Introductions and welcome to this session in the PG HEP Research module.What stage are people at in applying for funding: Who has applied before? Who has plans to apply? Who is just thinking about it?Inevitably some people will be further along than others, so some of this information will be old news to some of you…Aims: to develop an awareness of the research funding landscape, know how to submit an application and what support is available, develop an understanding of the different aspects of crafting a good quality application Structure of session: one plenary (this) plus practical follow-up which you need to book ontoHandout pack: Session plan; Group discussion exercises plus final exercise; Grant outline form for follow-up workshops
Yourhandout pack has a session plan.
Time is limited and this is a complex area, so apologies in advance for brevity. Many of the issues covered deserve their own workshops. RBS will be rolling out a series of related workshops over the next 6 months on different aspects covered in brief today, so please keep an eye on HR staff development.Please ask at the time if there’s something you don’t understand. I’ll also have a slot at the end for questions.
AHRC,BBSRC,EPSRC,ESRC,MRC,NERC,STFCFrom EPSRC (£600M+/year) to AHRC (£100M/year)
We need to be realistic about the funding environment we are operating in“Maintain = Reduce” DavidDelpy, CEO EPSRC commenting on recent EPSRC review of funding priorities. Many areas were “maintained”, but this means a 10-15% reduction in real terms if other areas are to grow……the only exception is FP7, where budgets are increasing until the end of the programme, and negotiations are underway over the budget for Horizon 2020 – but given current political events in Europe it may be difficult for them to get the increase that they need
In that context here are the key policy and strategic issues facing potential applicants today. These mainly relate to UK Research Councils, but some are relevant to other funders, e.g. impact (EC), longer and larger (Wellcome), demand management (all funders as budgets are squeezed)
Even though the funding environment is tough, there is hope for potential applicantsWe’re going to cover some of these points in detail today and in the next session: it’s about knowing the research funding gameRealistic: it’s about knowing which grants are available for you at your career stage, and planning for the next stageInformed: knowing the funder’s remit and how to address it; knowing what else has been funded and how your research fits with thatInnovative: increasingly funders are looking for innovative, cross-disciplinary approaches to themes, topics and issues; collaboration with others is often necessary to achieve thisRigorous: you must be able to carry out research to a high standard of quality and rigour; funders want to fund the best – well-trained researchers who are clear about what they want to achieve and can do it in a realistic timescale with reasonable and justified resourcesTargeted: don’t promise the earth; you need understand and explain your key research questions and why this funder is the best fit for this projectConnected: increasingly funders are looking for collaborative research; make sure you develop good connections both within and outside of academia, in the UK and overseas; look for ways to fund these collaborations as they may be very important to you in the futurePrepared: that’s what this session is about in part; also you need to make sure you plan ahead as far as possible – know which funders you are going to target and which calls; plan the actual application process well in advance – seek help and advice, leave time for unforeseen circumstances
Research Professional is a comprehensive research news and funding database which also sends personalised email alerts to registered users. All research active members of staff should set up an account.You can access this from on campus without a password, as a guest, but you won’t be able to save any searches or set up your personalised email alerts.Register for an account if you haven’t done so already.Skip the induction and go straight to the home page. You can always take the induction again at a later date.You have a choice: you can either follow along by copying what I do on the main screen, or just watch and come back to it later using the quick reference handout that you’ve got.Structure of home page: pre-set searches, Outlook style.Practice funding search.Set up email alerts.
This is a rough draft of the main stages involved in preparing a funding application at NorthumbriaBe aware that support is available at most of these stages via RBS or School administrator
This part of the session will cover the key elements of a successful funding proposal drawing on examples often from UK Research Councils. Remember that not all funders are the same, and you should target the remit of the funder you’re applying to. However, many of the principles of constructing a good funding proposal are similar across different funders. That’s what we’ll be covering here.
Review feedback regularly says of a research proposal “Good idea, but…”This session won’t mean that all of your research proposals are funded. It’s not a guarantee of success.The best it can do is give you tools, tips and strategies to plan and construct a good quality research proposal.It’s up to you to come up with a compelling research question
http://socialscienceresearchfunding.co.uk/?p=359 application and assessment processes for unlimited goods (PhDs, driving licenses) and limited goods (jobs, grant applications). “You aren’t going to fail your driving test if there are better drivers than you, but your funding proposal may be rejected if there’s a better applicant than you.”Reviewers may well have a pile of applications to get through. They’re busy people, just like you – because they are you! – so they may not have the time they would like to give each application the detailed and thoughtful consideration they would like. They’ll be marking to review criteria, but will be looking for holes and weaknesses.The quote comes from an unnamed senior member of staff in the Canadian SSHRC (Social Science and Humanities Research Council)
Different calls and funders will ask for this information in different ways, but at a basic level all funders want to know who is going to be doing the research; what are you going to do; and how are you going to do it.I’ll unpack each of these elements along with things to think about when writing a proposal.We’ll come back to the fourth question “Why?” later.
Almost every project should have a PI – this is the person ultimately responsible for the research. If it’s a small project, there may only be a PI carrying out the research, but in a larger project the PI may be responsible for managing staff, coordinating partners, supervising project students, managing the budget, etc. So it’s important to get this element right, and to clearly communicate the PI’s skills and experience which make him/her suitable for this project.Co-Is are part of the project team – may be based at the same institution or a different one. Who you choose – and whether you have them at all – will depend on the funding call and the project. It may be that the call requires a team of investigators. It may be that you need expertise that you don’t have. Choice of Co-I is critical to cover all the bases.Partners are usually other individuals or organisations that have committed to support or participate in the project in some way. Be aware of funder-specific rules here as “partner” can mean different things to different funders. In a Research Council application, for example, it usually refers to a non-academic organisation which stands to participate or benefit from the research. Typically a partner would be expected to contribute something to the research, which may be in-kind staff time, but more than simply a cheerleader for the project.
One of the most important questions to answer in your application: research problems/questions must be clear and concise. They must fit the remit of the call, and should be ambitious but don’t promise the earth.Applications often fall down on methodology – it’s one of the easiest elements for time-pressed reviewers to pick holes in. You not only need to clearly state what you intend to do, you also need to justify your methodological choices: Why a series of semi-structured interviews? Why running this statistical analysis? Why this number of participants? Why carry out a pilot study in this environment? Etc.Outputs – what is going to be the end product of this project? Probably there will be a series of outputs, such as journal articles, workshop or conference papers, a website, database, a report for policymakers, a best practice guide for community groups. The outputs should fit the methodology and the aims of the project – if you plan to engage businesses for example, it would be a good idea to produce an output relevant to this user group, in addition to the more academic outputs you will also produce. It’s important to think about the content of the output as well as the dissemination mechanism (e.g. what will the journal papers be about – to which journals?)Impacts outside of academia are increasingly important, particularly for Research Councils. It’s important to note that these are not simply limited to economic impacts – social and cultural impact counts as well. You’ll need to think about ways of engaging potential end users of your research, from policymakers to businesses, community groups to hospitals, industry to local authorities. It shouldn’t just be a passing nod to these groups – you’ll need to explain how your project will engage them and transfer knowledge or make an impact on their day to day lives.
Budgeting is often the part that gets left until last, or the part that researchers feel least comfortable with, especially if you’ve never managed a budget or run a project before. But it’s too important to leave until last, and it’s not as difficult as it appears! RBS and/or School Admin will support you, but you need to be aware of the issues – particularly funding limits and what you can request. Last minute budget changes can and do have an impact on other parts of the bid, e.g. methodology, partners, Co-Is, etc.Plan: think about timescales and milestones. What is each person going to be doing? It’s all very well asking for an RA full-time for three years, but is there enough for them to do for that time? Sometimes funders will ask you to include this as part of your case for support, other times it could be a separate appendix.Management: what is the management structure going to be – this will relate to the size and complexity of the project. If it’s just you, then there won’t be any need for steering groups etc. but on larger scale, multipartner international projects, you will need to think very carefully about this element.
The application will often be completed online, and you may also need to prepare attachments in Word according to a template in the guidance notes. This is the case for both Research Councils and European bids, for example. If the application is online, there may well be an online approval process, so take care to allow enough time for this to go through. Also worth noting is that you can and should use sub-headings in the online application to structure your text.Here are a few of the key sections/attachmentsof most application forms.
This is about justifying the need for and resultant benefits of your project – for the state of the art, society at large, a particular industrial sector. Whatever it is, you need to identify that need and communicate it throughout the application.
EPSRC have recently introduced this criterion in all research grants. They’re asking researchers to situate their research in the context of other research nationally and look ahead 10-50 years to explain what effect it might have. Not difficult, then(!) But where EPSRC go, other research councils often follow (cf. demand management) so even if EPSRC is not your bread and butter, it’s worth thinking about this.In any case, it’s always worth asking yourself the question: “what would happen if this research isn’t funded?” What insights would be lost, which user groups would not be impacted?
Know your field: what’s been funded in the past and why is your approach better?Perhaps you have links to user groups that are unique, perhaps you want to cross disciplinary boundaries in a way that is different to others working in your field, perhaps your theoretical approach or research question is different. Whatever it is, find your USP and sell it!You can’t be an expert in everything. You need to be ruthless in identifying any weaknesses. For example, if you want to communicate your research to a certain user group, but don’t have any links to them consider recruiting a Co-I with contacts or develop some contacts and get them on board as partners in your application.
It’s not always possible, but it helps if you can identify a timely event or pressing need for the research to take place – for instance, an anniversary or event of some kind, the Olympics, extinction of a species, a pressing social or economic problem, an urgent environmental issue, a legal or policy change that needs urgent action, etc.
Research paper: Often you’ll start writing as you would a research paper – but this is more of a sales pitch than a research paper. Yes, the research should be sound and, yes, you need to give contextual information in order to justify the project. But bear in mind that you need to explain what this project is about and what will be achieved, rather than focusing on the current state of the art.Get to the point sooner rather than later. Don’t leave it until paragraph 3 of page 2 before you explain what your research project will do. It’s understandable that you may need to set out some context to frame your research, but tell the reader briefly up front what you’re going to do and why it’s important. Then you can come back later to flesh out the details.Justify: You must always justify the need for your research, the resources you are requesting, the methodological and theoretical approaches you take. There will always be a reviewer who thinks their approach is better, so you need to cover yourself by setting out the reasons why your approach is the best fit for your project.Methodology: Sometimes an application will be well justified in terms of the need and importance of the research, but will fall down on methodology. I’ve seen this happen in both physical sciences and arts/humanities applications. Don’t assume the reviewer knows exactly what you’re going to do. Explain it to them. Tell them how.Language: There’s a balance to strike between being too technical and not technical enough. There will be subject experts on the review panel so you need to show that you know your stuff in detail, but you also need to make the point of the research clear to a non-expert (at least in the lay summary, but also in the body of the Case for Support).Spelling/grammar: Just spell check it and get it peer reviewed to sense check. Leave time if you can to come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes.Inconsistencies: As you construct your application you may change your plans slightly, particularly when it comes to the budget – this is why I mentioned it’s important to sort this out early on. Ensure you cross-check the whole thing before submission to make sure, for example, your research questions match what you wrote in the summary.Promising too much: or too little for the money… Check what has been funded previously. Most funders make this information easily available, and you can usually see overall budget figures. Think about your resources: do you need a full-time RA for the length of the project? Do you need that extra iPad? Also, ask someone with experience of running a research project whether or not your project looks feasible within a given time frame (think about publisher deadlines, etc.)Funder priorities: Don’t just read the call information thoroughly, also check the funder’s latest strategic/delivery plans. You should link your work to their priorities to increase your chances of success.Tell a story: This is probably the hardest one to define, but it relates to the overarching narrative (or lack of one) in the bid. This covers all of the key elements: what, how, who and why. One way to do this is to use signposting, i.e. flagging up something at an earlier point which you will discuss in detail in a later section, for example impact.
Challenge them to tell you 10 reasons why they wouldn’t fund itTry to get a subject expert and a lay reviewerRemember, this is partly why we’re here – talk to RBS and your RFDMs!
You can’t be told how to do this, you need to have a go!
Please contact Laura McMahon to book onto one of these asap.Remember as preparation you need to complete the outline application form and send to me at least three working days before your session.
Developing a successful research grant application
Dr David Young (Research Funding Development Manager) Research and Business Services 1
IntroductionsWhere are you? Aims Structure Handouts 2
Research funding landscape Discussion 1 How to find and apply for research funding BreakPlaying the research funding game Discussion 2 & 3 ExerciseFinal questions and follow-up 3
Dual support Funders and remitsCurrent policy and strategic directions 5
Research is funded in two ways: HEFCE QR block grant Research grants and contracts 6
• RAE/REFQR Block • Relatively predictable • Flexible Grant • Long-term • £1.9bnResearch • Range of funders • Competitivegrants & • Mainly shorter-term • Relatively inflexiblecontracts • £4.4bn Figures for 2010/11 for UK HE sector from HESA 7
QR Block Grant •£2.4MResearchgrants & •£4.4Mcontracts Figures for 2010/11 for Northumbria from University’s financial statements/HEFCE 8
7 councilsDifferent remits but increasing crossoverMix of calls: some open, some targeted From “blue sky” to applied Collaborative and individual Competitive and prestigious £1,558M in 2010/11 9
e.g. DEFRA, MOD (CDE), NIHR, DFID, NHSGenerally much more targeted Generally more applied Generally tighter deadlines £807M in 2010/11 10
Consultancy and contract research Meeting the needs of the business Can be good pay-off……but check contracts and IPR £293M in 2010/11 11
e.g.Wellcome, Leverhulme, CRUK, J oseph Rowntree Vast range of funders From small to huge From targeted to open Independent of government Don’t pay overheads £920M in 2010/11 12
e.g. British Academy, Royal Society, Royal Academy of EngineeringPart-funded by parliamentarygrant, but more independent than Research CouncilsMix of fellowships, prizes and grants Competitive and prestigious 13
Framework Programme 7 - €50bn International collaboration… …but some individual grants availableCan be time-consuming to write Success rates vary widely £513M in 2010/11 14
700600500400 Research grants Studentships300 Fellowships TOTAL The Big Squeeze…200100 0 2010/11 2011/12 2012/13 2013/14 2014/15 EPSRC spend by type of award over current spending review period 15
Impact Longer and larger Interdisciplinary and collaborativeSolving “grand challenges” Concentration of funding Demand management 16
Be realistic Be informed Be innovative Be rigorous Be targeted Be connectedBe prepared: know the game 17
Target Practice: finding the right funder for you 18
Finding fundingResearch application process 19
Go to:http://researchprofessional.com Register Log in Funding search Practice! Set up email alerts 20
UKRO: http://www.ukro.ac.uk/ RDInfo/Funding: http://www.rdfunding.org.uk/ Research Support Blog (Northumbria):http://research.northumbria.ac. uk/support/ The Nugget (Northumbria):http://www.northumbria.ac.uk/researchandconsultancy/sa/fun ding/nugget/ 21
Funders issue calls for proposals These can be open or targeted The call will include guidancenotes on context and how to put the application together It may also tell you the review criteria YOU MUST: address the remit YOU MUST: follow these rules 32
Lay summary/abstract Aims & objectives Academic beneficiaries Pathways to impact Case for support Staff responsibilitiesJustification of resources CVs 33
Help! I’m a researcher: overcoming barriers to your research 34
Following the rules is not enough……you need to answer “why?” 35
“National importance”What is the risk of not funding this research? 36
It’s not rocket science: the art of the project summary 40
It’s not a research paper! Get to the point! Justify, justify, justify No details on plan/methodology Watch your language Spelling and grammarInconsistencies between sections Promising too much/too little Ignoring funder priorities Tell a convincing “story” 41
Ask someone else to read your proposal before you submit!…and not just read, but critique 42
Summing up: writing up your own research project 44
Friday 1st June, 2pm-5pm Wednesday 20th June, 9am-12pm To book: firstname.lastname@example.org Email completed outlines to me: email@example.comAt least three days before your session 45
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