Strategy Manager • Intelligence on the external research funding environment & identification/ dissemination of funding opportunities • Advice on the Call and Guidance for Applicants • Proposal development & preparation, critical appraisal • Preparing budgets in line with costing methodology (fEC) • Guidance through internal approval processes & external application systems • Checking: Eligible and correct? AHRC said 20-25% bids rejected by office! • Training events, facilitation of networking and coordination of bids
RKE. • Bids need to go through internal peer review. • All bids should be fully costed by RKE– FEC, budgetary constraints. • All bids should be signed and authorised by your HoD and Dean – time commitments. • RKE have final submitter authorisation on systems such as JeS, e-gap, PP
Study your funding source their remit and strategic priorities, the review and scoring criteria, review previously funded research. • Read the guidance!! The rules, the application process and direction on how to complete the various sections of the bid. Ensure you are eligible! Not just technically but realistically • Allow plenty of time Be realistic about the time it will take to prepare a draft, work up budget, obtain supporting paperwork and revise (and revise!) the application. • Understand what is required for authorisation: University’s internal sign off and the requirements of application systems (e.g. JeS or egap). Remember you’ll need to obtain authorisation of the fEC spreadsheet from both HoD and Dean before submission and allow time for Peer Review if applicable. • Get in touch with RKE!
• Promise of excellent quality research • Value to potential users • Convincing ability to deliver the work (people) • A well managed project • Value for money Key point : BALANCE All of these aspects must be properly demonstrated. Getting a balance between the “backward-looking” and “forward-looking” aspects can be challenging.
Research aim, questions & objectives • WHY? Context, demand, the ‘gap’ & the business case • HOW? Research methodology, work plan, team and roles • WHO? Target audiences, beneficiaries & potential impact • RESULTS? Outputs, deliverables and dissemination Key point: COHERENCE A linking ‘thread’ that weaves throughout - the proposal needs to be consistent.
• Proposal is an argument in shorthand • understand how the proposal will be read, both in terms of time and shorthand • success is all about communicating efficiently (with thanks to Prof Stephen Scrivener, Uni of Arts)
personal interest but this section needs to establish the wider rationale and ‘sell’ the idea to the funder. • Start with a bang! A simple first summary sentence not a slow build up about the topic that gradually gets to the point whilst demonstrating your grasp of the field • Then, set in context the landscape your proposal fits within • Show your knowledge of existing literature & policies (but not too many citations) The thesis which this project seeks to test is that in both the French and Bri5sh foreign oﬃces in the period 1919-‐57, civil servants, or more precisely, permanent oﬃcials were at least as important as poli5cal leaders in promo5ng or blocking the path towards some form of European integra5on, however conceived. This project asks how the extraordinary rendi5on and proxy deten5on of terror suspects has developed and whether they are US-‐led phenomena
in current knowledge & explain the original contribution your research will make • Demonstrate the timely need and create a sense of urgency – present as “necessary” not simply “interesting” – why does the identified gap need filling? • Align your work to funder/sponsor’s agenda/objectives • Tailor the context if responding to a specific Call Key point: CONCISE and FOCUSED. This section is often too long at the expense of the forward-looking plan of action
length but gives very few details about aims and methods” From ‘Common weaknesses’ in JRF guide to wri;ng proposals “Don’t take up lots of space explaining the general issues that lie behind your work – assume we have a basic understanding of the context in which you operate and the generic needs of your beneﬁciaries e.g. migrant organisa5ons do not need to tell us much about the problems that asylum seekers commonly face. We are more interested in what the organisa5on is going to do and what qualiﬁes it to do so”. Esmee Fairbairn Founda/on, Hints and Tips
(one sentence if poss!) • Objectives are practical, obtainable set of steps to achieve the overall aim of the project • Limit yourself to 3-6 objectives if possible • Use ‘action verbs’, which are measurable and timebound e.g. ‘to develop’, ‘to assess’, ‘to identify’ • Objectives should be those that “the investigators would wish the Research Council to use as the basis for evaluation of work upon completion of the project” • List in order of importance Key point: DISTINCT (avoid overlap)
for welfare-‐to-‐work and third sector volunteering policies and prac;ces in the UK by using secondary data analysis to inves;gate whether volunteering increases the likelihood of reemployment among the unemployed, and if so, does this eﬀect vary by individual characteris;cs (age, gender, level of educa;on, ;me spent in unemployment), household composi;on, region and the level of unemployment. The objec/ves of the proposed study are following: 1) to examine whether volunteering reduces the length of ;me spent in unemployment, when controlling for observed and unobserved individual diﬀerences; 2) to examine whether the eﬀects of volunteering on re-‐employment vary by age, gender, educa;onal achievements and household composi;on, and length in unemployment of the individual; 3) to examine whether there are regional varia;ons in the eﬀects of volunteering on re-‐ employment; 4) to inves;gate whether the eﬀects of volunteering on re-‐employment vary between ;mes of high and low unemployment rates in the UK; 5) to ensure maximum impact of the research through con;nuous engagement with poten;al end-‐users throughout the project and eﬀec;ve dissemina;on of research ﬁndings to academic and non-‐academic users.
reviewers focus on need for more information on the methodology Key point: DETAIL Convince reviewers that methods are appropriate and will work JRF Guidance on Common Weaknesses “The design of the studies show a mismatch between the issues being addresses and the approach adopted” “The proposal successfully iden5ﬁes a gap in the established scholarship on X …..However, the project needed a more robust account of how it would meet its declared objec5ves and how it would feasibly answer its research ques5ons” -‐ Extract from AHRC bid peer review
your chosen methods - Why comparing those 2 countries? - Why interviews rather than focus groups? - Why those documents or archive? No right/wrong answers but shows decision making process and justifies choice
appropriate to iden5fy how many fathers with pre-‐school children and fathers of school age children are going to be interviewed. Half and half? Will that be 10 of each in the selected loca5ons? Although the study tries to capture a range of economic backgrounds does the study aim for a quota of class/ethnic backgrounds? Will the fathers have to have parental responsibility? This is not to dismiss the research – it is valuable and important. But there needs to be a 5ghter grasp of the targets of the sampling” -‐ Extract from ESRC bid peer review “Where the methods are concerned, there is some vagueness in rela5on to the “elite interviews” – ’40 face-‐to-‐face elite interviews…with key policy-‐makers and stakeholders’ – why 40, how elite is ‘elite’, etc? While more informa5on on who they would be with (the intended spread between policy makers, service providers and campaigning organisa5ons would be helpful)…Considerably more considera5on appears to have been given to the panel study, although it would be helpful to know why 400 welfare recipients have chosen as the target. Given that the proposal talks about diﬀerent approaches in Scotland and England, how many groups/recipients will come from those areas? There is also no men5on of N Ireland or Wales. Are they to be excluded from the study and, if so, why?” -‐ Extract from ESRC bid peer review
Assessors want assurance that you are more than competent with these techniques. Saying you are is not enough -‐ include references to ar;cles or previous projects where you have used these techniques before “I also note that the PI had experience of undertaking the complex work of mapping educa5onal background onto prevailing abtudes and mind-‐sets, this is reassuring since this is perhaps the most demanding part of the project” -‐ Extract from successful AHRC bid peer review “Informa5on about the proposer’s own knowledge and skills is lacking. In addi5on to the standard informa5on provided on a CV, it is helpful to have a short summary – 2 or 3 sentences – of the experience the members of the team carrying out the work have had of the methods proposed” -‐ Joseph Rowntree Founda/on
have thought about risks and have a plan e.g. is data hard to access? What if you can’t recruit required sample? How will you ensure continued participation in long study? “My worry is that if the adver5sing strategy for the sample does not produce the par5cipants, what con5ngency plans are in place?” -‐ extract from ESRC Standard grant peer review “The poten5al diﬃcul5es in tracking interviewees (esp. among vulnerable groups) over a longer period are convincingly tackled by several precau5onary measures, which proves the longstanding experience and exper5se of the applicants with such prac5cal problems of research” -‐ extract from ESRC Large Grant peer review
the collected material? Will you use software (SPSS)? How will you marry quantitative and qualitative data? Don’t leave it all to junior team members Also: Lots to consider now around sharing/storing data “Details of the way data will be recorded and analysed are lacking. This is par5cularly the case where the use of focus groups is proposed” -‐ JRF “Common Weaknesses”
many funders give it an equal weighting in scoring criteria (e.g. Horizon 2020). Still needed for individual projects! • Roles and responsibilities Who is doing what? How do tasks fit together? Complimentary skills? • Management structure Who leads? Advisory board? • Management of staff Reviewers comment on staff career development & support i.e. for RAs (mentoring, training, line management) “What is not clear is the added value to be derived from the collec5ve. In other words, why are 3 inves5gators required for the qualita5ve study, especially given that a FT RA will be employed for the dura5on of the project”-‐ ESRC bid peer review
a convincing project management plan. They have carved out dis5nct areas of responsibility and have constructed a 5metable that has set appropriate “milestones” which can be used to measure progress of aspects of the project”-‐ AHRC peer review “The project 5metable and plan is not given anywhere near enough aken5on for this reviewer, indeed the scant paragraph we are oﬀered on 5metable fails to map the 7 stages of the research process onto any 5meline, surely doable…Further, we are given no speciﬁc milestones. To me this was especially key for this project, given its complexity…the number of staﬀ and the way in which ‘interweaving’ of material from all sits at its heart. I would have expected for example to see milestones that included key tasks to achieve at the end of each 6 month period…these could have been listed according to the 7 stage process. I would also have liked to see a sense of how the outputs unfolded over the project life5me, including key indicators such as conference papers given, and wriken papers dramed and submiked as well as ar5s5c outputs”-‐ AHRC peer review
‘application’ look more like a ‘plan’ Gives funders the impression that the bid is a project ready to go rather than something speculative that will be firmed up later • Should be properly costed not cheaply costed • Make sure budget complies with the funder’s rules! eligible expenditure, correct grant recovery rates • The financial guidelines can give an insight into what the funder expects KEY POINT: THINK ABOUT THIS AT A VERY EARLY STAGE
which all grants should be costed to show the true cost of the research in transparent • However, only used by certain funders • RCUK – 80% recovery rate • Government agencies – DEFRA, NHS etc. should pay 100% • Charities, Leverhulme Trust, Wellcome Trust etc. do not pay FEC KEY POINT: ASK ME!
Costs rising as a direct result of the piece of research DI Staff – new posts such as RA Travel & Subs – fieldwork, partner visits, team meetings Other Directly Incurred – Consumables, small items of equip, events, subcontractors • Directly Allocated costs Existing costs for the Uni, a proportion of which can be allocated to the research project DA Staff –PI and Co-I time – allocated as a percentage of FTE Other Directly Allocated – Pooled technicians Estates - facility-‐related costs ( 2 rates) • Indirect costs – central overheads, currently £41,762 per FTE pa • Exceptions Equip over £10k threshold (need contribution from institution or project partner), international Co-I costs (100%)
priority for all funders (UK & EU). Why? – to demonstrate value of public funding. What do they mean by it? RCUK: ““Impact is the demonstrable contribution that excellent research makes to society and the economy. Impact embraces all the extremely diverse ways in which research-related knowledge and skills benefit individual, organisations and nations by: - fostering global economic performance, and specifically the economic competitiveness of the United Kingdom; - increasing the effectiveness of public services and policy; - enhancing quality of life, health and creative output.”
impacts appropriate to the proposed research A project that has clear potential for impact which is not properly considered in the bid is at greater risk of failing than one where there is no obvious immediate impact. “In looking at I.S. and Pathways, reviewers will be asked to consider whether they are appropriate and jus5ﬁed in terms of the nature of the proposed research project and whether suﬃcient aken5on has been given to who the beneﬁciaries might be and appropriate ways to engage with them throughout the project”-‐ AHRC Guidance “Reviewers are more interested in an achievable strategy than inﬂated claims for impact”-‐ AHRC Panel member
a) IMPACT SUMMARY (4000 characters, JeS section) • Who might benefit from this research? • How might they benefit from this research? b) PATHWAYS TO IMPACT (2 side attachment) • What will be done to ensure that potential beneficiaries have the opportunity to engage with this research? This details your approach and practical activities
full range of potential beneficiaries at planning stage academic community/ business/ government & policy makers/ society • Think in terms of knowledge exchange consider 2-way sharing and creation of knowledge as well as just presenting your findings • Build impact/dissemination throughout project lifetime (before and after) • Plan a range of different outputs targeted to the various audiences • Be as precise as possible name specific journals/publishers/conferences in Outputs, name key beneficiaries – KEY POINT: APPROPRIATENESS
the “thread” running through. • Be clear and concise Don’t expect reviewers to deduce anything. They only know what is written on the page. Structure the proposal logically so that the reader doesn’t have to wait to see the significance of something said earlier – e.g. don’t explain how you are going to do something before saying why you want to do it. • Avoid jargon and acronyms reviewers may not have your specialism • Think about presentation use bullet points/ tables/ diagrams • Format details matter! Respect rules on font size, headings, page/word limits, attachments • Get feedback from colleagues (ones who will be honest!)
rather than the what the funder/ scheme is asking for • Not providing evidence of the project’s importance – why does the gap need addressing? • Failure to say what research you will do or the detail of how you will do it • Assuming that the reviewers/decision makers have time to consider your application closely. Be clear – not writing for publication • It’s got to be watertight
Use Research Professional: http://www.researchprofessional.com/ • Monthly Research Funding Opportunities Newsletter – Expression of Interest • www.researchfundingtoolkit.org Book and website. Very detailed guidance on wri;ng techniques (e.g. Assert – Jus;fy) • Sign up to our Blog: http://mmuresearchblog.wordpress.com/