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Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Video Chapters

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September 24, 2013

41:40

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

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September 24, 2013

1:44

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Chapter 1

Introduction
An overview of the NSERC site visit process.

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September 24, 2013

6:54

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Chapter 2

Preparing for the Site Visit

Researchers and research administrators share tips on the logistics of a site visit, including how to create the best agenda for the day. Appearing in this chapter:

  • Majid Bahrami, Principal Investigator, Laboratory for Alternative Energy Conversion, and Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University
  • Milena Corredig, NSERC/Ontario Dairy Council Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Technology, University of Guelph
  • Graham Gagnon, NSERC/Halifax Regional Water Commission Industrial Research Chair in Water Quality and Treatment, Dalhousie University
  • Minodora Iordan, Research Facilitator, Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science, Office of Research, Concordia University
  • Robert Luke, Assistant Vice-President, Research and Innovation, George Brown College
  • Audrey Penner, Director of Adult Education, Learner Supports, and Applied Research, Holland College
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September 24, 2013

5:17

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Chapter 3

The Site Visit Committee Chair

Two experienced site visit committee chairs speak about what they look for from a strong application, and share how they prepare to chair a site visit committee. Appearing in this chapter:

  • Digvir S. Jayas Vice-President (Research and International), University of Manitoba
  • Clément Fortin, President and CEO, Consortium for Research and Innovation in Aerospace in Quebec (CRIAQ)
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September 24, 2013

3:44

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Chapter 4

The Role of Site Visit Committee Members

Researchers and industrial partners talk about how they prepare to participate in a site visit committee visit. Appearing in this chapter:

  • Malcolm Butler, Dean of Science, Carleton University
  • Kevin Dickson, Division Innovation Manager, Parker Hannafin Corporation
  • Graham Gagnon, NSERC/Halifax Regional Water Commission Industrial Research Chair in Water Quality and Treatment, Dalhousie University
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September 24, 2013

7:26

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Chapter 5

Preparing for the Site Visit: the Applicant’s Preparation and Presentation

Tips and insight from researchers and college administrators on how to create and present your grant application during a site committee visit. Appearing in this chapter:

  • Majid Bahrami, Principal Investigator, Laboratory for Alternative Energy Conversion, and Associate Professor, Simon Fraser University
  • Milena Corredig, NSERC/Ontario Dairy Council Industrial Research Chair in Dairy Technology, University of Guelph
  • Graham Gagnon, NSERC/Halifax Regional Water Commission Industrial Research Chair in Water Quality and Treatment, Dalhousie University
  • Janine Mauzeroll, Associate Professor, McGill University
  • Audrey Penner, Director of Adult Education, Learner Supports, and Applied Research, Holland College
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September 24, 2013

3:44

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Role of the Senior Administrator

Chapter 6

Role of the Senior Administrator

Senior research administrators at the university and college level talk about how to support a grant application during a site visit. Appearing in this chapter:

  • Malcolm Butler, Dean of Science, Carleton University
  • Mo Elbestawi, Vice-President, Research and International Affairs, McMaster University
  • Robert Luke, Assistant Vice-President, Research and Innovation, George Brown College
  • David T. Lynch, Dean of Engineering, University of Alberta
  • Audrey Penner, Director of Adult Education, Learner Supports, and Applied Research, Holland College
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September 24, 2013

6:12

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Chapter 7

The Role of Industrial Partners

Industrial partners, and researchers, share best practices on preparing your partners to take part in a site visit. Appearing in this chapter:

  • Boyd Davis, Principal, Kingston Process Metallurgy
  • Kevin Dickson, Division Innovation Manager, Parker Hannafin Corporation
  • Robert Luke, Assistant Vice-President, Research and Innovation, George Brown College
  • Janine Mauzeroll, Associate Professor, McGill University
  • Audrey Penner, Director of Adult Education, Learner Supports, and Applied Research, Holland College
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September 24, 2013

4:05

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: Running a Laboratory or Facility Tour

Chapter 8

Running a Laboratory or Facility Tour

Some site visits may involve a facility or laboratory tour. Learn how to plan a tour that complements your application. Appearing in this chapter:

  • Graham Gagnon, NSERC/Halifax Regional Water Commission Industrial Research Chair in Water Quality and Treatment, Dalhousie University
  • Robert Luke, Assistant Vice-President, Research and Innovation, George Brown College
  • David T. Lynch, Dean of Engineering, University of Alberta
  • Audrey Penner, Director of Adult Education, Learner Supports, and Applied Research, Holland College
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September 24, 2013

2:38

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Chapter 9

Final Tips on Preparing a Site Visit

Final tips. Download our at-a-glance tip sheet.

Summary

Video Name

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Author

NSERC Communications

Duration

41:40

Release Date

September 24, 2013

At-at-glace tip sheet

PDF

Description

NSERC’s site visit process is a critical part of the peer review process for large grants. This video provides an overview of ‘best practices’ NSERC-funded researchers, their industrial partners, and top university and college administrators use to prepare for an effective site visit.

Chapters

  • Chapter 1: Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit (Introduction)
  • Chapter 2: Preparing for the Site Visit
  • Chapter 3: The Site Visit Committee Chair
  • Chapter 4: The Role of Site Visit Committee Members
  • Chapter 5: Preparing for the Site Visit: the Applicant’s Preparation and Presentation
  • Chapter 6: Role of the Senior Administrator
  • Chapter 7: The Role of Industrial Partners
  • Chapter 8: Running a Laboratory or Facility Tour
  • Chapter 9: Final Tips on Preparing a Site Visit

Putting Your Best Foot Forward: How to Prepare for a Successful NSERC Site Visit

Transcript
Chapter 1
Robert Luke

The site visit obviously is very important. It's our opportunity to show the Site Visit Committee and the funder what we can do.

Announcer

Site visits are a key part of the review process for large or complex NSERC grants, bringing scientific experts from Canada and all over the globe together to evaluate a potential research project and to reach a funding recommendation. During a site visit, a committee of experts travels to the applicant's institution for a full-day, face-to-face meeting where they question the researchers about their project and speak to representatives from the institution and the partnering organizations about their support and involvement.

A well organized and well run site visit is critical to the success of the application. It is an opportunity for the proponents to bring the research project to life by demonstrating the project's path to success. This video provides tips on how to conduct a successful site visit from experienced NSERC funded applicants, senior institution administrators, industrial partners, and Site Visit Committee members and chairs.

Audrey Penner

It would only make sense that getting ready to host this site visit was going to be a real event. And I likened it with my colleagues to having a baby, getting married, and building a house all at the same time.

Chapter 2
Announcer

A well organized and well run site visit is critical to the success of a large grant application. It is an opportunity to emphasize the key aspects of an application, to inform the Site Visit Committee of any updates that have occurred since the application was submitted, and to answer questions from experts in the field about why the proposed project or program of research deserves to be funded.

On the day of the visit, a team of four to six experts, headed by a Site Visit Committee Chair and joined by an NSERC staff member, holds a series of meetings with the applicant, institutional representatives, and partners involved in the application.

Graham Gagnon

Typically a committee consists of five people, on average. And so I wanted to know where their backgrounds were from — who are from industry, who are from academia — so I can understand my audience, in essence, to understand how I created a presentation that would inform them even more about what was written down.

Milena Corrediq

I prepared a presentation that was very high level, lots of pictures of how my program was going to be organized and where I would have the collaborations, all the things that I couldn't put in my pages.

Majid Bahrami

Usually you start with the presentation, 45 minutes, half an hour, depending upon your project. You're not going to go through all the details. So don't worry about it. The members already seen your proposal, they know the details.

Announcer

For this full-day meeting, a well thought out agenda that provides plenty of opportunities for open dialogue and questions is critical. NSERC provides an agenda template that includes time for discussion and private or in-camera meetings between the Site Visit Committee alone or with specific individuals such as the industrial partners or representatives from the institution.

Minodora Iordan

A strong agenda is actually a complete agenda. And always a complete agenda is decided in consultation with - between NSERC, the applicant, and the team at our institution.

Robert Luke

From our perspective, it's important to design an agenda that has some breathing room in it so that the Site Visit Committee has the opportunity to take some time for themselves, ask the questions that they need to ask, and do some deliberating as well. So you don't want to put the agenda together in a way that it's, you know, stacked and jammed full of stuff.

Minodora Iordan

A complete agenda has to allow the Site Visit Committees to ask a lots of questions, to interact with the relevant participants: applicant, co-applicants if it's the case, partners, students - if time permits, not always.

Announcer

Despite setting an agenda, it is important to realize the day's plans must remain flexible in case the committee needs more time for additional questions or meetings.

Majid Bahrami

You have to be flexible because there are unexpected things that can happen and that easily can get it to the longer and more elaborate sessions. Make sure that especially the industrial partner aware of this fact, and your other collaborators and other partners. So make sure that you give it a full day, no appointment, no doctor appointment in the afternoon or my wife is waiting. So probably those plans should be cancelled. Sometimes the site visit may drag to the second day. That happened to me— that didn't happen to me so far, but I've heard of these occasions. Again, it would be - you should be very flexible. So this should - the site visit is a major part of your grant, and plan accordingly.

Announcer

One important pre-visit preparation is to set up the room, including planning appropriate seating arrangements. There should be ample table space to accommodate the committee and their meeting materials.

Minodora Iordan

Another point, and I think it is important, is to book a large room or a boardroom like this one, where to fit comfortably all the participants - the Site Visit Committee and their equipment, the partners, the university administration, and sometimes we have even students. We have to make sure that everyone is seated appropriately in the room. We try to have the Site Committee sitting together on one side in the room facing the screen to make sure that everyone is interacting with the applicant who is presenting the presentation. We have the industrial partner grouped together, and the university administration grouped on the other side of the room just to create a nice interaction between the participants.

Audrey Penner

When we took them to the actual room for the presentation, again, we paid great attention to floor plan. How could we set the room up so that three things happened: 1) they could hear quite clearly everything we said; 2) that we could also show off what we did and have it subliminally around the room so that people were aware; and 3) have students interact in a very subtle way.

Announcer

The institution hosting the site visit is also responsible for providing a lunch to the committee.

Minodora Iordan

Lunch is very important. We always order the lunch in consultation with NSERC. Why? Sometimes we have a heavy agenda, so we have to know what actually the Site Visit Committee wants. Do you want to have a working lunch? So in that case is we have a light lunch. And other cases where we have a large participation, NSERC advise us have a lunch with everyone, we invite students. So in that cases, it's a different type of lunch.

Majid Bahrami

I - this has happened to me myself. We had a bad experience with the caterer. The lunch was terrible. And they asked me afterwards where would we go for a good dinner, and I said you know what, don't even ask me because I've already failed you once. So that type of thing should be avoided. Otherwise, I mean, you are professional, they are professional, stick with the principle and you'll be fine.

Chapter 3
Announcer

The Site Visit Committee is composed of a Committee Chair and four to six members who are experts in the fields related to the grant application under evaluation. The Chair's job is to actively and knowledgeably lead the review of the application throughout the visit, ensuring all questions and concerns are covered and that the day runs according to schedule.

Clement Fortin

As a Chair, I think the most important thing is to have a clear agenda for the day, making sure that the agenda is well balanced and that you have time for the committee members to ask their questions, and also for the institution to present its case and its arguments.

Digvir S. Jayas

My major focus is to make sure that the concerns which were raised in the pre-meeting by these team members, have those concerns been answered. Are there still some issues left? Do we need to regroup to ask those questions? Or have we received enough information that we can make a recommendation one way or the other?

Clement Fortin

Sometimes members of Committee are more timid than others, or they wait to have a chance to talk, but them we have to make sure — I have to make sure — that they have the chance to have some question. And sometimes the best questions come from these people who are silent at the beginning but will have some good thoughts for the Committee and for the evaluation.

Digvir S. Jayas

Because of the limited time available, as a Chair, you have to make sure the— because there are many different questions to be answered, so keeping eye on the time, that we had allocated 50 minute or 30 minute for this particular question, and then move along to the next team, so that it get done in a timely fashion.

Clement Fortin

The most important thing for me is that the team must be very cohesive. It happens once in a while that the industrial partners are not quite in line with what the researcher is thinking, and the cohesion of the team has to be very important. So the establishment must make sure that the researchers between themselves also are very much on the same line and that the industrial partners, on CRDs particularly, are very well aware of the program and they agree to the program and they know their role in this research program.

Digvir S. Jayas

The successful presentation clearly articulates the problem they are trying to solve, what steps they will take to solve that problem, and who will be partnering with them in solving that problem. And the partnerships are truly solid, not a - just a statement that we are going to partner, but demonstrating how that partnership is going to happen and how it will be a fruitful partnership are the - certainly makes a very successful presentation.

Announcer

The evening before the visit, the Chair leads a face-to-face meeting of the Committee to identify key points that should be raised during the day and to assign roles or questions to specific members.

Digvir S. Jayas

Prior to the day of the visit, that initial meeting is when a lot of the crystallization of the process happens. Basically, once you have read the proposal, you can identify which of the team members would ask the clarification questions or for further clarifications on individual teams, and then making sure that that is then followed through during the day of the visit itself.

Announcer

During the visit, the Chair makes sure that all of the Committee's main questions are addressed, and that members focus on gathering information rather than debating the science of the proposal. Feedback from the committee is provided to the applicant through the Site Visit Committee Report.

Digvir S. Jayas

During the day of the meeting, making sure the questions which were identified or the issues which were identified in the planning meeting get answered, but at the same time avoiding the discussion between the team member and the principal investigator almost becoming... the worst thing you can have is that the team members start answering the questions, not the principal investigator. So you want to avoid that.

Clement Fortin

It's important that you keep the whole Committee working together and going in the right direction in the— you can allow questions to come from different angles, but everyone has to know that we have to look at the global perspective and not focus on a single point of view which is just part of the proposal. And then the — so we have to keep it everybody rowing together.

Chapter 4
Announcer

The Site Visit Committee is composed of a Committee Chair and four to six members who are experts in the fields related to the grant application under evaluation. Committee members lend their expertise to assess the strengths and weaknesses of the grant application. Site Visit Committee members will have prepared for this visit long before they arrive on site.

Graham Gagnon

So you need to make sure you allocate sufficient time to review their application and to understand what they're hoping to achieve. I think there - and there's many tasks as a Site Visit Committee member that you need to think about. You need to think about the - what is the industrial benefit, what is the university benefit, and then likewise what are their reciprocal investments in that program.

Malcolm Butler

In the case - once I have a proposal, I was starting to read them as soon as I received them because the Committee Chair could be calling me within weeks as a member of the Committee to find out if I have any particular issues. The reviews were often taking place in the fall, so they were in fact not that long in lead time after receiving the proposal, so there was not any time to delay.

Kevin Dickson

Obviously the Chair of the Site Visit I contacted fairly early to kind of get an idea of what this was all about — because I had been on one before — to see exactly what their expectations were of an industry partner to come up there. So we've had a couple of conversations on there, looked through the packet, you know, again talked to some of the people that had worked with them before to see just exactly what he was - what research he was doing.

Malcolm Butler

Make sure you've read the proposal carefully. Make sure that you've spoken to the people chairing the site visit, and to NSERC if you have questions. Don't leave your questions to the last minute. Ask them immediately. I always found the NSERC people more than willing to help, and in fact the answers were often given to me within minutes or, at worst, hours of me asking them. The Chair is usually someone who's quite experienced as well, so if you are struggling to understand your role as a Committee member — some new Committee members do — talk to the Chair because the Chair will have some sense of how the Committee is going to work and how tasks are going to be delegated probably already in their mind before the review begins.

Announcer

Individual Committee members may be asked to focus on specific aspects of the proposal in their questions to the proponents.

Malcolm Butler

I would always enter some basic discussion with the Committee members before the site visit. That would be making sure we understand the agenda, making sure we understand roles. There's a report to be written, preliminary writing assignments so that people know to pay particular interest to certain areas. You should be paying attention to everything, but pay particular interest to an area that you will be in charge of drafting the first response to.

When the Committee at the end would pose outstanding questions that it might like resolution of either immediately or at a time that is useful for the Evaluation Section or other body to make a final determination, that there's resistance. You know, why are you asking these questions? You know, we answered that, didn't we, either in the talks or the presentation? And not understanding that the reason we're asking them is because they didn't answer them.

Announcer

After the visit, Committee members may be assigned to write portions of the Site Visit Committee report and must be available to provide comments on draft versions. If the application is funded, Committee members may be asked to periodically review the progress of the research.

Chapter 5
Announcer

The site visit is a chance for the applicant to lead the team in presenting the project with passion and enthusiasm. Information should be at a high level, and the presentation should be polished and professional.

Clement Fortin

The first thing that I'm looking for is the logic of the presentation and making sure it's clear for everyone that's there - clear for the members of the Committee, which are coming from another perspective than the one from the institution and from the one from the researcher that's presenting. This is most important because they come from another background, they have another perspective, and the presentation must be clear to them, and logic in the global sense.

Majid Bahrami

It's very similar to a job interview, right? So essentially the Committee went through the whole thing. You jump through a lot of hoops. They are ready to give you the money. Essentially this is your funding to blow. Right? Don't blow it.

Graham Gagnon

I think it's like Dragons' Den in that, you know, in essence, the PI for an industrial chair holder is, in many respects, an entrepreneur with a vision for five years.

Milena Corrediq

I started with the idea that they probably didn't like everything they read, or that they didn't— they misunderstood some of the things that I said. So I was prepared but I would say more like ready to be flexible in the answers.

Announcer

Focus on emphasizing the main points of the application, and on informing the Committee of any updates that may have occurred since the application was submitted. Keep in mind that the Committee is looking for new and additional information, not a live presentation of the written grant application that they have already read.

Janine Mauzeroll

The presentation should be short and concise. It should, at the very beginning, allow all Site Committee members to understand the overall picture of the project. You should avoid large tables that are hard to read in the presentation. Really you're pitching your proposal to them, and you will have ample time during the entire day to discuss maybe more important technical issues that you know will be important for particular Site Committee members.

Graham Gagnon

This is really sort of a polished proposal that you're presenting to five very busy people who are travelling from all parts of the world to understand what our program is. And so it was really clear that we wanted to have a very clear message and a message that could be easily understood because they will write their recommendation that day.

Majid Bahrami

This is very, very important in my view, that you keep it entertaining. You don't want to have a very dry, very stick-to-the-point presentation. That would essentially mostly throw people off, or they drag to sleep. Again, I'm sure a good professor, a good teacher, knows how to keep the attention of the class.

Milena Corrediq

You've written this proposal, and you've thought about it for months. So you know, you went through iterations of iterations of that proposal. So now you have to look at the interview as— or the site visit as part of the proposal, not necessarily a duplication of it.

Announcer

A key component of the site visit involves answering questions from experts in the field on why the project deserves to be funded. Be prepared to address questions posed by the Committee to clarify any outstanding issues or concerns.

Majid Bahrami

You have to be able to predict the obstacles and the challenges, and the Committee is there to give you a hard time - not that they want to give you a hard time, they want to see that you are prepared, how you're going to manage the challenges that you haven't foreseen in the proposal or other things that may happen when you're involved in the project.

Clement Fortin

The candidate must be ready to answer questions in a convincing manner. It's good to have a convincing presentation, but the questions is usually an important part. They will usually surprise a candidate because the members of the Committee have read the application, they've discussed the night before, so most of the time or all the time they are very well prepared for the session.

Announcer

A good presentation requires thorough preparation.

Graham Gagnon

My guess would have been about a month and a half of preparation. We submitted the proposal, and then we had about a month to a month and a half before the Site Visit Committee. And so what we really did was peer reviewed it, had our own internal peer review of our proposal that had already been peer reviewed but really was more what would you ask of me. And then from that, I developed a presentation. I presented it to our partners, previous, as I said, as a team to sort of say... and then we looked at comments from our partners, and I revised our presentation again.

Janine Mauzeroll

I think it's really important to get to know the members of the Site Committee. They've taken time to read your proposal and have flown often long distances to hear you and participate in the site visit.

Announcer

Arrange a dry run session in advance of the site visit so that everyone, including industrial partners, understands their role, the questions they will be expected to field, and the messages they are to deliver. Ensure that industrial partners are part of the rehearsal as they will be expected to speak to the application in a private, in-camera session with the Site Visit Committee.

Graham Gagnon

We met as a team, so the industrial partners that I had on our proposal, the Dean of my Engineering Faculty. We met previously almost as a dry run to talk about not necessarily what questions they would ask, because that's something we can't predict, but really what the tone was going to be, what kind of clear messages we wanted to express to the Committee so that they had a good understanding of what we were trying to accomplish.

Audrey Penner

We did three dry runs of the actual tour and the actual day: where we would see people; what the room would be laid out like; where we would move people to; what was the most advantageous room to have people in for the caucus groups, for the actual meeting, for the presentations. And we did that three times. Each time we tweaked it slightly because we'd identify areas that, when we started walking through, perhaps didn't run as smoothly as we wanted to. You also have to consider the timeframe. So, what is your day like? And you have to stick to those timeframes. It's very, very important. The Committee's time is valuable, your partners' times are valuable, your time is valuable, your stakeholders that are coming in to support you. You have to be on time for them because they've allocated a certain amount of time to be here.

Janine Mauzeroll

It's a question of communication. So as you're preparing your presentation, you should be keeping your industrial partner in the loop, trying to entertain his ideas, like really what is driving them in terms of their investment into your project, and how can you easily explain to the Site Committee why that industrial objective is actually novel and will advance science for Canada in general.

Chapter 6
Announcer

Demonstrated institutional support is an important aspect of most grants. Senior administrators should share how the grant will fit within the institution's strategic research priorities and vision, and outline any commitments their university or college has planned in order to support the applicant.

David T. Lynch

Typically in the morning the institutional representatives really should lead it off with the NSERC representative at that type. And so the institutional representative, whoever that is — I would prefer it usually be somebody typically in the role of Dean who has the institutional responsibility, facilities, resources and others, who welcomes the Committee, thanks them for their incredible amount of time and commitment and effort that they're putting into this, and then, again, at that point, says these are our strategic priorities. This is how this proposal supports and builds on those strategic priorities. This is why it needs to be done.

Audrey Penner

It's about hosting the entire day. You've already sold the team on your science. They've seen your proposal. They're coming for a visit. So the science you reinforce, but you don't have to sell the science. What you do have to let them know is your institution's capability to handle this size of a project, the willingness of your institution to support the activities that are ongoing, and the team approach that your institution has.

Mo Elbestawi

First, brief summary about the university and about the environment in terms of existing infrastructure, prior experience in this particular field, track record, but also what the university is prepared to put on the table.

Malcolm Butler

The ways that the institution can demonstrate its support and backing of the proponents is another way that you can have a very positive experience, and it doesn't— as I say, it doesn't take much. A handshake and a hello goes a very long way.

Robert Luke

Key for us was demonstrating to the funder and to the Site Visit Committee that applied research is not something that we just thought of, that in fact it was something that we had been doing for quite some time, and that it was a core aspect of our college strategy. We were able to give a copy of the strategy to the Site Visit Committee, demonstrate what it meant, show the history of our activity over the past five years, and then show where we're heading with that going forward.

David T. Lynch

The senior university representative, or the designated one, gives a very high-level description of the university's priorities, gives a very high-level description of how this special initiative aligns with, supports, and builds on those priorities, and also demonstrates how, by giving a couple of key examples drawn out of the proposal, how this work now has to be done, will provide such tremendous benefits for the education of students, for the economy, for the university, for our whole ecosystem. When you put those things together, a fairly short, high-level, ten minutes maximum, that also involves thanking the Committee for their time and effort, for being there, and for expressing your openness and willingness to be engaged in this whole process for as long as they wish in the fairly short ten minutes or so, and it really sets the stage for how this proposal is strategically important to the institution.

Chapter 7
Announcer

Companies and other organizations preparing to partner on an NSERC grant are a very important part of the NSERC site visit. The applicant should work with staff at their institution to ensure all participants in the grant, including any industrial partners, are available on the day of the visit to speak on behalf of the application.

Boyd Davis

Preparing for a site visit is really the cornerstone, the key aspect of the entire grant process. And it's very important to make sure that you show in the site visit that you've done all the background work to set up that joint proposal and that joint project between the academic and the industry. So this represents really you, you discussing about the project in general and your component of the project, and how the academic is going to interact on that, as opposed to, you know, just talking simply about maybe you'll attend some meetings or you'll review some documents. It has to show real engagement in the project.

Robert Luke

For our site visit, we had quite a few people lined up to speak, everybody from the President to the Vice President for Corporate and Finance to talk about the context, the strategic context and the financial context, and the support that we are offering, right on down through the Director of the Food Innovation Research Studio, who's a food scientist, to the Chef who's the head of the chef school, project managers, and, you know, obviously industry partners and other people involved in the enterprise. And we just simply asked them to tell their story about what was good about working with us. We felt that that was the best way to get an honest assessment from our industry partners for the Site Visit Committee to learn what it is that we're here, which, again, as I said, is training highly qualified and skilled personnel ready to work in industry, and helping industry get new products to market.

Audrey Penner

It's that sense of inclusion with your industry partners as well. Their feedback is very, very important. So they want to come through the door not only understanding your project but also on your team. They're pulling for you. And it's creating that sense of team and creating that sense of opportunity for everyone. And that permeates the air during the site visit.

Announcer

Being prepared involves working with the team of proponents in advance. Partners must know the details of the proposal and be able to field questions with ease. They should be prepared to share how the collaboration came into being, how they plan to use the results of the research in their work, and how they will actively support and work with the research team throughout the project.

Boyd Davis

The industry should be convinced, or should want to see this as their project, in which the academic is helping out with their expertise and their support, and there's leverage from NSERC. If that in the site visit is conveyed to the Committee, then you have a really good chance of having really good support.

Kevin Dickson

Certainly with working with the Committee itself, from an industry partner, I was - they had some questions with regards to maybe more the commercialization or the business perspective of what was being done, which I was able to answer from, you know, working in the business and working in the industry. Again, it was a good collaboration between, you know, the academic part of the actual interview versus the business part of the interview and the practicality of the actual application being put forward to us. So I was able to at least provide from an industry perspective the knowledge that we had, and yeah, this looks like a doable opportunity and well worth, you know, putting in some NSERC money into seeing this go forward into maybe commercialization of some type.

Boyd Davis

I think you talk about the project. You talk about the project in terms of ownership, of the company owning the project and the academic helping out on the project, or a collaboration between the two. You talk about what sort of things the company is going to do in their operation to support the project, and where you see this growing new business.

Kevin Dickson

And I think the idea of being able to utilize some of those - you know, some of the previous experiences we've had with working, how they have helped us in our business, was certainly something that, you know, for maybe more of the academics side, they may not be able to see just how you could utilize some of this stuff more in industry and how it can, you know, make us technology leaders and give us a little bit of a leapfrog over the competition.

Announcer

The applicant will usually arrange a dry run rehearsal in advance of the site visit to go over the day's agenda and set expectations. Partners should ensure that they are part of this rehearsal, as they will be included in the in-camera meeting without the applicant and must know the details of the application.

Janine Mauzeroll

If it's possible for the industrial partner to physically be at the presentation and - because the industrial partner will have a presentation themselves, you can tone the story so that what the industrial partner is saying ties in with what the academics are selling as the novelty behind the work. Finally, if you have an industrial team with you during the site visit, it's also important to make sure that they have something to say to the Site Committee members in terms of these technical issues that will arise, or the relevance of doing this work for that particular industry. Really the industrial partner should be focusing on this rather than explaining technical research to the Site Committee Visit. It's a good task separation and a good site visit is important.

Chapter 8
Announcer

A tour of relevant laboratories or other facilities may be an optional or a required part of the site visit, depending on the grant type. Tours should be relevant to the proposal being discussed and showcase the facilities and capabilities the institution will provide to the project.

Audrey Penner

This is really something you have to assure you do the wow factor. So you start at one point, and that point can be your favourite spot, that point can be the spot that's the entranceway, it doesn't matter. But you have to build, and you have to align it so that, at the end of the day, they see you have the equipment, you have the space, you've thought through the plan, you can do what you say you're going to do.

Graham Gagnon

The facilities that we had, that we were going to use, were going to be unique to our program in that one facility was going to be offsite, off campus, and the other facility was on campus. And it was important for the Committee to kind of understand where the offsite portion was occurring, why it needed to occur there, and why the onsite had to occur in the onsite, and where the limitations were between those facilities. And one of our Site Committee members really struggled with why we were proposing this in our budget, and then as soon as they walked through the offsite facility they could clearly understand why we were allocating the budget the way we were. And I think it's important for any PI to make sure that, if there are unique elements that aren't off the shelf, it's important to explain why they're important to your research program.

Announcer

As in the rest of the visit, facility tours require pre-planning and thorough organization.

David T. Lynch

Is there going to be a visit to the facilities? Is there going to be lab tours? If there are, OK, let's go back over all the safety protocols, let's go back over all the good operating protocols of what will be shown, what will be demonstrated, just ensuring that there's going to be absolutely no sort of big surprises by anybody inadvertently that, due to enthusiasm, somebody drags the Committee into the lab without safety glasses on because they just can't wait to show them the lab. No, no, no. Just work this out, what's going to happen. Because you know the good practices are there. Don't sort of forget them at the time of the visit due to adrenaline or due to the excitement.

Audrey Penner

Take the time for - to have the researcher explain, if they ask, what does each piece of equipment do; why would you buy that piece of equipment; how often do you use that piece of equipment; why is that equipment in this room and not in that room; why do you have this lab down the hall and your kitchen someplace else. So you have to be prepared for any type of question. I couldn't exactly say to you you'll be guaranteed to be asked certain things. I can guarantee you they will ask you something that's unexpected.

Announcer

Committee members may also wish to have casual or in-camera discussions with students as an additional way to assess the quality of the training environment.

Robert Luke

So one of the key components of the site visit is showing the committee the place where we train the students to learn the skills that they will then use to apply to their industry context. So in the Food Innovation Research Studio, we're actually working with industry partners to develop new products that we want to take to market. And here in the culinary lab, the students get to practice and develop their skills.

David T. Lynch

They then later, as they're doing the lab tour or they're in the lab facility, and the Site Visit Committee member says to them, well, you know, that's in interesting thing, what are you doing, what - you know, what are you doing, and they'll quickly turn to that. And the students, when they're fully engaged and have been involved by being invited into those things, can immediately answer, and answer very well in almost every case about what their role is and what they're excited about and where this is going to take them. And I've always found that having students engaged adds energy, brings energy to the Site Visit Committee members themselves.

Chapter 9
Boyd Davis

In the long run, you know, I've been on all sides of this Committee and academic and the industrial side of all these, and you really have to see this as people helping other people to make the project a really great success.

Announcer

A well run site visit can make a crucial difference in the success of a grant application, and requires advance preparation and attention to detail. Here are some key aspects to keep in mind while preparing for a site visit. The site visit is your opportunity to present your application with passion and enthusiasm. Think of it as a job interview or sales pitch. Presentations to the Site Visit Committee should be high level and include information that enhances the clarity of the written proposal or provides additional information. Meet to do a dry-run rehearsal of the presentation. This rehearsal should include industrial partners since they will be speaking privately with the Committee about the proposal and their involvement in the project. Organize a meeting space that accommodates all participants and their meeting materials for a comfortable and productive day. Be ready to accept changes to the agenda on the day of the site visit. Engage with the Committee by answering their questions clearly and frankly.

David T. Lynch

The site visit day is incredibly intense, from the moment it starts, and even before it starts. And so a Site Visit Committee is under incredible, intense sort of meetings from the moment they walk in, to the moment they manage to leave, and they know they've got this fixed amount of time.

Audrey Penner

So you have to take control of that day and assure that things happen in the right order. So without that sort of thinking ahead and that strategic planning, your site visit can be a site visit or it can be an event that people walk away going wow, these people can really do the job.

Milena Corrediq

It's a very interesting process. It has to be taken positively. And it is a review, so, as any review, you can take it very personally and get very upset if somebody asks a question that they didn't fully understand, but you know what, it was up to you to write a good proposal, and this is a perfect chance to fix the little details that perhaps they didn't get right. So I think it's a very nice process and it should be taken that way.


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