Recognizing the growing importance of research that addresses complex societal challenges, we know that innovative integrative approaches to the research process itself are required. At the same time, many sponsors have been emphasizing projects requiring interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary teams.

To succeed in an increasingly competitive funding environment, most major research institutions have invested in capacity for “research development”* – many have thus dramatically increased their research proposal success and revenue.

OSU’s Strategic Plan and supporting Research Agenda already lay out a broad vision for expanding the research enterprise and achieving international recognition. Last year an OSU task force led by Cherri Pancake studied best practices at other institutions and the background of and capacity for collaborative research at OSU. The group, including participants from six colleges and the Research Office, met throughout the year to develop recommendations for our research development, focusing on strategic support for interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research and proposals.

The resulting strategy is a complement and can jump-start our implementation efforts.  It is broad-based, for researchers at all levels. While I know that resourcing this strategy will be a challenge, many of the recommendations are immediately “actionable” with our existing resources, and there was excellent thought put into phasing for long-term success.

With appreciation for the fruitful efforts of the task force members (named at end of this blog  post), I am pleased to share below a brief summary.

  • Facilitate development of large-scale proposals: Establish “strategic criteria” that can assess the institutional importance of particular large-scale proposals and develop a fast-track for expediting large proposals supported by selected and trained clerical staff that could evolve into a “SWAT team” providing proposal management services .
  • Institutionalize our “lessons learned”: Track OSU’s experience, success rate and lessons learned with medium-to-large group proposals, and make information about funding successes and valuable contacts available to potential proposers.
  • Position OSU to compete successfully on large-scale opportunities: Adopt mechanisms to bring in faculty who will engage in transdisciplinary activities and create flexible ways to credit/reward researchers participating in large scale proposals. Build relationships with Minority Serving Institutions, private sources and foundations to support these activities.

  • Foresee and create new opportunities for large-scale research: Identify our “resource people” for foreseeing new opportunities and establish a mechanism for identifying in advance what solicitations for large-scale efforts will be emerging. Proactively “market” our research and cultivate relationships with agencies, foundations, industry, and private donors.
  • Make interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary research an institutional priority: Make it part of the role and responsibilities of someone at the Research Office to take ownership of the future success of OSU’s interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research proposals. Establish metrics that reflect what is needed to achieve success and track progress toward success.

(Please note that the report does not imply that single investigator and/or single-discipline research are not valued at OSU,especially for less-experienced researchers. Many of the needs identified are also important to individual researchers, and the recommendations would have positive impact on them as well.)

Thanks again to the task force:(CAS) Susan Capalbo, Dan Edge; (CLA) Kathleen Dean Moore; (COAS – now CEOAS) Phil Mote; (COE) Terri Fiez, Cherri Pancake; (COF) Barbara Bond, Jim Johnson; (COS) Aaron Wolf; (Research Office) Pat Hawk

* Research Development encompasses a set of strategic, proactive, catalytic, and capacity-building activities designed to facilitate individual faculty members, teams of researchers, and central research administrations in attracting extramural research funding, creating relationships, and developing and implementing strategies that increase institutional competitiveness.

Research Development professionals initiate and nurture critical partnerships and alliances throughout the institutional research enterprise and between institutions—and with their external stakeholders. With the goal of enabling competitive individual and team research and facilitating research excellence, Research Development professionals build and implement strategic services and collaborative resources that span across disciplinary and administrative barriers within their organizations and beyond.

Research Development includes a broad spectrum of activities that vary by institution, including: funding opportunity identification and targeted dissemination, grant/contract proposal development, budget preparation, forms and submission assistance, research team building, interaction with funding agencies and institutional research administration and leadership, and outreach activities and training.

from National Organization of Research Development Professionals


If you are interested in the full report which includes specific recommendations, please contact the Research Office.
I am very interested in your responses and ideas, whether you are faculty, staff or student – please comment via this blog.

Rick Spinrad, smiling– Rick Spinrad
Vice President for Research


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2 thoughts on “Research Development: How best to do it

  1. Dr. Spinrad,
    In pitching our work to industry, private foundations and program directors at the funding agencies, it would be very beneficial to have support with illustrations, graphics and animations.

    We have the research stories, just that slick presentations would help us market it just as well if not better than many of our competitors.

    Thank you,

  2. Pallavi –
    Thank you for this comment.

    I agree wholeheartedly that we need to develop a stronger portfolio of materials for “marketing” purposes. This is why we developed “impact” brochures specific to each of our major funding agencies. We have that information available on the web as well –

    However, much more can be done. I have discussed this with Steve Clark, VP for University Relations & Marketing, and he’s agreed that this will be a priority for his office.

    – Rick Spinrad

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