Past awardees of travel awards have shared their experiences for other members.

Hanna Salo, 2018 NCURA Annual Meeting

As a lucky travel awardee of the Region VIII, I attended my first NCURA Annual meeting in Washington DC. This was a great year to attend because the meeting celebrated the 60th anniversary with a theme ’Diamonds’. The theme was visible in the arrangements, such as the memorable conference dinner, while peeking behind the meeting program implying that the research services and administrators are the (hidden) gems of universities and research institutes.

I was excited to attend the meeting because I expected it to be an important aspect for my training in the role of Research Funding Specialist supporting especially medical researchers. The meeting, as a whole, was well organized and there were a variety of different sessions and topics to choose from. I did my homework before the meeting and pre-scheduled basic and intermediate level sessions matching my current experience level as well as professional needs.

The meeting proved to be a valuable opportunity to learn both application and managing phases of US funding, and network internationally. My favorites among the concurrent sessions were those where we could change experiences and helpful tips with colleagues from all over the world. It was relieving to notice that others are dealing with the same issues and questions. Ignite sessions provided information packets in the form of speedy 15 min presentations; I especially appreciated ignites focusing on compliance issues, such as travel regulations. However, various abbreviations and codes used especially in the update sessions felt overwhelming for a learner of US funding.

Altogether, I obtained a lot of essential and useful information from the meeting to share with my colleagues back home. I’m going to implement this information to establish good practices and promote know-how both in the pre- and post-phase of US funding in our organization.

Barbara Slattery, 2016 NCURA Annual Meeting

The region VIII travel award to attend the annual meeting was invaluable support to this delegate coming from the other side of the world. As a relatively new NCURA member, attendance at the annual meeting allowed me to gain insight from US and international colleagues in research administration, to learn about issues in common, and issues that are completely different. It is somewhat reassuring to find that many of the challenges we face are universal, transcending local/national borders. At the same time, it is interesting how little differences in how we talk about these present challenges of their own. A specific example is in the very title of our profession. In Australia we most commonly refer to it as “research management”, but I very quickly adjusted to calling it “research administration”… sometimes even a language in common needs translation! Personal highlights include the pre-conference workshop on “creating and developing effective research administration education programs for your institution”, the opportunity to spend time with colleagues while choosing our favourite First Lady gown at the National Museum of American History, and hearing from the many presenters who shared valuable insights into challenges, innovations and solutions at their institutions. The downside of attending? The jetlag afterwards!

Jessica Brody, 2016 NCURA Joint VI, VII & VIII meeting

As a new research professional attending the 2016 NCURA Joint VI, VII & VIII meeting was invaluable for understanding the complex and intricate landscape of research. In reviewing the conference program, I was faced for the first time with the full diversity of issues, laws, politics, and procedures research administrators encounter. It was impossible to choose which sessions to attend and in the end I leaned on the recommendations of more experienced NCURA attendees. My schedule filled with sessions I never would have considered as impacting my role in the central grants team, but in fact this was a great strategy for a new research professional. Each session outside my “business as usual” expanded my understanding of how the various parts of the university interact and which parts intersect with my team’s duties. The best example of this is the “US Export Controls and Regulations and International Agreements” which I attended as a deeper follow up to issues introduced in the one day workshop “Working with Industry”. The presenters stressed that they strongly encourage grants teams to keep export policies in mind while assisting with proposal development. This is a tip I have taken home.

In general, this conference had an intimate air and there was a pervasive sense of comradery – we were all there to share knowledge and experience as well as to absorb. Some sessions had unexpected gold nuggets of wisdom offered in the tips, comments and observations of people in the audience. This was mainly due to the presenters’ willingness to encourage participation.

My biggest take away was the wealth of experience held by NCURA as an organization. I participated in sessions ranging from lead agency principles and their impact on research to the impact of central grant management on department activities. It was fascinating to think of research administration as a global profession. The conversations sparked over the course of the conference instilled a sense that research administrators have a responsibility to participate in the profession. While process is important, the end goal is assisting vital research.

Almost as hard work as attending the conference was trying to visit on beautiful Maui. There were certainly some 5:30AM and 5:30PM swims and a very early morning trip to Mount Haleakala to see the sunrise above the clouds and return for morning tea. I must thank the conference organizers for providing an exquisite background and the Region VIII officers past and present for being hugely welcoming to a first time attendee. Memories for a lifetime – Mahalo!