PEERD Review Reflection: University of Alabama

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The University of Alabama (UA), the first public university in the state, hosted NORDP PEERD experts for a PEERD review in 2018. Faculty success in research is enabled through the Office for Research and Economic Development (ORED), in partnership with the colleges, schools, and research institutes at UA. Specifically, the Office of Proposal Development (OPD), and the Office of Research Development (ORD), within the ORED, have been charged with identifying and delivering a suite of services to support faculty research, scholarly, and creative endeavors.

The Process

The two PEERD experts held a pre-review phone call with institutional representatives to learn of any background information needed prior to the review, help identify key stakeholders to include in the meetings, and plan out logistics. One PEERD expert traveled to Alabama, while the other joined virtually. The PEERD experts spent two business days meeting with key stakeholders and inquiring about the research and proposal services provided, as well as the overall effectiveness of the Office for Research and Economic Development. These were the primary foci of the review, as requested by UA. Each PEERD review is as unique and diverse as the host institutions, who identify the foci for the review. Within 10 business days following the on-site review, the PEERD experts provided a first draft of the PEERD report for the institutional representatives to review and provide their feedback. Once finalized, the PEERD report was provided to university leadership.

The Impact

The PEERD experts provided three overarching recommendations:

  1. Enable and empower faculty to achieve the overall university vision by defining a new vision for centralized Research Development services and support,
  2. Create meaningful connections between a centralized Research Development office and other units, and
  3. Build awareness for/messaging about Research Development services and support of university-wide success in research.

Within each recommendation are several best practices and insights into implementing them on campus. The PEERD experts recommended that research performance goals include both measures of quantity and quality for research and included some guidelines for identifying those measures and implementing a vision for research development. They also recommended instituting a regular schedule of meetings between staff and leadership in order to create a networked institutional knowledge base, allowing for more consistent and higher quality services. Other recommendations included developing a strategic plan for growing RD, increasing the number of RD staff as well as the services provided by RD staff, developing RD metrics and measures, and creating communications plans, including an “outreach tour”.

As a result of these recommendations, the Office for Research Development (ORD) was separated from the Office of Proposal Development (OPD) to better communicate to faculty where to go for specific assistance and support. ORD and OPD are now included in monthly meetings with the Associate Deans for Research. A member of the ORD noted that attending these regular meetings has resulted in an increased awareness of what the ORED is doing and planning and has allowed her to share her firsthand knowledge with faculty. Also, one of the PEERD experts provided the staff with marketing materials, including brochures and flyers, that were used as models to develop the materials that highlighted the different support services provided by the two offices.

The Opportunity

Take advantage of the experience and knowledge of PEERD experts to provide validation for your growing RD offices. Utilize PEERD results to expand RD efforts, improve upon services currently offered, and increase effectiveness. PEERD can assist you in seeing gaps in resources and provide strategic planning advice on how to fill those gaps to help increase competitiveness. To learn more about the services provided by PEERD, visit https://www.nordp.org/peerd-consulting-program or email PEERD@nordp.org