A simple game that explains a complicated process

Posted on Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Marlene Hoff
By Mireille Piché

You know the board game called Snakes and Ladders–the one in which you roll the dice to move forward, and climb up the ladders while avoiding the snakes?

Marlene Hoff, who is responsible for research development at the Faculty of Education and Cathy Stafford, now working at Carleton University, used this game as a model to describe how to obtain financing for multicentre projects.

A multicentre project is one that involves several institutions that operate at the provincial, national and even international levels, such as universities, colleges, independent research institutes and even government agencies.

“Our poster is a logical set of steps that you follow in the process, and ultimately, it helps you look at the end product,” explained Marlene Hoff.

Hoff's background in fine arts led her to create a 3-D poster that contains all the relevant information, but that also can be played. “To win this game, you have to plan things out, be well-organized and manage your time – just like in research. So roll the dice and take your chances!”

Marlene is very familiar with the application processes required to obtain scholarships, win competitions and earn grants.  “I understand the concept of research,” she explained. “I am also aware of all the things that can be asked for when executing a research project.”

She emphasized that when conducting research, an in-depth study of the game plan must be conducted, ranging from budgeting to hedge against variations in international currency rates to relations between colleagues and unforeseen family emergencies. The goal is to consider solutions to problems before they occur and especially, to trace a path to success. “We really wanted the poster to be interactive, and to show what can go wrong, what can go right,” she said.

Cathy Stafford and Marlene Hoff presented their poster at the 2014 Annual Conference of the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA), and a demonstration of the “game” was also featured in a CARA-sponsored webinar.

Mrs Hoff uses the concepts of the poster in her everyday work at the University of Ottawa. “The work that I do with the professors is really all about career development. It’s looking at what their opportunities are in terms of building a network, building partnerships and looking for the appropriate sources of funding.”

Marlene is always looking for ways to support researchers: she sees it as her duty to help them succeed. Armed with her secret weapon– a never-empty candy jar she keeps in her office– she welcomes every chance she gets to help Faculty of Education professors complete their projects. Her encouraging support and valiant efforts on behalf of these researchers have earned her the Faculty’s Support Staff Award for Excellence for 2015.

Marlene’s and Cathy’s poster will again be on display at the 2016 Jean-Paul Dionne Symposium. Come play and learn more about the ups and downs of applying for research funding.

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