Tagged / proposal writing

Weetabix & the Art of the Studentship Proposal

It is a while since I last posted anything on the blog having been busy working on our new strategic plan currently out to consultation. With this in mind and the imminent deadline for the PhD Studentships competition I thought I might share some ideas about writing the perfect proposal. There is nothing very special about this insight, just a few reflections which might help or at the least may amuse.

In my experience research grants tend to fall into two broad categories, namely: (1) concise bids often consisting of just one or more pages like the BU Studentship competition; and (2) complex bids, with longer cases of support. The art of writing each type of proposal is different and we will concern ourselves here with the former rather than the latter. The aim is answer a series of specific questions with a few carefully selected words making a cogent case.

You may remember if you are of a certain age the cereal box competition “paint a picture or design a box lid and then in just eight words explain why you love Weetabix!” These types of competitions always used to frustrate me because irrespective of how good your artwork was, and your mum would always tell you that it was super, you still had to write something snappy! And as a kid I didn’t like writing much and snappy has always alluded me. I view short, one page bids in the same way and with distaste. You get just 300, or at most 500, words to make your case. Slightly more than eight but I am sure we will all agree not enough! Writing such proposals is a skill and like all skills needs practice, but in the hands of a master becomes an art. Now I don’t claim to be a master but the process starts like most things with a great idea, and complete clarity as to how it should unfold and be delivered. It is the clarity of thought that is the key to being concise and I suppose is the real test of art.

The current competition for BU Studentships is a case in point and with the deadline imminent I thought I would share a few personal reflections on the art of the concise bid. You have a generous 500 words with which to make the case for a studentship plus various supplementary opportunities to clarify specific points. The starting point for me in writing such a bid is clarity around what the aims and objectives of a project are, and ultimately its tractability. Having a clear understanding is critical and I personally start by writing it all down in note form, or talking it through with a colleague in order to have a good grasp of the arguments one could deploy. Test it, view it from all angles and select your pose and line of attack with care. When I start to write I try to stick with the: wow, what, why, now, how and impact scheme of things. Now if I had a way with words I would be able to turn this into some form mnemonic but I haven’t so we will have to stick with ‘WWNHI’. The wow matters and starts with the title because you want to entice your reader to read on. Most assessment panels of this sort consist of learned academics or lay readers without necessarily having your subject specialism. If you turn them off in the first line, they won’t read on. It is like the headline and lead sentence of a newspaper article; its got to grab the reader and compel them to read on, so they do in fact read. So should your title and opening few lines, so with this in mind the wow factor matters! The what then follows in order of priority. What is that you propose to do and how can you say this in a few concise words or a sentence or two at most? You might propose a major problem in the ‘wow’ and the ‘what’ is your solution for example. Some academic like to state this as an aim others as the answer to a question, but however you do it you need to be clear about what it is that you will deliver. Avoid lengthy lists of objectives and goals and remain focused on the primary goal.

The why and the now tend to collide thereafter. Why is it important and why must it be studied now rather than at some point in the future? Why is timely, topical or urgent? Again a few concise lines should be sufficient to serve, cross referenced to a few key references. Now there is no need to show off your erudition by citing the whole of your library, but a few choice references help assure the reader that you are a master of the relevant literature and that it has not all been done before! You want to always avoid the idea that it has all been done before at all costs, but also you need to be authentic to the reality of research in your chosen area. We are on a roll now and have probably used up may be 150 to 200 of our words at most and we are ready for the how. The key issue here is to demonstrate that a problem is tractable and in the case of a studentship, that you have access to the resources or data required. That above all else it is deliverable by your chosen student and in three years not a life time of servitude! This is not another place, however, to show off your erudition and understanding of research philosophy or approach; save it for that great methods paper you wish to write sitting in the garden this summer. The key here is to demonstrate that your approach is well tried or novel/original and will address the questions posed in a timely manner.

We probably have used up another 100 or 150 of our precious words and are ready to deliver the final punch – fund this and you will deliver the earth! What will the return on the investment be? What is the impact of the proposed research? How will it change the world for the better? Now your research may only have academic impact, but if you can demonstrate societal impact so much the better. The key is to be specific, concise and not to promise the impossible but be authoritative about the return on investment you will and can provide. In the case of the BU Studentship form there are specific sections later in the form for you to document this in more detail, so confine yourself to a few well-chosen sentences that complete your case and compel the reader to give the funding you seek.

All of the above can be done in as little as 300 words, you have 500 on the studentship form so use them wisely and whatever you do don’t use them for the sake of it. This is definitely one of those case where less can be more. One final piece of advice ‘you should not be able to see the brush strokes in the final piece’. What I am saying is that if you use WWNHI well, no one should be aware that you have followed the magic formula at all. My final parting shot is to say that unless you have clarity of thinking you won’t have clarity in your prose so don’t start to write until you have it all worked out and have viewed it from every angle and worked out the best way to sell your idea. And yes it is about selling your idea to the assessment panel. They won’t just recognise your genius. Like any art its needs practice and careful work and I for one don’t profess to be an expect. Whatever your colleagues may say in bravado a proposal is not something that can be dashed off the night before the deadline whatever you may think and assessment panels are never understanding or willing to cut you slack. Write it, hone it, re-write it, seek comments on it, re-write it some more and perfect it and then send it in with a wink and a prayer. Good luck!

Matthew

Bournemouth University Clinical Research Unit (BUCRU) Consultancy Service

What is the Consultancy Service?

BUCRU has developed a consultancy service aimed at organisations that have an interest in health and wellbeing. Members of the team have many years experience of providing consultation services to the NHS, public bodies, charities and businesses. In addition to research projects we can also advise on audit projects, clinical evaluations, service evaluations and other areas where the collection and analysis of good quality data is important.

How can it help?

The service is flexible and tailored to the client’s requirements. Typically an initial meeting will involve finding out about the client’s needs and discussing the ways in which we can help. Our involvement could range from a single meeting to discuss a particular issue, through to conducting a project on behalf of the client.

Some examples are:

¨                  Advising on or conducting clinical trials, surveys, epidemiological studies, pilot and feasibility studies

¨                  Study design

¨                  Advice on sample size

¨                  Questionnaire design and validation

¨                  Outcome measures

¨                  Data collection and management

¨                  Statistical analysis and interpretation

¨                  Qualitative and mixed methods approaches

¨                  Design and evaluation of complex interventions such as found in medicine, psychology, nursing, physiotherapy and so on.

¨                  Managing and running studies

¨                  Advice on ethics and governance approval processes.

¨                  Involving patients and the public in research

¨                  Troubleshooting

How do I find out more?

For further information about, and access to, our consultancy service please contact:

Louise Ward (administrator):

Bournemouth University Clinical Research Unit

R505 Royal London House

Christchurch Road

Bournemouth BH1 3LT

BUCRU@bournemouth.ac.uk

Tel: 01202 961939

http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/bucru/

Research within the Bournemouth University Clinical Research Unit (BUCRU)

In previous blogs we have described how BUCRU can help in developing grant applications. In this blog we describe some of the funded projects we are involved in.

BUCRU led research

Fatigue management in multiple sclerosis (MS):  We have just completed a multi-centre randomised trial of a cognitive behavioural approach to fatigue management in people with multiple sclerosis1. This project was funded by the MS Society (http://www.mssociety.org.uk).

Improving activity and wellbeing in people with MS: We are just starting a MS Society funded pilot study to look at the Nintendo Wii home gaming system as a method of helping people with MS increase their activity levels and wellbeing.

Systematic review of psychological interventions for people with MS: A small grant to update our existing Cochrane review2

BUCRU collaborative projects

IDvIP: A National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research for Patient Benefit (RfPB) (http://www.ccf.nihr.ac.uk/RfPB/Pages/home.aspx) funded project. This is a multi-centre trial comparing 2 methods of pain relief for women in labour; diamorphine and pethidine3. The Chief Investigator is a Consultant in one of the local hospitals and a member of the Bournemouth University Visiting Faculty. BUCRU staff were involved in the design of the study, applying for the grant, data management, statistical analysis and interpretation, and advice on project management.*

WEIGHTED: A small grant from the College of Emergency Medicine held by a local Consultant/ member of the Visiting Faculty. This study is about to start and aims to develop a robust method of estimating the weight of patients attending a hospital emergency department. Many patients require a weight dependent dose of potentially life saving medication, but are too ill to be actually weighed.  BUCRU were involved in designing the study and securing funding, and will be involved in ongoing advice on project and data management, statistical analysis and interpretation.

PEARLS: A large multi-centre trial of training maternity staff in assessing and repairing tears to the perineum acquired during labour and delievery4. This project is funded by the Health Foundation (http://www.health.org.uk) and run under the auspices of the Royal College of Midwives. BUCRU has been involved in data management, statistical analysis and interpretation.

PREVIEW: A pilot randomised trial comparing two methods of looking after tears to the perineum. The Chief Investigator is based in Birmingham, and the study is funded by the NIHR RfPB funding scheme. This study has recently started, and BUCRU was involved in the design of the study and the funding application. Further involvement will be in advising on project management, data management and statistical analysis.

Clinical Doctoral Research Fellowship: (http://www.nihrtcc.nhs.uk). Award held by BU and won by a radiographer based at the Anglo-European College of Chiropractic. The project involves tracking and measuring spinal motion. The research may have important implications in diagnosing people with chronic lower back pain. BUCRU were involved in the study design and funding application, and 2 members of staff are supervisors for her PhD.

Contact us:

In the first instance please contact

Louise Ward (administrator):

Bournemouth University Clinical Research Unit

R505 Royal London House

Christchurch Road

Bournemouth BH1 3LT

BUCRU@bournemouth.ac.uk

Tel: 01202 961939

 http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/bucru/

1 Thomas, P.W., Thomas, S., Kersten, P., Jones, R., Nock, A., Slingsby, V., et al., 2010. Multi-centre parallel arm randomised controlled trial to assess the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of a group-based cognitive behavioural appoach to managing fatigue in people with multiple sclerosis. BMC Neurology, 10:43

2 Thomas, P.W., Thomas, S., Hillier, C., Galvin, K., and Baker, R. (2006). Psychological interventions for multiple sclerosis. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (Vol. Issue 1, pp. Issue 1. Art. No.: CD004431. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD004431.pub2): John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

3 Wee, M.Y.K., Tuckey, J.P., Thomas, P., Burnard, S. 2011. The IDvIP Trial: A two-centre randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing intramuscular diamorphine and intramuscular pethidine for labour analgesia. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 11: 51

4 Bick, D.E., Kettle, C., MacDonald, S., Thomas, P.W., Hill, R.K., Ismail, K.. 2010. PErineal Assessment and Repair Longitudinal Study (PEARLS): protocol for a matched pair cluster trial. BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth, 10:10.

Bournemouth University Clinical Research Unit (BUCRU) Events and Services

BUCRU incorporates the Dorset Office of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Research Design Service – South West (RDS-SW). This means that in addition to the support outlined in previous blogs, we can also provide access to the following:

RDS Grant application workshop.

This workshop is going to be held at Bournemouth University on the 29th February 2012 (http://www.rds-sw.nihr.ac.uk/grant_workshop.htm). Although the official deadline for applying has recently passed, it is worth contacting us to see if there are any remaining places. The workshop will also be held in other locations in the South-West region in the near future.

This is a one-day workshop for researchers who are developing proposals with the intention of applying for a grant. The workshop does not provide detailed training in research methodology; rather it more generally covers the full range of issues inherent in developing a successful grant application. It will be of relevance to researchers applying to any of the major health research funders, but particularly the NIHR funding schemes.

Researchers will need to send in advance the latest draft of their research proposal. As a minimum they should have a plan for a project but, ideally, a worked up proposal, perhaps even one that has been previously rejected. All proposals will receive detailed written feedback from the RDS team.

Topics include

  • The application as a marketing document, selling the topic, selling the method, and selling the team;
  • The balanced team;
  • Clarity of description and explanation;
  • Feasibility issues;
  • Identifying and avoiding potential pitfalls

 

RDS Residential Research Retreat

The Residential Research Retreat (http://www.rds-sw.nihr.ac.uk/rrr_home.htm) provides an opportunity for research teams to develop high quality health related research proposals suitable for submission to national peer-reviewed funding schemes. The aim of the Retreat is to provide the environment and support to promote rapid progress in developing proposals over a relatively short time period.

This Research Retreat is open to health professionals and academics working within the South West. Applications to attend the Retreat should be submitted by a team of three people with varied skills. Applications are reviewed competitively and places awarded to the most promising team proposals. The deadline for the next Research Retreat has passed, but it is anticipated that applications will be invited again later in the year.  

At the retreat participants are supported by a range of experts while developing their research proposal. They work intensively on their proposal, while learning how to maximise its chances for successfully securing a grant.

In addition, the Residential Research Retreat helps participants develop the key skills needed to conduct research in a clinical setting as well as nurturing presentation skills and giving them the confidence to tackle research problems. 

 

RDS Scientific Committee

The RDS Scientific Committee (http://www.rds-sw.nihr.ac.uk/scientific_committee.htm) provides an excellent opportunity for researchers in the south-west to obtain a critical review of a proposed grant application before it is sent to a funding body. The Committee brings the benefit of seeing the proposal with “fresh eyes”, replicating as far as possible the way the real funding committee will consider the application. Committee members include senior research consultants who have considerable experience of obtaining research funding, resulting in comprehensive comments and advice fed back.

Committee meetings take place approximately 9 times per year. To submit a study for review at the meeting, study paperwork must be provided to the Committee via BUCRU two weeks prior to the meeting date, and preferably a couple of months before the intended funding deadline.

 

Centre of Postgraduate Medical Research and Education (CoPMRE) Annual Symposium

In addition to events aimed at supporting the development of grant applications we also host an event geared towards dissemination. The CoPMRE Annual Symposium will be held on the 11th September 2012 at the Bournemouth University Talbot Campus. These successful annual conferences have been running for the past nine years and have featured themes such as ‘Professionalism and Collaboration’, ’Research Innovation’ and ‘Interprofessional Learning’. This year’s theme will be on using ‘Social media techniques in healthcare research and education’.  The conference is open to all healthcare professionals and academics.  More information will be posted on our website in due course and you will be able to register online nearer the time.  For further information on the symposium please contact Audrey Dixon, Conference Manager (adixon@bournemouth.ac.uk ).

Contact us: For further information about, and access to, the Grant applications workshop, the Residential Research Retreat and the Scientific Committee please contact:

Louise Ward (administrator):

Bournemouth University Clinical Research Unit

R505 Royal London House

Christchurch Road

Bournemouth BH1 3LT

BUCRU@bournemouth.ac.uk

Tel: 01202 961939

http://blogs.bournemouth.ac.uk/bucru/

Sometimes a kick in the teeth can be good for you!

My rationale needed to be contextualised, my aims were too tentative and I had a weak dissemination strategy. Apart from that my bid had potential.

This was the feedback I got on a two-day course run by the Missenden Centre on bidding for research funding. John Wakeford and his small team of experts began by painting a rather dismal picture – an institutional success rate of more than 50% is rare apparently. And this does not necessarily mean that the amount of bidding should be increased, rather it’s better to ensure that every bid is precise, well-crafted and perfectly pitched.

The course was structured around presentations on the national context, the processes of the research councils and, most usefully, dissection of our own bids. My group was small and we quickly learned not to be too precious about surrendering our proposals for scrutiny. The critique we got from each other, from the facilitators and from the research development officers (who joined us on day two) was invaluable and I left with these key lessons:

  • Take time to prepare a robust bid – rushed responses to late calls are rarely successful;
  • Make sure the bid is going to the right place – make sure you know exactly why a particular body should fund your research;
  • Build in plenty of time for peer review – even minor errors can have a disproportionately negative effect;
  • Be bold and convincing about the impact your research will definitely have;
  • Write like a journalist – seduce and engage your reader – minimise the chances they have to say ‘no’.

And now I have some revisions to do…

 

The RDU has funding available to send BU academics on external proposal writing workshops, such as the one Mark went on at the Missenden Centre. If you’re interested in attending then email me (jnortham@bournemouth.ac.uk) to discuss the workshops coming up.

 

Grant Writing Workshops for Staff – Research Councils Focus

Next week the Research Development Unit are organising 2 full day workshops on preparing applications for the research councils.  The workshops will be run by Martin Pickard, who has 25 years experience of writing, supporting and managing literally thousands of research proposals and has worked across Europe with a large number of universities, research institutes, industrial firms and international companies.

  • 23rd November will be focused on social sciences and humanities research council bids. 
  • 24th November will be focused on applied and natural sciences research council bids, including engineering.

There are still one or two places left on the 23rd and several places on 24th.  If you would like to attend please contact Susan Dowdle asap.

Discrepancies in guidance from funders

We in RKE Operations have recently become aware of some discrepancies within funders’ guidance notes. In some instances, separate sets of guidance for the same call have provided different information. In others, guidance notes relating to a specific call have been released a while after the call notes, and have included important and relevant information for writing the bid. In order to guard against this, we recommend:

–          Checking back regularly – up to the date of submission – on the funder’s website in case they have released amended or supplemental  guidance.

–          Where amended guidance is released, always using the most up-to-date version.

–          Ensuring that all guidance notes are read thoroughly – important information may be found hidden where you least expect it.

–          If bids are submitted through an electronic system, this includes reading the guidance notes relevant to and attached to the e-system as well.

–          If different sets of guidance for the same call give conflicting information, check with the funder (or ask us to do so).

If the guidance isn’t clear or doesn’t give you the information you need, funders are generally happy to help – as are we in RKE Operations – so feel free to pick up the phone.

Upcoming Missenden Centre workshops – funding available for BU staff to attend

The Missenden Centre still has places available on a number excellent workshops this autumn/winter.

The Research Development Unit has some funds available to support academics and research support staff to attend. If you are interested please contact Julie Northam in the first instance.

Bidding for research funding: pathways to success

9/10 November for academics

10/11 November for research support staff

With Sarah Andrew, Dean of Applied and Health Sciences, University of Chester

Robert Crawshaw, Faculty of Arts and Social Science, Lancaster University

‘The course was excellent. I think it will probably change my entire approach to writing grant proposals and will most wholeheartedly recommend it to my colleagues. So, once again, many thanks.’ Dr. Miriam V. Dwek, Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry, University of Westminster.

http://www.missendencentre.co.uk/s2

 

Successful bidding: third of our day clinics

18 November

With: John Wakeford

Bring a draft or previously unsuccessful application for advice on how to turn it into an award-winning form.

http://www.missendencentre.co.uk/s4

 

Effective supervision

12/13 January

Our unique preparation for supervisors and those with responsibilities for training them.

http://www.missendencentre.co.uk/s6

 

Speak to the Research Development Unit and book your place now!

How to kill your funding application

Funding proposals are not the easiest (or quickest) thing in the world to write.

Not least for multi-tasking academics up against a wall of deadlines.

Jonathan O’Donnell, author of the most excellent Research Whisperer Blog,  has a similar job to mine – supporting the writing of funding proposals at his university.

I like him.  He has some good advice.   I found this post – its called 5  ways to kill your application. I think its worth reading. 

I hope you find it helpful too.

For information about how BU’s very own Research Proposal Review Service can support your current/next funding application, please contact Caroline O’Kane.

Research bid do’s and don’ts

The Do’s of writing a good research bid:

C – O – M – P – E – T- E

Clarity: avoid the overuse of technical jargon, spelling/grammatical errors and being overly descriptive or long-winded. Ensure that the bid is systematically structured and you make clear your aims and why these are important.

Other’s work: ensure that you present a balanced appraisal of the relevant literature in your field; that the research questions you identify are novel; that you exhaust any existing data rather than duplicate in your own plan of work.

Methods & workplan: ensure that you have a sufficient sample size; consult stakeholders; have clear interpretation plans; address ethical issues; have a realistic timeline; be clear on the coordination of co-investigators.

Potential impact & outcomes: state expected outcomes and impact and dissemination plans beyond the academic community.

Explain your costings: justify staff of requested grade; the need for equipment/travel.

Tune into the Funder: ensure the proposal fits with their aims, that you are eligible to apply and that the funder will cover the resources you request.

Expertise: if you are not experienced in winning bids, involve an experienced colleague/approach a collaborator and submit your proposal to RORP (where available)

The Don’ts of writing a good research bid

  • Do not rush it; take time to plan and prepare
  • Do not bid for a large grant if you are relatively new to grant bidding
  • Do not proceed with work up to full bid and submission if you have any doubts about strategic fit or your eligibility
  • Do not work in isolation
  • Do not ignore the internal peer review scheme RPRS
  • Do not assume that the funder will understand all acronyms or technical jargon
  • Do not mistake a research bid for a literature review of the subject area when writing the background to your proposal
  • Do not ignore difficult issues whether they are technical or ethical
  • Do not promise the earth!
  • Do not submit final bid without having an experienced colleague read over it first
  • Do not propose referees (if invited to do so) who you have published/worked with

Checklist to Complete Prior to Proposal Submission

  • Does your research fit the funders remit?
  • Do you meet the eligibility criteria for the funding scheme?
  • Is the research question/hypothesis you are asking an important one?
  • Are the research aims clearly stated?
  • Have you provided a bibliography and appraisal of current work in the field that demonstrates your familiarity with the subject?
  • Is the novelty value of the proposed research argued well?
  • Have you demonstrated the potential social and economic impact of the proposed research?
  • Have you demonstrated that the approach you will use is the best way to address the research question?
  • Have you documented a contingency plan in case of unexpected controls/lack of participants etc?
  • Have you included any pilot data to help the funders gain confidence?
  • Are the roles of the co-PIs clearly defined and their expertise demonstrated?
  • Have you eliminated technical jargon and spelled out any acronyms?
  • Have you ensured there are no grammatical or spelling errors in your application?
  • Have you ensured you are within the word limit for the application?
  • Does your Research Director/experienced colleague think it reads well?

Who can I ask for further help?

Contact Caroline O’Kane in the Research Development Unit for advice on what makes a good proposal.  

Caroline also runs the University’s Research Proposal Review Service (RPRS).  In addition to your proposal being peer reviewed, Caroline can advise on funding criteria, funders and eligibility issues.  

For the best results please get in touch with Caroline as soon as you start developing a funding proposal – the RPRS can support your bid in more ways than you think.

Find out more:

Centrally funded places available on bid writing workshop (GIC Ltd, London, 29 November)

29th November 2011, London

GIC Ltd are running a one-day seminar called Total Proposal which will demonstrate the techniques that will make your proposals the ones which win!

Success depends on delivering a winning proposal – a strong selling document which the client will want to buy.  The seminar gives institutions not only the practical tools of proposal preparation, such as bidding plans and checklists, but also shows a range of winning techniques and “selling” devices that will positively differentiate your proposal from those of your competitors.

Half the day is dedicated to practical exercises and a “real life” proposal case study.

Preparing a competitive proposal is a time and resource intensive exercise. As the complexity of tender dossiers, terms of reference and compliance requirements have increased, so have the costs of not winning the business.

Attendees will:
– Refresh their approaches to the preparation of proposals
– Acquire new presentation techniques
– See how to give proposals a competitive edge
– Learn how to maximise the evaluation scoring of proposals.

Colleagues from CRE Operations attended the course earlier this year and found it extremely useful.

Places are £295 (+ VAT). The RDU has funding to support up to five BU academics to attend the workshop. If you are interested in attending please contact Julie Northam as soon as possible to book a place.

What do funders look for in a research application?

  • Funders look for a research application that is novel and that addresses an important research question pertinent to their strategic aims.  Check funder’s websites and research their current priorities.
  • They need to be convinced of the Principal Investigator’s ability to deliver and are thus keen to see clearly described aims and a well thought through project plan.
  • Funders are also increasingly looking for a clear indication of what the likely impact of the research will be.

How does the funding decision process work?

  • On receipt of a grant proposal, funders will identify UK and/or international academics with appropriate expertise to provide written assessment of it.
  • On the day of decision-making, there is rarely enough money to fund every grant considered to be fundable and so often a ranking/scoring system is adopted such that only those ranked in the top grouping get funded.
  • How far the bar comes down depends on the committee’s budget – you just have to present the best case you can to catch the eye of the funding committee.

What are the typical reasons for proposal rejection?

  • Applicant is not eligible to apply/exceeding the page limits/missing documentation
  • Uninvited/undeclared resubmissions which fail to meet the criteria after revision
  • Lack of clearly stated hypothesis/research question
  • Research question not considered to be novel
  • Insufficient reference to previously published research
  • Importance of research question not well argued
  • Project too vague in its objectives
  • Not clear how the methodologies/work plan will provide the answer to the question posed
  • Unconvincing track record of applicant
  • Proposal is over-ambitious
  • Lack of sound methodology
  • Not value for money (i.e. a quicker/cheaper way to answer question exists)
  • Outcome unlikely to have much impact on the field or impact of outcomes not explained
  • Proposed research would be run in isolation/in an unsupported environment

Who can I ask for further help?

Contact Caroline O’Kane in the Research Development Unit for advice on what makes a good proposal.  

Caroline also runs the University’s Research Proposal Review Service (RPRS), and can advise on funding criteria, funders and eligibility issues.   For the best results please get in touch with Caroline as soon as you start developing a funding proposal – the RPRS can support your bid in more ways than you think.

Find out more:

Bidding success

On Friday last week the RDU organised two bidding workshops with John Wakeford of the Missenden Centre.

John left the groups with some important points to remember when writing funding applications.

Here are John’s top tips for bid writing success……

Top ten rules for readability:

  • think about your audience
  • think how they will read it
  • only use words they will understand
  • plan
  • engaging title and first sentence
  • every word counts
  • avoid -ve words, difficulties, conditionals
  • face problems, but replace with challenges/opportunities
  • short sentences
  • eliminate jargon, and minimise acronyms

 Key features of a good proposal:

  • investigate funders’ current priorities
  • contact CRE Ops, RPRS, identify potential reviewers and book them in
  • read carefully the precise rules for submissions
  • check agreement among your collaborators
  • allow time for multiple drafts

Strategies for success:

  • network, network, network
  • hitch your wagon to a star
  • be in contact with funders
  • why should they want to fund you?
  • ensure you are the world expert
  • guarantee impact
  • clear your diary
  • re-use ideas on different context and try again
  • deliver on title
  • re-read and consider:
  • why should it be funded?
  • how would the world be different if it wasn’t?

If you are thinking about writing a funding proposal please contact Caroline O’Kane and find out about how the RPRS can support your bid.

To find out more about John Wakeford’s sessions please contact Susan Dowdle or Caroline O’Kane.

fEC step by step guide to costing! ~ Step 5 Exceptional costs

This week is fEC week on the Blog! Each day we have been explaining a different element of fEC as a quick reference guide to help you prepare the budgets for your research proposals. Today is the last in the series and the focus is on Exceptional costs.

See Friday’s blog post (Introduction to full economic costing) for an explanation of what fEC actually is and why we use it.

Step 5 – Exceptional costs

For Research Council applications in particular, certain costs will be classified as Exceptional and will be subject to a different funding arrangement to the rest of the costs on the project. These are:

  • Postgraduate student fees and stipends
  • Equipment costing in excess of £10k
  • Large survey fees

Research Councils will usually pay 100% of the fEC of these exceptional costs, with the exception of equipment costing in excess of £10k for which the Research Councils will pay approximately 50-100% of the fEC depending on the total cost of the equipment. For further information, see the RCUK statement on the Changes to Requests for Equipment from 1st May 2011.

Tuition fee and stipend levels for Research Council funded students can be found on the RCUK webpages.

This is the final installment of this week’s step by step guide to fEC. The other steps can be accessed here:

Step 1 – Directly Incurred costs

Step 2 – Estimating staff time

Step 3 – Directly Allocated costs

Step 4 – Estate and Indirect costs