Funding your Research

Work backwards

23rd Jun

Really useful advice. The process may vary slightly depending on the funder and your own universities procedures but the broad principles are the same. For those that work with me they will already know that I talk a lot about making sure you give yourself enough time to develop a strong application and this process must include the internal sign off and peer review / feedback. The tips included in this post are well worth adhering to.

The challenges of being a Research Administrator…

This blog doesn’t provide any specific tips on how to apply for grants or have a successful research career but is a self-indulgent post promoting a blog post which interviewed me! I was interviewed recently by Piirus regarding challenges in research management. You can read the blog Piirus Interview. If you have any comments or thoughts on the issues raised in the interview I would love to hear them.

Scholarly editing and networking

29th May

Another way to network – not just for doctoral students, the ideas within the post can be applied more widely, especially to early career researchers. I’m aware of a few examples of where editing opportunities have created research collaborations in the future.

Networking to success

15th May

When talking to academics it is apparent to me that networking is often underestimated in the grant getting world. Lots of people think they should be applying for funding themselves, where they are the PI and they may or may not have supporting CoI’s. This can work and can be appropriate but will depend very much on the type of funding scheme you are going for, the size of the project, the type of research and the track record of the PI. If in doubt then talk to your research development staff and they can help you to determine what is the best route for you to go down.

Working with other people, whether they be from your own institution or beyond, is a really important way to get known and get yourself attached to other grant applications. It should be obvious that if you put in an application and nobody reviewing it has either heard of you or read any of you work and you are doing research in their field then the odds of you getting the funding are pretty slim. Would you lend money to someone who had no credit history? The funders will look at distributing their ever tighter funding pots in the same way. Publishing is a key route to getting yourself out there and known but there are other things you can do, networking being one. Networking may involve presenting at relevant conferences but could include simply attending these conferences or engaging with academics interested in your areas of research through online forum’s, special interest groups, twitter, blogs or by setting up your own groups whether they be face to face or virtual. There is another way though which is gradually becoming more popular and that is to use web profiles that are yours alone and sit outside of any profile you may have on the university website.Taking this approach is not a panacea to networking but can be an important part of the process. There are three established or emerging platforms that can be used to share information and tell the world about your work. These three platforms have slightly different foci but all can be useful depending on what you want to do:

1) Piirus – This is a relative newcomer to the networking game. It emerged in the UK but is now a global platform that looks to connect researchers together. Researchers populate their own profile and can search for people with particular expertise or for those who might have a shared research interest. The good thing about the site is that everyone on there is open to connecting with people so you are pushing at an open door. It is free to set up a profile and is worth engaging with if you are active in research or looking to become more so.

2) Linkedin – This website is targeted more at the business world than that of academia but if you are interested in making policy connections and getting your publications noticed by business people, policy makers and local communities then this could be the site for you. It is free to join although paid for accounts with more functionality are available. You can put your career history on here, connect with a wide range of people from outside academia (as well as within) and you can join groups, publish posts and be as active as you like, even on the free membership.

3) – This is the worlds largest site for academics to make connections and share research papers. They boast that by placing papers on their site they can increase citations by up to 83%. This site can be very effective if you want to upload your papers and research and enable other academics to search for and cite it. Over 21.5m academics are members and it is straightforward to set up a account.

All three of these offer a slightly different service and can enhance your profile both within the academy and beyond. If you haven’t signed up to one or all of them you really should consider it. And then get out there are present your research wherever you can as well! Are there other online platforms out there that academics should be engaging with? If so, I’d love to hear about them.

Don’t be late

21st Apr

For all the PI’s out there, please do keep this in mind, it can only strengthen the chances of success. There are always exceptions to any rule but springing applications upon support staff late i the day does nobody any favours. 🙂

AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards

14th Apr

The AHRC have recently released their guidance for the current CDA call which closes on 7th July 2015. The call is designed to build on partnerships between Higher Education Institutions and other organisations to enable outside work opportunities to be taken up by doctoral students as part of their research degree.

Further details of this funding call can be found here.

Forget REF – Start with what you are interested in….

At a meeting I recently attended I was struck by how the REF remained front and centre of all discussions related to research including how universities might encourage academics in smaller institutions to undertake research. This of course includes the challenging task of completing research funding applications. The discussion moved between common themes like research metrics, which funders to apply to, the types of outputs you (the university and academic) needs and how this would then fit with any given Unit of Assessment (UoA) or overall strategy of the university for the next REF. It was acknowledged that younger (or at the very least those who are new to academic life) are generally more open to applying for research funding and being engaged in the process. But even then the approach to metrics, REF strategies and outputs can still seem wearing and distant to the academics concerned.

I made the point to the people around me that I never discuss the REF with academics. I just don’t see the point if you are trying to encourage research activity and I believe that focusing these discussions around the REF and performance management is ultimately a counter productive way of encouraging research. It feels a bit more like a stick as opposed to a carrot. Given that I don’t talk about the REF then what do I talk to them about? Well, put simply, I just talk to academics about their research. What interests them, what would they like to do, what have they done in the past and where do they see their career going in the future. This tends to lead to a more fruitful discussion and can generate sparks of genuine interest in pursing research. Nobody ever started a PhD with REF in mind so don’t start research support discussions in that way either. I believe if you start with what people are interested in researching you will inevitably hit the metrics you need including producing high quality research, good outputs and quite possibly strong impact as well. All of these outcomes will more naturally stem from research that academics want to do and have ownership of.

So, some advice for academics thinking about pursuing research or who might be under pressure to develop research funding applications; don’t start with REF and all the metrics, start with what interests you, it will only increase your chances of success.

One weird trick to get a research grant

31st Mar

Some excellent tips in here, especially reviewing applications for an overseas funding body. We all want applications to be assessed quickly and efficiently so the more quality assessors there are in the pool the better.

This post also provides a useful reminder to us administrators that we have a role to play to. We need to encourage people to become reviewers and assessors and this in turn will help our own institutions as we will have an experienced pool of people who can support high quality applications.

I would certainly recommend that academics take these opportunities seriously as they can really enhance the ability to write a good grant application.

HEFCE Publishes Database of REF Impact Case Studies

27th Mar

HEFCE have released a database of all impact case studies from the 2014 REF. Worth a look and maybe search by your subject area? Future collaborations could start from these case study examples.

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