Reflections on a recent grant application

We all make assumptions in life and work and sometimes those assumptions prove to be very wrong and this is what happened to me recently on a grant application and there are some lessons in there for all parties involved. So what did I assume? I assumed that after working for a few years with an institution that the knowledge of their staff, particularly around research budget development, was greater than what in fact it was.

Now this really should not have surprised me, it was always an issue that as a research support team we had an awareness of but we never systematically addressed. As that was the case we created a problem for ourselves. The saving grace was that the grant application was being submitted to an open call scheme so we had time to keep refining the budget (and application). Had we been against a deadline we may not have got it right in time.

It has highlighted again for me that within institutions (and especially small institutions where expertise may be more thinly spread) the research office and finance need to work hand in glove and that PI’s need to work on their budgets at the very earliest opportunity. Since the challenges of that particular application we have teamed up with finance to look not only at budget development but we have also tightened up the grant approvals process and talked through some of the practicalities of managing grants and setting up contracts once funding is secured. It took that budget development fright to get the discussion going and I think we are now on the right track.

It has highlighted for me the need to keep working with and supporting all internal partners in research. This applies not just to a academics but to finance, HR, school administrators, heads of schools and departments and senior management of universities. When universities grow and build their research portfolio the support and planning needed spans across the whole institution. I love this challenge and enjoy the rewards for academic and other staff. We just have to make sure we keep learning as the research applications, successes and income grows. And as for the grant application that kicked all these discussions off, well I have high hopes….fingers crossed!

Lachlan Smith

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