The first ever National Postdoc Appreciation day was held on September 24th 2009, and in 2010, NPAW was nationally recognized when the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.RES. 1545. The National Postdoctoral Association (NPA), in collaboration with its affiliated Postdoc Associations and Offices at institutes across the country recognize the passion, the perseverance, the hard work and toil, and the commitment to their craft that postdocs across the country demonstrate every single day. These organizations host networking events, breakfast and ice-cream socials, motivational speakers, receptions, and game nights, to name a few.
Postdoctoral scholars are highly trained and possess transferrable skills such as project management, effective time management, leadership, communication skills, the ability to speak different “languages,” and many more, and therefore, make particularly talented research development professionals. NORDP hopes to continue our relationship with the NPA to increase awareness of Research Development as one of the non-traditional paths for postdoctoral scholars as well as act as a supportive resource for postdoctoral scholars headed for the traditional academic route.
NORDP is proud to recognize the contributions made by the NPA in improving the postdoctoral experience and providing opportunities for professional growth, creating policies for the betterment of postdoctoral scholars and help them create a balance between personal and professional lives. NORDP also recognizes its several members, who came into the research development through the postdoc route, several of whose stories have been highlighted on our blog recently. Thank you for your contributions and Happy NPAW 2018!
posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee by Samar Sengupta
The following is part of a limited blog series from the Strategic Alliances Committee highlighting NORDP members who have transitioned from postdoctoral positions to careers in research development.
Describe your work in research development (RD): I am currently a proposal development manager in the Office of Research Development within the Division of Research at the University of Maryland. I am responsible for managing multidisciplinary teams of scientists and leading them to submit highly prestigious, multi-million dollars grants to various sponsors. The teams vary with the open calls and so do the represented disciplines.
Describe your postdoc work: My scientific background is in infectious diseases. During my first postdoc, I investigated the role of a host protein in waking up Herpes Simplex Virus type 1 from latency in infected neurons. The work was seminal in demonstrating that, in fact, a host protein was indispensable for that event to start, and another postdoc demonstrated that it recruited a whole complex of proteins to re-activate the viral transcription. In a shorter second postdoc, I identified a Heat Shock protein as binding to Ebola Virus genome, and in a later publication on which I am a collaborative author, the team demonstrated that this protein was indispensable to viral replication, making it a potential drug target.
Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: I was very involved in professional and career development during my postdoc, helping other postdocs (and myself) find the career of their dream. I became the grants and training development specialist in one of the NIH institutes, which totally opened up my love for proposal development and helping others better write how much their science would impact our society.
Describe the benefits your postdoc work provided to your skill set related to RD: I was a restless postdoc, always getting involved in “other/administrative” internships. I became a great listener and talker as well.
What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? As a postdoc, you have cultivated the passion for science. Now, keep the breadth and forget about the depth.
What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? Moving to my current position has been the best experience in research development. Before that, I felt that I was only allowed to dabble, expressing other people’s way of doing. Now, I become part of the team every time I support a new proposal development. I am learning about their subject matter so I can provide critical feedback to their proposed research. I continue to read everything about science (I am member of the AAAS, reader of Science magazine, reader of Nature and TheScientist, in addition to NSF and NIH news).
Why do you think RD is a good career choice? Well, I like the fact that I don’t have to drill too deep into one subject anymore; instead, I can dream big with a team, and differently as I move on to the next team. I like the fast pace and flexible hours. I don’t mind taking on a few hours of work at night or on weekends provided that I can work flexibly otherwise.
What other insights might be relevant to postdocs considering an RD career? Be patient and nurture your professional network. Be professional and always give the best of yourself, which is why I feel I was offered my current position!
Message below from the National Science Foundation:
The National Science Foundation (NSF) announces the launch of the NSF 2026 Idea Machine, a prize competition to help set the U.S. agenda for fundamental research in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) and STEM education. Participants can earn cash prizes and receive public recognition by suggesting the pressing research questions that need to be answered in the coming decade, the next set of “Big Ideas” for future investment by NSF. It’s an opportunity for researchers, the public and other interested stakeholders to contribute to NSF’s mission to support basic research and enable new discoveries that drive the U.S. economy, enhance national security and advance knowledge to sustain the country’s global leadership in science and engineering.
Entries will be accepted through October 26, 2018. For more information, including entry instructions, eligibility, rules, and judging criteria, please visit the NSF 2026 Idea Machine website.
The following is part of a limited blog series from the Strategic Alliances Committee highlighting NORDP members who have transitioned from postdoctoral positions to careers in research development.
Describe your work in research development (RD): I’ve been engaged for about six months now, first as helping coordinate a NSF Materials Research Science and Engineering Center (MRSEC) resubmission, then other various NSF center applications coming from the former faculty from our current MRSEC.
Describe your postdoc work: My postdoc was focused on trying to grow teeth. More specifically, we were using the ever-growing mouse incisor stem cells and trying to create a 3D biomaterial platform to control the homeostasis and differentiation of these cells into enamel producing ameloblasts.
Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: I transitioned from my postdoc into my current position as Executive Director of the Research Triangle MRSEC, and found that the proposal development and team building aspect of the resubmission was something I very much enjoyed and wanted to pursue.
Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: Being able to think of the science “big picture” is something really necessary for a good postdoc, and those skills come in handy in research development, as well as the independent nature of the postdoc translates well into research development.
What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? Volunteer to be part of the grant writing process in any form in your current lab (helping write sections for you PI, or submitting your own) will help you in the long run. Also, reach out to your RD office on campus; you may be able to shadow or volunteer with their group to see if you really would enjoy the day to day experience of a RD professional.
What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? Of course, it is great when you hear something you worked on was funded, but sometimes it is a simple as getting the proposal out the door, knowing you helped make it the best it could be.
Why do you think RD is a good career choice? I really like the collaborative nature of the work; when you work with a really good team, it is really fun and exciting. The work is deadline driven and can be long hours during grant season, but as a postdoc we are used to the long hours, and it’s actually less hours than a typical postdoc, and the deadline is actually a nice change from bench work, in which there is always that “next experiment.”
What other insights might be relevant to postdocs considering an RD career? The NORDP group is really a great group of people that are super friendly and helpful, so if you are thinking of this type of career, just keep in contact with the representative and they will help you get connected!
Posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee committee
Join the premier organization for corporate-university relations professionals at our annual conference! Now open to anyone interested in corporate relations, university/industry partnerships, and our organization, this year’s conference will be in Atlanta, GA on July 24-26, 2018 at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta Downtown. Whether you’re new to the industry or a veteran, you’ll find opportunities to connect, learn and collaborate with peer institutions and industry representatives throughout the 20+ sessions and breakout groups. For program details and to register visit www.nacrocon.org.
NEW FOR 2018: NORDP members will receive a 25% discount off of conference registration! Contact email@example.com for details.
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.
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
Rhythm (e.g., eye leads naturally from left to right and top to bottom)
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
Make it look different than everyone else – like a pedigree perhaps
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
The Mentoring Committee is part way through a series of webinars to support mentors/mentees/peer mentors. The series focuses on tools provided within the OnBoarding Packet. The remaining webinars will help provide direction for your mentoring relationship, as well generally support your professional development. This includes assessing your skills to identify strengths and gaps, identifying individuals in your network that can provide mentorship, expertise, support or helping hands (my MESHH Network), and developing an individual professional development plan.
These webinars are open to the entire NORDP community, regardless of current participation in the NORDP Mentoring Program. Join us for one or all, and committee members will share tips as to how to use the tool, strategies for success, and other best practices.
We invite you to join us for the final three webinars in this series:
Self-Assessment Worksheet: Capitalizing on Strengths and Targeting Areas of Growth for Professional Development (June 27) Where do you want to be professionally in one year? In five years? What skills do you need to achieve your career goals? Self-awareness is an important part of professional development. The OnBoarding Packet contains a Self-Assessment Worksheet. The tool has several categories of skills that are relevant for research development, as well as open sections so that it can be tailored to each individual. The skills assessment can foster continual professional improvement for both mentees and mentors. By completing the skills assessment you can identify and target areas of growth needed to achieve your career goals. You can develop a plan to improve those skills with the help of your mentoring (MESHH) network. Over time, you can evaluate your growth by reassessing your skills, which can lead to new target areas for your professional development.
Presenter: Kathy Partlow, Ph.D., University of Nebraska-Lincoln
My MESHH Network: Developing Your Own Personalized Mentoring Network to Achieve Your Goals (July 11) Now that you have had the opportunity to assess your skills, abilities, strengths, and challenges with your mentor/mentee/peer mentor, what are some good ways to organize and manage your personal and professional development? This webinar will help you weave your network of support. A MESHH network consists of those people who provide Mentorship, Expertise, Support, and Helping Hands. The My MESHH Network tool builds on the Initial Conversation Guide and the Self-Assessment Worksheet to help you identify and connect with key individuals who can support your success. This webinar will provide an overview of the tool and explore how to form a customized mosaic of support.
Presenter: Christina Papke, Ph.D., Texas A&M University
The NORDP Individual Professional Development Plan (IPDP): Your Personalized Map for Success (July 18) The primary goal of a mentoring relationship is to ensure the mentee is well-positioned for targeted success and meaningful outcomes. Critical components of an effective mentoring experience are knowing the mentee’s needs, understanding how your mentor (and others identified through your MESHH network) can help address or meet your needs, and ultimately mapping out a course for your personal and professional development. Pulling from effective professional development plan models and based on the SMART goals concept, the NORDP IPDP serves as a tangible tool and thoughtful guidepost toward success and enrichment. The IPDP serves as a template for the mentor/mentee pair to work from to set their relationship up for success, both during and beyond the NORDP mentoring experience. This webinar session will briefly explain the importance of creating a professional development plan, walk participants through elements of the NORDP IPDP tool, offer examples of specific content in response to each section, and provide some additional resources to help develop the plan.
Presenters: Etta Ward, M.A., NORDP Board, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis (IUPUI)
Hilda McMackin, Ph.D., Vanderbilt University
Let’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.
Thanks to our session scribe, Regina Coles, Virginia Commonwealth University!
Key points from the session. We learned:
RFP design should include an Eligibility section, Purpose, Goals/Objectives, and provide clear Expectations/Reporting.
Include a request for feedback at each step of the process (e.g. submission, review, during the award and closeout).
Develop an award agreement and have key persons sign to encourage accountability.
Return on investment (ROI) should be tracked throughout the lifecycle and can comprise books, articles, proposals submitted, etc.
Require faculty to be in good standing to be eligible; delinquent reporting will make them ineligible for future internal funding.
What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?
This really shouldn’t surprise many, but the notion that program evaluation is critical to improving and understanding the benefits of the program. Essentially, if you are not collecting feedback you cannot improve the program.
What resources did you discover at this presentation?
The data that were provided were based on a survey sent out to the NORDP listserv last year. Thus this baseline data is an available resource for others that need it to support their own programs.
What were the most interesting questions asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters’ response?
Q: What outcomes can actually be attributed to the SEED funding and which are tangential to the funding? A: Is difficult to untangle this however if you are clear in the RFP about what the focus of the funding should be then that will help guide this.
Q: How long do you measure and track outcomes? A: Depends on the initial focus of the program – must be specific about the goals.
Q: How do you incentivize your reporting? A1: Create an agreement and include a reporting schedule. A2: Send reminder emails with a report template.
Q: How many years were data collected for programs that were ultimately sunsetted/discontinued (as provided in example)? A: About 7 years.
Q: How do you manage faculty that are already well-funded versus un-funded/early career faculty? A: Eligibility criteria for program should be clear as to which population the funding will support.
What else from this session should NORDP members know?
Provide FAQs if possible to help faculty/administrators.
Consider the submission platform – email vs. online.
The review process management should include setting expectations for reviewers, managing conflicts, and developing review criteria.
Consider targeted programs for junior faculty or postdocs/grad students.
Most seed programs are for funding amounts of $5K-$25K thus an emphasis should be on piloted ideas that are less polished instead of a focus on broader impacts.
Suggestion to incorporate a professional development plan for early career faculty in the submission.
I want to thank the Chair of the Nominating Committee, Nathan Meier (University of Nebraska-Lincoln) and the 2018 Nominating Committee: Jan Abramson (University of Utah), Rachel Goff-Albritton (Florida State University), Jeri Hansen (Utah State University), Mady Hymowitz (University of Western Ontario), Augusta Isley (Ball State University), Kim Patten (University of Arizona), Barbara Walker (UC-Santa Barbara), for their work soliciting and evaluating applications and nominations for this year’s Board of Directors election. Further, we appreciate their liaising with NORDP’s election provider, Survey & Ballot Systems, to communicate the 2018 election results which were ratified by the Board of Directors on June 12, 2018.
We are pleased to welcome three new members and one returning member who will serve a 4-year term (2018-2022) beginning July 1, 2018:
Kimberly Eck, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Jill Jividen, University of Michigan Medical School
Paul Tuttle, North Carolina A&T State University
Etta Ward, Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis
Congratulations to the new Board members and thank you to all the candidates for their participation.
We look forward to your leadership, energy and ideas as we strive to meet NORDP’s mission to support a robust national and international peer network of RD professionals whose broad goals include enabling competitive individual and team research, enhancing institutional competitiveness and catalyzing new research and institutional collaborations thereby facilitating research excellence.
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.