Writing a research application? Make best use of university resources

Research Offices and support staff in institutions have lots of resources available to help researchers identify funding, draft applications and make sure that their application is approved (and hopefully successful!). Support is usually at the end of the phone or email or you may be able to pop into a dedicated research office. Much time is normally spent by the research office making sure that the right resources are publicised widely and that people are aware of them but we know that we may not always get this right and that you may forget (or not know) what is out there as that important email is buried at the bottom of the in-box.

As I have travelled around various different institutions (from the large and prestigious to the smaller with less resources) providing training for academics interested in research I have been struck by just how many of them don’t know that they have access to a huge range of resources at their fingertips and that most of it will provide all the basic information they need to start the journey towards a successful grant application. These range from search tools to find funding, advice from successful applicants and making sure their on-line profile is up to scratch!

So if you have an idea but don’t know where to go for support then you may want to start with the following:

  1. Go on-line from a university networked computer and see if you can search on one of the two most prominent research funding databases, Research Professional or Research Connect. These are mines of information and can help you identify the right funding opportunity without having to resort to Google or other search engines. Most universities subscribe to one of the two and both are very easy to use. You can set up your own account on these websites and get the latest funding opportunities sent straight to your in-box.
  2. It is always worth looking at your own universities research pages. These may be on the internet (but may be restricted to the Intranet) and they will usually outline what internal support will be available to support research.For example, if your institution runs internal research support or sabbatical schemes then you will find details of these here. These schemes can be ideal for testing out collaborations, research ideas and to undertake pilot data collection which can give any future external funding applications a boost.
  3. Speak to your colleagues, especially if you are aware of them having received research support funding. Ask them about their experiences and how they identified the right funder. This can be a really productive way of finding out some useful hints and tips and they may even share their successful application with you.

Okay, so these next two aren’t strictly related to your university but they should be easy to do and useful when navigating the world of research funding.

  1. Are you a member of any academic societies, external research groups or organisations or subscribe to particular journals within your field? If you do it is worth checking out their websites as they may have specific resources that apply only to your field or may be accessible to members only. If there is a group or society you always thought you should join but haven’t got around to yet then now might be a good time to engage with them and join up.
  2. Twitter and the power of social media. If you are already on-line and have a Twitter account then make sure you are following those funders that are relevant to your field. Funding organisations tend to tweet the latest opportunities and it is a great way to find out first what new opportunities are out there. In fact, making sure your digital identity is up to date and contains relevant information that potential funders and collaborators might be looking for is really important. To help you achieve this you may want to undertake a Digital Identity Health Check. This is easy to do and can help to increase your visibility on-line. In addition you may want to try and engage more widely with social media and if that is the case then the following book exploring social media for academics is a great starting point.

These five things will help you access plenty of resources that are out there and waiting to be tapped in to. All of these things can be (and should be!) done in conjunction with conversations with your research office. Do people have other tips they would want to share? There are bound to be other approaches and resources out there (including internal ones) that can be simple to implement and help you find out how and where to apply for funding. If so I’d love to hear about them. Good luck with that application!