The aphorism "a rising tide lifts all boats" as applied to the research enterprise could be the working mantra of members of the National Organization of Research Development Professionals. The mission of NORDP is to provide a platform and a catalyst for collaborative services and resources that span disciplines and cross boundaries within organizations and beyond, to foster multi- and inter-disciplinary research excellence.
NORDP was founded in 2010; it has nearly 900 members at over 300 institutions, from large R1 institutions to small liberal arts PUIs and private research institutes. While its origins are national, we also have international members: research excellence and collaboration is important everywhere.
NORDP is dedicated to the research enterprise broadly. Research development professionals, many of us coming from academic research ourselves, play key roles at universities across the U.S. and beyond in both the sciences and humanities. Our hundreds of members help researchers do everything from writing better proposals to guiding research advancement at the institutional level. Our members have a vast knowledge of how research is funded—both traditionally and through emerging sources—and how that funding is deployed to spur discovery and foster innovation. We help researchers communicate with the public, and we advocate for our researchers across many sectors.
Key to our functional skillset is that we are highly collaborative—our members are exemplars of mutual best practice and wisdom sharing. We also deploy these collaborative skills to find ways for researchers to collaborate with one another, especially cross-disciplinarily. These strategies include everything from building databases to hosting researcher get-togethers and managing seed funding programs.
We believe there are two critical challenges facing the national scientific research enterprise. First, we see a growing mistrust of science in general, including medical research. And second, this mistrust is a persistent threat to funding across the entire research spectrum. As we all know, flat funding is really reduced funding. Other nations are not reducing their investment in research—they are increasing it.
The good news for this year is that the NIH did get an important boost, in part to address the opioid crisis. But every year, funding is under threat. Other agencies did not fare as well, and their research budgets are flat or even cut. We are happy that NIH continues to be well regarded but we also believe that the basic and social science projects funded by NSF, the EPA, and other federal agencies are critical for medical research; multi-disciplinary partnerships are required to solve the wicked complex problems at hand and are often threatened by such funding gaps.
Research!America’s work is essential to our goals. The data and publications allow us to supply our members with the information they need to help their researchers, their institutions, and their local constituencies to contextualize the research and make the case for supporting research broadly. Research!America also gives NORDP opportunities to share a collective message from our membership to critical national leaders through networking events like the annual National Health Research Forum.
What we do is train the fighters in the trenches to be effective research advocates, and Research!America gives us powerful ammunition for this fight.