NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: NORDP Program for External Evaluation of Research Development (PEERD): Perspectives from Evaluators and Institutions Evaluated

NORDP Program for External Evaluation of Research Development (PEERD): Perspectives from Evaluators and Institutions Evaluated


  • Jerilyn Hansen, Utah State University
  • Susan Carter, Retired, UC Merced
  • Kay Tindle, Texas Tech University
  • Peggy Sundermeyer, Trinity University

Thanks to our session scribe, Mary Jo Daniel, University of New Mexico!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • PEERD is a new (formalized in 2017) service offered through NORDP that currently has a pool of 8 reviewers.
  • PEERD reviews are planned collaboratively by institutional leadership and the PEERD team.
  • Review team composition is critical; there needs to be a balance of personalities, skill sets, and experience levels.
  • Reviews engage campus leadership, the RD office being reviewed, and faculty groups.
  • Reviews result in actionable recommendations.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

Not a surprise, but a good idea: it’s best to plan for a follow-up meeting to share review recommendations broadly with those who participated in the review (e.g., other administrators, faculty members).

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

What was the most interesting question asked by an audience member, and what was the presenters’ response?

An audience member pointed out that evaluations can be judgment-based/draw from experience, or more data-driven (e.g., use of repeatable protocols). The audience member felt that PEERD appears to emphasize the first, and wanted to know how this was decided upon. The presenters explained that individual campus goals determine the approach taken by the PEERD group. So, if a campus requests an analysis of data, the PEERD group is able to do this.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Cost of a PEERD review is dependent on individual campus goals and the design of the review itself, but a “ballpark” figure for the service is between $12K – $18K. The PEERD reviewers are paid a fee and NORDP is paid for its administration of the program.

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

The Transition from Postdoc to Research Development: Maile Henson

Henson photo
Maile Henson, Research Development Associate, Office of Research Development, Duke University School of Medicine

Describe your work in research development (RD): Our office facilitates the development and submission of complex (i.e. multi-investigator, multi-institutional, multi-component) and individual grant proposals, mostly to NIH. I work with principal investigators and research teams to develop their study designs and grantsmanship strategies, providing advice on programmatic intent, content, organization, and presentation, as well as critical editing and writing support. Besides proposal development, I assist with grant writing workshops and develop project management tools for defining RD best practices for our office.

Describe your postdoc work: I studied the process by which connections, or synapses, between neurons in the developing brain are weakened and eliminated. I manipulated the strength of synapses by treating brain tissue with drugs, and determined synaptic changes with confocal imaging. My work showed that synapses have to be weakened multiple times to be eliminated, which requires gene and protein synthesis, as well as activity by enzymes involved in cell death and brain functions (such as learning and memory).

Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: Close to the end of my NIH postdoc, I realized that my motivations for getting the PhD had changed and I no longer enjoyed the bench work. I needed a different kind of challenge. Through an internship opportunity in the Scientific Review Branch at NIH/NIEHS, I helped manage the grant peer review process for two reviews, and participated in several others. I then worked briefly with small biotech startups applying for non-dilutive NIH research funding through SBIR/STTR grants. These experiences solidified my decision to pursue a career away from the lab. During this time, I met my soon-to-be supervisor through an informational interview, where we shared our mutual interests in the art of grantsmanship and the drive to help scientists get funding to do their great science. I applied later for an opening on her Office of Research Development team, and here I am in my third year of RD.

Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: Trained as a neuroscientist with extensive experience writing and editing scientific manuscripts and grant applications, I had a solid foundation moving into research development. My many years spent in lab research helped me to understand the grant applicant’s perspective. However, I also brought a unique perspective to the job: managing both grant proposal preparations and peer reviews after submission gave me key insights into the behind-the-scenes processes of the NIH funding world. I interacted with multiple parties (PIs/applicants, peer reviewers, scientific review staff, program staff, grant administrators), managing deadlines; observing and documenting review panel deliberations; advising investigators on funding opportunities, proposal strategy, content, organization, and requirements; and ensuring successful integration of grant components. These experiences frame my RD work every day.

What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? Learn all you can about the field. Talk to an RD professional. Find an institution with an internship program that will give you exposure to the type of work and skills required to be successful in RD.

What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? I enjoy working with the faculty on strategies in developing their proposals. The gratitude from the investigators for all we do to help them submit polished, competitive proposals, and the thrill of getting funding to enable cutting-edge science are wonderful affirmations to me. I know I made the right career choice.

Why do you think RD is a good career choice? I love my job! RD suits my strengths and interests well. I know this is what I am meant to be doing in my career and I think many others would agree if they had an opportunity to explore RD.

Posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee committee


NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: Practical Strategies for Facilitating Innovative Research

Practical Strategies for Facilitating Innovative Research


  • Donnalyn Roxey, Knowinnovation
  • Andy Burnett, Knowinnovation

Thanks to our session scribe, Jennifer Huntington, University of Michigan!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Knowinnovation designed the “Ideas Lab” – a multi-day program to develop ideas among faculty members with different areas of expertise to create a proposal for funding.
  • Creativity was defined as the production of novel and useful thinking. Everyone is creative in different ways that leads to innovation.
  • Tools to use with faculty in order to foster ideation that will get researchers to truly collaborate and think beyond their own ideas of what is important.
  • Clear link between Research Development professionals and their ability to use their skills creatively to foster innovative research. RD professionals are not just the implementation piece.
  • During the session, there were two points at which the audience was asked to speak with someone sitting next to them about 1. Where each person could use more creative methods in RD, and 2. What have you seen work well in that space? This was a great way to develop connections with colleagues and share ideas.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

It was surprising to have the session be based around the idea of creativity and how we can foster that first in ourselves and understand that we are all creative in different ways. That really helped tie into the proposed strategies for fostering innovative research. It surprised me how willing Knowinnovation was to share some of their methodology for us to immediately utilize at our home institutions.

What resources did you discover at this presentation?

Two models were shared: Web of Abstraction – how to define the “problem” or really understand what the problem is.  PPCO – how to focus on the values of different ideas to stop the “that’s a terrible idea” mindset. PPCO evaluates an idea starting with the Pluses, the Potentials, the Concerns, and lastly, how to Overcome some of the Concerns (when possible). The presenter did state that she was willing to share any other resources around Knowinnovation’s methods.

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

One question was asked about ideal group size for ideation workshops. Another participant asked how to get faculty to attend the workshops. The presenter responded that the ideal size is less than 10, and that the “sweet spot” is a group of 7-8 people. That then tied into clarifying that a successful workshop of this type is NOT based on attendance/size, so getting faculty to “show up” is not actually the program’s goal. It becomes rather difficult to effectively ideate around innovative concepts when there isn’t an ability to narrow the focus enough. The end goal of these workshops is to have a handful of faculty come out with a great proposal concept for funding.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

If you sign-up for the Knowinnovation blog, they periodically post about the work they are doing, including methodologies and other helpful tips. They offer many services, including: workshops, virtual events, lunchtime talks, 3-day proposal building sessions, and ideas labs.

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.

The Transition from Postdoc to Research Development: Alexis Nagel

Alexis Nagel, Research Development Strategist, Office of Research Development, Medical University of South Carolina

Describe your work in research development (RD): I help to identify and advertise funding opportunities that are aligned with faculty research interests and institutional priorities. I also work with research interest groups on campus to build long-term strategies for funding. I manage my institution’s annual shared instrumentation (NIH) and research infrastructure improvement (NSF) grant application submissions, and assist with preparation of multi-component program and center proposals. Also, I lead informational sessions and faculty enrichment activities, including a grant writing workshop that I developed.

Describe your postdoc work: I received my PhD in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology in 2010. During my first postdoc, I studied the role of metabolic-sensing O-GlcNAc post-translational modifications in bone health and development using mass spectrometry (MS) based techniques. For my second postdoc, I applied MS-based molecular networking approaches to discover and characterize natural product drug leads.

Describe your transition from your postdoc/research background to RD: It was during my second postdoc that I discovered an aptitude for grant writing and proposal management that set the stage for my eventual transition to RD. Toward the end of my first postdoc I began to have doubts about the tenure-track faculty path for a variety of reasons and recognized the need for a career reassessment. I then learned of a newly hired senior faculty member who had relocated to our institution and needed help assembling proposals while reestablishing his lab. Because I was already considering an alternative career path, I was open to dialing back my research responsibilities to accommodate grant preparation activities. Over time I found I enjoyed this role; however, I also understood that I needed to move up and out of my postdoctoral training phase if I was serious about pursuing a different career trajectory. When a position opened up in my institution’s RD office several months later I applied and was hired as a Research Development Officer.

Describe the benefits your postdoc work provides to your skill set related to RD: Senior postdocs and early-career faculty members face many challenges while attempting to build funding for their research programs. As someone who traveled down this road for a time, I understand these frustrations and I am attempting to translate lessons learned from these experiences into training opportunities and resources that will serve and support these groups at my institution.

What words of wisdom do you have for postdocs who might consider an RD career? To be effective in RD you will need to build a diverse set of relationships with faculty and staff members at your institution and possibly other partnering entities and funding agencies. So make sure you like talking to people! In RD, interpersonal skills are probably just as important as writing experience and will serve you well when navigating the political landscape.

What has been your best experience, so far, with your work in RD? Observing the successful outcomes of long-term team funding efforts. When you start at the ground floor with a faculty group and continue to work alongside them the entire way, it is gratifying to see the combined hard work and planning of the team pay off as they reach their funding goals.

Why do you think RD is a good career choice? While I am no longer directly involved in academic research, I continue to have a tremendous passion for the sciences and respect for those working within the various fields. After being completely immersed in one subject area for so many years, I now appreciate the “20,000-foot view,” as it were, of the latest science taking place at my institution and across the nation. Additionally, I think if I had pursued a traditional faculty path I would have needed many more years of seniority before I was in a position to give back to the faculty research community through training and education, which is another aspect of this position that I really enjoy.

What other insights might be relevant to postdocs considering an RD career? To these postdocs – it is important to keep in mind that your investment in scientific training is not a sunk cost! My guess is that you have many transferrable skills that simply require an adjustment in focus. I would suggest reading current RD position announcements to get a feel for the field, and reaching out to RD professionals either at your institution or through NORDP. Schedule informational interviews and inquire how these individuals came to be in their current role. Then think about how you can re-tailor or otherwise build upon your existing training to ideally position yourself for such a role in the future.

Posted on behalf of the Strategic Alliances Committee committee

NORDP 2018 Conference Notes: The Little RD Office That Could: Lessons Learned from RD Program Flops

The Little RD Office That Could: Lessons Learned from RD Program Flops


  • Karen Fletcher, Appalachian State University
  • Katie Howard, Appalachian State University

Thanks to our session scribe, Suzanne Lodato, Indiana University Bloomington!

Key points from the session. We learned:

  • Unsuccessful programming gives you an opportunity to rethink and revise your programming and move forward.
  • If you observe your audience while you are facilitating a program, you will see it is obvious when they are beginning to lose focus. Exercises like stretching breaks can help participants refocus.
  • Sometimes it is more effective to split longer workshops into smaller, more digestible sessions. For example, for finding funding, an overview session can be followed up by a separate hands-on funding database workshop.
  • Often a single session is more effective than a series of multiple sessions, particularly if you can gather some feedback within the single session. Participants tend to drop out of multi-week programs.
  • Workshops that require registration draw much better participation than drop-in workshops.

What did you hear at this presentation that surprised you?

  • Appalachian State is a PUI, but is currently recruiting more faculty who are “research intensive.”
  • Most participants who attend a finding funding workshop do not think it works well.
  • A two hour finding funding workshop tends to be ineffective because too much material is presented in one sitting and people lose focus.

What were the most interesting questions asked by audience members, and what was the presenters’ response?

  • For finding funding, some research development professionals encourage faculty to set up profiles before attending a hands-on database session.
  • What didn’t work: one person organized drop-in days for consultations on finding funding that were poorly attended.
  • Appalachian State has a separate office for undergrad research.

What else from this session should NORDP members know?

Here are two grant writing workshop models that worked well:

  • A multi-week program that required a sign-off from the faculty member’s department chair. Participants submitted a white paper to apply for the workshop, and the white papers were judged by means of a competitive process. Faculty had to commit to attending a specified minimum number of sessions. Participants identified a scientific mentor. Staff identified a senior mentor with whom the participant met once a month. Participants were also mentored by staff and peers. Only senior mentors were paid, because they had to meet with participants once per month and report back. Mentoring and accountability to the mentor were the reasons for the success of the program. Participants talked about more than just their current proposal with their mentor, so they developed their career paths, too.
  • Short, internal grant writing workshops 1.5 hours in length. The grant program is reviewed in the session, and participants spend time discussing their proposal ideas to receive feedback. An exercise may encourage participants to write for a very short period of time (e.g., 90 seconds), but they are not required to write during the workshop.