NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Go or No Go? Critical Decision-Making for Developing Large, Complex Grant Proposals

Presenters:

  • Jessica Venable, McAllister & Quinn
  • M.S. (Peg) AtKisson, AtKisson Training Group, LLC
  • Joanna Downer, Duke University School of Medicine
  • Michael Gallo, University of California-Irvine

Thanks to our session scribe, Samarpita Sengupta, PhD, UT Southwestern Medical Center!

Have you ever been in a situation where a faculty member wants to submit an application for a big grant that is due in a month? Who am I kidding, you are research development professionals, of course you have!

How do you make a go-no-go decision? What are your criteria? This was the topic of the talk given by the four presenters listed above at the 11th Annual NORDP conference in Providence. Each speaker approached the topic from their individual research development perspectives.

Large, complex grants, as defined by the presenters, could be “Super-big institutional opportunities;” large multi-investigator, multi-site, multi-disciplinary projects, some involving construction, renovation or building centers; or they could have non-standard requirements.

There are several points to think about while making go-no go decisions on such large grants, especially in a time sensitive situation, such as the presence of internal resources, whether the project met unmet needs, whether external resources could be tapped into, what is the return on investment, and whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Internal resources should be factored in when making such a decision, such as project management, team facilitation, graphic design and domain-specific expertise, proposal building and administrative capabilities. In cases where the internal resources are tapped out or otherwise unavailable, external resources, such as consulting firms or freelance RD personnel, can be brought in to fill those unmet needs. A hybrid model, whereby the internal team works with an external team to submit the application, are particularly useful when the application is a priority of the institution and a no-go decision is impossible to make.

Every time an external consultant/freelancer is brought in, it is important to weigh the costs with the benefits, especially at smaller institutions. When bringing in external consultants, a shared vision for success is necessary. It is important to set expectations early, asking for references for each consultant to answer questions like: have they worked with similar projects before, are they reliable and timely, do they set and manage expectations, do they have good communication skills across diversity in teams, cultures and discipline, are they team-players, do they make you look good, and do they have a good network that you can tap into.

If tapping into external resources is not a possibility, then the internal team needs to reevaluate the go-no-go decision tree. At times, it is useful to bring in an external team just to get an outsider perspective and to reiterate the no-go decision.

In conclusion, the presenters reiterated that having clear SOW with external consultants, starting early with internal team with planning, idea generation, brain storming, and being cognizant of your own limitations can help with these decisions. The ability to create a dedicated team of internal and/or external contributors and seek out highly specified individuals to fill gaps in expertise is key to successful go-no-go decision making.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Models for Career Progression in RD

Slides: Attracting and Retaining Top Talent: Models for Career Progression in RD

Presenters:

  • Kim Patten, University of Arizona
  • Tisha Mullen, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • Gay Cookson, University of Utah
  • Gretchen Kiser, University of California San Francisco

Thanks to our session scribe, Daniel Campbell, Old Dominion University!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • The path matters for recruitment & retention and a poorly defined math can lead to low morale that can be an issue with all of the other demands on RD.
  • University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Office of Proposal Development utilized a tier structure already approved by HR for other units across campus and massaged RD positions to fit within the structure.
  • Using an existing/approved structure makes promotion easy within the unit, provides flexibility in hiring, supports future growth, is not static and can be revised.
  • University of Arizona – Central Research Development Office combined the UA Career Architecture Project and the NORDP community’s input for definition of RD, past & present job postings, salary survey, and previous conference presentations to create career levels that were more appropriate to RD.
  • It can be beneficial to focus on the Soft Benefits of RD and use them as a recruiting tool. Items such as; a flexible schedule, academic environment where opportunities abound, community, mentoring, & team building activities, and Professional Development opportunities for which many places have significant budgets.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Titles are an important issue to consider. Consider using working titles in addition to HR titles as titles can affect retention.

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

Question: How did you work with your teams to build these progression ladders?

Responses:

  • Be involved as early as possible
  • Survey the landscape
  • Engage with RD staff
  • Ensure appropriate levels; entry, mid, senior
  • Tie progression to functional skills and experience
  • Salary bands are broad enough to accommodate time in office
  • Develop clear job descriptions associated with career levels
  • Consider your office environment
  • Develop and maintain metrics – helps with expansion and recognizing change over time

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Make use of NORDP’s resources as they can be a great tool when working within your campus human resources structure.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Designing, Developing and Evaluating Team Science Support in an RD Office

Presenters:

  • Betsy Rolland, University of Wisconsin-Madison Carbone Cancer Center
  • David Widmer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center
  • Holly Falk-Krzesinski, Elsevier and Northwestern University

Thanks to our session scribe, MaryJo Banasik, University of Michigan Medical School!

Three seasoned research development professionals shared their expertise about how team science initiatives can be facilitated and supported by research development offices, including a discussion about the use of collaborative tools.

Holly Falk-Krzesinski provided an overview of what team science is, and how research development professionals can support team science by engaging in activities such as: facilitating collaboration, engaging in proposal development through funding opportunity identification and grantsmanship support, providing team science training, and policy advocacy that aligns appointment, promotion, and tenure guidelines with participation in team science work.

Betsy Rolland described how a new research development office with an emphasis on team science adopted several team science-specific areas of focus to build a team science infrastructure, such as support, education, interventions, and research. To work toward supporting team science, the research development office conducted a needs assessment and identified organizational barriers. A suite of services was developed along with manuals of operation that could be prototyped with small teams. Metrics were identified, such as quantifying demand for services and numbers of individuals and teams trained, as well as assessment of services and impact through satisfaction surveys.

David Widmer described a funding development team, including a position that will focus specifically on complex grants. The team is responsible for stimulating collaboration as well as providing hands-on support for complex proposals. The team is working to increase complex grant proposal submissions to add strategic value to the institution. Toward increasing submissions, the office is working on growing teams through sponsoring events such as speed dating on scientific techniques, maintaining a database, and incorporating empirical research, communication strategies, and best practices into their complex grant development activities.

Holly Falk-Krzesinski closed the session by presenting a number of tools that are available to facilitate team science, such as the Team Science Toolkit and the Collaboration and Team Science Field Guide, both developed by the National Cancer Institute. Holly also pointed out a repository of literature about team science available through an open access Science of Team Science (SciTS) group on Mendeley. Additional resources that Holly highlighted include the Toolbox Dialogue Initiative, the Individual Collaboration Readiness Tool, the Matrix Assessment Tool, and the Collaboration Success Wizard developed by UC Irvine. Holly recommended www.teamscience.net to learn to perform transdisciplinary, team-based translational research for research development professionals, which she described as a good resource for research development professionals. Additional resources include the Science of Team Science Listserv and a professional society for the Science of Team Science.

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Using Technology for the Limited Submission Process

Presenter:

  • Daniel Moseke, University of Arizona

Thanks to our session scribe, Lisa Youngentob, University of Tennessee Health Science Center!

This roundtable discussion was well attended with participants representing a wide range of RD offices…large, small, biomedical, social sciences, the arts, public, private, industry, central, departmental, well financed and not. Despite the varied types of home institutions, everyone had the same goal, seeking out best practices on how to manage the limited submission process. One attendee described it well, “Despite the differences in size, scope and available resources (personnel and budget), there is a baseline level of infrastructure needed by every institution to run the limited submission process…finding the opportunities, announcing them to campus, managing the competition and review process, and awarding.”

The NORDP Limited Submission Circle was the first topic discussed. There was a lot of enthusiasm for getting members more engaged in this Circle (most were not even aware it existed), with many agreeing they would be more likely to post to a group of peers working in this arena every day, as opposed to putting a very specific LS questions out to the NORDP general listserv. The hope was, it could also serve as a great place for uploading and sharing resources (processes, links to institutional funding opportunity announcement pages, reviewer assessment question, etc.).

Attendees then shared how they identified relevant limited submission opportunities. These included, daily searches of Grants.gov, signing up for email notification of agency funding announcements (both federal and foundation), perusing funding opportunity webpages of other universities, (and even signing up for their funding opportunity newsletters), and using subscription-based funding opportunity databases (i.e. Pivot, Spin, Funding Institutional). Some institutions have developed their own funding opportunity database, using their in-house IT teams.

Methods of announcing limited submissions took different forms, such as, Mail Chimp, sharing via subscription-based databases, and internal listservs. But, email (with attached pdf), sent to specific investigators or to faculty as a whole, seemed to be the most commonly used technique…although most were interested in finding a “better, less time-consuming way.”

There was some discussion of administering the limited submission process itself…how to best keep track of it all…collection, review, and management. Ideas offered included subscriptions to services such as InfoReady Review, WizeHive, Trello, and Asana (some platforms offering free versions), and good, old Google Sheets/Excel spreadsheets. Calendars are also being used, both in Outlook and hard-copy, desk calendars.

Not surprisingly, finding willing reviewers is an ongoing issue raised by almost everyone. Some institutions use carrots, some use sticks. Reviewer pools are being generated from past awardees, assignment by deans/chairman, ad-hoc committees, promotion requirement, and volunteers. Thank you notes, luncheons, and acknowledgement by upper administration, were some of the reviewer enticements that were described by the group.

The takeaway from this roundtable was the realization that there are a lot of us out there who deal with the limited submission process on a daily basis. This group has a lot of questions, but, more importantly, they have a lot of answers and great ideas, which they are willing to share with one another…it’s the NORDP way!

 

NORDP 2019 Conference Notes: Funder Spotlight: US Department of Defense

Slides: Funder Spotlight: US Department of Defense

Presenter:

  • Valerie Browning, DARPA, Director of Defense Sciences Office

Thanks to our session scribe, Summer Young, Missouri University of Science and Technology!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • DARPA’s uniqueness among DOD funding agencies and other agencies in general should not be an obstacle to working with DARPA (goal of session was to demystify and educate).DoD-Logo
  • How and why DARPA created: February 1959 just after Sputnik launch – sense of urgency that US had fallen behind – to make sure US was never surprised by the technological innovation of an adversary again.
  • DARPA charter is to invest in pivotal breakthrough technologies and capabilities for national security.
  • DARPA mission priority spaces include defending the homeland (cyber deterrence, countering hypersonics, bio threat detection and mitigation, defense against weapons of mass destruction), deterring & defending against high-end adversaries (adaptive lethality for air, land, and sea; long-range effects, control of the spectrum, robust space), and effectively executing stabilization efforts (warrior performance, countering grayzone warfare, 3D city-scale operations, behavior modeling and influence).
  • DSO has developed a framework for prioritizing funding strategy (turning future challenges into opportunities) among four trends: globalization and proliferation of technology (need for greater agility, speed in innovation), increasing pace of conflict (need to act and react at speeds faster than human brain can work), increasing use of measured escalation (gray zone) tactics (need tools for quickly addressing these kind of threats), and ensuring best technologies for detecting and preventing weapons of mass destruction.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

One of DARPA DSO’s current outward-facing thrusts (for engaging with public R&D) relates to complex social systems and includes diverse funding opportunities for social sciences researchers.

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

One of our NORDP colleagues asked about challenges her smaller research university has in meeting DARPA security requirements. The presenter acknowledged that this was an issue DARPA is aware of and has discussed at university engagement roundtables.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Ways to engage with DARPA:

  • BAAs (can be alerted through Constant Contact)
  • Proposers Day for larger programs (DSO does 6-7 per year)
  • DARPA Young Faculty Award
  • Disruptioneering & other rapid acquisition efforts
    • pioneered by DSO in last few years
    • new way of doing R&D acquisition
    • topics released ~monthly throughout year
      • quick turnaround to award
      • abridged proposal
      • streamlined cost proposal
      • 18 month, two phase efforts

Slides from NORDP 2019 Posted

Slides from many of the NORDP 2019 presentations are now available on the NORDP website HERE. Just click through to each Concurrent Breakout Session and look for “Download presentation” buttons.nordp sesh.jpg

More presentations will be forthcoming. If you presented at NORDP 2019 but did not submit your slides, expect to be contacted soon. Please provide your slides if possible as they are a great resource for our membership!

Select conference notes will begin posting to the blog next week. Stay tuned.

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.

Cranford Addresses Cultural Competency at NORDP’s Plenary Session

cranford“Day to day, what does inclusion look like at your institution?”

This is among the many thought-provoking questions that Jacqueline Cranford, founder of Cranford Advisory Services, will present to NORDP conference attendees at the plenary session scheduled for 11:00 a.m., Tues., Apr. 30.

Cranford’s presentation, titled “Diversity, Inclusion and You: Advancing Cultural Competence within NORDP and the Communities We Serve,” will lay a foundation to help RD professionals understand the concept of cultural competency on both the individual and institutional level.

Cranford will define terms related to diversity and inclusion, create a common language for understanding related issues, and identify ways to recognize issues on campuses throughout the nation and in how we engage with one another within NORDP.

“For example, when you walk the halls at your institution, do you feel represented in the photos on the walls?” she asks. “Is the language that you use with your NORDP colleagues inclusive?”

Cranford encourages RD professionals to come to the plenary session ready and willing to engage in the discussion and experience “how quickly our brains make associations.”  Ultimately, the goal is to provide RD professionals with introspective insights into their own biases, enabling them to be a conduit and help raise awareness of diversity and inclusion at their institutions.

“What can you do to be part of the change?” she prompts.

A graduate of Oral Roberts University and the University of Virginia School of Law, Cranford has spent more than 20 years helping professionals recognize and appreciate the intersectionality of talent management, diversity, and inclusion and guiding them through strategies for effectively managing all three.

In addition to serving clients in the legal and corporate sectors, she has recently focused on the environment of academia, consulting with several business schools and law schools on issues related to cultural competency.  Over the years, clients have turned to her for expertise in diversity and inclusion, recruiting, professional development, performance management, leadership training, business development and global integration.  More information on her firm can be found at https://www.cranfordadvisory.com.

Submitted by Sharon Pound

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.