What makes a good grant application?


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Presented by Siân Aggett and Michelle Jimenez at the Public Engagement Workshop, 2-5 Dec. 2008, KwaZulu-Natal South Africa

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  • Version of slide 1 for fellowships in general.
    Pictures show (left to right):
    Microbiology assays at the Vietnam Major Overseas Programme.
    3-D molecular graphics viewing.
    Dr Henry Mwandumba, former Clinical Training Fellow at Malawi Major Overseas Programme, with flexible bronchoscope, Blantyre.
    Rationale for pictures: Meaning of fellowship. A fellowship is designed to support a person to undertake a piece of research. The grant must match the background, skills and aptitude of the person with the project which may involve the use of simple lab assays, high-tech computer-based structural research, or sophisticated clinical interventions.
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    I have added this slide to give you an idea of what happens to grants when they come through the door
    The key point here is to mention that a grant can take 4-6 months to process; so plan ahead!!!
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    New schemes will allow progression for developing country scientists, from postgraduate training through to Senior and Principal Research Fellowships – filling a gap in previous Trust funding.
    Details will be announced shortly – likely that schemes will be based around existing Major Overseas Programmes initially.
    Research Training Fellowship
    Non-clinicians: < 2 yrs postdoc
    Clinicians: MRCP equivalent
    Duration: up to 4yrs
    Intermediate Research Fellowship
    Non-clinicians: 3-6 yrs post-doc
    Clinicians: 3-6 y research experience
    Duration: up to 4 yrs
    Senior Research Fellowship
    Non-clinicians: 5 to ~ 10 yrs post-doc experience
    Clinicians: higher degree
    Duration: 5 yrs with Rolling Renewal
  • Pictures clockwise from top left:
    Female mosquito feeding.
    Sanger Institute, Hinxton.
    Prof Francois Nosten, former Senior Fellow, at Shoklo Malaria Research Unit, Thailand Major Overseas Programme, Mae La Camp, Mae Sot.
    Prof Jeremy Farrar, former Senior Fellow, now Director of Vietnam Major Overseas Programme, examining MRI with Mark Walport, Director of Wellcome Trust, at Hospital for Tropical Diseases, Ho Chi Minh City.
    Mother and child, Thai-Burmese border.
    Esther Gondwe, PhD trainee, Malawi Major Overseas Programme, Blantyre.
    Rationale for pictures: Research can be in a wide range of topics, from vector biology to genome studies, based in a modern laboratory or a rural clinic, in the community or a modern hospital.
  • A strong background and good basic knowledge of the research topic
    Be able to demonstrate potential as a career scientist, eg good outputs from your PhD, or showing your enthusiasm in vacation work in laboratories.
    Show how this fellowship is important to advance your career. What are your future plans? How does this fellowship help?
    Have participated in developing the proposal under the mentorship of a superviser, eg visiting the host laboratory(ies), researching the background, and writing the project
  • The research project should be novel, interesting and relevant to human or animal health. What is your question? Why is it important?
    Be of high scientific merit, based on sound scientific principles. Provide good and relevant background – it shows you have a grasp of the subject and the scientific literature.
    Have clear aims and objectives. Write clearly and concisely; a well-organised proposal makes for easy reading. If relevant, show power calculations. Pilot data, if available, can help.
    The aims of the project should be realistic, with a clear time frame, and achievable with the budget requested.
    Understanding of risks, and factoring contingencies against possible problems.
    The project should provide valid training in the chosen research area such as experience of new methodologies or techniques, and be intellectually challenging; candidate should not be just another pair of hands.
    The quality of supervision can be discerned from the quality of the project proposal. If the project is badly conceived or written the committee will have doubts about the quality of supervision and/or mentorship.
  • Provide strong justification for choosing the host laboratory in terms of your research project and career plans.
    The location for the research must be appropriate to provide a training environment, with sufficient supervision, range of expertise and facilities.
    A good training programme should provide the opportunity to develop new skills, generate fresh links, expose you to the latest scientific approaches, and challenge you to continue asking the right questions.
    Give details of the training you will receive, whether generic like data handling, statistical analysis, clinical trial design, science communication and biomedical ethics, or specific like cryo-electron microscopy, pathogen culture and mosquito dissection.
    If the techniques that you will need to use are not available in the host laboratory, explain how you will obtain them and who would provide the training for their use and interpretation of results.
    If you are not moving to a new location, it is helpful to explain what additional training you will gain by remaining where you are.
    There should be plans for managing and monitoring your progress as a scientist, such as regular planning, appraisal and progress meetings between you and your supervisor. Ideally there should also be independent assessment of progress, such as through a postgraduate training advisor or advisory committee, or mentoring schemes for junior scientists. Can your training location provide these?
    The qualtiy of supervision during the research training period is closely examined. Good grantsmanship in the proposal often is a gauge on how much access you will have to your supervisor. The supervisor’s record in training previous PhDs, post-doctoral assistants and fellows is an important indicator.
    Picture shows (a) Field work in a village within the Kilifi DSS, Kenya; (b) Kenya Medical Research Institute, site of Kenya MOP – slogan says “Research for Better Health”.
  • From people awards may not apply to all schemes such as the science schemes
  • Specific Measurable Achievable Relevant Time-bound
  • What makes a good grant application?

    1. 1. What Makes a Good Grant Application? Siân Aggett and Michelle Jimenez with a little bit from Laura Harper and a lot from you!
    2. 2. “Good writing will not save bad ideas, but bad writing can kill good ones.” Jacob Kraicer The Art of Grantsmanship
    3. 3. PreliminaryPreliminary applicationapplication Peer ReviewPeer Review Funding CommitteeFunding Committee Full ApplicationFull Application Interview CommitteeInterview Committee Lifecycle of an applicationLifecycle of an application 4 – 6 months4 – 6 months for externalfor external review &review & processprocess (Where necessary)(Where necessary) DecisionDecision (in some of the larger(in some of the larger schemes)schemes)
    4. 4. MSc/PhD training Fellowship schemes for Developing Country researchers* Research Training Fellowship Intermediate Research Fellowship 10 yrs Post-doc 3 yrs Post-doc 5 yrs Post-docPhD *which aim to stimulate and foster research on public health and tropical medicine Senior Research Fellowships Principal Research Fellowship
    5. 5. The P’s Process • Person • Project • Place
    6. 6. Person • Good basic knowledge • Demonstrable potential • Show how the fellowship is a career step • Closely involved in formulating and writing the proposal
    7. 7. Project • Novel, interesting, relevant, asking the right questions • High scientific merit • Clear aims, objectives, study design • Realistic, achievable • Risks, contingencies • Must provide valid training; not an extra pair of hands • Guidance from supervisor is critical
    8. 8. Place • Which host laboratory? • Supervision, expertise, facilities • Additional skills, new ideas, fresh challenges • Training acquired – generic, specific • Other training elsewhere? • If not moving, why? • Mentorship – monitoring progress, assessment • Record of supervisor/mentor
    9. 9. Livestock for Life •£30,000 - £250,000 • Public engagement scheme linked to Animal Health in the Developing World (AHDW) scheme •Three themes: Stakeholder Engagement Education and Training Policy and Advocacy •Two Rounds, 19 projects funded
    10. 10. People Awards • Up to £30,000 • Exhibitions, events, debates, art projects and drama •Fast track • Biomedical focus • Wide range of organisations • Encourage partnerships, collaborations and innovation
    11. 11. Public Engagement-People Awards People Awards Education “Arts” Events & Debates Exhibitions Science Festivals Plays & Films
    12. 12. Projects should… •Be novel or innovative •Consider Social, Cultural, Ethical and Historical Issues •Use different creative forms as tools of communication
    13. 13. Stop Talking!!! Activity •30-40 minutes in committees •Read 4 applications and the scheme guidelines •Together decide which 2 applications to fund •Assign a note taker- Note any observations/ recommendations that come out of the process •Assign a Chairperson •Discuss these within group 5-10 mins •Feedback
    14. 14. Have we covered? •Interesting, important area of health research •Value for money •Appropriate target audience •Good evaluation plans •Good project summary
    15. 15. How do I make sure I have a good project summary ? •Most important section in your application •First part read •Sets first impression •Write it last
    16. 16. Did you get these ones? •Clear aims, objectives and rationale •Realistic timetables/objectives (SMART) •Should be "a joy to read" •Well-focused, clear, well organized and accurate •Important, significant, and worth supporting – this needs to be spelled out
    17. 17. Thanks!