NORD/InfoReady Research Grants in RD: Update from Stephanie McCombs

In a partnership with InfoReady, NORDP launched a New Opportunities in Research Development (NORD) grant initiative, which began funding grants in 2018 to support the disciplinary field of Research Development. Eleven grants of up to $2500 each have been awarded to date. A new grant cycle will be announced in the Fall of 2021.   

Awardee Feature

Who: Stephanie McCombs

Where: Eastern Virginia Medical School (EVMS)

Proposal: Developing Best Practices for Evaluating the Outcomes, Success, Impact, and ROI of Internal Grant Programs

What problem in Research Development are you looking to solve with your project? Since institutional resources are often limited, leadership must be accountable for decisions to invest in internal grant programs and be able to show appropriate return on these types of investments. Associated with this is the evaluation of the outcomes, impact, and return on investment (ROI) of research funding expenditures. Measuring and evaluating the ROI and other objective and subjective outcomes of internal funding programs, especially those that can lead to determinations of success or impact, can be a key aspect to ensuring the institution’s internal grant funds are being used in the most beneficial manner. This research seeks to answer the questions:

  • How are the success, impact, and ROI of an internal grant mechanism truly defined?
  • What outcomes, metrics, and methodology should be used in order to accurately evaluate the above aspects of internal grant programs?

What is the status of the project now? This project was recently funded and is currently in the IRB submission stage.

Do you have any suggestions for NORDP members considering submitting to the 2021 competition? Start on your application early and reach out to potential team members as soon as possible to plan the submission. Everything always takes longer than expected.

What did you find the most challenging? I have never really done much with the IRB prior to this project and I was unfamiliar with many of the required processes.  Getting all documents completed was definitely a challenge!

What did you find the most surprising? I was definitely surprised by the length of time it took to do the preparatory steps. I had seen much of this from the administrative side, but it was enlightening to experience from the researcher side. This experience has given me a new appreciation for all of the work that goes into the pre & post award side of projects as well as all of the details and people you have to consult with to get a proposal ready.

What would you say is your main takeaway from this experience? I have gained a newfound appreciation for the work that our researchers do in writing, submitting, and managing awards.  The experience has given me a holistic view allowing me to see things from a different perspective.  I understand that not everything is under the PI’s control.  They are often dependent on other individuals or institutions.  I believe this awareness will make me better at my job and help me improve the management our internal grant processes here at EVMS.

What are your plans for sharing or disseminating what you learn in this project? I hope to be able to have enough good information to put together a manuscript for publication.  I plan to present to the EVMS community as a first step and I will likely present at the next NORDP conference in 2022. 

Has this experience changed how you approach your RD work? It has absolutely changed my approach.  As I mentioned above, I now see the grant process from the other side as a PI myself.  It has invoked a humanistic understanding side of me, and I am now coming to my RD work from a different vantage point.  The experience has also overlapped with the Doctor of Health Science program I am finishing up currently.  I have gained insight into the human side, become more understanding of PIs who may need more time due to personal lives, teaching & committee responsibilities, or maybe being stretched too thin overall.

What are/will be the outcomes of your research? The main driver of this project was to improve our processes here, but after reaching out to other NORDP members I learned that many people did not have measures in place.  Ultimately, I hope to help my RD colleagues be effective stewards of their resources with my project. I saw a need to develop a lexicon that the RD community can refer to with a standardized set of definitions.  For example, when I was putting together a roundtable for the 2021 NORDP conference the term “seed grant” was one that has different meanings at different institutions.  Is a better term “internal grant”?  I hope to be able to provide insight on defining terms and evaluating outcomes through this project and eventually look to evaluation best practices in the next stage.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell

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