicine, our portfolio is largely NIH, but over the past year a colleague has proactively enhanced faculty awareness of DOD and NSF opportunities, and so applications to other sponsors are increasing.

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

I joined NORDP in 2010 after learning about it through a Duke colleague at the time, Rick Tysor. However, I wasn’t able to attend a conference until 2015, when the timing was moved to late April/early May and – finally – away from the NIH deadline for P-type grants. I happened to be part of a panel that first year, after responding to a request on the listserv from Eva Allen of Indiana University Bloomington for co-presenters on teaching faculty to write. Working on a presentation with other NORDP members in advance of the meeting allowed me to start making connections early, and the camaraderie of everyone at the meeting sealed my fate – I found the conference to be so engaging and invigorating that I committed to bringing my whole team every year, a request the School agreed to. I’ve presented at each Conference since then, which I find to be a great way to both contribute my knowledge to the RD community and gain insights from others, through development of panel presentations and through discussions at and after the sessions. I also have hosted a networking dinner each year except 2019 – my topic of choice was always “work-life balance.”

Since 2016, I’ve also been involved in committee work, joining and then quickly volunteering to co-chair the Professional Development Committee. Last year I also joined the Strategic Alliances Committee as a member of its Training Working Group and as the liaison to the National Association of Science Writers. This year, I was honored to be among NORDP’s Rising Star awardees.

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

Joining NORDP and attending NORDP conferences has been my principal avenue for meeting others engaged in RD outside of Duke, and I’ve found the listserv and conferences to be invaluable. The only downside I can detect at this point is that now that I’ve made so many friends and contacts through NORDP, it can be hard to find time to meet new people for time spent catching up with folks I’ve met in years past! One way I’ve tried to carve out time to meet new people – even if just in passing – is volunteering for the registration desk at the conference.

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

I feel at “home” in NORDP and I’m eager to give back, to help shape the organization’s next 10 years, and to make sure others feel as welcome as I did.

What are you most excited about as a board member?

I understand the organization is taking part in a strategic planning process over the coming year, and I very much look forward to participating in that process. I’m also very excited about advocating for new professional development opportunities that the Professional Development Committee and others will be working toward in the coming year, including enhanced online and electronic learning opportunities and a full roll-out of the “NROAD to RD” training program framework that Samarpita Sengupta of University of Texas Southwestern is leading. These expanded resources are also likely to help drive re-design of the NORDP website, and so I look forward to being at least familiar with those efforts.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Faye Farmer

Faye Farmer is one of two new elected NORDP Board Members in 2019. We thank Faye for her service to NORDP!

Who: Faye Farmer, Executive Director – Research Development
Where: Knowledge Enterprise Development, Arizona State University
Number of Years in RD: 10
Length of NORDP Membership: 8 years

When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?Farmer head shot medium July 2019.jpg

I came up through the ranks in Research Development. I began as a proposal editor and am now Executive Director of Research Development at Arizona State University (ASU). I describe myself as a scientist who loves writing, so proposal development is my happy place. In 2009, as a proposal editor, I recognized the value of industry proposal management practices as a reproducible and scalable approach to academic proposal development. In 2011, I brought that experience to the university research office. While I joined the office of research at ASU in 2011, the current configuration of Research Development as a functional unit was established in 2015. The office includes proposal management and graphics, competitive intelligence, limited submissions, and research related events and has a staff of 10. My team works with ASU research faculty, staff, and leaders to improve funding success and grow the research enterprise, we seek to empower and embolden every faculty, staff, and student member at ASU to increase their competitive edge in support of the expanding quality and quantity of the research enterprise.

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

Like many, I’ve found ways to work contributions to NORDP throughout my career whenever I could. In fact, building a presence at Arizona State has consumed my time and attention for the past few years. During that time though, I’ve managed to serve as a mentor and mentee, present at a conference or two, coach workshops at conferences, and stay active on the listserv. For the past several years, ASU has sent a rather large group to the conference (hovering around 10 each year). I’d like to think that is in some way because of the enthusiasm I bring to the RD landscape at ASU.

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

It is a common refrain from members….It all started at my first conference. What seemed like an impossibly big conference in California in 2011 pales in comparison with our current conference configuration. But, like others, I was inspired to return back to ASU and implement some of the ideas! I remember many of the presentations, the keynotes, and the networking. Since that time, I’ve never hesitated to reach out to anyone in NORDP to ask a question, get an opinion, recruit to co-present, and connect on a topic. In addition, my network of consultants has increased exponentially. I am able to connect departing faculty with their new RD office or use an RD office as a connecting point for incoming faculty. At conferences, I make a special effort to find new faces at conferences because I am excited to watch their career grow. My relationship landscape is continually changing, which I truly enjoy.

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

Karen Eck was my mentor in 2017. (She’s the past-president of NORDP.) In addition to being an amazing mentor, she was also extremely positive about my taking a leadership role in NORDP. Because of our discussions, I (still) have post-it notes up over my desk, two small, yellow tabs that are sandwiched between a shelf and artwork from my kid, that say “LEADERSHIP” and “NORDP”. But, I wasn’t prepared to take that step until 2019. The decision took a lot of reflection on my skills and abilities, my vision for the organization, and wanting to be a part of the community of great people who are already serving in volunteer leadership roles. Because of the deep respect I have for my immediate office, I wanted to be certain they were also okay with my taking this step. Finally, with the blessing of my family, I put my name in the hat. It was a great reminder for me that we are a constellation of networks that rely on each other and support one another. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to serve NORDP as a board member.

What are you most excited about as a board member?

I am committed to bringing my best and most authentic self to NORDP leadership. If you were at the conference, you heard my candidate speech. The premise was a simple concept: #ISeeYou. I am committed to celebrating the many and varied paths that led us to NORDP; creating a community of inclusivity that encourages continued growth of our professional selves and our organization; and ensuring that NORDP remain a safe space to share our stories in order to grow our collective expertise and diversify our knowledge base. I am convinced that we all work hard to grow research at our institutions and businesses, but I’m also certain that NORDP can more clearly reflect and nurture all ages, races, genders, skill levels, education levels, and aspirations within our organization. The national research agenda requires that we try to prepare ourselves and those we work with for whatever climate is next. NORDP is the place where we make that happen!

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Go or No Go? Critical Decision-Making for Developing Large, Complex Grant Proposals


  • Jessica Venable, McAllister & Quinn
  • M.S. (Peg) AtKisson, AtKisson Training Group, LLC
  • Joanna Downer, Duke University School of Medicine
  • Michael Gallo, University of California-Irvine

Thanks to our session scribe, Samarpita Sengupta, PhD, UT Southwestern Medical Center!

Have you ever been in a situation where a faculty member wants to submit an application for a big grant that is due in a month? Who am I kidding, you are research development professionals, of course you have!

How do you make a go-no-go decision? What are your criteria? This was the topic of the talk given by the four presenters listed above at the 11th Annual NORDP conference in Providence. Each speaker approached the topic from their individual research development perspectives.

Large, complex grants, as defined by the presenters, could be “Super-big institutional opportunities;” large multi-investigator, multi-site, multi-disciplinary projects, some involving construction, renovation or building centers; or they could have non-standard requirements.

There are several points to think about while making go-no go decisions on such large grants, especially in a time sensitive situation, such as the presence of internal resources, whether the project met unmet needs, whether external resources could be tapped into, what is the return on investment, and whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Internal resources should be factored in when making such a decision, such as project management, team facilitation, graphic design and domain-specific expertise, proposal building and administrative capabilities. In cases where the internal resources are tapped out or otherwise unavailable, external resources, such as consulting firms or freelance RD personnel, can be brought in to fill those unmet needs. A hybrid model, whereby the internal team works with an external team to submit the application, are particularly useful when the application is a priority of the institution and a no-go decision is impossible to make.

Every time an external consultant/freelancer is brought in, it is important to weigh the costs with the benefits, especially at smaller institutions. When bringing in external consultants, a shared vision for success is necessary. It is important to set expectations early, asking for references for each consultant to answer questions like: have they worked with similar projects before, are they reliable and timely, do they set and manage expectations, do they have good communication skills across diversity in teams, cultures and discipline, are they team-players, do they make you look good, and do they have a good network that you can tap into.

If tapping into external resources is not a possibility, then the internal team needs to reevaluate the go-no-go decision tree. At times, it is useful to bring in an external team just to get an outsider perspective and to reiterate the no-go decision.

In conclusion, the presenters reiterated that having clear SOW with external consultants, starting early with internal team with planning, idea generation, brain storming, and being cognizant of your own limitations can help with these decisions. The ability to create a dedicated team of internal and/or external contributors and seek out highly specified individuals to fill gaps in expertise is key to successful go-no-go decision making.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Models for Career Progression in RD

Slides: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Models for Career Progression in RD


  • Kim Patten, University of Arizona
  • Tisha Mullen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Gay Cookson, University of Utah
  • Gretchen Kiser, University of California San Francisco

Thanks to our session scribe, Daniel Campbell, Old Dominion University!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • The path matters for recruitment & retention and a poorly defined math can lead to low morale that can be an issue with all of the other demands on RD.
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Office of Proposal Development utilized a tier structure already approved by HR for other units across campus and massaged RD positions to fit within the structure.
  • Using an existing/approved structure makes promotion easy within the unit, provides flexibility in hiring, supports future growth, is not static and can be revised.
  • University of Arizona – Central Research Development Office combined the UA Career Architecture Project and the NORDP community’s input for definition of RD, past & present job postings, salary survey, and previous conference presentations to create career levels that were more appropriate to RD.
  • It can be beneficial to focus on the Soft Benefits of RD and use them as a recruiting tool. Items such as; a flexible schedule, academic environment where opportunities abound, community, mentoring, & team building activities, and Professional Development opportunities for which many places have significant budgets.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Titles are an important issue to consider. Consider using working titles in addition to HR titles as titles can affect retention.

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

Question: How did you work with your teams to build these progression ladders?


  • Be involved as early as possible
  • Survey the landscape
  • Engage with RD staff
  • Ensure appropriate levels; entry, mid, senior
  • Tie progression to functional skills and experience
  • Salary bands are broad enough to accommodate time in office
  • Develop clear job descriptions associated with career levels
  • Consider your office environment
  • Develop and maintain metrics – helps with expansion and recognizing change over time

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Make use of NORDP’s resources as they can be a great tool when working within your campus human resources structure.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Designing, Developing and Evaluating Team Science Support in an RD Office


  • Betsy Rolland, University of Wisconsin-Madison Carbone Cancer Center
  • David Widmer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Elsevier and Northwestern University

Thanks to our session scribe, MaryJo Banasik, University of Michigan Medical School!

Three seasoned research development professionals shared their expertise about how team science initiatives can be facilitated and supported by research development offices, including a discussion about the use of collaborative tools.

Holly Falk-Krzesinski provided an overview of what team science is, and how research development professionals can support team science by engaging in activities such as: facilitating collaboration, engaging in proposal development through funding opportunity identification and grantsmanship support, providing team science training, and policy advocacy that aligns appointment, promotion, and tenure guidelines with participation in team science work.

Betsy Rolland described how a new research development office with an emphasis on team science adopted several team science-specific areas of focus to build a team science infrastructure, such as support, education, interventions, and research. To work toward supporting team science, the research development office conducted a needs assessment and identified organizational barriers. A suite of services was developed along with manuals of operation that could be prototyped with small teams. Metrics were identified, such as quantifying demand for services and numbers of individuals and teams trained, as well as assessment of services and impact through satisfaction surveys.

David Widmer described a funding development team, including a position that will focus specifically on complex grants. The team is responsible for stimulating collaboration as well as providing hands-on support for complex proposals. The team is working to increase complex grant proposal submissions to add strategic value to the institution. Toward increasing submissions, the office is working on growing teams through sponsoring events such as speed dating on scientific techniques, maintaining a database, and incorporating empirical research, communication strategies, and best practices into their complex grant development activities.

Holly Falk-Krzesinski closed the session by presenting a number of tools that are available to facilitate team science, such as the Team Science Toolkit and the Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide, both developed by the National Cancer Institute. Holly also pointed out a repository of literature about team science available through an open access Science of Team Science (SciTS) group on Mendeley. Additional resources that Holly highlighted include the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, the Individual Collaboration Readiness Tool, the Matrix Assessment Tool, and the Collaboration Success Wizard developed by UC Irvine. Holly recommended to learn to perform transdisciplinary, team-based translational research for research development professionals, which she described as a good resource for research development professionals. Additional resources include the Science of Team Science Listserv and a professional society for the Science of Team Science.