Monday, 29 March 2010

REF Consulation: Results Announced

HEFCE have announced the results of the REF consultation that took place over the winter. There's little change from their initial proposals, though HEFCE has recognised the concern that the sector has expressed over impact. It acknowledged the UCU petition challenging impact, but said that it was based on the Research Councils' understanding of impact (i.e. future impact rather than past). The use of citations will be left up to individual sub panels. Have a look at the HEFCE Press Release for more detail, or a summary in this RePro article.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

The Word on the Leverhulme Street

Some news to emerge from Leverhulme recently:
  • The Trust will be extending its online application system to include outline applications for Research Project Grants, International Networks and Artists in Residence from 14 July 2010. You will only be able to submit paper versions until 30 June 2010. For further information available click here.

  • Leverhulme reckon they'll be big increase in applications to them from the hungry, the hunted, the poor huddled masses fleeing from the swingeing cuts at the Research Councils. They're batoning down the hatches in anticipation and not running any major initiatives in the foreseeable future.

  • However, it will be running its Research Programmes this year, and plan to have the following three streams: 1) Resilience 2 ) Intergenerational Justice, 3) Science and Politics.

  • The Director of the Trust, Professor Sir Richard Brook, has confirmed that the Trust has never had to turn down a proposal because of a lack of funds. In fact, the 2008 and 2009 Major Research Fellowship Scheme awarded less than its allocation due to the (perceived) paucity of the proposals it received.

  • In light of this the Sciences have had the lion's share of Leverhulme funding in recent years. The Trust feels that there has been a lack of excellent proposals in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and would welcome more in these areas.

  • Leverhulme has not bought into the whole Impact thing, nor any crowing about league tables or ratings. So avoid references to the RAE etc in your proposals.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Research for Patient Benefit Workshop

The Research Design Service (RDS), which provides help and advice on those applying to the NHS, is running a Research for Patient Benefit Funding Workshop. The workshop will be helpful to those considering developing a research project in an applied health and social care setting and will describe the RfPB funding stream, such as who can apply, what types of research are covered by the scheme, the value of the grant, and the application process itself.
It will be on 23 June 2010 starting at 9:30am. Contact Sylvia Francis if you want to take part.

Monday, 22 March 2010

EPSRC JeS Summary: 'Suppose Sarkozy has a Wedding...'

In a recent update from the Maths Programme of the EPSRC, the Council gave some useful tips on completing the Summary section of the JeS form. This is often overlooked, but is crucial to the application: it's often the first place that reviewers and panel members look. It's a good way to get your foot in the door, to persuade them to read the rest of the proposal.
They highlight the need to keep it simple, and understandable to a general audience.
They quote Dr Shaun Stevens, an EPSRC Leadership Fellow, who suggested that applicants should 'make it accessible -- so minimal technical language: certainly none at the beginning and, where there is some, it should be explained. I would say there are (at least) two approaches: either treat it like a summary of a popular lecture, so it is in teaching mode, explaining basic concepts at the beginning and then trying to give a vague idea of the mathematics involved; or do it by analogy (a la Sarkozy) without really explaining any of the mathematics at all.'
If you are curious about the Sarkozy reference take a look at Shaun's grant proposal from 2008.

Friday, 19 March 2010

NERC Announces Change to July Deadline

NERC have announced that their 1 July closing date for standard, consortium and partnership proposals has been moved forward to 10 June, for 2010 only. This is due to them moving to use the RCUK Shared Service Centre (SSC). More detail in the press release here.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

EPSRC to Review their Fellowships

I've just been speaking to the EPSRC. I was calling about the next round of postdoc fellowships. They said that there would be a call this year, but after that they were planning to review all of their fellowship provision. They would be consulting with the sector, but it sounds like it will all be up for discussion and change. So watch this space, and be aware that, if you want to apply for their fellowships as they currently stand, don't delay. Info on their current fellowships is available here.

EU Culture Programme: UK Applications 75% Success Rate

I've just received an email from the UK National Cultural Contact Point saying that, for the last round of the EU's Culture Programme, 75% of applications from the UK were successful. This is twice the EU average, which was still a respectable 34%. So, if you work in the area of arts and culture, the scheme might be worth having a look at. Of course, coming from the UK doesn't guarantee you a high success rate (cause and effect and all that...), but it does suggest that the fierce comptetition for funding in the UK has honed UK applicants' design and writing skills, making it easy for them to pluck this low-hanging fruit.
There are two different strands of the culture programme: Strand 1.1 are 3-5 year projects and 1.2.1. are 1-2 year projects. The next deadline is 1 Oct 2010 for Strand 1.2.1. You can download the lists of successful projects from the following webpages:
Strand 1.1 Strand 1.2.1

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

The End of Dual Support?

The Dept of Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) is canvassing six bodies on how it should spend the science budget when the current Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) period comes to an end after 2010-11. For the first time the two 'arms' of the Dual Support Mechanism will be considered together. The two arms are:
  • quality related (QR) funding, which depends for its distribution on the outcome of the RAE/REF (how many acronyms can I get into one post??),

  • project funding, which is distributed by the Research Councils.
Does this signal the end of Dual Support? Some are saying so. However, Prof Adrian Smith ,who is leading the review, is keeping an open mind. Quoted in the Times Higher, he said his aim was 'to get the very best advice and to be as aware, alert and well informed as possible. It is not exciting, but it is a sensible approach.'

Friday, 12 March 2010

The Low Down on the Britac Grants Panel

I've just heard that the success rate for the last round of the British Academy Small Grants was 35%. Eek! A couple of years ago this was a far more robust 69%. So it's halved in two years. I'm not sure if that's down to less money sloshing around 10 Carlton House Terrace (it's not cheap polishing all that marble, you know), or a sign that the whole landscape is just a lot more competitive.
No better time, then, to remind ourselves of what your application will be up against. As you know, the BA represents the whole range of Humanties and Social Sciences. As such, the panel of great and good that will assess your application are quite a mixed bunch.

So watch out all you lawyers, anthropolgists, sociologists! All you professors of English, German, Spanish! All you theologians! There'll be no-one batting on your side. But then again, there'll be no internecine spats either...

Transformers: Impact in Disguise?

Interesting news from the EPSRC peer review panels. Apparently panel members are now being asked to assess the 'transformative' potential of a proposal. And, in a strange reverse of traditional marking conventions, 'A' is for humdrum applications, 'D' is for uber-transformative ones. Here's the list in full:
  • A: Builds on current work and is the accepted way forward;
  • B: Some work packages deviate from the accepted way forward and show elements of adventure and creativity;
  • C: The majority of the work packages show high levels of adventure and creativity e.g. new methods, new techniques, bringing together existing approaches to form new directions;
  • D: Entire proposal presents high levels of adventure with a highly creative approach with the potential of the research to be transformative e.g. creation of new area of research, paradigm shift, disrupting current approaches/methodology.

By 'transformative', EPSRC mean 'research that has the capacity to either: revolutionise existing fields, create new subfields, cause paradigm shifts in existing thought and knowledge, and/or support discovery that might lead to radically new (disruptive) technologies.'

Whilst this might seem a million miles from 'impact', with its applied research overtones, it's yet another way that peer reviewers are being asked to distinguish between proposals on any other criterion but quality. And, whilst EPSRC are clearly saying that a proposal's 'transformative score' has no bearing on the final overall score, will that always be the case, or is this the beginnings of another assessment hoop that applicants will be expected to jump through?

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

ResearchResearch gets Professional

ResearchResearch, the fortnightly journal for all things related to research funding, and database for funding opportunities available to all UK researchers, has had a rebrand. Oh yes. No longer is it the satisfyingly Hellerian ResearchResearch (distant relative of Major Major Major Major), it will now be Research Professional. Ho-hum. We're all professional now. However, you'll be pleased to hear that their 'new logo incorporates a dynamic chevron, which stresses the word Research in our masterbrand and is used to continue this representation across all our product logos, so you know where they come from.' Which is nice.
Unfortunately there's no talk of overhauling the recently overhauled website, which must be one of the clunkiest, most counter intuitive and user unfriendliest on the planet. Despite this hinderance, RP is one of the most comprehensive funding opportunity repositories I know of, and believe me, I've tried a few. If you haven't signed up for their email alert service, give it a go. You've got nothing to lose - except your time, hair, patience...Alternatively contact me, and I'll act as Virgil to your Dante.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Spend or be Damned

The Royal Society has warned that the UK will lose its position as a global economic leader unless the government commits to investing in science in the long term.
In its report, 'the scientific century: securing our future prosperity' the Royal Society warns that the UK’s current advantage is in danger of being wiped out by the US, China, India, France and Germany who have ramped up spending in science to boost their economies.
The report highlights last year's announcement of a $21 billion boost for science in the US and recent claims from American scientists that they will steal our finest minds if UK investment slips. The report also draws attention to a recent €35 billion investment in the 'knowledge economy' by France, a commitment from the German government to increase their federal budget for education and research by €12 billion by 2013 and the year on year increase of 20% in China's science spending over the last decade.

To maximise the economic opportunities from science the Royal Society report recommends:

  • Creating a 15 year framework for science and innovation, with increased spending

  • Prioritising investment in scientific skills and infrastructure, such as laboratories and equipment

  • Expanding the R&D tax credit.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

'A brilliant concept poorly explained has no chance'

At his masterclass last month Prof Paul Allain gave a very useful insight into the language which you should use when preparing a grant application. He highlighted the multiple different readers your proposal has to be seen (and understood) by, and gave pointers to help in this, including:
  • Use a clear layout -eg bullet points, short sentences, paragraph breaks, signposts, diagrams
  • Use repetition and emphasis, but be economic and brief
  • Learn 'the language of funding', and follow the AHRC's suggested format.
His full slides are available on the Research Services website.

Internal Peer Review Panels

As part of the Grants Factory 2010 we're putting on a series of 'Peer Review Panels', as follows:
  • Wednesday 3 March 2010: Engineering, digital arts, computing, mathematics – EPSRC ‘Mock’ Panel (to help understand the process that proposals go through at panel). Brian Spratt Room, Cornwallis, 2-4pm - Chaired by Prof Peter Clarkson (SMSAS) and Prof. Simon Thompson (Computing)
  • Friday 19 March 2010: Social sciences - ESRC, Nuffield or Leverhulme Internal Peer Review Panel (to review your proposal). Venue TBC, 12:30am-2pm. Chaired by Prof Dominic Abrams (Psychology) and Prof Peter Taylor-Gooby (SSPSSR).
  • Wednesday 5 May 2010: Biomedicine & experimental psychology – Wellcome/MRC/NHS Internal Peer Review Panel (to review your proposal). Howard Rodgers Room (Room 234), Ingram, 2-4pm. Chaired by Prof. Mick Tuite (Biosciences), with input on the NHS from Annette King (CHSS)
  • Thursday 27 May 2010: Engineering, digital arts, computing, mathematics – EPSRC Internal Peer Review Panel (to review your proposal). Brian Spratt Room, Cornwallis, 2-4pm. Chaired by Prof Peter Clarkson (SMSAS) and Prof. Simon Thompson (Computing)
  • May 2010 (Date TBC): Humanities - AHRC Internal Peer Review Panel (to review your proposal), Venue TBC. Chaired by Prof Paul Allain (Arts).
  • Tuesday 8 June 2010: Biology, ecology & conservation sciences – BBSRC/NERC Internal Peer Review Panel (to review your proposal). Senate Committee Room 1, 2-4pm.
    Chaired by Prof. Peter Bennett (DICE) and Prof Martin Warren (Biosciences)

Participating in these sessions will help you understand how your project might fare under panel conditions. All the chairpersons have extensive experience as funding committee members, reviewers and successful applicants.

If you’re planning to have a proposal almost ready for submission around that time then please let me know so that we can anticipate demand for the events. To take part in any but the first of these events could you send me the following (as a minimum) three days before the meeting:

  • 200 word lay summary;
  • (at least) 2 pages of Case for Support (12 pt min, single spaced). This should include some Background to the project and an outline of the Research Programme/Work Plan. No need for preliminary data or references;
  • If possible, a 200 word impact statement

No other advance preparation is required, and there’ll be coffee/tea etc available.

NIHR Seeks Peer Reviewers

The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is seeking peer reviewers for the following areas:

You can register your interest on their website, as follows:

  • Go to the website
  • Click on the "registration" icon on the left hand side of the screen
  • Enter the institution postcode and click on the "find institution" button
  • Select the address if it is there by clicking in the box and then click on the "use selected address" button
  • If the address is not there, scroll down the page and click on the "continue" button
  • Complete all the mandatory boxes
  • Click the "submit" button at the bottom of the page
  • An email will be sent to your account confirming registration