Category / R & KE Operations

Free money! Free money! Fusion Investment Fund closes soon.

Okay so it’s not exactly free….you will have to do something for it but what if I told you that you will be hailed within BU, and who knows, maybe the world, as a researcher/support staff member extraordinaire! Your peers will bow down in the corridors in your honour, you will be met with applause when you enter the atrium.*

I know what you’re thinking….’This sounds brilliant! Where can I find out more?’ Just point your mouse here, my friend, and all will be revealed.

Applications close at 12pm this Friday 17th October, so don’t delay!


*This may not actually happen.


Please direct all initial enquiries to the Fusion Investment Fund Co-ordinator, Sue Townrow, at Fusion Fund.

The Fusion Investment Fund is managed by Samantha Leahy-Harland.

BRAD – Upcoming Opportunities

 Public Engagement Workshop Wednesday 23rd April 2014, 11:00-12:30 Talbot Campus
This session will be facilitated by Barry Squires, Public Engagement & Impact Manager, Research and Knowledge Exchange will explore how public engagement is conceptualised,
how it is developing across the higher education sector and why engaging the public with your research is increasingly essential for your career.

 Impact in Research Workshop Wednesday 23rd April 2014, 09:30-11:00, Talbot Campus
This workshop will be facilitated by Dr Rebecca Edwards, Research Development Officer, Research and Knowledge Exchange will explore what we mean by impact and why it is an increasingly important part of your research career.

 Financial Management Workshop Wednesday 14th May 2014, 15:00-16:00, Lansdowne Campus
This workshop will cover several topics ranging from; financial management, income and funding budgeting, financial resourcing and strategic financial planning.
This workshop will be facilitated by Jennifer Roddis and Paul Lynch, Research and Knowledge Exchange.

For more information about the above workshops and to book on please visit the Staff Development and Engagement Pages on the Staff Intranet,


Come along to the first RKEO coffee morning!

You said in our recent survey that you would like to see a quarterly coffee morning where you could have a chat with people from the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office. So we’ve organised some! The first event is on 22 May 2014, starting at 9.30am in the Retreat (Talbot campus). You’re welcome to come along and have a chat with us, or just to enjoy a coffee and cake. The next event (please note the change of date) will take place on 19 June in R303, Royal London House between 9am and 10am.

If you can’t make either of these dates, we have several more coffee mornings arranged for the next academic year; the first event of 2014-15 will be in the Retreat on 30 October.

We look forward to seeing you on 22 May!

Hot beverage and cupcake

Deadline! Panic. Click Submit: Grants Academy Diary Part 3

Email flurries. Cut-and-paste frenzies. Forgetting if draft v3.1.5 is most recent despite diligent attempts to effectively dropbox. Sound familiar? Grant deadline time demands we are at our sharpest, but more often finds us high on caffeine and flung headlong into chaos. Whether one clicks submit with confidence, hesitation or blind faith, when the closing hour comes, we breathe a sigh of relief. It’s out of our hands and into the 1 in 12 success rate abyss.

Like many colleagues, I’ve been on grant teams where ‘click submit’ was done with varying shades of satisfaction. But this time, something felt different. This wasn’t any ordinary bid. This was my Grants Academy bid. A bid that had gone through three days of extensive surgery via R&KE OP’s staff development programme on bid writing run by expert consultant Dr. Martin Pickard. It benefited from Martin’s expertise, as well as the critical eyes of five interdisciplinary BU colleagues also attending the workshop. Further developed by two CI collaborators,  two external peer reviewers,  BU Quality Approver Richard Berger and the devoted attention of my research officer Pengpeng Ooi, never before had I been on a grant handled with so much personalised and professional care.  This time when I clicked submit, there wasn’t a sentence worth changing.

In two earlier diary posts I discussed the daunting task of getting started with bid writing and my (somewhat unfounded) fears of impact agendas. After the first two workshops we each went off, brains buzzing with new tips and tricks, to independently work on our bid drafts. But rather than spend hours crafting confident cases for support, those two weeks during the start of spring semester saw little time to devote to redrafting. Like the students we sometimes bemoan, most of us ended up in a last minute ‘meet the deadline’ whirlwind, turning in work we were only half proud of.

Building on session one’s tips about project formulation and session two’s insights on expressing the wider value of our research, session three provided a simulated peer review process to help us better understand how bids are evaluated and scored.  This final stage of the Grants Academy began with a discussion of review criteria, followed by a tally of the scores we gave fellow academy members, and then individual rounds of feedback on each of our six draft bid submissions. While none of us broke most research funder’s thresholds of 70% approval, few of us felt we deserved to, at least not yet.

Offering a supportive environment to watch our work get torn apart — a necessary if uncomfortable part of the bid enhancement process — day three of Grants Academy proved as beneficial as the first two. Rather than disheartening, the patterns and repetition of criticism shared across our cross-disciplinary colleagues’ reviews helped us to hone in on what desperately needed fixing. This peer review process was topped off with one-to-one feedback from Martin on where to go next with our bid’s development.

After the session a few of us stayed behind, manically typing away, not wanting to forget any of our colleagues’ sage advice. I knew my deadline was only a few weeks away and I wanted that 60 up to a 90, to fill the gap of the 1 in 12 success rate with sure-fire reasons why we deserved funding. Over the next two weeks my CIs and I racked up 57 emails, 3 hours of skype meetings and 5 budget drafts — all for just a £10,000 bid. In the words of our Grants Academy Guru, “To compete, we train.”

My biggest takeaway tip for colleagues registered in an upcoming Grants Academy session, or those thinking about enrolling, would be to come with a bid in the early to mid-stages of development. (NOT something either brand new or nearly finished.) This will allow you to get the most out of the developmental process of the workshops. Attending the sessions forces you to make time for drafting by providing structured deadlines and feedback to carry forward. I chose to develop a small Fusion Funded pilot project. 

Anna Feigenbaum is a Lecturer in CMC group at the Media School. As part of her CEMP Fellowship she created this diary of her time at the Grants Academy.  You can read her Day One Diary post here and Day Two here.  


Grants Academy Diary – Day Two

After completing my homework, I arrived for day two of Grants Academy ready to watch my ‘one page proposal’ get ripped apart. Day one provided a new bag of tricks and background knowledge on funding bodies and their remits. Yet, rather than feeling more confident, I seemed to have developed a sudden outbreak of academic imposture syndrome. Taking a seat around our workshop table, I quickly realised I wasn’t alone. It seemed most of us participating in the Academy went home for a round of self-doubt:  Did our research really have any benefits? Were there enough people in our research networks? Do any of us actually have the skills (or time!) to coordinate a major research project?

Day two’s session was focused on locating benefits and articulating impact. Facilitator Martin Pickard once again dove right into the murky grant-writing world: The days of academic freedom are long gone. The only way to win funding is to wade into the dark waters and train for competition.

Our first job of the day was to learn how to uncover and articulate the outward-facing values of our research. While many of us in the Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities fear that impact must be financial, Martin showed us RCUK’s list of possible beneficiaries and impacts to diversify our thinking. These include the environment, health, society and citizenship among others. While all bids must clearly identify impacts to beneficiaries, our job is to ‘potentially impact,’ not to promise world change. Most of our research is making a minor contribution to a bigger problem. The task then is to make a strong case for the minor contributions we make.

To examine how an impact agenda reshapes the ways we present our projects, we workshopped Dr. Hywel Dix’s research proposal. Hywel and his collaborators are bidding for a BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grant for a pilot study. Their research plan proposes to re-evaluate the tacit assumptions that work produced by contemporary authors late in their career is of inferior quality to their earlier work.

Martin put Hywel on the hot seat, asking him to identify impacts and beneficiaries.  At first it seemed difficult to think about this English literature project through the business-oriented language of impact agendas. But through collaborative brainstorming we came up with concrete ways groups of people would potentially benefit from Hywel and his team’s research:

Beneficiaries – Re-evaluating Literary Production in Later Life

  • Academic: scholars in literary studies
  • Cultural sector: contributes a new evaluative framework for making aesthetic judgement around authors work (i.e. impact prize competitions, Arts Council grants)
  • Students/Teachers: inform ways canonical literature is selected for curriculum and testing
  • People in later life:  placing value on these literary productions has the potential to impact people in later life with dementia and Alzheimer’s as writing and reading improves health and wellbeing

After lunch it was time for the dreaded peer reviews of our ‘one page proposal’ homework. Working in the silos of our own departments, on a day-to-day basis we rarely exchange ideas with colleagues across schools. As Communication Scholars read a Computer Science bid and a Business researchers evaluated a Social Work proposal, we realised what it takes to write clearly and convincingly outside our comfort zones. Having seven pairs of interdisciplinary eyes on each of our proposals was terrifying but invaluable. The peer review highlighted the importance of Martin’s advice to give reviewers exactly what they want to see. Use the remit and criteria to structure your arguments so a reviewer does not need to search through the document with a fine tooth comb to find key elements.

The peer review also pushed us to explain the basic tenants of our research. We easily come to take the big picture of our research for granted, when this is often what actually needs the most justification in our proposals.  We are accustomed to disciplinary conferences and peer review journals where we argue the fine points of theory, method and approach. While this does belong in the application to show rigour and expertise, without a clear case for why our research matters, we can’t win.

Anna Feigenbaum is a Lecturer in the Media School. As part of her CEMP Fellowship she is creating a diary of her time at the Grants Academy.  You can read here Day One Diary post here

Your chance to influence research and knowledge exchange support at BU – deadline looming

The deadline is looming for your chance to influence how you receive research and knowledge exchange support! The RKE Operations team are implementing improvements to the way we work and we want your feedback. Contribute by completing this short survey by 9th February 2014 – and we’ll do our best to make sure you receive the kind of support you want.

Jenny Roddis

AHRC – So, why not apply?

At the end of our week focusing on AHRC, perhaps you are inspired and now want to see what opportunities are currently available….?

Please check the AHRC’s listing  for the most up to date information and specific closing dates and times for grants. The following are correct at the time of posting:

  • Data Exploration – creating new insight and value. This is collaboratively funded by the TSB, AHRC, BBSRC, ESRC, EPSRC and DSTL and involves an investment of up to £4.5m in collaborative research and development that addresses the technical challenges and business opportunities presented by the huge growth in data. Applicatants must register by 26/01/14 and the final application submitted by 05/03/14
  • Valuing Nature. A five year research programme which aims to better understand and represent the complexities of valuing the natural environment and to consider the wider societal and cultural value of ecosystems services. Funds of up to £1.1 million (80 per cent fEC) are available for a single grant of 5 years duration to support an interdisciplinary Programme Co-ordination Team. Closing date 20/03/14
  • New Generation Thinkers 2104, in collaboration with BBC Radio 3. Those selected will benefit from a unique opportunity to develop their own programmes for BBC Radio 3 and a chance to regularly appear on air. Closing date 06/02/14
  • Connected Communities Research Development Workshop on Addressing the Challenges of Disconnection, Division and Exclusion. Attendees at the workshop will have an opportunity to apply for ring-fenced funding for follow-up projects of up to £100,000 to support inter-disciplinary collaborative grants combining arts and humanities expertise with other research disciplines and community, policy and practice partners, to take forward the most innovative research ideas that emerge during the workshop. Closing date 30/01/2014
  • Digital Transformations Amplification Awards.  The aim of this call is to exploit the potential of digital technologies to transform research in the arts and humanities, to create exemplars of transformative approaches to digital arts and scholarship, and to ensure that arts and humanities researchers are at the forefront of tackling crucial issues such as intellectual property, cultural memory and identity, and communication and creativity in a digital age. Closing date 20/02/2014
  • Translating Cultures Innovation Grants. In a world seen to be increasingly characterized by transnational and globalized connections, the need for understanding and communication within, between and across diverse cultures is stronger than ever. The Translating Cultures theme addresses this need by studying the role of translation, understood in its broadest sense, in the transmission, interpretation, transformation and sharing of languages, values, beliefs, histories and narratives. Funding of between £150-200k is available. Closing date 06/03/2014
  • Science in Culture Innovation Awards. In the context of this call, innovation can take a number of forms: Exploring new inter-disciplinary concepts, methodologies and approaches drawing on both the arts and humanities and the sciences; Developing reciprocal collaborations of a new nature or in new or emerging fields of collaborative enquiry between the arts and humanities and the sciences and  Addressing innovative and inter-disciplinary research questions co-produced through dialogue between the arts and humanities and the sciences. Funding of up to £80,000 over a period of 12 months will be awarded to successful grants.  Up to 10 Innovation Awards are expected to be funded under the Science in Culture theme. Closing date 27/02/2014

The AHRC also supports other funding schemes:

Research Funding


Knowledge Exchange


International Research


Postgraduate Funding

You can read about BU’s success within the Faculty of Science and Technology and the Media School, and with the Block Grant Partnership. You can also read an overview of  the AHRC visit to BU on 20/1/14 and tips for submssion.

Please refer to previous posts on how to apply and make use of the AHRC’s own Research Funding Guide.

 You can search for opportunities on the AHRC website, but why not set up your own alerts in Research Professional so that you receive personalised emails regarding AHRC funding? You can, of course, set up tailored alerts for any other funders that meet your research needs.

You can also check the updates on the Research Blog for funding opportinities from major funders. This is normally posted by RKE  each week.

Please keep in touch with your RKE Operations Support Officer and seek their advice early in the application process. We all look forward to seeing an increase in AHRC bid submissions in the future!


AHRC Success Story- Block Grant Partnership


Continuing on the AHRC Success Story, we wanted to look at the Block Grant Partnership, (studentships for MSc and PhD students) which was awarded on April 2011 and is now nearing its end, with the final students recruited last September.

We had a chat with supervisors and students, to see both sides of the studentship experience.

 Paula Hughes- MA Graduate

I received the AHRC grant to study the MA in Post Production Editing in 2011/2012.

Receiving the grant was absolutely fantastic. I would not have enrolled on the course without getting the grant. It allowed me to fully dedicate my time to studying without having to get a job and worry about finances. I have noticed the benefit too since graduating. Again I did not have to worry about debt and paying off money spent and so this enabled me to pursue jobs in editing and to not have to get any old job for the sake of paying of a loan. This has meant that my progress as an editor has perhaps been faster than if I had not received the grant.

I have just finished working on a feature documentary which is expected to be released later this year. I am also attending my first premiere in February, which I assisted on. I also have been accepted on to Skillset Craft and Tech Trainee scheme.

I have benefitted very much from the grant and I am very grateful for receiving it.

Ella Egberts, PhD student, Applied Sciences

Getting this PhD position has been very good for me. I wanted to continue in the field of research I got into during my masters. Preferably I wanted to do this in England as my research interests go out to the Palaeolithic of Britain. Moreover being able to do a PhD in another country (I am from the Netherlands) seemed to me a great experience and an opportunity.
Studying in different countries increases my international network of friends and colleagues.
So far I am still getting started, but it is all going very well. I have pushed myself already in so many new situations and have done things I would not have done if I wasn’t doing a PhD.
I have studied collections of hand-axes in the museum of Salisbury which was great. Some of these pieces are over 300.000  years old, touched by our very early ancestors and now I get the chance to see them, feel them and reveal their story to a wider public.



Professor Hugh Chignell, Media School

This was a collaborative application which brought me, my colleague Neal White from the Media School and Kate Welham from the School of Applied Sciences working closely together for this proposal. We found it challenging as it is a long process which has different levels that required a lot of work but we have also found it very positive, as we have learnt so much in the process and of course once awarded that was a real bonus, as it is very competitive.

We were awarded a studentship by the AHRC and then received internally a match funded studentship as well, which was a great boost for the Centre for Media History and has benefited the students immensely as they work closely together.

It is an exciting opportunity for students and supervisors, students can focus on their research for 3 years, producing the best possible quality work.

The AHRC funded studentship went to Tony Stoller to study classical music on radio and the match funded BU studentship went to Kathryn McDonald to study the development of the radio interview.  They have both been an inspiration to work with.  

To close, the key thing for a successful application apart from it being well written, well budgeted and so on is the research idea, once you have a good idea, that jumps from the paper, the rest will slot into place.

Find out more about the Grants Academy and the sessions coming up in February. The internal peer review has been credited with producing higher quality research proposals and increased success rates, find out more details about it here. Don’t miss Friday’s post on funding opportunities coming up at AHRC.


Your chance to influence research and knowledge exchange support at BU – deadline looming

The deadline is looming for your chance to influence how you receive research and knowledge exchange support! The RKE Operations team are implementing improvements to the way we work and we want your feedback. Contribute by completing this short survey by 9th February 2014 – and we’ll do our best to make sure you receive the kind of support you want.

Jenny Roddis

AHRC – a success for BU

By Eva and Alex




Following yesterday’s Blog post on the AHRC – a success for BU, we would like to focus on the Faculty of Science and Technology’s success with AHRC. Over the last few years the Faculty of Science and Technology’s have a 45% success rate from 20 projects submitted with 9 funded.

So how did we achieve this success you ask?  Well we took to the offices of Christchurch House to interview successful AHRC grant holders Dr. Mark Matlby and Dr. Emma Jenkins to find out…

Mark Maltby

What was your project about?

Cultural and Scientific Perceptions of Human-Chicken Interactions : It’s part of the Science in Culture Call.  The project aims to unite scholars from different disciplines, members of the public, interest groups and schoolchildren through the study of human exploitation of chickens, an under-researched species that has the potential to provide new insights about the past, present and future of human society and their relationships with animals.

 How is it going?

It began on January 6th – so early days!

What do you want to achieve?

One of the main aims is to get researchers from different disciplines to work together constructively and exchange knowledge and expertise in pursuit of a common research goal.

What gave you the edge, do you think?

Being positive/enthusiastic in statements in the application and in response to reviewers’ comments.. Working with colleagues from other institutions who have successfully gained and carried out research grants. Their expertise in writing the Case for Support, Objectives etc was invaluable.

In hindsight, what would you do differently, what advice would you give to others?

Despite our best efforts, we were tight to the deadline for application. What took more time than I expected was getting the cost estimates sorted. Particularly if you are applying with partners, allow enough time for members of other institutions to react.

Any other comments from your experience that are worth noting.

We certainly benefitted from having an interview rehearsal. Learn to write very concisely as word limits are challengingly limited.


Emma Jenkins

What was your project about

The project is concerned with developing a method to help us understand more about how Neolithic sites in southwest Asia (c 11,700-7800 cal BP) were used. This is an important period in human history which saw the advent of sedentism, agriculture, and ultimately the rise of complex societies. It is also, however, one of the most poorly understood. This is partly due to the problems associated with site recognition and partly because of the lack of preservation of many forms of evidence, particularly biological. As a result, many Neolithic sites are comprised of a series of structures, the function of which is difficult, if not impossible, to interpret. Therefore, it is critical that we maximise the information that can be acquired from these sites.

 Our project uses recent advances in archaeological scientific techniques, namely phytolith (bodies of silica that form in and around plant cells)and geochemical analysis (traces of chemicals in soils resulting from human induced activities and waste, e.g. phosphorous, calcium and manganese) in a novel way. We will conduct a large scale combined analysis of phytoliths and geochemical elements from ethnographic sites to determine if certain activity areas, for example middens, hearths and floors, have particular phytolith and geochemical signatures that can help us recognise these same areas archaeologically.  

 How is it going

We have recruited two excellent new team members who will start with us in March and April and are busy making plans for our field season in April in Jordan. However, we have also hit problem number one but I am a firm believer in looking for solutions rather than focusing on the problem!

 What do you want to achieve?

On the academic front I want to have a successful field season in Jordan, leading to the collection of a good range of samples which will enable us to produce worthwhile and valid results. The aim is to publish these as peer reviewed journal papers. The ultimate aim is for us to apply for further funding to pursue related research areas.

We also plan to produce two 10 minute documentaries. The first will show  how scientific methods can be used in archaeology which I can use in my STEM Ambassador and general outreach work. The second is focused on documenting and presenting a sympathetic portrayal of traditional ways of life in Jordan and the relationship between people and a challenging but beautiful and ancient environment and landscape. The latter film is particularly pertinent because the traditional lifeways in Jordan are fast disappearing as a result of western influence.

 What gave you the edge, do you think?

I think there were a number of factors which led to this project being funded. Perhaps the most important was the team of people. All of us had a proven track record in our discipline and a history of working in Jordan. Even though this was awarded to me as an Early Career Grant, my collaborators hold senior positions within their institutions and have a strong publication record relating to the project research areas. We had done pilot studies involving phytoliths and geochemical analysis on ethnographic sites in Jordan which demonstrated that the method had potential. Another strength was the fact that I had run (or co-run) projects in Jordan previously so could demonstrate project management skills. Last, but definitely not least, I think Martin Pickard from Grantcraft helped a lot in the layout and design of the proposal which improved it enormously.

 In hindsight, what would you do differently, what advice would you give to others?

I over thought the impact part of the project (the documentaries) and originally made them too specific and complicated. We have since changed their focus and this makes them much more in line with the academic aims.

 As for my advice-don’t have two babies while trying to write a grant application in a timely fashion!

 No seriously,

  • Spend a lot of time thinking about the project and don’t under estimate how much time the project planning can take.
  • Cover yourself for every possible criticism. I wrote in a contingency plan in case there were any political problems in Jordan that made fieldwork unfeasible. The reviewers all seemed to like the fact that I had addressed this potential problem.
  • Make sure your project is good value for money and that you have a good team of people
  • Ask for help . I asked a lot of people within my discipline for advice and to read my application. One of my colleagues noticed a rather fundamental flaw in my proposal in its early stages and suggested alternative archaeological sites which made the project much more coherent.

 Also any other comments from your experience that are worth noting.

Designing the project was a really worthwhile experience and led to me finding fantastic team members whom I hope to work with in the future.

~Don’t miss tomorrow’s edition, when we hit the streets of Weymouth house for the Media School story on their fantastic success with the AHRC.

AHRC – a success for BU

AHRC are visiting BU today (find out how you can join in) and so it is timely to highlight our success with obtaining funding from them.

BU’s success rate of applying for funding with the AHRC has improved over the last few years from 33% in 2011/12 (the AHRC’s financial year runs from April to March), to 50% in both 2012/13 and 2013/14.

Since 2008, notable successes have occurred in the following Schools/Faculties:

Faculty of Science and Technology have a 45% success rate from 20 projects submitted with 9 funded

Business School have a 60% success rate from 5 projects submitted with 3 funded

Media School have a 44% success rate from 25 projects submitted with 11 funded

So, what is it that we need to know about the AHRC? 

Firstly, they have more than 50 disciplines within its remit. The arts and humanities is a large, dynamic and diverse body of disciplines and activities.  They range from practice-based work through to scholarly enquiry into history and culture. What they have in common, however, is a distinctive approach to ways of thinking about the conceptual, creative and historical basis of the human world.  You can find out more about their strategic priorities here.

Since receiving its Royal Charter in 2005, the AHRC has made a total of more than £700 million of funding available for arts and humanities research.  The AHRC’s Delivery Plan 2011-15 commits them to spend 72 percent of research funding in responsive mode schemes and 24 percent on targeted programmes, including International and Knowledge Exchange activities.  Since 2005, more than 16,400 research outputs have been published as a result of AHRC funding.  Of all disciplines in the UK, the humanities produce the largest world share of published articles at nearly 11 percent.

The RAE (Research Assessment Exercise) 2008 revealed the scale of the arts and humanities research base, with 14,000 active researchers, representing 27 percent of researchers in the UK. Across all disciplines, arts and humanities researchers achieved the highest proportion of top-rated 4* work, defined as ‘world-leading in terms of originality, significance and rigour.’  The latest available statistics suggest that there are 17,000 academic staff within the arts and humanities who are involved in research either wholly or coupled with teaching duties in UK institutions.

How have BU benefitted from AHRC funding? 

AHRC have funded several types of grants in BU including responsive mode, early career, and large grants.  The biggest impact has been the Block Grant Partnership that has led to several Masters and PhD students being funded in the School of Applied Sciences and the Media School.  These have helped fund students researching areas such as ‘Physiochemical past integrating geochemical & geophysical approaches to site location & interpretation’, ‘Identifying activity areas in Neolithic sites through ethnographic analysis of phytoliths & geochemical elements’, and ‘Film, digital & media production’.  As mentioned above, several research grants have also been won, the most recent being research into ‘Music publishing’ in the Business School and a large grant researching ‘Cultural and scientific perceptions of human-chicken interactions’ in the School of Applied Sciences.

How do I go about applying to the AHRC?

The key message here is to spend time writing and refining 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 (please note this is mandatory for research council applications) 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. 

RKEO recently published a blog article that listed fifteen top tips for getting research funding, as advised by an AHRC panel member.  This should help to increase your chances of being successful when applying for research funding.  Other useful information can be found in the research toolkit on the blog, which provides guidance on applying to research councils.  Advice is giving on how to write a research summary, case for support, impact statement, justification of resources, and a data management plan, as well as advice on ethics.  As all research councils require electronic submission of applications with a two-stage institutional check and approval, you need to have finalised your application five working days before the funder cut off in order for RKEO to check and approve your application to ensure it stands the best possible chance of being successful.  As soon as you think you might apply for funding, do get in touch with your RKE Operations contact and we will help you through the process.

So, if that has whet your appetite and you’re keen to find out more, do come along to the AHRC visit today at 12 noon (registration details can be found here).

The 5 ‘Golden Rules’ for e-submission of bid applications

For all standard RCUK bids (for example AHRC, ESRC, EPSRC, MRC, NERC, etc), the requirement is for the completed application to be submitted on J-es (J-es is the Research Councils’ web-based Joint Electronic Submission system for grant applications and award administration) by the Principal Investigator at least 5 working days before the application deadline.

The flowchart below illustrates the basic steps involved in the  ‘behind-the-scenes’ administration of  J-es bid applications before they are finally submitted to the councils.

As demonstrated in the flowchart, bid applications submitted through J-es are not exactly straightforward and quite often can be time-consuming and frustrating in some cases. Even when a bid application is ‘perfect’ in the eyes of the J-es checkers and institutional approvers, the process will still take up at least two working days, depending on the length of the application, and the availability of both J-es checkers and institutional approvers. Therefore, the 5-working-day turnaround will allow just enough time for potential changes and alterations to be made to the applications in order to maximise chances of success.  

When asked about the most common factors which delay the submission of a bid to J-es, institutional approvers and J-es checkers have collectively identified the following:

EligibilityThe eligibility of the PI is the first thing which you need to check, before embarking on the roller coaster ride of a bid application. The variety of funding bids from numerous research councils available out there means that each bid will come with a different guidance note. Even within the same research councils, guidance can sometimes differ between two separate funding opportunities.

Start date and duration of projectThe start date and the duration of the project should be planned in accordance with the funding guidance. For example, most of the times, funding councils require a minimum of 24 weeks between the bid submission date and the project start date but this can be different for each council. When there is a last minute change on J-es for the project start date or duration, this often involves a lengthy process as all previous costing figures provided for the project would have changed too.

AttachmentsAlthough providing a comprehensive CV or showing proof of all previous track records can be beneficial to your application, it is important to bear in mind that this is not always required. RKEO cannot stress enough times, the importance of reading the guidance and only attaching the required documents.  We have had applications returned to us due to attachments that were not specifically required and this will inevitably have an impact on the success of the application. 

Letter of supportThis is a major contributing factor to the delays in bid submission as quite often, letters of support come from external organisations or people and can take time to come back if there is missing or incorrect information that needs to be changed. And quite often, the most important and yet common missing information on a letter of support can be as simple as the date or signature.


FormatThe formatting on bid application documents is a constant bugbear for J-es checkers and institutional approvers. In the attempt to squeeze in as many words as possible onto the application document, the minimum margins, font size and page limit as stipulated by the council is quite often overlooked by PIs and this can cause unnecessary delays in the submission of the bid application.

These are just a few examples of cases which can cause unnecessary delay and angst in the process of submitting a bid application. Although they may seem obvious, knowing these factors may end up saving you time in the long run!

If you are interested in applying for a funding bid and would like to speak to one of us, do get in touch with us at the Research and Knowledge Exchange Office at 01202 961200.

What’s the importance of RKE Ops?

 The Research and Knowledge Exchange Operations (RKE Ops) team are here to help academics apply for external funding.  There are so many funders out there with so many different guidelines that it’s not always easy to find out how, who and what you should be applying to.

Costings of all proposals (including those that we are not the lead on) need to be undertaken by RKE Ops before proposals reach the submission stage.  Costings are undertaken by RKE Ops to ensure that a) they are complete and include full costs, b) that they include indirect and estates costs at current BU rates and c) that they include inflation at the BU rate.  Proposals need to be added to RED in order to track our bidding activity, which is in turn reported on and used for KPI’s, HEBCI and HESA returns; and RED generates the APF (Activity Proposal Form explained below).  The costs need to be added to our costings system, pFACT, for accurate costings and audit purposes. 

In addition to this, Legal Services need to check whether we are agreeing to any terms and conditions in advance of submitting the bid – and, if so, what these are.  We also need to check for any potential financial issues in advance of submission that need to be noted (for example, the risk of exchange rate fluctuations).  The APF (Activity Proposal Form from RED detailing the costs and income) and CAF (Contract Agreement Form from Legal Services detailing any legal or financial risks) need to be signed by a BU authorised signatory before the bid can be submitted; this gives approval for submission. This approval ensures that the appropriate senior staff (DDRE/DoP/Dean/UET members/Board members) are aware of the risks and commitments which arise from us undertaking the project, assuming it were to be awarded.  Some proposals will also have to go through the Quality Approval process, which is processed by RKE Operations.

The RKE Operations team will need to go through all of the above processes before the approval process can be completed.  In addition, an intention to bid form needs to be completed at the beginning to establish what processes an application may need to go through and the timescales required.  If you are intending to bid then please contact the Support Officer for your School to obtain a form (they have been tailored for each School).

The purpose of having a centralised group is that we connect all the necessary processes for academics (Finance, Legal, School signatories) and we’re there to help ensure that the application has the best possible chance of being funded.  If academics are successful then they will receive a contract and that contract has to go through certain processes in order to obtain the money and ensure it goes to the correct place.  Most importantly, if this information is never recorded on RED then it has a knock on effect on several things.  BU receives additional money from HEFCE based on the funding that we have received throughout the year.  Small pots of money add up to large sums and if these are never recorded then we lose out on additional funds from HEFCE.  Also, there are KPI’s with targets for R&KE funding to be obtained by academics in each of the Schools.  By not recording funding this will have a detrimental effect on the Schools targets for meeting the KPI’s.

If you’d like more information on RKEO as a whole then please see this helpful leaflet: R&KEO Leaflet

Last Minute 1-2-1 Appointments Available Today with Martin Pickard – 24th October!

If you feel you would benefit from a ‘face to face’ meeting with Martin  in relation to any bid/proposal you are currently working on please contact me Dianne Goodman Today!

Martin currently has the following appointments available on the 24th of October at the following times at Lansdowne Campus:


  • 10:45am – 11:30am


  • 14:45pm – 15:30pm

Appointments are approx 45 minutes long


Martin Pickard

With a career background in both Academia and Industry Dr. Martin Pickard of Grantcraft is a specialist in writing and supporting research grant applications and tenders as well as providing administrative and management support services for ongoing projects. During the last 20 years Martin has worked extensively across Europe with a large number of universities, and research institutes as well as industrial firms, ranging from small SME’s to major international companies.

Martin is providing individual 1-2-1 surgeries with any BU academic staff member and works individually and confidentiality with each Principal Investigator as the project is structured and prepared in order to optimize the application documentation from every aspect of the Funders perspective; guiding, steering and showing how to optimize the application throughout the bid process.

Academics at BU who have undertaken his guidance have stated:

 ‘his support and direction was invaluable – Martin gave me some pragmatic suggestions which really helped to shape the bid. His eye for detail made the document much easier to read and the message much clearer. I was very grateful for his input’  Assoc. Prof Heather Hartwell School of Tourism.

The process, although labour intensive, works; with a proven historical average success rates of close to 1 in 2 against norms of (1 in 8 to 1 in 10)

Book Now through me Dianne Goodman – Martin’s appointments are always popular.


Bournemouth Research Chronicle

Just under a year ago we published the second edition of the Bournemouth Research Chronicle (BRC). It went to print after the start of my maternity leave, meaning I got out of stuffing envelopes and posting hundreds of copies!

It was definitely worth my colleagues’ efforts though. Academic peers, research partners, potential business collaborators and journalists were among the recipients and the feedback was really positive.

Front cover of Bournemouth Research Chronicle 2012The BRC is a glossy magazine highlighting a range of BU research projects, presented within our eight societal themes. We’ve just begun preparations for the next edition, which will focus specifically on some of the fantastic impact-led work being carried out across BU.

Where work is at, what we call the ‘interim impact’ stage, the right effort and energy can propel it towards phenomenal impact in the future. The BRC is just the sort of vehicle to help achieve that. Featured research could land on the doorstep of a business eager to apply your findings, or in the inbox of an influential opinion leader or policy maker in your field. That’s why communications activity is such an important part of the life cycle of a research project. Often it is the bridge between the research and societal impact.

So please tell us about your impact-led projects. There is some space left in the next edition of the BRC, as well as numerous other communications opportunities to reach the audiences that need to hear about your work. My contact details are in the BU address book, so do get in touch with me (Sally Gates).

Incidentally, Bryce Dyer, pictured on the front cover of the last edition, is presenting one of the award lectures at next week’s British Science Festival in Newcastle. Congratulations Bryce and good luck!

And who’s up for being on the front cover of the BRC this time round…?

European Science Foundation and Global Changes in the Marine Environment

I was very proud to have been invited by the Institute of Marine Sciences – National Research Council (ISMAR-CNR) in Venice who developed on the European Science Foundation Platform, the Exploratory Workshop:  Marine woodborers: New Frontiers for European Waters. And I have to say that that was one of the most exciting research opportunities I have taken part of in the recent past.

The European Science Foundation (ESF) was established in 1974 to provide a common platform for its Member Organisations to advance European research collaboration and explore new directions for research. Currently it is an independent organisation, owned by 67 Member Organisations, which are research funding organisations, research performing organisations and academies from 29 countries.

The focus of the Exploratory Workshops scheme is on workshops aiming to explore an emerging and/or innovative field of research or research infrastructure, also of interdisciplinary character. Workshops are expected to open up new directions in research or new domains. It is expected that a workshop shall conclude with plans for follow-up research activities and/or collaborative actions or other specific outputs at international level.

The organisers, namely Davide Tagliapietra, Erica Keppel and Marco Sigovini – all from the ISMAR-CNR- did an amazing job in organising this much needed research group and by planning an excellent working programme.

The topic, centred on Marine woodborers is of utmost important as these organisms are a threat to maritime structure and archaeological heritage. Recently, an increase in attack and a northward spread has been reported. Despite the ecological, economical and cultural importance, research on this subject is carried out by few scientists scattered across Europe. An interdisciplinary approach is needed to reach a synthesis of knowledge and a deeper understanding of the causal factors. The main outcome of the workshop is the establishment of a research network aiming to coordinate scientists with an European perspective and a global view. Through the establishment of such a network, new theoretical and technical developments could be achieved.

The agenda of the workshop was to focus on:

1) bringing together experts in complementary fields that have hitherto not collaborated as a group;

2) identifying additional research competences that are not covered within the group of participants;

3) identifying, exchanging and sharing research interests for future joint leading research projects and developing an application strategies;

4) the establishment of an international network on marine woodborers.

Despite the subject ([wood-]‘boring’ organisms), there wasn’t a single dull moment. It was very exciting to spent a considerable amount of time with international peers coming from as far as Colombia and discussing the problems surrounding these particular organisms.

All sessions were extremely interesting and productive and I totally enjoyed chairing one of them in the Knowledge Café, with my hat of maritime archaeologist whose research interest based also based on marine organisms and global changes, but I am also one of few who combines degradation and protection of the cultural heritage and marine science. The Knowledge Café focussed on Systematics and biogeography, Marine woodborer-microorganism interactions, Protection of shipwrecks and maritime structures. Each group discussed weaknesses: Problems, constrains and bottlenecks, Strengths: Opportunities, synergies, and Perspectives: Solutions, actions and recommendations.

19 international peers attended, which was by invitation only, this amazing opportunity, some of which were old friends and some of which have become reference points for my current and future research on wood borers.

All with the amazing architectural beauties of a tiny Venetian island just in front of one of the world most famous squares: San Marco square!

Paola Palma