NORD/ InfoReady Research Grants in Research Development

In a partnership with InfoReady, NORDP launched a New Opportunities in Research Development (NORD) grant Initiative which began funding grants in 2018 that 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.   

Please keep an eye out for the call for proposals and/or visit the below link in the coming months to check for application details on the competition:

https://nordp.infoready4.com/#competitionDetail/1790746

Awardee Feature

Who: Alicia Knoedler Ph.D., Vice President for Research & Innovation

Where: Miami University 

Proposal: Many Research Development (RD) professionals work with researchers to facilitate the development of teams to enable the pursuit of innovative research and the funding to support that research. In the context of research teams and team facilitation, researchers benefit from collaborations that result in publications, conference papers/presentations, sharing of new ideas, the potential to expand and scale research, attracting funding, and the like. Yet RD professionals are not typically authors on research team publications, papers, and presentations. RD professionals’ ideas may be instrumental in terms of the directions, scope, and scale that teams pursue but they are not usually credited nor are their ideas documented in a way that would appear on a CV or resume. RD professionals are not usually investigators or senior personnel on grant proposals although they may be the most knowledgeable team members regarding competitive ideas and processes for securing funding. As more funding agencies and organizations increasingly stress collaborative teams, it is important to be intentional about measuring the contributions of ALL contributors to research teams. For individuals within a team who are the facilitators, translators, and/or boundary spanners of the teams, their contributions often come in observing each team holistically, drawing connections, making suggestions for research directions and ideas, and providing the “connective tissue” within their team. For these “connectors”, it is challenging to identify and define metrics and measures related to their contributions in the course of team development, cultivation, and facilitation. For this project, we pursued the following research question: What are the behaviors that are catalytic within collaborative teams that lead to transformative work within these teams? To explore this question, we distributed a survey to RD professionals to identify and catalog areas of team facilitation, cultivation, and the like that connectors know to be catalytic in the course of team development, progress, and success. We then devised an activity to demonstrate these connector behaviors in the collaborative process.

This project was developed in collaboration with colleagues at the University of Oklahoma and Exaptive, Inc.

What problem in Research Development are you looking to solve with your project? 

We are exploring the “connector” or “translator” qualities that we believe many Research Development professionals possess. I think RD professionals have the ability to listen to information that is presented in a myopic way and then translate it into different contexts for multiple audiences. We are looking to define this “translator” quality and how to help RD professionals learn the skill. 

What is the status of the project now?

Data collection has happened, and we presented preliminary findings within the 2019 NORDP conference (The Measurable Contributions of Connectors in Research Teams), but the pandemic has put the second and third phases of data collection on hold. 

Do you have any suggestions for NORDP members considering submitting to the 2021 competition?

I would love to see future projects contribute to NORDP’s priorities outlined in our strategic plan in innovative ways. My hope is that NORDP members will propose ideas that benefit the broader RD community as opposed to individual institutions. I would encourage teams of NORDP members and non-NORDP members to explore ideas that could have transformational impact on approaches to research development.

What did you find the most challenging?

I began the project while working with a private company and management of the IRB process from outside of a university was quite a challenge. I realized how much I took for granted about working at an institution and being able to do research when I was outside of higher ed.

What did you find the most surprising?

I am fascinated by this translator concept and I am somewhat shocked that not everyone has the skill of being a translator. I think it is a skill that can be developed as well as a mindset that we should be open to exploring. 

What would you say is your main takeaway from this experience?

I am now back in a university setting and I can see who is and is not a translator from my interactions. I would love to continue exploring the translator concept in both my own research and the culture at my university. In my new role as VPR, I clearly see situations that would benefit from more translators. I will also continue to investigate why some people are not open to the idea, especially if they place significant value on deep rather than broad knowledge, as it remains a vexing question for me. 

What are your plans for sharing or disseminating what you learn in this project?

I wrote a blog (https://www.exaptive.com/blog/an-activity-to-improve-idea-generation-and-network-brokering) based on the exercise we conducted trying to help people connect with the skill of being a translator. Our experience reinforced the idea that people can be trained, but at this stage I do not know what that would involve. I think that this will become my perpetual project that I will continue to explore throughout my career and I am curious to see how far I can go with the idea.  

If anyone is curious about the translator concept and would like to discuss it further, I encourage you to contact me. 

Has this experience changed how you approach your RD work?

I was already exploring this idea in my prior work and the project was beneficial in providing me the data to test my pre-existing thinking. 

What are/will be the outcomes of your research?

At this stage, I do not plan on a publication as my data are limited since I had to put my surveys on hold. I think the translator concept is one worth talking about with other RD professionals and I continue to do so through my NORDP interactions. We are actually planning to hire a new position in my office and one of the skill sets we are looking for is “translational capabilities.” I am truly committed to the translator idea and it is a part of everything I do. It is the magic ingredient in RD!

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee