PEERD Review Reflection: Arizona State University

Arizona State University (ASU) hosted the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) peer review team in January 2020. As a previous PEERD reviewer, I deeply understood the power of the process and was excited to bring it to my campus.

Why become a reviewer?

When I applied to become a PEERD reviewer, my sole objective was to increase my exposure to other Research Development offices across the country. I wanted to learn what was out there. I was conscious that I had grown my office in the ways that worked best for my institution’s culture, the reach of our research enterprise, the motivation of my leadership, and the priorities we knew we could deliver on. I wondered; would my experience be transferable to a research development function at another institution?

Serving as a reviewer and a reviewee has led to a much deeper understanding of what research development is and could be. Critically listening to my colleagues at other institutions facilitated an introspection on improving my own office.

Why host a PEERD review?

20200116_111944 - Faye Farmer
ASU President Michael M. Crow and the PEERD Review Team

In my role as institutional contact, I was responsible for connecting the PEERD reviewers with an adequate number of voices and experiences, inclusive of the many different perspectives of research at the university. To do this within the duration was challenging. The reviewers were to spend three full days in one room as individuals and teams paraded in and out. Then, I had to take that list and someone had to schedule them! I was extremely lucky to have that completed by our RD event manager, Laura “L.J.” Hernandez. I had to be sure to brief all the invitees. This ensured that interviewees knew the overall context of the visit and what was expected of them. Once we had an agenda, I met with the review team and they aptly pointed out that I had missed general faculty members. Yes, my professional focus is also my blind spot! I quickly assembled a diverse group of faculty with research experience; those I knew and didn’t know and invited them to a discussion with the reviewers.

As I was setting up the review, I took the opportunity to explain NORDP to those I was inviting to participate. While ASU has several members of NORDP, it is a very large enterprise. I found joy in describing a professional organization filled to the brim with individuals devoted to research success. This also laid the groundwork for understanding the importance of the report I would eventually distribute.

What is PEERD’s impact?

I briefed the PEERD report to our Associate Deans of Research. As they participated in the interviews, it gave them an opportunity to see how an external group viewed their work. I prepared summary slides for the verbal review. These slides were helpful in future conversations because I had distilled the recommendations essentially to infographics. In fact, these slides continue to be used as reference for other projects.

The report has been requested again and again over the past several months, but initial conversations indicate that the report impacted schools and units via the Associate Deans of Research.

The PEERD reviewers told us that our research portfolio could be featured more prominently. That resulted in us redesigning our website. Now, faculty and external partners can more easily view and navigate our research projects. We’re proud of our faculty research and we needed the push to think about how we featured the unique nature of our work.”

— Sandy Stauffer, Senior Associate Dean of Research and Theo Eckhardt, Assistant Director Research Advancement, Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts, Arizona State University.

Requesting a PEERD review

Institutions need to feel confident that the substantial investment in a review will be worthwhile. This is difficult to quantify because each institution will have very different goals for the review. In my case, Dr. Panchanathan (“Dr. Panch”), ASU’s Executive Vice President of Research, was nominated and then confirmed as the director of the National Science Foundation in the first six months of 2020. As an office that was generously supported by him over the past decade, I wanted confirmation that my office was having the reach I expected. I also hoped that the reviewers could provide creative ways forward for increasing our impact. PEERD allows us to think critically about how Research Development is continuously evolving on campus at the college, unit, and department level. Finally, I sought an internal benchmarking and set of recommendations that could serve as a roadmap as ASU’s research strategy at the university and college level was moving forward.

In a time of budget constraints, it may be difficult to find the time and funding to invest in a review or becoming a reviewer. Maybe it is easier to reframe this into a professional development opportunity (for both you and your institution). Similar to webinars and other continuing education opportunities that increase our experience and understanding of a topic, sponsoring a PEERD review or becoming a reviewer can bring value to an individual, an office, and an organization. Research isn’t going away. Research development isn’t going away. Now is your chance to be prepared to launch a new “you,” more powerful and with more impact than before.

PEERD Expert Application Forms, along with a C.V./resume, are due to PEERD@nordp.org by August 31, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. EST. Applicants must strictly adhere to all word limits. The PEERD review committee decisions will be made by mid-September 2020. Any inquiries should be directed to PEERD@nordp.org.