Last week the Research Councils published their success rates for the period April 2011 to March 2012. The key message seems to be that demand management measures are working; most Councils have seem a decline in the number of applications and a rise in success rates, despite a decrease in the amount of funding allocated.
Demand management, the term given to the steps taken by RCUK and the Research Councils to reduce the amount of applications they receive, now features in the plans of all of the Research Councils. This is because the Research Councils are receiving more applications that they are able to support and research institutions currently submit more applications than are likely to be funded. The costs of administering such large quantities of applications is a huge burden for the Research Councils and reduces the amount of money available to fund research. Large quantities of applications also place a heavy burden on the peer reviewers, thus increasing the risk that the quality of decision-making could be compromised. RCUK note that “there are some proposals submitted which have little or no chance of success” and that steps should be taken at both applicant and institution level to pre-sift these proposals prior to submission, therefore reducing the volume of applications submitted to Research Councils.
Read more about the demand management measures that the Research Councils have put in place here: Demand Management
The table on the right shows the success rates over the past three years for the four main Research Councils to which BU makes applications – AHRC, EPSRC, ESRC and NERC. For all Councils, bar the ESRC, the success rate has increased year on year although it is worth noting that the ESRC claim that since they started requiring institutions to sift applications prior to submission (June 2011) it has recorded an overall success rate of 24%. We will have to wait until the 2012-13 success rates are published to see if this trend follows through into the statistics for the year, but the early signs are promising.
In 2010-11 BU’s success rate with Research Councils was 0%, despite 16 applications being submitted. This year we have submitted less applications (10) and our success rate has increased to 10% – which is excellent news! The successful application was written with advice and guidance from Dr Martin Pickard who facilitates our Grants Academy workshops. Whilst there are many reasons why grants are awarded this is a good sign that the advice given during these workshops and on individual proposals is beneficial and can help make your proposal a success. BU has had more grants awarded from the Research Councils over the past year, however the stats only show against the lead institution so successful bids where BU is the collaborating institution are not shown against BU in the data.
The key message here is to spend time writing and refining fewer applications, making use of the support available (such as the internal peer review and the Grants Academy), and making sure your applications are of as high a quality as possible prior to submission.
BU is especially keen to reduce the number of bids submitted to Research Councils whilst significantly increasing the quality of those which are submitted. BU initiatives, such as the internal peer review scheme (RPRS) and the Grants Academy, have been specifically established to support academics to design, write and structure competitive, fundable research proposals and to maximise their chances of being awarded funding. It is excellent to see that these initiatives are so popular amongst academic colleagues and I would encourage you to make use of the support available.