Writing a successful research funding bid


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Session 1C from City University London's Researchers' Development Day, held on Friday 4th May 2012.

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  • Something to think about, if you are planning a career in academia. Getting research funding is not easy. But it’s not impossible. EPSRC: success rate 2010-11 by number was 36% across all institutions; City was 41%. This was 17 applications; 7 successful but only £1.2 million However, writing a good proposal can be challenging, especially a first proposal.
  • There are many different funding bodies and many different schemes: Within the UK : Research Councils, charities, commercial organisations 2 modes: calls and responsive. Focusing primarily on writing research proposals for UK research councils and other UK funding bodies such as charities and NHS. The places that you would most likely submit a first proposal. This is not specific to any one funding body – read the guidance carefully. Nor are we addressing the specifics of the process at City. Impact - anticipated academic, economic and societal benefits Pathway to impact – activities that will be undertake to help deliver the impact
  • It is unfortunately the case that funding often follows funding. Find a friend
  • The technical part of the proposal This is the current expectation for the EPSRC Explain what is exciting and original. National Importance is the extent, over the long term, for example 10-50 years, to which the research proposed; contributes to, or helps maintain the health of other research disciplines contributes to addressing key UK societal challenges, contributes to current or future UK economic success and/or enables future development of key emerging industry(s) meets national strategic needs by establishing or maintaining a unique world leading research activity (including areas of niche capability) fits with and complements other UK research already funded in the area  or related areas, including the relationship to the EPSRC portfolio and our stated strategy set out in “Our Portfolio”
  • Understand and write to the call. Ask your colleagues for a sanity check; but ask someone with a strong track record for feedback on how you have written the proposal. Get an appropriate balance between background, project details, references. Write carefully, format well. Make it readable. Take care over all sections. We sometimes are not sufficiently ambitious in the frequency with which we submit proposals for funding and in the scale of our proposals.
  • Make your proposal stand out. State a problem. Knowing why you are doing what you are doing. Explain the importance and novelty.
  • Don ’t have too many aims or objectives, the reader won’t have time to stitch loads of objectives together with methodology, outcomes etc. They are not the same as the method Make sure that the research methods and stages of work will yield these aims and objectives, explain the connection You don’t have to do this on your own – find a friend
  • EPSRC: applicants (listed as the principal investigator on a application) who have: Three or more applications within a two-year period ranked in the bottom half of a funding prioritisation list or rejected before panel (including administrative rejects),  and An overall personal success rate of less than 25% over the same two years. ESRC: individuals and HEIs expected to demonstrate that they are looking at ways to improve self-regulation through: Continuation or introduction of formal quality assurance systems Submission of higher quality applications and more selective submission of applications
  • Don ’t cost for a RA for three years just because your proposal is for three years. Cost for what you actually want. You will need to mention the costings in your proposal e.g seminars, travel, conferences, consumable, equipment On j-es form need to give breakdown of costs e.g under travel you will need to mention how many people, how many journeys, how long etc.
  • 2 pages A4 – Justify all costs and why you need them PI – How much time do you intend to dedicate to the project? Will you be doing all the research yourself? What work packages are the PI and Co-Is involved with and why? Have you factored in enough time to work with project partners, visiting researchers and other collaborators? Are you only managing the staff on the project? Travel – is conference international or national Impact - For example: including staff time, travel and subsistence, consultancy fees, publication costs, and public communication training. Costs will be deleted if they are asked for on j-es but not justified on JOR vice versa – if they are not properly justified, if the cost/description on j-es does not match JOR
  • Needs to be written in a non academic way Possible beneficiaries – policy makers, govt, public sector, industry Consider – has the research potential to impact on nations wealth , health and culture What will the impacts be and their importance Is it a realistic timescale
  • Maximum 2 pages A4 Question should continue from the two questions you addressed in your summary. They are not asking you to predict impact How have beneficiaries been engaged to date, and how will they be engaged moving forward? How will the work build on existing links or will create new links? Outline activities to work with intermediary organisations or networks. Don ’t waffle be realistic Not saying that all the types of activities are relevant
  • Collaboration - established or newly formed; nature, value and significance of any contributions to the proposed project; and details of any formal collaboration agreements or future plans for collaboration agreements. Exploitation - What structure and mechanisms can you put in place to exploit and protect the outputs from the research, during and at the end of the grant lifecycle? Capacity - The PI or Co/I and named researchers; What previous and relevant experience do they have in achieving successful knowledge exchange and impacts? How will they acquire any additional skills required? Not all will be relevant to all applications
  • Summarise how your research will contribute to knowledge both within the UK and world wide
  • Might be reading it on a train/bus on way into work you want to catch their attention so that they read the proposal. Sell the idea here All research councils ask for this.
  • ESRC expects that full consideration is given to any ethical matters in the research it funds and that, where appropriate, the research meets key ethical principles and is approved by ethical authorities You have to consider and complete and ethics application if you are conducting interviews, if the participants are vulnerable adults or children under 18 years of age, minority groups, have a physical or mental disability. All projects that involve human participants should get ethical clearance.
  • Writing a successful research funding bid

    1. 1. A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012
    2. 2. Writing a SuccessfulResearch Funding Bid A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012Andrea Tinson Stephanie WilsonResearch Development Mgr Centre for HCI DesignSchool of Social Sciences School of Informatics
    3. 3. Focusing on the Research Proposal  The case for support (the technical part) A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  All the other important things (impact, pathway to impact, costings, ethics etc)
    4. 4. Where to Start?  You are unlikely to be awarded a substantial grant without evidence of a track record  So, start modestly A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Look at pump-priming, seed corn and first grant schemes  Collaborate with more experienced colleagues
    5. 5. The Funding Process Bright idea! Write and submit proposal A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 Peer review Your response Panel and decision
    6. 6. The Message You Need to Convey  This research is original and important  You can deliver it A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  It fits with the funder’s remit
    7. 7. Case for Support  Applicant’s previous track record  Proposed research and its context A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 − Background − Research hypotheses and objectives − Research methodology − National importance − Academic impact
    8. 8. Case for Support: General Guidance  Respond to the call (if there is one)  Give yourself plenty of time and seek lots of feedback A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Check the review criteria  Get the balance right: make sure you explain what you will do  Stake your claim for what is important and novel  Be fussy, very fussy, about everything…
    9. 9. Case For Support contd  Previous track record − your track record in the area (citing evidence) − more general research and research management A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 experience − organisational strengths  Background − demonstrate your (up-to-date) knowledge of the subject − identify gaps and the problem − explain the importance
    10. 10. Case For Support contd  Objectives and research questions − not too speculative, not too applied − specific and generic A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 − can you state in one sentence what you want to do??  Research methodology − appropriate and justified − specific and detailed (“will do”) − organised as a set of activities − will deliver the objectives, answer the research questions
    11. 11. State What You Are Going To Do And state it early on Our very first sentence in a recent (successful!) proposal: A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 This project will investigate an innovative adaptation of gesture recognition technology to create a resource for training aphasic people to communicate through gesture.
    12. 12. From the ESRC: “Write in plain English. Your proposal is likely to be seen by many people, including some who will not be familiar with your particular specialisation.” A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 “By the same token, do take the trouble to check spelling, grammar and punctuation. These are all part of the quality of presentation and presentation matters! " http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding-and- guidance/guidance/applicants/application2.aspx
    13. 13. Review criteria EPSRC: ESRC: Quality Originality, potential contribution to knowledge A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 Importance Research design and methods Impact Value for money Applicant Outputs, dissemination, impact Resources and management  Proposals graded 1 - 6
    14. 14. Potential Downfalls  Not a research proposal  Not clear what the idea or problem is A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Not clear that it is an important problem  Insufficient detail about what will actually be done  Lack of awareness of prior work  Requested resources are insufficient or excessive  Proposal is incomprehensible or badly written
    15. 15. Be Aware… Some funding bodies have sanctions against unsuccessful applicants EPSRC: “12-month cooling-off period for repeatedly A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 unsuccessful applicants” ESRC: “demand management”
    16. 16. Other aspects to consider……  Costings (salary and other costs)  Justification of resources A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Impact statements  General statement  Ethical statement
    17. 17. Costings  Look at what you want to do  Cost for what you require – do not be afraid to ask A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  If you have said that you would run seminars then cost for them  Question to ask yourself “Have I costed for everything I need to run this project?”
    18. 18. Justification of resources (JOR)  Staff – why researcher needed for work, why proposed time is necessary  PI and Co-Is – is time costed necessary A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Travel and subsistence – give full breakdown, why and who you are you visiting, how will they contribute  Other directly incurred costs – give full description and state why you require them  Impact – full breakdown required
    19. 19. Impact statements Three statements to consider  Impact summary A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Pathways to excellence  Academic impact
    20. 20. Impact summary Two questions to answer:  Who will benefit from this research? A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 − List who will benefit, who would be interested, short term as well as long term − How will they benefit? • Relevance of your research to them
    21. 21. Pathways to excellence  Detail the activities which will help develop potential economic and societal impacts.  Address following question: What will be done to ensure that A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 potential beneficiaries have the opportunity to engage with this research?  Following need to be considered:  Communications and Engagement - describe engagement with the identified beneficiaries
    22. 22. Pathways to excellence contd.  Collaboration and Co-production - explain how collaborations and partnerships within the proposed project or research will be managed A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Exploitation and Application - identify the mechanisms in place for potential exploitation, both commercially and non- commercially  Capacity and Involvement - who is likely to be undertaking the impact activities  Impact Activity Deliverables and Milestones  Resource for the activity
    23. 23. Academic beneficiaries  How will the research benefit others in the field or carrying out similar related research  Will the research benefit any other academics in other fields A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Describe the relevance of the research − Potential academic impact − How will your research be made available − Collaboration
    24. 24. General statement  Has to be written for a general audience  If you use technical terms explain them A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  Make it interesting  Don’t waffle
    25. 25. Ethical issues  Please indicate whether there are any ethical implications arising from the proposed research activities.  If there are ethical implications, you should give brief details A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012 of what they are and how you intend to address them.  You are also asked to indicate whether your HEI has a policy on good conduct in research, in line with the requirements of the Research Councils.
    26. 26. Useful web addresses  https://je-s.rcuk.ac.uk/jesHandBook/jesHelp.aspx?m=s&s=570&q=ethi  http://royalsociety.org/Funding-scientists/ A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  http://www.epsrc.ac.uk/Pages/default.aspx  http://www.esrc.ac.uk/Pages/default.aspx
    27. 27. Useful web addresses contd.  http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/Pages/default.aspx A. Tinson and S. Wilson, 2012  http://mrc.ac.uk  http://www.leverhulme.ac.uk/  http://www.britac.ac.uk/  https://intranet.city.ac.uk/staff/research_support/research_support/rese