What is the review process?
As anyone submitting a proposal to a research council at BU knows, once you hut the Je-S ‘submit’ button, the proposal then gets sent to R&KEO to undertake final checks. These are all done to ensure your proposal has the best chance of success. This is also a critical stage in the process, as we know from our contacts in the Research Councils that reviewers won’t even see an application if the proposal has not adhered to the guidance criteria.
Stage 1 of the process is where proposals are sifted by a group of staff who reject immediately any which do not meet the published eligibility criteria; either related to documentation requirements or where it does not meet the aims or criteria of the scheme. When we return your application to you before submitting in Je-S, it is to ensure your proposal gets through this team of sifters and makes it to Panel.
One element which we often find have been overlooked in applications is matching the Case for Support headings on the attachments, with those outlined in the guidance. The sifting process may reject your application for this reason and it is therefore important you make sure they match up. The headings have been developed based on feedback from peer reviewers and so following this structure will also put you in a favourable position with them. The other stages for most grants can be found in the diagram below.
What do reviewers looking for in proposals?
Quality & Importance of Research Proposed
- the proposal meets the specific aims of the scheme to which the applicant is applying
- the project is significant and important and the contribution it will enhance or develop creativity, insights, knowledge or understanding of the area in a national or international context
- the research questions, issues or problems that will be addressed are defined and their importance and appropriateness specified
- the research context and specification of why it is important that these particular questions, issues or problems are addressed is articulated
- the appropriateness, effectiveness and feasibility of the proposed research methods and/or approach is outlined
- the quality and importance of the applicant’s work to date is demonstrated
- the applicant is able to monitor the project and bring it to completion as demonstrated in the application
- the level and balance (in terms of time and seniority) of the proposed staffing on the project is appropriate and opportunities will be made available for less experienced researchers
- the other named participants have the appropriate experience and expertise to deliver the project.
- the lines of responsibility and accountability are clearly articulated.
- a realistic timetable, incorporating milestones is presented which will achieve the project’s aims and objectives within the proposed timescale
- the applicant has demonstrated that they understand the amount of work to be involved, allocated sufficient time and resources to achieving each aspect.
Value for Money
- the likely outcome of the research will represent value for money, and in particular the relationship between the funds that are sought and the significance and quality of the projected outcomes of the research
- the resources requested are reasonable in the context of the proposed research.
Outputs, Dissemination & Impact
- the dissemination methods are appropriate and effective
- the research process is documented or recorded in a way to enable dissemination of research outcomes to the widest possible audience
- the outputs and outcomes of the project will be highly valued and widely exploited, both in the research community and in wider contexts where they can make a difference
- plans to increase impact are appropriate and justified, given the nature of the proposed research
- sufficient attention has been given to who the beneficiaries of the research might be and appropriate ways to engage with them throughout the project.
- the research and its outcomes are disseminated to as wide an audience as possible, and where appropriate to engage in communication, dissemination and exploitation activities throughout the period of the project.
- the audiences to whom their research could be of interest are specified, and how they propose to engage with those audiences about their research.
How can I increase my chances of success?
Firstly, let your RKE Operations Officer know as soon as you want to apply for a scheme. They have many years’ experience of reading the eligibility criteria and guidance and can help you make sure you tick all of these boxes. They will also cost your proposal and get it approved by Legal and through the APF Quality Approval Process as well as submitting it via Je-S when the time comes.
Your proposal will automatically go through our internal peer review process (RPRS) and you will receive useful feedback on how to really strengthen this. We have a number of AHRC award holders and a reviewer on our database which will be a huge help for you. If you are a member of the Grants Academy you also have access to our successful applications to help you write yours as well as unlimited support from Dr Martin Pickard in creating a fantastic application.
If you haven’t won much funding before, then team up with more experienced academics in your field to make a submission that way.
Finally, the best piece of advice is to dedicate enough time to writing a great application. Many of the big schemes don’t have deadlines, and those which do have these dates announced usually quite far in advance so you have plenty of time to prepare. With so many areas to cover in your proposal and to do so better than your competition in other institutions, you really can’t write these applications in a week. A Research Grant is a very prestigious one to have on your CV and is worth dedicating the time and energy to get.