Friday, 28 May 2010
- Help the introducer: the person introducing your application is time poor and might not be able to read your application in detail. They don’t want to appear foolish in front of the other panel members, so give them the information they need on a plate. Don't make them trawl through acres of text to get the main points of your project. Give them an overview of your application (what the research question is, why it’s important, how you will answer it, and how you will disseminate the outcomes) up front. Better still, give them some key phrases that they can use when introducing your application, and make the proposal readable, both in the English and in the format.
- the ‘Zing’ factor: remember that the panel see scores of applications: give them a reason to care about yours. Grab them, and make it clear why your project is important, and funding it is crucial.
- Methodology is key: don’t take too long on the background, and concentrate on what you are actually going to do during the project.
- Write defensively: the panel are looking to pull your application apart, and find reasons to reject it. So defend any choices you make, and be up front about any potential problems (such as access to data).
Wednesday, 26 May 2010
It starts at 2pm in Keynes Lecture Theatre 3. If you'd like to come along get in touch with Jacqueline Aldridge.
Tuesday, 25 May 2010
It's some time off, but do make a note in your diary. In the meantime here's some more info on the man himself, and his cats.
Monday, 24 May 2010
Thursday, 20 May 2010
Tuesday, 18 May 2010
But after some digging, and uncertain 'we'll get back to you's when I phoned the MRC, the message came back: no Impact Plan is needed, though the Case for Support does need to give a nod to impact. The sense I get is that the MRC are not entirely on board with the impact agenda, and take the impact of their research as a given.
It will be interesting to see what happens when they go over to JeS system in the autumn, though...
Friday, 14 May 2010
'Thought is also being given to an altogether grimmer matter: how to cope in the event of significant cuts to the Academy’s government grant, on which we rely for almost everything that we do. This would inevitably be painful: there may be valuable and productive programmes or activities in respect of which difficult decisions will need to be taken. When we consulted Sections in January, there was a clear message that we must do all we can to sustain postdoctoral fellowships and small research grants, with perhaps less of a priority to be accorded to BARDAs. Various scenarios are being examined, which Council will consider in June'.The BARDA success rate is already in single figures, so we'll wait to hear with interest what decision they come to in June.
The proposals also suggest that the payment procedures be simplified, including allowing researchers to submit expenses claims in full rather than having to submit hundreds of smaller ones for individual items. Researchers will have to show that project milestones—or outputs—have been met, but they won’t have to account for every single euro.
It is hoped that the proposals will also make the auditing of Framework projects less onerous.
Reported in Research Fortnight, the proposals will suit those applying for funding for basic, or frontier research projects. They are intended to attract more applications from organisations such as small businesses, Máire Geoghegan-Quinn, the research commissioner, said.
This leaner approach has received widespread praise. “It is a breakthrough on the scale of the ERC,” says Jerzy Langer, a member of Academia Europaea, the European academy of sciences. “As various institutions have different cost systems, this flexibility and understanding will make the programmes much simpler and easier to deal with.”
“One can see the amount of thinking that was put behind this communication [from the Commission],” says Thomas Estermann, a senior programme manager at the European University Association. “Finally this issue is being taken seriously by all players, and it is accepted that some areas of the Framework programme do not work well and need to be addressed.”The Commission’s proposals will now be forwarded to the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, who will discuss the paper and publish their responses. Changes to Framework’s legal or financial structures need to be approved by the European Parliament.
Thursday, 13 May 2010
Willetts has been given the rank of Minister of State. He is not a Cabinet minister but the Cabinet Office says he will attend Cabinet meetings. Former science minister, Paul Drayson, also attended in this capacity, but held an additional place on Privy Council, which Willetts will not.
Willetts has previously said he would like to delay the Research Assessment Exercise by up to two years and look again at the importance attached by the Labour government to assessing the impact of research in the exercise.
Tuesday, 11 May 2010
This is an important message as a lot more people are now turning to FP7 for funding given the question marks over national sources of funding, even people that have sometimes been put off in the past.
However, after 2013, when it comes to FP8, then this is when there is no certainty. A whole new financial perspectives will have to be agreed and whilst we are still some way from that point it would be foolish to assume that Member States, most of whom will still be battling to cut deficits then, will be as keen to contribute as much as they did in the past.
Monday, 10 May 2010
- Policy - FP8 should make a major contribution towards implementing the five Ljubljana initiatives central to the development of the ERA;
- Central areas of FP7 should be continued - such as collaborative research, frontier research (ERC), SME measures, transnational and intersectoral mobility, research infrastructures and international co-operation;
- Co-operation Specific Programme – should be continued (and that collaborative research continues to be the core of the FP);
- Grand Challenges - research and development should contribute to the grand challenges of our time, such as climate, energy, mobility, digital society and health. Research aims should be developed for the coming decade and the FP specific programmes should work towards realising these aims. However, the aims must be open to all types of technologies and solutions, so that lead markets can be developed;
- Key Technologies Specific Programme – this should be introduced to strengthen Europe’s industries;
- Innovation - FP8 should contribute towards implementing the ‘innovation union’ of the EU 2020 Strategy. There should be an Innovation Specific Programme, and the EIT should be integrated into FP8, as well as innovation measures from the Competitiveness and Innovation Programme (CIP). The involvement of SMEs as drivers of innovation should be increased. Funds should be concentrated on strategic technologies and fields related to social challenges. This would support knowledge transfer. Research and innovation activities should be better linked and this should be integrated across FP8. There should also be infrastructure development, standardisation, education programmes and measures to support important lead markets. European Technology Platforms should become Technology and Innovation Platforms, and should also draft innovation strategies for the development of lead markets. There should be a ‘European High-Tech Strategy’. There could be further synergies within the knowledge triangle, and the EUREKA and EUROSTARS programmes could be integrated into FP8;
- European Research Council (ERC) - this should be strengthened. The ERC should consider funding cross-border projects of excellent institutions or other structured measures;
- Marie Curie Actions - researcher mobility is important and should be supported;
- Peer review and the importance of excellence - scientific and technological excellence must be the decisive criterion for choosing projects in all FP areas and may not be weakened under any circumstances in favour of cohesion objectives. Cohesion instruments such as structural funds should on the other hand strengthen the development of excellence. More evaluators (peer reviewers) from industry should be used;
- FP monitoring and evaluation - ex-post evaluations of the previous FPs should be used to develop future FPs. Monitoring the FP should be the responsibility of CREST (Comité de la recherche scientifique et technique);
- International collaboration - FP8 should be open to international collaboration which should be included even more strongly in the thematic priorities than in FP7, and that there should be close co-ordination between FP Programme Committees and the Strategic Forum for International Co-operation (SFIC), with FP8 promoting the implementation of the SFIC roadmap;
- Infrastructures - the co-ordination of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures (ESFRI) and the infrastructure activities of FP8 should be strengthened. Existing infrastructures outside ESFRI that require European integration should also be supported under FP8;
- Joint Programming - should be driven by Member States, use primarily existing instruments, and be financed by Member States and the FP;
- SMEs - 15% of the FP budget should be used for SMEs if possible, primarily for their participation in collaborative projects, although SME specific funding measures should be continued – smaller projects which can rapidly be implemented should also be introduced;
- Policy oriented research - should be funded within the thematic priorities;
- On funding instruments:
- New instruments should only be introduced with good judgement; the number should remain constant;
- the Collaborative Project (CP) must continue to be the standard tool of the FP;
- Networks of Excellence (NoEs) have often not been successful and should not be continued in the current form. They could be replaced by an instrument which aims at the formation of research and innovation-driven clusters consisting of public and private institutions and aiming at the pooling and joint use of R&D resources, the coordination of research and innovation activities, staff exchanges and knowledge transfer as well as the joint implementation of application-oriented projects (competence centres);
- Co-ordination and Support Actions (CSAs), including ERA-NETs and ERA-NET+ should be continued. ERA-NET+ should be used to implement Joint Programming too;
- Measures under Article 185 (ex 169) and Joint Technology Initiatives under Article 187 (ex 171) are welcomed in principle; in some areas however, currently complex procedures can be simplified. The Public Private Partnerships (PPP) created within the framework of the EU recovery plan have proved to be much less bureaucratic than the technology initiatives created under Article 187 (ex 171). To simplify things for applicants, these measures should be implemented by applying the FP rules for participation and the general legal FP framework;
- A central problem of EU research funding is the growing diversification of EU programmes and instruments – this growing complexity and fragmentation of EU research funding and makes participation in the FP difficult. In future, a coordinated set of rules with simple and clear structures as well as standardised and co-ordinated procedures must be established;
- Whilst collaborative projects and ERA-NET/ERA-NET+ should be continued, there should be increased funding opportunities for unconventional or risky projects;
- There should be more demonstration projects;
- On simplification:
- The paper contains a whole section on simplification;
- There should be considerable simplifications to procedures, characterised by mutual trust and the acceptance of nationally tested and recognized procedures – but transparency and fairness should be maintained;
- Some interesting points raised include are:
- Flat rates - the option of applying fixed rates when calculating project costs should be broadened to include the reimbursement of personnel costs in all programme areas. The possibility of using fixed rates for accounting, however, should never be obligatory or exclude the billing of actual costs. Fixed rates should be based on country-specific cost rates. Marie Curie fixed rates are a proven basis for reimbursements of personnel costs;
- VAT - should be an eligible cost, which is possible after the amendment of the Financial Regulation and is applied in other programmes; and
- Start dates - all projects should start no later than nine months after the deadline, with negotiations being simplified.
Full details of the membership is available here.
Thursday, 6 May 2010
At the point of application, researchers will no longer be expected to provide a detailed methodological description of how their work will be carried out or a line-by-line budget. The application form will ask researchers to outline their research vision, their approach to answering their key research questions and the approximate costs needed.
They say that they do not intend to make a pre-determined number of Investigator Awards per year. If you're unsuccessful the first time, you can apply again, but only after one year (for new investigators) or two years (for senior investigators). Applicants do not need to be already in position at their host institution, but there does need to be a written guarantee by the host.
The first round of applications for Investigator Awards will open on 1 October 2010, with the first awards due to be made in May 2011.More detail, including FAQs, is available here.
Tuesday, 4 May 2010
- Children and families
- Law and society
- Older people and their finances
- Government, law-making and constitutional change
- Poverty and disadvantage
- Cross national comparisons
- Reviews of government policy or practice
- Development in Africa
Applications will be considered until the end of 2010. Full guidance and further information is available from the Foundation’s website.The also mention, in the letter to Deans, that they are 'likely to take a different and
more strategic approach to fostering social science research capacity from 2011, to provide
funding that will increase quantitative research skills and other research skills in other areas
of long-term interest to the Foundation through some sort of centres competition. We
expect to have reached a final decision and make a public announcement in the autumn of
This year it will only accept five per institution. In subsequent years, it will alter this allowance, depending on the quality of applications submitted previously, according to the following criteria
- The cap will increase by one if all proposals submitted by that research organisation ranked above the quality cut- off as determined by the peer review panel.
- The cap will remain constant if between 70% and 100% of proposals submitted by that research organisation ranked above quality cut-off.
- The cap will decrease by one if between 50% and 70% of proposals submitted by that research organisation ranked above quality cut-off.
- The cap will decrease by two if less than 50% of proposals submitted by that research organisation ranked above quality cut-off.
Every year, the Sift Panel will be asked to draw the quality cut-off, which will be used to determine variations on the number of proposals for the following year. EPSRC will email HoDs and Research Offices to tell them how many applications can be submitted.
At the moment this cap is being limited to the Mathematical Sciences, which is particularly oversubscribed. I called them to get a sense of whether it would be rolled out into other areas, and they were adamant that they would not. But watch this space...