Dr. Kelvin Droegemeier, Director of The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and former vice president for research at the University of Oklahoma (OU), who was scheduled to speak at the 2020 NORDP conference, instead joined more than 100 NORDP members via Zoom on July 9. NORDP president Kimberly Eck facilitated the Q&A session.
Droegemeier began by crediting Dr. Alicia Knoedler (NORDP president, 2013-14) for teaching him about the discipline of research development during their time together at OU, where she helped create a successful research development center. He says he continues to learn from her, and cited her strengths as a learner and a listener, a thought leader and partner making a difference.
He noted that he had previously presented to NORDP’s annual conference in 2014, and he has witnessed the rapid growth in the discipline, as evidenced by NORDP’s membership surpassing 1,000 members. While researchers don’t simply wake up knowing how to best pursue their research ideas, he says that RD professionals know how to present solid arguments, craft narratives, and contextualize scientific research. They can help researchers develop those necessary soft skills, he suggests.
When asked about his two terms serving on the National Science Board, which governs the National Science Foundation, Droegemeier encouraged RD professionals and the researchers they represent to discuss their ideas with NSF program officers, noting that these staff are extremely interested in new ideas and in helping researchers succeed. He advised individuals not to be reluctant to contact the NSF to explore new ideas and challenges.
Another tip he shared relates to the federal government’s budgeting process. He explained that the process begins with the Office of Management and Budgeting (OMB) and OSTP publishing a joint research and development guidance memo for 26 research and development agencies. He expects that document for FY22 to be released soon, and suggested that the American Association for the Advancement of Science is a good source for information on this process. The guidance memo for FY21 can be found here.
Droegemeier shared some of his thoughts on leadership, noting that RD professionals demonstrate leadership in their daily responsibilities, regardless of their title. He emphasized that leadership is more about what you do, such as empowering people, protecting people’s voice, providing resources and understanding the big picture.
His analogy likens RD work to planting a lawn – you plant the seeds, fertilize the ground, grow the grass, and then you mow. Without the grass, there’s nothing to mow.
Droegemeier concluded the Q&A session by encouraging RD professionals to stay positive. He described RD professionals as exceptional leaders, called to advance U.S. research. He encouraged everyone to look to the future and plan with positivity no matter what challenges they face. He called out NORDP members’ willingness to share knowledge, noting that research is not a zero-sum game. He encouraged NORDP members and researchers to contact him with ideas, noting that the only way to advance is to get ideas on the table.
Prior to conducting this Q&A session, Droegemeier recorded his plenary session, which is available to NORDP members here (members must log in).
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