By Caitlin McDermott-Murphy (NE Secretary; Harvard University, Faculty of Arts & Sciences) with contributions by Kathy Cataneo (NE Chair; University of New Hampshire) (corrected to reflect actual authorship)
In In the Fall 2013 NORDP newsletter, the NORDP Northeast (NE) regional group published an article on the history and impact of our small and relatively new faction. We briefly delved into the value our participants receive: rich presentations and problem-solving in our bi-annual conferences; relationships and collaborations that extend beyond the borders of our meetings; and open exchange of tools, ideas, and business cards. In this latest article, we share our progress over the past year, including a debrief of our most recent – and largest! – conference to date.
To cater to our diverse member needs and develop a robust program, we solicited ideas for our anticipated July 2014 NORDP NE conference agenda via several avenues. First, those New England-based RD professionals who attended the May 2014 NORDP Conference in Portland, OR participated in a breakfast brainstorming session. Our NORDP NE advisory committee members—Anne Windham, Kathy Cataneo, and Susan Gomes—facilitated the session while NORDP NE communications coordinator Caitlin McDermott-Murphy organized and synthesized the session output. Second, in order to include input from those unable to attend the National conference, we disseminated this information to our NORDP NE July conference planning committee. We expect to continue to seek input for future conferences through a similar variety of methods in order to best serve our diverse constituents.
Our July 2014 Northeast Regional Conference
In July, the University of New Hampshire (UNH) at Durham and current chair, Kathy Cataneo (UNH Director of Research Development & Communications) hosted our Summer NORDP NE conference. The conference theme was “Inter- and Intra-Institutional Collaboration,” a theme not just evident in our session topics and activities but in our attendees as well. We welcomed fifty-five participants—our highest attendance since the founding of NORDP NE three years ago. This number included attendees from states previously unrepresented and, in fact, Research Development professionals arrived from every New England state, a first for our burgeoning group. In addition, we welcomed special guest Karin Scarpinato from Georgia Southern University. Karin is launching a regional group, analogous to NORDP NE, to serve RD professionals at institutions in the Southeast. With this goal in mind, she requested to attend and observe our July conference to gain insight, ask questions, and share her own ideas and impressions. We look forward to learning about the Southeast region’s progress and to share tips and pitfalls as both our groups grow.
The format of the NORDP NE July conference mirrored that of the NORDP Annual Conference. After Anne Windham (NORDP Board Member and founding NORDP NE chair) and Kathy Cataneo (current NORDP NE chair) welcomed attendees, keynote speaker Dr. Jan Nisbet, UNH Senior Vice-Provost for Research, spoke on the topic, “From Center Director to SVPR: How my journey informed research development at UNH.” Dr. Nisbet’s speech was followed by NORDP NE member-led concurrent sessions on member-driven topics. These included:
- Communicating Funding Opportunities to Faculty
- Balancing Sole-Investigator Proposals with Multi-Investigator Proposals
- Strategic Deployment of University Resources
- Managing the Proposal Development Process for Multi-Investigator Proposals
- Building Teams Around Programmatic Proposals
- Creating Center Proposals
- Evaluation Planning
More often than not, session co-presenters hailed from separate institutions, resulting in rich debates with alternate perspectives, experiences, tools, and methods, as well as new cross-institutional partnerships.
In addition to concurrent sessions, the NORDP NE July conference included two new activities. To kick things off, each institution offered 2 to 4 current institutional research strengths (or “pillars”) as well as 2 to 4 aspirations (See image 1). As attendees settled in, networked and enjoyed the lavish breakfast spread, they also took a moment to paste their institution’s name beneath different research areas written across one wall, signifying that area as an institutional “pillar” or “aspiration.” This shared resource will encourage and assist institutions to seek new collaborations and partnerships across our region.
The second new activity occurred over lunch: each roundtable featured a representative from those offices that collaborate with UNH RD staff most frequently. UNH provided the hosts, who hailed from: Research Administration; Commercialization, Technology Transfer, and Innovation; Cyberinfrastructure; Corporate and Foundation Relations; Graduate School and Graduate Student Support; Government Relations; Broader Impacts, Engagement, and Cooperative Extension; and Communications For and About Research. These “Themed Roundtables” provided an opportunity to ask questions about the scope of these offices, where Research Development might intersect, and how to develop partnerships to add value to what we individually and collectively offer our faculty.
Our National Institutes of Health (NIH) Webinar
Moving forward, NORDP NE will look for opportunities to extend our regional collaboration even further. With Federal budgets tightened—and tightening—program officers receive less travel funding at a time when our faculty arguably need their close guidance and influence more than ever. As such, RD offices—and the faculty we serve—benefit from organized collaborative events that serve not just one institution but an entire region. Our region has, for example, benefited from such an event. This past September, UNH organized a webinar on the “Fundamentals of the NIH and the NIH Grants Process”, featuring Megan Columbus, Director of the Office of Communications and Outreach in the NIH Office of Extramural Research. UNH advertised the webinar to its NORDP NE partners and, as a result, recorded over 275 faculty, postdoctoral, graduate student and staff participants across New England (with a few in Canada, New York, and Texas no less). This proved to be a “win-win” for NIH and NORDP NE institutions. We plan to seek additional opportunities to share such resources and to leverage our regional numbers to entice program officers to visit and interact with our researchers. There is power in numbers!