New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Kimberly Eck

Kimberly Eck is one of three new elected NORDP Board Members in 2018. We thank Kimberly for her service to NORDP!

Who: Kimberly Eck, MPH, PhD, Director of Research Development
Where: University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Number of years in research development: 9
Length of NORDP membership: 4

What’s your history in RD? When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?Eck_Pic.jpg

I started in RD in 2009 working for a small consulting company with clients in the healthcare and public health sector. Like many RD professionals, I had never heard of “research development” and didn’t know I was a research development professional until I had been working in my role for several years. After several years of consulting, I moved to higher education and found my niche. Today, as the Director of Research Development at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, I lead a team that specializes in interdisciplinary teaming, long-range planning, and supporting major, multi-million proposals. I have taken a major leadership role in a university-wide cluster hire and grand challenge initiative and am increasingly involved in supporting our university centers and institutes.

What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?

During the past year, I served as the Chair of the Southeast NORDP Region (SE NORDP). In this role, I led the region and SE NORDP Executive Committee in becoming an officially-recognized affinity group, launching a regional meeting series, and creating a regional RD job shadow experience. I’ve also regularly presented at the NORDP conference with colleagues and contributed to committees. I’ve really enjoyed presenting my original research with a great group of collaborators that I met through NORDP.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?

Being a part of NORDP has allowed me to develop a nation-wide network. I know so many people at so many institutions throughout the country that I would have otherwise never met. In particular, working with my collaborators on research projects and my fellow SE NORDP Executive Committee members has been very rewarding. It is great to have a group of professional colleagues to learn from, bounce ideas off of, and share frustration with. I love catching up with colleagues every year at the NORDP conference.

What inspired you to run for a position on the NORDP board?

I am passionate about the field of research development and NORDP. Over the next four years, I hope to help NORDP continue to grow and serve its members. 

What initiative are you most excited about in your new role as a board member? 

I have often commiserated with fellow research development professionals about the lack of understanding and consistency in titles, roles, and responsibilities. There is a new initiative that I am planning to propose that relates to cataloging and describing the typical titles, roles, and responsibilities of research development positions. This a complex task that builds on the original research conducted by myself and colleagues and will require substantial input from the NORDP community. Ultimately, I hope to lead a working group to create a set of guidelines that will be useful to NORDP as well as human resources, administration, and institutional leadership.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

New NORDP Board Member Cameo: Jill Jividen

Jill Jividen is one of three new elected NORDP Board Members in 2018. We thank Jill for her service to NORDP!

Who: Jill Jividen, Assistant Director for Research Development
Where: Medical School Office of Research, University of Michigan
Number of years in research development: 4.5
Length of NORDP membership: 4.5

What’s your history in RD? When and how did you enter the field? What kind of RD work do you do?

I finished my PhD in literature just before the recession hit in 2008 and the academic job market dried up. After teaching as an adjunct for two years, I took a position as a research administrator in the U-M Medical School, where my background in editing and writing appealed to leadership and researchers. I spent a year learning the basics of NIH grants, then moved to the School of Information, where I worked on NSF and foundations proposals.Jividen - Headshot_2014_7_CROPPED.jpg

I landed my first RD position without really knowing what the field was. I sought out a couple of mentors who did RD work; they connected me to NORDP, and, locally, we started to build a grassroots RD community to share resources and best practices. One of those mentors recruited me to her position as she retired. In my current role as Assistant Director for Research Development, I coordinate a junior faculty mentorship program (the R01 Boot Camp); connect faculty to funding opportunities and resources; present grant writing workshops; provide editing; and manage limited submissions.

What’s your history with NORDP? How have you engaged with the organization (committee work, conferences attended/presented)?

My mentors introduced me to NORDP. I went to my first conference two months after starting that first RD position. It was an eye-opening experience, and I was inspired by the creative problem-solving that our peers undertake to support faculty. I have attended every conference since 2014. I began volunteering at the conference registration desk and as a session scribe at the conferences. I gradually increased participation, joining the Member Services Committee and now the board. I feel grateful to have the confidence of my peers—that they know I’ll work collaboratively to ensure that we have a high-quality organization that provides resources and benefits to all members, at every stage of their RD careers.

What relationships have you built as a result of NORDP (new colleagues, connections to institutions where you previously had no point of contact)?

While I’ve enjoyed and benefited from the relationships I’ve built with my amazing colleagues across the nation, NORDP has actually helped me build relationships on my own campus. We have a large research enterprise, spread across the city of Ann Arbor, as well as in Dearborn and Flint. NORDP has inspired us to connect with the hundreds of people who support research, in various capacities—to generate and share ideas, and to inspire interest and investment in RD activities. We are currently planning our 3rd annual “mini NORDP”—a half-day conference where we can present best practices and successful models, and really showcase the innovative programs and resources that are being developed and used in our diverse Schools and Colleges. NORDP also has helped build relationships with other in-state institutions and provides us a point of contact to share knowledge and resources with our local colleagues.

What inspired you to run for a position on the NORDP board?

I am passionate about RD and NORDP; I joke that I’m the campus “evangelist” for RD—touting the value of this field and organization to anyone who will give me a platform. I’ve had successes in rallying people around a common cause on my campus, and I want to bring that enthusiasm and momentum to the national level. I think that good things come from connecting people around knowledge and ideas. Serving as a board member will allow me to do more to improve member resources and benefits, thereby improving the value of the organization and keeping members engaged.

What initiative are you most excited about in your new role as a board member?

One of my projects will be to overhaul the member resources page to best serve both new and more advanced members. I’d like to collaborate on an onboarding tool kit that will offer incoming members a strong starting point for engaging with NORDP. I want to offer members practical resources that will guide them at their own institutions, in their own work and careers. I also hope to contribute to current initiatives like NORD, to encourage research on research, and dissemination of these results, all in an effort to continue to grow the RD field nationally.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Resiliency: Research Development Strategies to Engage and Promote Faculty Flourishing

Resiliency: Research Development Strategies to Engage and Promote Faculty Flourishing


  • Kerry Morris, Valdosta State University
  • Susannah Gal, Penn State-Harrisburg
  • Marilyn Korhonen, University of Oklahoma
  • Barbara Wygant, Van Andel Research Institute

Thanks to our session scribe, Laura Sherwin, University of Nebraska at Omaha!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Listen to faculty and customize your approach to each of them. You want faculty to see you as a partner in their success.
  • Target specific faculty or groups of faculty. In particular, look for faculty with a passion for their research who are struggling to obtain external funding. Your work with them can have high impact.
  • Identify faculty key players to develop funding strategies. Look to where students are gravitating.
  • For new faculty, start with internal seed grants, then foundation and corporate seed grants to collect data for larger grant submissions.
  • Connect first with a small group of key “champions” and build from there.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

  • Many research development offices have a close working relationship with institution development officers.
  • It is more common in research development offices to “cold call” faculty than I realized.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Aspirational 7” – seven concepts for research faculty: scale up, stabilize, re-direct, diversify, re-invent, engage, persevere.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

Q: What is the role of the institution’s development office vs. the institution’s sponsored programs office?

A: There can be some overlap and confusion on which office performs which functions. The presenter recommended working with the institution’s development office to create a checklist that each office can use to decide if a particular funding mechanism is a grant, contract, or gift. This is also important because money for philanthropic vs research efforts is located in different “buckets” in an institution.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Some specific things presenters have used to engage and promote faculty:

  • Facilitate writing groups for proposals and papers
  • Hold an annual networking event for researchers and business/industry contacts
  • Publicize researchers and their work via free videos (YouTube)
  • Include a “Research News” button on the research development or institution’s website that highlights overall research, not just research that has been funded externally.

Also, see the handout from the presentation: NORDP resiliency session handout

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Responding RAPIDly and Remaining NIIMBL in the Manufacturing USA Proposal Development Landscape

Responding RAPIDly and Remaining NIIMBL in the Manufacturing USA Proposal Development Landscape: Adapting Resources in a Changing Research Landscape


  • Leigh Botner, University of Delaware
  • Kathleen Sanford, University of Delaware
  • Dawn Jory, University of Delaware

Thanks to our session scribe, Kristyn Jewell, Purdue University!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Team learned from their initial failure with Accelerate America NNMI submission to succeed with NIIMBL.
  • For NIIMBL, the core scientific team coalesced before the FOA was released.
  • The RD support moved from a college/departmental approach for the failed application to a central integrated approach for the successful application and broke the proposal support team into core functions (Governance & Membership Strategy, Budget Planning, Proposal Writing, etc.).
  • Core proposal team kept working together after the concept paper submission assuming that they would be selected.
  • This experience ultimately changed their structure to encourage large collaboratory efforts with an Associate Vice President for Research hire focused on research development.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

They held workshops across the country to present to potential stakeholders and provided up-to-the-minute changes/updates with voting in order to get industry buy-in with acceptable terms & conditions.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Teamwork app for project management.

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

Q: For the management of the institute, what was the 501(c)3 proposed?

A: It was supposed to be a new 501(c)3 established upon award. However, the award execution needed to happen so quickly before inauguration that it was awarded to UD to give the 501(c)3 time to be established and fully operational before taking over management of the partnership.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

The proposal RD support staff were chosen for their prior experience and skills level, not based on who had worked with the faculty group in the past. The team was cherry picked to get the best possible results.

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Proposals Like It’s 2019: Writing and Illustrating Grant Proposals for the Information Age

Proposals Like It’s 2019: Writing and Illustrating Grant Proposals for the Information Age


  • Tobin Spratte, Arizona State University
  • Michael Northrop, Arizona State University
  • Jessica Brassard, Michigan Technological University

Thanks to our session scribe, Erin Johnson, University of Utah!

Key points from the session. We learned: 

  • Key design rules: balance, rhythm, proportion, dominance, unity
  • It’s not about the tool – even PPT can make beautiful graphics
  • Cultivate a culture of imagery and design
  • Your proposal is an extension of your branding – use logo, color, spacing, visuals to look the part
  • Use action captions to pull text out of your paragraphs and put it in the figure caption instead

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

People might only be paying attention to 20% of what you show them.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Useful twitter feeds to get ideas: #dataviz, #scicomm, #sciart

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenter(s)’ response?

Q: How to convey to the faculty the needed time for graphics?

A: I actually like late requests because there isn’t time for a ton of revisions! But, I also like being involved in early meetings so know what they need and what their primary content will be really well. Some offices will only work on grants with large dollar requests. And they will require early involvement.

General notes

  • The times are changing – we’re in an information overload and people don’t have time to read
  • Changed consumption habits
    • Transient Attention span of 8 seconds, sustained attention span in 20 minutes
    • Reading on a screen, and reading print
    • People might be reading only 20% of what’s presented to them – we want to draw their attention to useful parts of the proposal for that 20%
  • Need to be resilient to the changes
  • Data visualization- on twitter follow #dataviz and #scicomm to get ideas about how people are visualizing data
    • #sciart great resource for graphics
  • Making the most of graphics
    • Simple graph can be made more readable by tweaking where legends and titles are, taking away boundary lines
  • Key design rules
    • Balance
    • Rhythm (e.g., eye leads naturally from left to right and top to bottom)
    • Proportion
    • Dominance (think about what needs to be the star of the graphic)
    • Unity (tie it together)
    • Repetition of form
  • PPT still a useful tool for nice looking images – you don’t need the fancy tool
    • But space does matter. How much room do you have for this graphic?
  • Quick figures – things that don’t take long to construct
    • e.g., use a molecule and define the parts for your proposal
  • Org chart
    • Make it look different than everyone else – like a pedigree perhaps
  • Tables
    • Add color
    • Keep tables consistent in form
  • Infographics better than a bulleted list – just find a graphic to go in the middle and put the bulleted list around the outside
  • Design is not a silver bullet, but can be a silver lining
  • Branding and identity – a proposal is an extension of your brand.
    • Beyond color and logo. Headings, spacing
    • Figure on first page — grab attention!
  • Action caption
    • The caption can take text out of paragraphs by adding action to it (e.g., caption to org chart talks about ability to respond to needs)
  • Know your audience!
    • They are likely to have divided attention that you’ll need to capture
    • They may not know your area as well as you do – be clear!
    • Keep in mind what’s in it for them
  • To convince others, need to combine and convey: ethos (expertise, authority), pathos (emotion) and logos (reason)
  • Cultivate a culture
    • The field resists right now
    • We have opportunities to work with those who aren’t as resistant to start making changes
    • Talk with people about possibilities of deleting whole paragraph and using a graphic instead
    • Transform faculty from mechanics to artists — get them into their creative minds using pointed questions about what the reviewers need to understand and see
    • Find people you can hire – if you’re talking about millions of dollars, it’s worth a little money up front. Be sure to talk to the designer about how they got to their end products in their portfolio.
      • Freelancers who do science comics
      • Get to know your university marketing and communications team
      • Hire a student!
    • Help them think about what they want their final images to look like

NORDP 2018 Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski Service Award: Jeff Agnoli

The Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski Service Award is conferred by the NORDP Board of Directors in recognition of the commitment of a NORDP member to the growth of NORDP as an organization, strong efforts toward furtherance of the research development profession, and service to peers. It is named in honor of NORDP’s founder and first president, Holly J. Falk-Krzesinski. An award is presented at the annual conference to one NORDP member in good standing. The 2018 Awardee is Jeff Agnoli.

jeff holly large.jpg
Jeff Agnoli receiving the award from Holly Falk-Krzesinski at the 2018 NORDP Conference in Arlington, VA.

Who: Jeffrey T. Agnoli; Education, Funding and Research Development; Office of the Vice President for Research
Where: The Ohio State University
Number of years in research development: 25
Length of NORDP membership: 8

What initiative are you the most proud of in your role as a NORDP volunteer?

I have enjoyed my role in enhancing the general and fiscal operations of NORDP as well as my contributions to the field through presentations and pre-conference workshops.

How has your service to NORDP enhanced your career?

My understanding of the RD professional role/function and how it works on different campuses enables me to adopt best practices for my own university.

Describe how NORDP has changed from when you initially joined.

When I joined NORDP in 2012 we had ~600 members and we are now close to ~900 members and still growing. Our committee structure and organizational operation have morphed from what was a small nonprofit to a much more sophisticated organization. As we have grown, we have been able to offer more services to our members and contribute to expanding the RD profession. Two-thirds of our members are early-career professionals — that was not the case in 2009 when NORDP began.

Compiled by Daniel Campbell, Member Services Committee. Read more about Jeff’s efforts on behalf of NORDP here. Congrats, Jeff!

NORDP fosters a culture of inclusive excellence by actively promoting and supporting diversity, inclusion and equity in all its forms to expand our worldview, enrich our work, and elevate our profession.

Lessons Learned From My Experience As A Grant Applications Reviewer by Domarina Oshana, Ph.D.

Picture1.pngLet’s face it, although reviewers are asked to remove themselves from potential conflicts of interest and to park their biases at the door, the reality is that embedded within their scientific experiences are their own personal pet peeves and lived experiences, which can be difficult to extract from the review process. Still, the overall lesson I learned from my experience as a grant reviewer was that while it’s impossible for an applicant to please all reviewers on a panel, it’s quite possible to please most of them. Therefore, if you want your application to be deemed competitive and worthy of funding, your aim should be to think like a reviewer and write your application to please most reviewers. Here are some tips I recommend from serving as a reviewer in the nonprofit and government sectors:

Honestly assess the fit of the RFA to your proposal concept.

If you can clearly articulate that your proposal honestly responds to the purpose of the request for applications (RFA), then it’s very likely that your application will be deemed competitive. Unfortunately, sometimes applicants don’t always honestly assess the appropriateness of the RFA. For example, an applicant may see an RFA as an opportunity to fund work that they are already doing, when in fact the RFA may not be intended for such activity. So, in an attempt to acquire general operating funds, the applicant packages the proposal in a way that is seemingly responsive to the priorities of the RFA, when in fact, overall, it’s not. Reviewers often see through this approach and while many reviewers can understand the need, they are not impressed by the applicant’s proposal. This is because applicants that indirectly request funding for general operating expenses fail to convince the reviewers of how the work they are doing will advance scientific knowledge, if awarded funding.

Another instance that fails to convince reviewers that there is a good fit between the proposal concept and the RFA is when the applicant does not have the experience to carry out the work proposed. For example, if an applicant with experience only in collecting and analyzing archival data proposes a study in which he/she will collect and analyze data from direct contact with human participants, and offers no information about whether a consultant with experience in working with human participants will be hired, then the reviewers will question the goodness of fit between the applicant’s experience and the skill required to carry out the work of the proposed study. As an applicant, your job is to convince the reviewer of the scientific merit of your proposed study and your ability to carry out the work. An honest assessment with yourself about why you are responding to the RFA is a good first step to ensure that you can convince the reviewers that your concept and ability are meritorious.

Craft a thorough literature review.

This can be quite challenging to do. If your field is immense, it’s almost impossible to write a comprehensive literature review within the page limitations of a grant application. Nevertheless, effort should be made to provide a strong conceptual framework and to cite the work of authors that have done substantial work in the area you wish to further study. Often, these persons can be sitting on the review panel and if they see that you haven’t credited or acknowledged their work, they may conclude that you are uninformed. Beware of these reviewers, as their extremely poor score of your application can skew the ranking of your application.

Clearly articulate your research design and data analysis plan.

In the eyes of many reviewers, it is your study approach that will accelerate or decelerate your candidacy for funding. Yes, it’s that important! Ideally, reviewers want to see a concise, clear, innovative, and doable research plan. And, they want to see that you’ve not only thought about data collection procedures, but data coding and analysis procedures as well. Reviewers want to see a plan that is appropriate for the research questions being asked and the aims of the study. If your research plan is inadequate, chances are that the reviewers will be unconvinced of the scientific merit of your study and/or your ability to carry out the work you have proposed. To avoid such pitfalls, here are some questions you must be certain to answer in your research design:

  • Are your research questions and hypotheses clearly stated and rationalized (i.e., grounded in a strong conceptual framework and preliminary evidence)?
  • Are your research questions appropriate to the target population you have proposed to study and/or the aims of the proposed project?
  • Have you clearly translated your research questions into statistical questions?
  • Did you address how you will recruit participants and what you will do if your initial recruitment strategy fails to yield the anticipated number of participants?
  • Have you offered a justifiable rationale for your recruitment strategy?
  • If you are proposing a non‐experimental or quasi‐experimental study, did you provide a clear rationale for this type of design as opposed to a randomized control trial design and/or other designs?
  • Did you indicate or explain the psychometric properties of any data gathering instruments you propose to use?
  • Did you outline a concrete data analysis plan and how you will handle missing data?
  • Did you provide an acceptable rationale for your choice of analytic techniques?
  • Have you consulted with a statistician or proposed to engage the services of a statistician?

Make friends with an Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Just because grant application guidelines may state that you don’t need to have an IRB on record at the time that you submit your proposal, that doesn’t mean that you should underestimate the importance of addressing potential risks to human participants and your procedures for minimizing the risks. Reviewers want to see that you have very thoughtfully considered all the possibilities and how you will handle them. You need to consider the “what ifs” of working with human participants and what you will do to ameliorate the “what ifs” as they arise. For example, “what if” a participant decides to drop from your study midway through the project? How will you treat that participant? What will you do with their data? What does your data safety and monitoring plan delineate? You need to convince the reviewers that you are committed to protecting human participants. Having an IRB in place before you submit the application is extremely helpful because IRB members can help you think through all the “what ifs” and what to do about them in an ethical and responsible way.

Provide authentic letters of support.

Reviewers are quite savvy and can clearly see when you have employed the use of a template for your letters of support. When they see that you have used the same template for all of your letters, they are not impressed. Their discontent can be attributed to the fact that your template‐generated letters translate to a lack of commitment from your potential collaborators. While it can be argued that writing letters of support may be an intimidating and new experience for some members of your networks, for example, and that the provision of a template is to ease their fears, that doesn’t mean that each of your letters of support should look exactly the same with only a change in the signature. If you are going to write your own letters of support (on behalf of your collaborators), make sure each one is authentic and believable.

Carefully follow the instructions of the grant application.

This may sound unbelievable, but there are reviewers who will take the time to count the number of characters in your proposal title and if they find that your title exceeds the guideline of the application, they will actually carry their disgruntlement with your inability to follow directions throughout their review of your application. They will even question how it was possible that your application made it to the scientific review panel, when in their eyes, it should have clearly been eliminated for failure to follow application instructions. For example, the PHS‐398 instructions are highly thorough. All the information needed to complete the forms is well explained. Little things matter; make sure you don’t overlook them.

Submitted by Domarina Oshana, a social scientist and research development professional. She uses her scientific expertise and soft skills to advance knowledge discovery and address pressing human challenges. To learn more about her perspective, please visit her LinkedIn