Bidding for Success

Bidding for Success

Presented by Gareth Cantello, Research Development Manager in the Research & Knowledge Exchange at Manchester Metropolitan University.


Research Wednesdays @ MMU

February 12, 2014


  1. <body  text>   Research Wednesday Bidding for Success Gareth Cantello

    Research & Knowledge Exchange Feb 2014
  2. Research Development Team   4 Research Development Managers + European

    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
  3. The Process   •  All research bids should come through

    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
  4. Getting started   •  Discuss your idea with colleagues • 

    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!
  5. Developing a proposal   Most funders share similar assessment criteria:

    •  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.
  6. Developing a proposal   Think about the following: •  WHAT?

    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.
  7. Developing a proposal   Proposal All that could be described

    •  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)
  8. Case for Support   Aim/ Opening lines 5% Context 30%

    Objectives/ questions 5% Methodology/ workplan 50% Management, dissemination, etc 10% _____ 100%
  9. Context (aka Introduction, Background, Rationale)   Research ideas arise from

    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  
  10. Context (aka Introduction, Background, Rationale)   •  Identify the ‘gap’

    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
  11. “The  proposal  describes  the  background  to  the  project  at  some

     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    
  12. Aims and Objectives   •  Aim is the intellectual ambition

    (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)
  13. The  aim  of  this  study  is  to  provide  empirical  evidence

     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.              
  14. Research design & methodology   •  Most critical comments from

    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  
  15. Research design & methodology   •  Explain the reasons behind

    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
  16. Research design & methodology   •  Implementation of the methods

    Sample size – give numbers! Recruitment – what is your strategy to recruit respondents? Timeframes and phases? Interviews – structured/semi-structured? How many? Duration?
  17. Research design & methodology   “It  would  also  have  been

     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  
  18. Research design and methodology   •  Demonstrate experience of methods

    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  
  19. Research design & methodology   •  Potential problems? Show you

    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  
  20. Research design & methodology   •  How will you analyse

    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”  
  21. Work Plan/ management   Do not neglect this aspect –

    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  
  22. Work Plan/ management   •  Project structure •  Work Packages.

    •  Markers / key deliverables •  Work plan/time line/ Gantt chart
  23. Work Plan/ management   “K  &  J  have  put  together

     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  
  24. 5. Budget   •  A detailed budget can make an

    ‘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
  25. 5. Budget continued   Full Economic Costing •  Method by

    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!
  26. 5. Budget - fEC headings   •  Directly Incurred costs

    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%)
  27. 6. Impact & dissemination   Delivering ‘impact’ is a key

    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.”  
  28. 6. Impact..   •  Remember it is about maximising potential

    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  
  29. 6. Impact.. Research bids   Research Council applications now include:

    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  
  30. 6. Impact cont.. What to consider   •  Think about

    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
  31. General points…   •  Ensure bid is internally consistent -

    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!)
  32. Top 5 mistakes?   •  Writing the bid you want

    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
  33. Want more?!   •  Materials on RKE website: • 

    Use Research Professional: •  Monthly Research Funding Opportunities Newsletter – Expression of Interest •    Book  and  website.  Very  detailed  guidance  on  wri;ng  techniques  (e.g.  Assert  –  Jus;fy)     •  Sign up to our Blog:  
  34. Thank you!   Gareth Cantello Ext: 3818