Researching Research Development

A project responding to David Stone’s call for “empirical research into what [research developers] do” was approved by the NORDP Board in the fall of 2016. Its long-range goal is to provide information that will “improve our performance as professionals and…connect what we do to constituent groups and institutions to whom we bring value.” The investigation will address “type, scope, [and] scale” questions and seek to identify knowledge, skills, and aptitudes essential in research development. This project will be undertaken to help formalize research development in its structures, functions, and definitions–and this in turn will in turn address one of the major goals of the research effort, which is, as Stone notes, to “provide a standardized basis from which to create benchmarks, develop quality improvement guidance (and programming), devise assessment mechanisms, and establish best or promising practices within the profession.”

To accomplish these purposes, two gaps in the research development corpus will be addressed: the characterization of activity in the field and the delineation of knowledge, skills, and aptitudes believed to be necessary for entry into and advancement within research development. This material will be developed through analysis of job descriptions and survey and focus group investigation. Interpretation of the results will be informed by work already completed by the NORDP Special Programs Working Group in 2013 and by the existing descriptions of research development.

A team of four research development professionals who are all NORDP members will complete the study in 2017 and 2018. Reports of findings will be made at NORDP and other conferences as well as through publication.

Arriving at an evidence-based understanding of the purposes, practices, and key characteristics of research development has broad application relevant to current and future practitioners, institutional structures, organization of knowledge, and acceptance and advancement of the field. As Stone noted regarding practitioners, “Such work could…help us better understand what kinds of individuals, with what kinds of training, skills, and abilities, are best suited for various roles within research development, as well as what their professional trajectories are like. Findings in these areas might improve our capacity to recruit, retain, and provide succession planning and longer-term career paths for individuals in research development.” The research team and NORDP Board are pleased to announce that these goals will be pursued beginning this year.

All NORDP members will be invited to participate in this project, so stay tuned for more information.

Who said July and August were slow months? An update from NORDP President Gretchen Kiser

by Gretchen Kiser

I had wanted to dedicate some substantive time to writing my first post to you all, my valued colleagues in research development, to say something prophetic and inspiring for my first blog post.  Alas, I must tell you, at the risk of revealing too much, that my “The first month or so” blog post has now become “Who said July and August were slow months?” blog post.  This is the life of a research development professional.

I hope you will forgive this delay, especially as I tell you that your Board has not been at all idle. Here’s some of the things we’ve been working on over July and part of August:

  • On-boarding Keith Osterhage, our new Executive Director, who is an enthusiastic advocate for our goals, and has already been diving right in to help with several important tasks!
  • Working with our event planners, Designing Events, and our Executive Director to vet and select our conference venue in the DC area for 2018. We’re close to making a decision.
  • Goal-setting and planning. Board member Terri Soelberg and her university Boise State University generously hosted our Board leadership meeting at the end of August. In preparing for this meeting, I had the privilege of speaking individually with each Board member and will just say that NORDP is well-served by a diverse set of insightful and dedicated professionals.  As a means of understanding the strengths of ourselves as a Board and how to best work with each other, we utilized the StrengthsFinder tool to assess our individual professional strengths.  Not surprisingly, collectively we have a lot of strength in the tool categories of Learner, Strategic, Relator, and Achiever.

We tackled quite a few topics in our 2 days in Boise and I look forward to working together to execute our ambitious strategies to: realize our academic RD research arm (aka NORD), enhance and expand our professional development offerings, including into leadership development (LDRD), drive new sources of revenue, further engage critical partners outside of NORDP, thus expanding our sphere of influence and bringing new and valuable resources to our membership, work to implement more effective communication methods, develop a framework for regional and other affinity groups within NORDP, and define ways to help increase diversity in research development.  Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll focus a set of communications on a few of the topics that we discussed at the leadership retreat and hope to then give you all a good understanding of the direction that we’d like to take NORDP this year.

Let me start with some of the changes that we’re planning for the Effective Practices and Professional Development (EPPD) Committee.  Three very important programs have been nurtured under the EPPD umbrella: Online Professional Development, Mentoring and Pre-Conference Workshops.  As we pivot to further expand our professional development resources, we are going to pull ‘professional development’ into its own committee.  The new Program Development Committee will be focused on online as well as other professional development resources, and now including Leadership Development in Research Development (LDRD) content as well. Kari Whittenberger-Keith and Ioannis Konstantinidis will be the Board co-chairs of this committee.  The newly stand-alone Mentoring Committee will continue the fantastic work they have been doing now with Karen Fletcher serving as the Board representative for that committee.  Finally, the Pre-Conference Workshop group (still led by Kari Whittenberger-Keith) will slide over to sit under the Conference Committee, headed this year by Michael Spires.

I’m so excited about working together to meet the challenges and potentials for NORDP over the next year –  setting-up NORDP for organizational success and providing our membership with valuable resources for career development and doing their jobs more effectively.

New Dispatch from 20 North Wacker: Research Development as a Field

If you’re reading this blog, you probably know what research development professionals do: organize faculty and other researchers, help find funding for them, translate federal-agency speak, serve as the ‘glue’ for research proposal development teams, assess institutional strengths, mentor young faculty as they learn to write grants…But have you ever stopped to wonder what research development IS? NORDP President David Stone makes the case for research development as an emerging intellectual discipline–and what that means for us as professionals in the field. Read more in his latest Dispatch from 20 North Wacker. This essay is special content for members only. Intrigued? Join NORDP today!