The Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) is responsible for managing high-impact research projects that discover, develop, and deliver health care solutions for service members, veterans, and the American public. At the core of successfully accomplishing CDMRP’s mission are Science Officers (SOs), who administer grant awards and are responsible for planning, coordinating, budgeting, and managing research awards. Recruiting and retaining senior scientist SOs with such specialized background and knowledge, however, is difficult. Beginning in 2015, our challenge was to help CDMRP find—and keep—independent, proactive scientists to solve new problems, think differently about research, and remain flexible in adapting to CDMRP’s future needs. Given CDMRP’s investment in training and the high cost of turnover, succeeding the first time is critical to its ROI.
We first created an original “SO portrait” to capture the profile of an accomplished senior scientist and formed a baseline for consistently sourcing candidates. That portrait enabled us to develop a tailored vetting process that not only assesses scientific and grants experience, but qualitatively measures soft skills and deeper consulting intangibles that extend beyond resume bullets: adaptability, attention to detail, initiative, and communication skills, for example. We used our deep network in the health and science communities to build a pipeline of SO candidates with not only research and grants management knowledge, but invaluable policy, evaluation, technology, regulatory, and education expertise. This sourcing process has allowed Ripple Effect and CDMRP to succeed in not just finding the first available candidate, but finding the right candidate the first time.
As of fall 2019, our sourcing and vetting process has resulted in CDMRP accepting 96% of Ripple Effect SO candidate recommendations for key personnel the first time. More than 97% of SOs hired through our vetting process have received positive client feedback. Ripple Effect SOs lead CDMRP working groups and grant management efforts, ensuring continuity in CDMRP’s operations and reducing burden on the government. And over the past five years, more than 60% of turnover on our SO contract is the direct result of CDMRP hiring our contractors as civilian SOs—a testament to our ability to find the right people for the right jobs, over and over again.