NORDP 2015 Conference Cameos: Bob MacDonald

Who: Bob MacDonald, Coordinator for Partnerships and Grants
Where: Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture
Number of years in research development: 5
Length of NORDP membership: 5
Number of NORDP conferences attended: 5
I was hired by the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in December, 2010, as its first Coordinator for Partnerships and Grants. My charge was simple but broad – to help ARS scientists to be more successful in obtaining soft funding. I had previously been with a Federal granting agency for 17 years, so I was very knowledgeable about Federal grant programs and grantsmanship – but this assignment was broader and, as I came to find out, very closely aligned with the emerging field of research development. I was both thrilled and anxious about my new task of helping ARS’ 2,000 scientists located in 90 locations across the nation. One of the first things I did was to visit several universities to learn what they did. I quickly ran into Ken Gertz, Associate Vice President for Research Development at the University of Maryland and one of the NORDP’s founders. He told me about NORDP, and I quickly joined and started attending the meetings.

What I learned at NORDP annual meetings was indispensable to my standing up a successful research development program at ARS – even though there are significant differences between universities and ARS, a Federal agency with units dispersed across the country. I learned what works and what does not work, could discuss strategies and programs with the wonderful members of NORDP, find and vet the tools and contracted support I needed, as well as be part of an exciting, growing organization of fantastic people. And the annual meetings are where this really takes place. The sharing of experiences, best practices, and hallway conversations are invaluable – as of course are the dinners out together! Today, in large part thanks to the shared experience of NORDP, I have a program that my scientists (who, like most scientists, are not fans of administration) love and avidly support.
The 2015 NORDP Research Development Conference will be held April 29 to May 1 in Bethesda, MD. For more information or to register, visit


NORDP 2015 Conference Cameo: Ashton Waite

 Meet our NORDP Conference  Attendees!
Who:  Ashton Waite, Proposal Development Coordinator
WhereUniversity of Nebraska-Lincoln
Number of years in research development: 3.5 years
Length of NORDP membership: 3 years
Number of NORDP conferences attended: 1
 Like many research development professionals, I never planned for such a career. Rather, I stumbled into the field when I discovered that picking a career didn’t require me to choose between my equal affection for English and organismal biology. Working as a proposal development coordinator at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln  (UNL) has allowed me to leverage my dual background in the humanities and sciences – each day I edit, write, and read about some form of scientific research.

My position aligns well with NORDP’s mission, as my work primarily involves partnering with faculty and extramural partners to facilitate the development of external grant proposals, with the goal of enhancing the quality and competitiveness of proposals submitted by UNL grant applicants. I joined NORDP within a year of entering the field and attended my first conference in 2013 in Austin, Texas. Because acquiring research funding is extremely competitive, I was impressed by members’ warm collegiality and willingness to share their knowledge. As one of the newer members in the profession, I have benefited greatly from other members’ shared experiences. At the 2015 conference in Bethesda, Maryland, I will be leading a roundtable discussion focused on considering the value of internal and external expert review of grant proposals. I consider myself somewhat of a knowledge-gatherer and enjoy learning from others, so I look forward to meeting other attendees and hearing about their best practices for evaluating proposal development services and coordinating proposal development for large-scale teams. To maximize your time at the conference, I recommend availing yourself of as many networking opportunities as possible. Start a conversation with the person next to you, join a group for the networking dinner, and attend a working group/committee meeting to learn more about getting involved with NORDP. See you in Bethesda!  

Conference Cameos Coming Soon!

Beginning March 18, 2015, we’ll be featuring a weekly series of “conference cameos.” Published each Wednesday from March 18 to April 22, the conference cameos will feature six representative NORDP members who will share – in their own words – thoughts about the benefits of and tips and tricks for for attending the 7th annual research development conference, April 29 to May 1 in Bethesda, MD.

This cross-section of NORDP members will talk about the many ways a range of research development professionals approach the NORDP conference – as well as practical suggestions for maximizing your professional development and networking opportunities at our organization’s annual meeting.

Cameos are being developed by a range of individuals with various research development responsibilities and organizational affiliations. The inaugural cameo will feature Ashton Waite, a proposal development coordinator in the Office of Proposal Development at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Be sure to watch for the first conference cameo, which will be published on Wednesday, March 18!

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!

NORDP Webinar: Meeting with Federal Officials to Achieve Research Development Goals

NORDP members: join us for a new webinar, Meeting with Federal Officials to Achieve Research Development Goals

Presenter:   David Trinkle, Ph.D.
Director, Berkeley Research Development Office
University of California, Berkeley
Date:          Thursday, January 29, 2015
Time:          2:00-3:00 p.m. EST
This webinar provides insights and tools for interacting with federal officials. Topics will include why, how, and when you might consider talking to agency appointees and program managers, Members of Congress and their staff, or White House officials. Dr. Trinkle will discuss how to think about bringing campus administration officials and faculty with you, as well as how to work with your government relations colleagues. Finally, he will provide some insights on how to prepare for the visits, and how to conduct them. It’s at no cost to NORDP members. Not a member? Join now!

David Trinkle is the Director of the Berkeley Research Development Office, where he coordinates an experienced staff of research development professionals. Drawing on nearly 20 years of experience with federal research agencies and 7 years with UC Berkeley, David also advises the Vice Chancellor for Research, deans, and faculty on federal funding opportunities and strategy. While at the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from 2000 to 2007, he was responsible for budget development and related policy issues for NSF and other federal research agencies. He monitors federal research funding and policy issues and maintains contacts in key research agencies and White House offices. He is also a member of the National Science Foundation’s Business and Operations Advisory Committee. David has a Ph.D. in Policy Analysis and degrees in Electrical Engineering and Systems Engineering. To register for this webinar, please click here

If you have any questions, please contact:

Ioannis Konstantinidis, OPD Lead


Welcoming new members – and how you can help

As part of a new initiative to welcome new members to NORDP and promote networking and collaboration among new and old NORDP members, the Membership Committee is setting up a process whereby a regional representative will contact new members shortly after they join to welcome them to NORDP, answer any of their questions about the organization, and encourage them to attend the annual conference. Representatives can also encourage new members to fill out a full website profile and familiarize them with the available website resources (job notices, lists of program evaluators/consultants, NORDP numbers survey). These representatives will act as ambassadors at the NORDP annual meeting to help new members meet others and connect with the organization more broadly.  As such, NORDP is asking for volunteers for four of the remaining open regions (see below).  Please Ann McGuigan, Committee Chairperson, at if you are interested in serving as a regional representative or if you have questions about this initiative.. And if you are in a region that currently has a Regional Liaison and would like to assist in these activities, please contact the Regional Liaison for your region: they will definitely welcome your help!

Region I (Northeast)  – Regional Representative: Peg Atkisson, Grant Writers Seminars and Workshops,

Domestic: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont. International: Quebec, Ontario.

Region II (Atlantic) – Open

Domestic: Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, D.C., Virginia. International: Europe, Africa, Western Russia, China and countries west & south of China.

Region III (Southeast) – Regional Representative: Barb Duncan, University of Kentucky

Domestic: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Tennessee, Virgin Islands, West Virginia.  International: South America.

Region IV (Great Lakes) – Regional Representative:  Jennifer Woods, University of Chicago

Domestic. Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin. International: Mexico, Manitoba.

Region V (Midwest/Mountain) – Open 

Domestic: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Nevada, Colorado, Utah. International: Alberta, Saskatchewan.

Region VI (Southwestern) – Open

Domestic: Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas.

Region VII (Pacific) – Open

Domestic. Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, Washington. International: British Columbia, Eastern Russia, Korea, Japan, Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, and other countries east of China.


Notes from the 2014 NORDP Conference: Strategies for Increasing the Competitiveness of Team Science and Center Grants

PRESENTERS:      Christine Black, University of Michigan, Jeff Horon, Elsevier

Center grants are a GIANT undertaking, and institutions may or may not have a department devoted to supporting these efforts. Below are a few low- budget tools that can research development staff can make available to faculty to support their efforts with Center grants.

  • Having someone to write the administrative cores and/or stock language about the cores that can be re-purposed.
  • Providing a reference list of freelance editors that can be hired
  • Providing a library of successful proposals that faculty can review and learn from
  • Matchmaking/Speed-dating meetings that allow people within the research community to learn about others and what research they are doing

–Notes by Anita Mills

Thank you, Anita!

NORDP 2014 Conference Notes: Presidents’ Chat

Panelists:  Alicia Knoedler, NORDP President; David Stone, NORDP President Elect; Ann McGuigan, NORDP Immediate Past President

This conference session was guided by audience questions and comments, resulting in a lively and wide-ranging session.

Regional NORDP groups: 

An audience member asked about regional NORDP groups and the presenters noted the NORDP NE group. All agreed that regional groups can be useful but volunteers are needed to run the groups and meetings can be difficult even within a compact region. The presenters suggested looking at NCURA’s regional structure. Ann noted that, as someone who has recently moved, she can see the value in regional groups.

EPPD coordinates the NORDP mentoring program, which may consider regional ties as requested by participants.  It might also be useful to provide a model for using NORDP membership lists for new members, i.e. people new to NORDP visit and review the membership list, then contact people.

The recent email traffic about bylaws and membership

Alicia noted that adoption of Bylaws does not require membership feedback. Nevertheless, the Board is developing a mechanism to allow members’ comments on policies and procedures. On the question of the difference between membership for individual consultants versus individuals working for larger consulting firms, the Board has adopted the ACA definition for the right cut-off between small and large firms. For-profit organizations with 25 or more employees will be affiliates. Firms with 25 or fewer employees will be a regular member. On the question of other models, such as one from NCURA, David and Ann said the Board was looking for a national standard and a more inclusive definition.

Professional development

Following from the general session on research development and future research leaders, discussion moved to the topic of professional development in RD.  For example, Notre Dame has a ‘Professional Specialists’ category for individuals not on the tenure track, while an audience member noted that at UW-Milwaukee, indefinite status (a kind of academic staff equivalent of tenure) may be attached to some positions. With regard to professional development for non-faculty administrative positions, Alicia noted that the institutional culture matters. Ann noted that RD professionals interact with many other groups and people, e.g., federal relations, communications, etc., which may provide other paths to professional development and career trajectories. There are also research development career opportunities outside of the academy; rather than working only in the ivory tower, it’s possible to engage with agencies that engage with the ivory tower. Panel members suggested that, as a profession, we think broadly about RD and how to engage, promote, and facilitate it.

They also discussed the importance of educating the broader research community about RD; members should work to write for publication, participate in conferences, and utilize open source venues, etc., to establish NORDP’s role.  NORDP could provide the structure for open-source publication and outreach. One example was given of a former VPR who is now VP for Economic Development; this change points to development of a new pillar at universities to engage industry, thus helping to connect research and economic activities. Industries often lack understanding of federal agencies and universities.

The conversation moved to evaluation of RD offices. NORDP recently did an evaluation of the UC Merced RD office. As a new institution, Merced wanted a review of their program. A staff member was hired in 2008 and the review happened in 2010. Two NORDP members conducted the evaluation, meeting with the VPR, deans, heads of research institutes, faculty, and the president. NCURA also did a review of the sponsored projects office.  The reports of both evaluation reports were made public. Although the reviews were different, they were complementary, outlining a clear path for growth of the offices. In the case of the RD office, staff has been increased from two to six.  In addition, based on the UC system analysis of research activity, UC-Merced showed a 57.5% increase from last fiscal year, which the director attributed in part of the peer review process. She concluded that having a peer review of the campus RD is valuable to the overall professional development of the office and the campus.

Another topic focused on what can we do to increase industry engagement. One suggestion was to work more closely with CFR and Technology Transfer staff. CFR staff do not necessarily discuss how to engage with industry and Technology Transfer may not think as broadly about RD; each also has different cultures.  It can be very informative to work with them.

Other suggestions for improving professional development processes included:

  • Adding elements to the membership survey, gathering information about individuals’ past experience and expertise in non-profit, for profit, and government sectors and explore ways to leverage the vast range of experience we know exists in our membership.
  • Develop career tracks/paths to help members envision ways to move through their careers.
  • Develop some kind of mechanism for taking stock of the expertise we have and articulating what we can do.

Overall, the point of the job is not to be boxed in and restricted.  Part of developing as a profession is explaining what RD is not is as important as explaining what it is. Looking at how other professions have developed over time, for example HR over the last 25+ years, may help us imagine development of both the field and individuals.

A related question was then raised: How do we recruit people to the RD field? One audience member mentioned her experience as a post-doc in RD; panelists suggested she write an article about that experience. Some universities do have similar post-docs; it was suggested that we try to identify where these exist, and how they are structured.  This could then be presented as part of next year’s conference, as one model for RD career development.  It was also suggested that stronger career and professional development sessions could be incorporated into the annual conferences.

Another focus was on refinement of mentoring in RD.  In addition to the traditional mentoring model, suggestions were for more across sector mentoring, such as academia and government.  The mentoring program also needs more volunteers to fulfill the requests made each year and the idea of mentoring may need to be broadened from the model of expert and novice to one of interaction of equals who bring new perspectives and “fresh eyes” to issues and situations. It may make sense to rename the mentoring program to reinforce this idea; the term may actually limit membership participation, particularly if members think they need to have extensive formal RD work experience.

Notes by Kari E Whittenberger-Keith.

Thank you, Kari!

NORDP Northeast Regional Group: A Report on Our Progress, Activities, and Plans

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)

NORDP NE 2014In 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!

Online Professional Development Work Group Wants You!

A request from NORDP’s Effective Practices and Professional Development Committee

Whether you are a seasoned professional or new to the field, the National Organization of Research Development Professionals (NORDP) offers a variety of ways to continue your professional development. The annual conference, lively discussions on the listserv, and the sharing of resources enable us to grow as professionals in the field as well as form a strong community. This academic year, NORDP’s Effective Practices and Professional Development (EPPD) Committee will bring you a selection of webinars designed to keep you at the top of your game.

Through the efforts of the Online Professional Development (OPD) working group of the EPPD, NORDP is building a robust library of webinars covering a variety of topics important to research development. By selecting the “Member Center” tab on the left-hand navigation bar of the NORDP website and then clicking “NORDP Professional Development,” you will find all previous webinars as well as information on our upcoming offerings. The webinars cover current topics (e.g., crowdfunding), process topics (e.g., growing your research development unit), and tips for some of the more challenging aspects of our jobs (e.g., strategies for supporting junior faculty).

The ODP’s goal is to produce six webinars over the coming year. We strive to provide topics that will appeal to the wide variety of NORDP members. With such a diverse membership, this is not always easy. Our members represent small, medium, and large institutions with ranging research budgets and strategic plans. Our experience in the field ranges from less than one to more than 25 years, and we can be a one-person shop or part of a large team. As such, finding webinar topics to meet the needs of the entire membership can be challenging, and we would appreciate your ideas and participation!

The EPPD, and especially the OPD, is a particularly active committee within NORDP, and we are always looking for more members. We have a succinct and well-developed operating manual for our activities, so jumping in is easy! Some ways you can get involved include:

  • Identifying potential webinar topics. If you go the extra mile and can find an appropriate (and willing) presenter, even better!
  • Volunteering to facilitate a webinar, which includes working with the presenter and the OPD leadership to arrange, advertise, and conduct the webinar.
  • Suggesting new ways our committee can meet the needs of NORDP members.

Your input into the OPD’s efforts is vital to ensuring the webinars meet the needs of the NORDP membership. Please consider getting involved in the EPPD!