Leveraging the RD Toolbox to Support Inclusive Excellence

Contributed by Debra Karhson, Ph.D., Crystal M. Botham, Ph.D., Gretchen L. Kiser, Ph.D., and Elizabeth Seckel, M.A.

The 10 year anniversary of the report by Ginther et al. (2011) has re-ignited an important conversation on federal grant funding disparities and structural oppression within biomedical research. Recent updates to the report show only a marginal increase in funding rates for Black researchers (Erosheva et al., 2020). Importantly, response articles by Taffe and Gilpin (2021) and Stevens et al. (2021) highlight the calls to action by stakeholders to rectify this unjust federal funding infrastructure. While these articles single out federal funding institutions like the NIH, they also highlight the critical role for research development (RD) professionals in transforming the research workforce to be more just and equitable. Moreover, in light of the forthcoming funding initiatives by federal funding institutions to increase diversity in research (i.e., NIH UNITE initiatives), RD professionals have an instrumental role in ensuring these funds have the greatest impact on the communities that need them most.

To assist other RD professionals ideate actions at their own institutions and in line with the October 12th NORDP blog post on Conversation Roadblocks, we spent a session during the 2020 NORDP Pacific Regional Meeting keeping ourselves accountable to this work. In this dedicated session, we shared the individual practices and policies NORDP members have taken to advance justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion at their institutions.

Below we categorized these crowd-sourced actions into one of the three following categories (Figure 1): allies, accomplices, and co-conspirators. These terms come from social justice epistemology and create a framework for examining where greater risk can be taken by those committed to increasing justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in the workforce. Briefly, allies and allied actions are those which show an individual’s general support of social justice movements and initiatives. Actions of an accomplice are pro-active, de-center dominant narratives, and leverage our privileges in service of justice. Finally, co-conspiratorial actions are those that involve the greatest risks and are the most active of the three in disrupting systems of oppression.



  • Lead a Conversation Roadblocks or similar discussion
  • Join and be an active member of the NORDP Committee on Inclusive Excellence
  • Ask questions when something is inequitable. “If you see something, say something!” Advocacy is like a muscle that gets strengthened with each use
  • Serve on advisory committees, groups and task forces. Leverage your privilege as an RD professional to advocate for others in these spaces
  • Enhance equity, validity, and diversity in university hiring, using processes such as Oregon State University’s Search Advocate Program or Ohio State University’s strategic planning for a fair and equitable future
  • Attend training for RD professionals like the UCSB-based Center for Research, Excellence, Diversity in Team Science (CREDITS) to understand why and how to encourage greater team diversity
  • Bring in expert facilitators to give workshops on different DEIB (Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, Belonging) topics such as how to build inclusive research teams, best practices for community engagement, etc.


  • Partner with campus offices and organizations that are involved in DEIB activities. For example, UCSF hosts a matchmaking event between interested research faculty and URM students/trainees/staff from other local universities and community colleges
  • Engage affinity groups such as Black and or/ LatinX postdoc and faculty associations to co-create resources based on their needs
  • Volunteer your grant writing expertise for a community non-profit serving BIPOC (black, Indigenous, and people of color) communities
  • Evaluate language and review criteria for internal grants to adopt an anti-racism praxis in peer review. University of Michigan launched a new resource for mitigating bias and improving practices in peer review, nominations processes, etc.
  • Convene and participate in anti-racism advocacy efforts on our campuses and beyond, applying RD skills like project management, writing, etc.
  • Develop guidebooks, workshops, and bootcamps for diversity-specific grant programs, such as Stanford’s Diversity Supplement website or Jump Start Awards
  • Develop and provide small seed funding opportunities to support research on structural racism or that promote diversity. Chapman University provides seed funding for research and creative activities that serve the needs of diverse communities. UCSF has introduced an intramural seed grant focused on anti-Black racism in health research.

We wish to thank all the participants in our 2020 Pacific Regional presentation, Leveraging the RD Toolbox to Support Institutional Diversity Efforts, for sharing the important work they are doing. The above list of actions is by no means exhaustive, instead we hope it sparks new ideas and implementation efforts. During the 13th Annual NORDP conference, we will continue this dialog and actively explore ways that we as RD professionals can support DEIB during the session titled Leveraging and Building the RD Toolbox to Support Institutional DEIB Goals. Please join us on May 4, 2021 at 12:15 pm. NORDP will also host another set of Conversation Roadblock discussions around the virtual conference as well, so get ready for this valuable conference add-on and join in on uncomfortable conversations! 

Figure 1. The Pyramid of accountability for Research Development Professionals (graphic inspired by @blessthemessy)

NORDP Board: A Year in Review


This last year has been one filled with challenges and uncertainty but also wonderful achievements and new opportunities. It’s been a privilege for me to serve as the NORDP president during this time.

We started last July working with our then newly hired executive director to lay out a work plan for the new role that included expanding our list of potential sponsors. In late August, the whole Board spent an intense (and fun!) couple of days of planning and team-building in Boise, ID (check out the photo of the Board during our Boise meeting).  We developed primary goals and stretch goals for all of our committees, restructured some aspects of our committees, and defined working groups for activities that didn’t fit within the scope of our existing committees. Below, I’ve listed some highlights of this past year’s NORDP organizational activity.

  • Member Services Committee rolled out a membership drive and realized a net increase of more than 100 new members, bringing NORDP membership to its highest point yet at well over 700 members.
  • Member Services Committee also developed and rolled out new membership orientation materials.
  • Developed and implemented a policy to guide the structure of affinity groups of NORDP, such as those defined as regional groups.
  • Finance/Revenue Committee identified and adopted several administrative cost-saving and infrastructure improvement measures, including upgrading our MemberClicks membership administration tool.
  • Implemented a modest increase in membership dues.
  • Researched and generated a broader list of potential sponsors.
  • Maintained current level of professional development webinars while working to define future, broader webinar content. Professional Development Committee supported the participation of over 360 members in live webinar events this year.
  • Investigated past efforts, reactivated, and successfully re-implemented the Program for External Evaluation of Research Development (PEERD) NORDP Consulting Program. At the 2017 conference, launched an effort to recruit expert reviewers for the program as well as advertise for potential clients.
  • Developed and implemented of the first training forum focused on emerging research enterprise leaders: Wise decisions in times of change and uncertainty: Research Enterprise Leadership Forum, held at the 2017 conference in Broomfield, CO.
  • Planned and executed the best-attended NORDP annual conference to-date, with nearly 500 people in attendance at the Broomfield, CO conference.
  • Established the Mentoring Program Committee as a ‘stand-alone’ NORDP committee, recognizing its expanding programmatic depth and breadth, with development of mentoring resources, e.g.
  • Established an expanded volunteer administrative services resource to assist with MemberClicks and other member-related administrative questions.
  • Reinvigorated the former External Engagement Committee under the new name of Strategic Alliances Committee, building capacity in the Liaison Program and in peer-group alliances.
  • Matured the New Opportunities in Research Development (NORD) Working Group to a NORDP committee.
  • Formed a revived Communication Working Group manned by several NORDP members, focused at several communication levels – website, blog, social media, listserv, conference communication.
  • Formed a new working group focused on increasing diversity and inclusion within NORDP.

I know that these accomplishments were the collective effort of many volunteers and thank you all for your contributions to these and other recent accomplishments.  So, while this year has brought challenges, it is not hard to also see evidence of continued positive growth in NORDP, and to be excited about the potential for the future.

Thank you for the honor of serving as president this past year.  Onward and upward…

NORDP Affinity Groups

Have you ever thought to yourself, “It would be great if we Any City, Anywhere research institutions could meet as a NORDP mini-group?”

Well, we’ve got an answer!  NORDP’s Board is excited to announce the implementation of a working structure for NORDP “Affinity Groups.” Such groups embrace the NORDP regional groups that have been naturally evolving and extend the concept to thematic groups of NORDP members whose professional interests might be with PUIs, HBCUs, EPSCoR states, foundation or corporate relations, the commercial sector, or particular sub-state regions, e.g.

Benefits for official NORDP Affinity Group designation include: access to the Board through a designated Board liaison to the group; a suite of administrative support resources for group activities, including listservs, access to MemberClicks or Qualtrics, and teleconferencing resources; opportunities to serve as a test bed for NORDP pilot projects; and enhanced opportunities for leadership experience.

Learn more about this initiative at the conference regional meetings on Monday, May 8th and at the NORDP Business Meeting on Wednesday, May 10th. I look forward to seeing you all in Colorado for what promises to be our largest annual conference to date. Safe travels to all!


Your NORDP President

In Support of Research Advocacy


From Gretchen Kiser, NORDP President

The National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) is a peer network of research development professionals who, through a set of strategic, proactive, catalytic, and capacity-building activities, serve the research enterprise at large by supporting individual faculty members, teams of researchers, and central research administrations in attracting extramural research funding, fostering relationships, and developing and implementing strategies that increase institutional competitiveness and innovation.

NORDP believes that a strong research enterprise is essential for the nation’s economy and the world’s innovation. We believe that it is in the national interest to support research in the sciences, arts, and humanities. Whether research and scholarship are devoted to understanding human experience, discovering the building blocks of the universe, or reducing human suffering, they require adequate funding, a pro-research climate, and an informed public.

We encourage our members to advocate for the research enterprise, especially at this time where we see an undervaluation of the roles science and scholarship play in our society. You may want to participate in one of the many March for Science events on Earth Day (April 22). You may want to work with your government relations office to articulate strong support for research in Washington DC or in your state. We urge you to directly contact your elected representatives to make your views known. Consider engaging in targeted outreach to thought leaders, policymakers and members of the public. Or you may use your creative research development skills to find new ways to advocate for research. If you need help in your advocacy efforts, reach out to NORDP at info@nordp.org or on the member listserv or by commenting on the NORDP blog. And be sure to share your story to help inspire us all!


NORDP Administrative Update

Dear colleagues,

I wanted to let you all know that Keith Osterhage has decided to pursue alternative career opportunities and will no longer serve as NORDP’s Executive Director. We thank Keith for his service to NORDP and wish him well on his new path.

We are currently reviewing our administrative needs and association management service options going forward.

Best regards,


NORDP Annual Conference Attendance Scholarships Includes Support for Diversity


NORDP is pleased to announce that we will offer a limited number of full and partial scholarships again this year for those with financial need who wish to attend our Annual Research Development Conference in Denver, Colorado, May 8 – 10.   In keeping with NORDP’s goals to increase overall membership and to encourage diversity, we are for the first time designating two scholarships for underrepresented racial and ethnic minority applicants, as well as giving priority to applications from new members and first-time Conference attendees.  It is expected that each applicant will approach his/her institution or organization to request co-funding to attend the Annual Conference.

Please watch for the availability of the Conference Attendance Scholarship Application on the NORDP website soon.  The deadline for applications will be February 13.

Announcing NORDP’s Inaugural Membership Drive Campaign


by Terri Soelberg

Greeting from the Member Services Committee!

It is the time of year to reflect, connect and make a difference. As I look back over the many things for which I am thankful, being a member of such a great organization filled with generous peers and colleagues who willingly share their time and expertise definitely makes the list.

As I speak to people from around the country, I am still surprised at how few have heard of NORDP. On the flip side of that, it is so rewarding to hear from new members who feel like they have finally found ‘their people’ and professional organization home. This is certainly supported by the fact that we have such a high attendance of the membership at our conferences. We are certainly hoping this trend continues for the upcoming conference in Denver next year.

This year, at the leadership retreat of the Board, we agreed the time has come to take active measures to increase NORDP’s profile nationally. One strategy to accomplish this is a membership drive. To that end, we have set a goal of attracting 100 new members.

As with many initiatives, grassroots efforts are powerful. You will start seeing regular posts with small ‘calls to action’ of little things each of us can do to raise awareness and refer new members. Since the holiday season lends itself so well to re-connecting, we hope that you will mention NORDP to peers and colleagues.

In the meantime, we are ramping up activity on our social media outlets and encourage you to join, and invite others to join, the LinkedIn group and subscribe to our Twitter feed.

Wishing you a safe and happy holiday season!

‘Holidays’: codeword for “taking care of a bunch of backburner tasks”

A message from NORDP President, Gretchen Kiser  

The holidays are officially upon us and they are always this strange time of year where we are expected to simultaneously slow down, reflect, assess, and count our blessings AND rush around to take care of a myriad of personal and work activities and tasks in time for __________ (grant deadlines, year end, Santa, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year’s Eve, Festivus, etc.) .  Rather than lament, I’m going to embrace the duality of the season and roll with it.

One of the goals that came out of our annual Board retreat in September was to plan and implement our first ever membership drive.  Under the keen guidance of co-chairs Terri Soelberg and Kayla Tindle, the Member Services committee has a carefully considered plan and will be rolling it out in the next month or so.  Please take note when you see it and help spread the word to potential new members!

Remember: December 19th is the submission deadline for 2017 conference abstracts. One of the strongest values of NORDP is the sharing of methods, best practices, tool applications, and strategies. Our conference is the most efficient avenue for this sharing and so we encourage everyone to submit a poster or oral presentation idea for potential inclusion.

The conference hotel reservation link and the 2017 conference registration fee schedule are now posted on the NORDP website, along with links to apply for travel scholarships. Check it out!

2017 Conference Plans and Other Activities

A message from your NORDP President:

It is especially important during this time of uncertainty that we all remain focused and committed to our professional efforts to effectively support and advance the research enterprise at our own institutions and broadly.  We are working to maintain and build NORDP as the go-to resource and community for your research development needs.  Right now we’re working on several goals, including planning the conference and nurturing our strategic alliances.

Always high on the list of activities for the organization is our conference planning.  We are in full-swing of planning an effective conference in Denver around the theme, “Creating Research Excellence through Strategic Research Development”.  For those that don’t know, our NORDP 2017 Conference Co-Chairs are Michael Spires (University of Colorado Boulder), Kellie Dyslin (Northern Illinois University), and Karen Eck (Old Dominion University).  We are definitely taking into account feedback that attendees gave on last year’s conference but if you have some input you’d like to give, please reach out to Michael Spires at rdconf@nordp.org.

In addition to the EPPD committee changes that I mentioned in September, our new Strategic Alliances committee (a refresh of the previous External Engagement committee) is working to further engage critical partners outside of NORDP and expand our sphere of influence and bring new and valuable resources to our membership.  For example, since corporate relationships are often a part of our research development efforts, Strategic Alliances has reached out to NACRO (Network of Academic Corporate Relations Officers), inviting them to network with us at the Denver conference, where we also plan to have content that will be valuable to both NORDP and NACRO members.

Hopefully you’ve all seen the call for abstract that went out last Monday.  If not, check it out at https://www.eiseverywhere.com/eselectv2/frontend/index/203635#44877.  Abstracts are due on December 19th.  As RD professionals, I know you all have an encyclopedia of strategies, ideas, practices, and tools that could benefit your colleagues and contribute broadly to research excellence.  I challenge you to reach out to collaborators near and far to develop conference presentation ideas.  We’re looking forward to seeing some great ideas for talks and posters!