Funding your Research

My blog: 2015 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for my blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,100 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 18 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

ISRF Mid-Career Fellowships

Then Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) will launch their new Mid-Career Fellowship funding call in January 2016. The  Foundation wishes to support independent-minded researchers to do interdisciplinary work which is unlikely to be funded by existing funding bodies. It is interested in original research ideas which take new approaches, and suggest new solutions, to real world social problems.

The scheme supports innovative research which breaks with existing explanatory frameworks so as to address afresh empirical problems with no currently adequate theory or investigative methodology. Innovation may also come from controversial theoretical approaches motivated by critical challenge of incumbent theories.

The ISRF will fund up to £60,000 over 12 months which can be used to buy out teaching and administrative responsibilities. ISRF generally expects applicants to be 10 years post PhD and be in a salaried position at an HE institution. Applications close at 4pm on 19th February 2016.

Further details can be found on the ISRF website.  If you are interested in applying for this call then please speak to your university Research Office in the first instance.

ORCID expands in the UK

Research Council’s UK have just announced that their on-line grant systems will be in a position to record ORCID identifiers from early in 2016. Further information relating to this change can be found here.

ORCID is an international system that assigns researchers who sign up with a unique digital identity. This digital identity enables an accurate record of research outputs to be kept for individuals researchers irrespective of any changes to home institution or even if they were to leave academia altogether. It will provide a simple way that people can see all of the research for an individual, thus hopefully making research more discoverable. Individual academics or researchers can find out more about ORCID and sign up if they wish on the ORCID website.

Although having an ORCID identifier is not compulsory for all funding applications in the UK some funders now require you to input an ORCID identifier when you make an application. These include Wellcome Trust and NIHR for all personal award applications.

If you haven’t yet signed up to get your own ORCID identifier then now may be a good time to do it!

Some advantages of being small

Whether you are a researcher, lecturer, administrator or research support team member working for smaller institutions can often feel like being at a disadvantage. Now, clearly there are some challenges but it isn’t all bad as I have discovered over the last year. As a smaller institution there are some things we can do better than large ones and these strengths and opportunities should be exploited wherever possible. So don’t despair, we can do the following:

  1. Get decisions made more quickly: Getting access to senior people is much easier. Senior academic and administrative staff have a good handle on the needs, priorities and resources of the institution and can say yes/no much more quickly. Getting a contract signed or proposal submitted can be quick and (relatively!) painless. It can be that the culture is a little more ‘Can do’ and less ‘there are rules we need to follow’.
  2. Share intelligence and research across the university: Being small makes it easier to share information. It doesn’t mean there aren’t challenges but making sure people know what is going on is easier as there is often just one place to go for information or you will always bump into the right person in the corridor on the way to get a coffee! This can help us to respond quickly to changing conditions or new opportunities.
  3. Learn from each other and identify and use skills promptly: It is always useful for people to know what skills other people have. It can help to build research collaborations, enable the sharing of good practice and helping to transfer skills and knowledge either informally or through formal training. We can always do better at formally recording people’s skills and affiliations but even without a formal record by talking to each other we can usually respond quickly. Research days that involve most of the academic community really help here.
  4. Provide support across disciplines: Small institutions tend to have smaller departments. Whilst this can at times mean there isn’t a critical mass to make things happen if one or two people are not around it does often mean that we can get a range of disciplines in a room together to talk research, hear about each others research and provide feedback or ask questions in an engaging and supportive way. It also makes my life more interesting! I’m not restricted to supporting academics in just one discipline so I learn so much and am exposed to a range of ideas and funders. I believe this makes it easier for me to support a range of academics, hopefully they agree!
  5. Know who to go to for advice: You will almost always know who you need to go to to get answer or to get help. In larger institutions in can be confusing to navigate your way around various support services or internal structures to find the right person or answer to your question.
  6. Stand out and show off our strengths and expertise: People tend to notice you if you have a big win or success at a small institution. This recognition is not just internal but can be amplified externally. Shouting about your strengths isn’t always easy when you are small but with the right promotion and internal support it can have a big impact. The successes can rub off on others too. Even small successes can help create vibrant research cultures in smaller institutions.

Some of these advantages do have their downsides (for example with number 5 if the right person is out of the office it may be harder to get things done!) but on the whole I think that with positive management and leadership these can all help to shape positive research cultures. Small institution know they may not have the same levels of support or infrastructure when compared to large universities but having worked at both ends of the spectrum I’m aware that small can indeed sometimes be beautiful. Are there any other advantages, or dare I say it, disadvantages?

How do you find researchers who want to collaborate?

A great summary of the benefits of sites like Piirus. Collaboration remains key to the research landscape in the future and Piirus offers an easy way to make connections. Well worth signing up and seeing who is out there!

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Europe in a changing world – inclusive, innovative and reflective societies

The European Commission has recently announced the latest Horizon 2020 work programme and I wanted to draw your attention to a particular strand of calls that should be of interest to academics in the social sciences and humanities. Often seen as the poor cousins in funding and especially some of the European streams this latest call provides an opportunity to develop exciting partnerships and proposals that address some of the biggest challenges facing Europe at this time.

There are four themes that will be of particular interest. Full details will be released along with detailed calls on 26 October but preliminary information can be found on the commission website for the following streams:





It is worth exploring the sub-themes on each page and making a note of priorities and any additional information. If you are interested in exploring a proposal then now is the time to start talking to potential partners and your university research support team.

Horizon 2020 – Work Programme 2016/17 approved

13th Oct

The European Commission has now released the work programme for the 2016/17 Horizon 2020 research programme. The areas of focus (perhaps not surprisingly) are European growth, jobs and competitiveness. Migration also features prominently in the new call. Further details will be released over the coming days but the overall rationale and description of the programmes can be found on the commission website.

Make sure your research project is eligible!

28th Sep

Every now and then I am approached by an academic with a full first draft of an application for funding for me to look over. I’m always happy to do this, even if I haven’t heard about the application before and the deadline is looming. I’ll always do my best to try and give some feedback.

One of my key pieces of feedback will always be to encourage them to get in touch with me (or their research office) as early as possible in future. This should be as soon as they have an idea or think they have found the ideal funder. One of the reasons for this is simply so we can help check that the academic and the research are actually eligible for funding under a particular scheme. Now this may seem pretty basic but submitting applications that are not eligible to be funded is more common than you might think one will always pop up when I least expect it. This can lead to a lot of heartache if proposals are rejected purely on technical / eligibility grounds. The idea may be great but the funder may be wrong. Often much of the work is then wasted as remodelling an application to another funder can take a considerable amount of time. Examples of the types of mistakes I have seen recently include:

  1. Applying for a travel grant to a conference within the UK when the funder only funds overseas conference travel.
  2. Looking to undertake policy analysis research overseas when the funder wants UK based research. In this case the topic was right, the location was wrong.
  3. Developing a large research application and the budget didn’t meet the scheme criteria. In this case the budget and scope of the project was actually too small for the funder concerned! For this reason I also suggest starting the budget nice and early!

In all cases drafts were written and in one case it was submitted and rejected. So next time you have a great research idea and think you have found the perfect funder do contact your research office and double check your eligibility, it can save a huge amount of heartache and pain!

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