Tuesday, 31 August 2010

“Anything that isn’t peer-reviewed . . . is worthless”

An interesting article on the Society for Scholarly Publishing blog on the perceived and real burden of peer reviewing, in relation to articles rather than grants.' I’ve always thought of peer-review as a tremendously efficient bargain,' writes the author, David Crotty. Whilst some point to the unpaid burden faced by academics in reviewing articles (estimated to be worth $1.9bn), Crotty works out that this is 'around $256 per researcher per year.' Commenting on alternative systems that have been suggested for reviewing articles (as reported on this blog here), Crotty says 'replacing a flawed system with one that’s even more flawed is not an option.'

'In an age of information overload, we need more filters, not fewer. Yes, peer-review can be improved, and yes, if one could actually generate participation, post-publication review could be tremendously valuable.'

He concludes: 'the best bet for the future is adding to peer-review rather than doing away with it altogether.'

FP7: All the Funding Available for SSH

Net4Society, which sounds suspiciously like some fly-by-night insurance comparison website, is actually a network of National Contact Points (NCPs) for the Socioeconomic Sciences and Humanities (SSH) in the EC's Framework Programme (FP7).

Is that enough acronyms?

Anyway, they've put together an interesting document that lists all the FP7 funding available to SSH researchers. It's not just in the SSH stream itself, but also in areas such as Health, Environment and Transport. It's a tough document to chew on, with turgid eurospeak, acronyms and reference numbers throughout, but interesting to see how many places SSH, and particularly social sciences, feature. And it's a useful lesson to bear in mind: if you work in - say - health research don't just limit yourself to the Health stream, but look at other areas too.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Research for Patient Benefit Workshop

The Research Design Service (RDS), which provides help and advice on those applying to the NHS, is running another 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 29 Sept 2010 starting at 9:30am. Contact Sylvia Francis if you want to take part.

Trial by Wiki: the Future of Peer Review?

An interesting article in the New York Times a couple of days ago, which reported on a trial by the Shakespeare Quarterly to see if there was any mileage in opening up the reviewing of articles to the great unwashed web-using public.

The journal posted four articles on their website and invited comments. 41 people joined in, leaving 350 comments. The revised essays were then reviewed by the editors, who made the final decision as to whether to include them in the printed journal.

Whilst I don't think there's going to be a rush by other journals to follow suit, let alone super-cautious funders, it does raise an interesting point. Peer review is a tried and trusted method that allows selected reviewers, whose expertise and knowledge has been validated, the veil of anonymity to comment intelligently on articles or proposals. However, it's creaking and bureaucratic, slow and expensive, and seems out of step with the quick, cheap and egalitarian world of the web. Is there a way of getting the best of both?

For now, maybe not, but the Shakespeare Quarterly should be applauded for making a move to explore the possibilties offered by new technology. I wonder if the results of their experiment differed vastly from the results they would have got under peer review? When I worked at the AHRC it was often easy for us officers to guess which applications had a chance of success, even before they'd been sent out for peer review.

So good luck to those seeking to challenge the old system. The web offers a great opportunity to improve the way things are currently done. Just be mindful of any babies swimming in the bathwater...

Monday, 23 August 2010

Funding Deadlines for 2010/11

I've prepared a list (xls) of all the funding deadlines for 2010/11 that I could find.

The spreadsheet is split into two worksheets: one for open deadlines, for which you can apply anytime, the other for set deadlines.

Click on the tabs at the bottom of the spreadsheet to access the different lists. For the set deadlines, a rough indication has been given of what faculties may be interested in each funding scheme. You can ‘filter’ the list using the arrows at the top of each column. So, if you just want opportunities offered by, say, the Wellcome Trust, you can tick ‘Wellcome’ on the filter. Alternatively you can filter by colour on the faculties columns to select only the opportunities relevant to your faculty.

Friday, 20 August 2010

PVC's Lunchtime Seminars: It's Your Call

The PVC’s Lunchtime Seminars at Kent have now been running for three years. They have provided an opportunity for staff from different Schools to meet others and hear about the research that goes on elsewhere across the University.

Previously, the topics or the hosts for the Seminars have been chosen by us. This year I’d like to open it up and ask for your suggestions. Ideally they should be topics which have the potential for interdisciplinary cross-over (particularly across faculties), or involve speakers who are open to, and have some record of, interdisciplinary collaboration.

I hope to prepare the programme in September, so if you could get back to me before then, that would be great.

Details of last year’s programme are available here.

Food Glorious Food

The Food Standards Agency is looking for organisations and individuals to apply to be part of a framework that will carry out social science research to support the development, monitoring and evaluation of food policy. The framework will enable the Agency to commission social science research more effectively in future.The framework will be split into the following areas:
  • reviews (desk research)
  • innovation in research design
  • primary research (collection and analysis of new data)
  • secondary analysis
  • evaluation
But you need to move fast: the call closes on 10 Sept. More info is available here.

Rowntree Seeks a 'Better Life'

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) is seeking proposals in four areas of its 'Better Life' programme. This five year programme will focus on a significant modern-day challenge: how to ensure quality of life for the growing number of older people with high support needs in the UK. The calls are in the following areas:
The deadline for all is 5 Oct. Click on any of the links above for more information on the calls.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Gear Up for FP7 ICT Call 7

The UK's National Contact Point for the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) within the European Framework Programme is giving researchers an insight into the forthcoming call, due to be published on 28 Sept. Peter Walters has produced a summary which will help potential applicants prepare for the call. The NCP will also be running a couple of info days for applicants.
All details are available here.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Free Marie Curie Info & Proposal Writing Event

I don't know, you wait ages for one free European funding training event, and then three come along at the same time...Following on from the announcement of UKRO workshops on the ERC Starting Grants and FP7 Proposal Writing, they have added an event on the Marie Curie Initial Training Networks (ITN) and Industy-Academia Partnerships and Pathways (IAPP). It will be an opportunity to both learn more about these schemes, but also to get some tips on writing a proposal for them. Venues and dates as follows:
  • Invest Northern Ireland, Belfast: 10 Sept
  • Aston University, Birmingham: 17 Sept
  • Royal Society, Edinburgh: 20 Sept
  • Natural History Museum, London: 28 Sept

The event is free for UKRO subscribers (of which Kent is one). Places are allocated on a first come first served basis, so be quick and put your name down here.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

EPSRC Prepares for the Spending Review 2010

The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, EPSRC, has announced that it is 'developing plans based on different funding scenarios' to put forward into the Spending Review.
This follows on from the publication of its Strategic Plan earlier this year.

In the Plan EPSRC outline four somewhat banal priorities:

  • Shaping research capability to ensure we have critical mass in areas of strategic importance for the UK.
  • Developing leaders by providing the best possible training and support to those with greatest potential.
  • Delivering impact for society and the economy by creating the environment for excellent long-term research to provide maximum benefit to the UK.
  • Solving global challenges through working in partnership with other funders, business and government.
All worthy, but not exactly inspiring. Not visionary. But perhaps we don't want vision in these austere times. There'll be no putting of men on the moon and bringing them safely back by the end of the decade, that's for sure.
Anyway, EPSRC finish by saying that they will 'continue to seek advice and feedback' - no yawning at the back - 'from the research and business communities during the development of our plans. During July and August we will be holding a series of meetings with university Pro-Vice Chancellors, strategic business partners, learned societies and professional institutes, and government.'
And if that's not enough, 'EPSRC Council will oversee the development of the plans, with significant input from our Technical Opportunities Panel, User Panel and Societal Issues Panel.'
The results of the Spending Review will be announced by Government on 20 October after which individual Research Council allocations will be determined. EPSRC’s Delivery Plan for 2011-14 is expected to be published by early 2011.

Friday, 13 August 2010

STFC: Consultation on Future Grant Options

The Science and Technology Facilities Council (STFC) has been reviewing the way it distributes research funding. It now wants to find out what you think of the possible options. These are:
  • Option 1: 1-3 year Standard Grants;
  • Option 2: Additional 6 year Core Grants. This option would provide a degree of funding stability for key generic “core” staff (technical, engineers, IT and administrative staff);
  • Option 3: 5 year Rolling Exploitation Grants alongside Standard Grants (the current system). STFC believe that, with the anticipated cuts and the lack of flexibility this option offers, the level of support/number of grants that could be funded would be at a significantly reduced.
The consultation form will be available from here next week and will close at 4pm on 6th September 2010.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

University Websites: the Truth

We're thinking of updating our website. This cartoon just rings a little too true...
Thanks to Jo for passing this on.


Free FP7 Proposal Writing Event

Hot on the heels of their ERC event, UKRO have announced another workshop, this time on FP7 Proposal Writing. If you are planning to apply to the latest round of calls, I would encourage you to go along. The event will cover:
  • Identifying opportunities in FP7
  • Submission and evaluation
  • Financial issues in proposal writing
  • Hints and Tips for Success
It will take place between 10:30am-4pm on 23 September 2010 in the John Hanbury Lecture Theatre, School of Pharmacy, London. Attendance is free, and places are allocated on a first come, first served basis, so get your skates on and sign up here.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

ERC Starting Grant: Funding 'Almost Doubled'

I've posted before about the ERC's current Starting Grant and UKRO's Info Day. One piece of info that might have slipped below your radar is the fact that the EC is almost doubling the funding for the grants compared to last years round: from €325m to €661m. Better still is the fact that the field of potential applicants is somewhat limited by the ERC's rules that state that, if you applied to the last round, you can't apply to this one. So think seriously about applying: if you're between 2-12 years out from your PhD and are a promising up and coming academic it's well worth a shot.

An overview and FAQs on the scheme are available, via UKRO, here.

Research Fortnight: Glass Half Full

I'm still catching up with various updates in my inbox. Interesting editorial in the last issue of Research Fortnight, which makes comparisons between the current government and the early days of Thatcher's government in 1979. As we all know, the current goverment's list of priorities 'does not include a place for university research.' So what should researchers do? They have a number of choices, Res Fortnight say:
'Those who want to be heard in the corridors of power need to start identifying influential thinkers. Willetts is important as the minister in charge. But he is not in the Cameron inner group. The so-called ‘Cameroons’ with research interests include the Conservatives’ policy guru Oliver Letwin, Nick Boles and Michael Gove, co-founders of the Policy Exchange think tank.

'Second, researchers should begin to find ways of working with the grain of coalition priorities. Instead of banging on about how state support for technology creates jobs, say how research can support the Big Society or free schools. Researchers with ideas and insights on these and other issues will have a guaranteed hearing in Whitehall.'

RF also suggests that, counter-intuitively, it might be a good time for critical researchers. After a time of boom when the government was giving a good deal of money to researchers, the relative dearth of funding will release critical researchers from any attachment to the government, and allow them to really speak their mind.

Good to hear that some are seeing the current situation as a glass half full...The full text of the article is available here (you'll need an RF login or campus access).

Free ERC Starting Grant Info Day

UKRO will be running a series of information events for researchers who are interested in applying for the ERC Starting Grants. They will be held at:
  • University of Birmingham, Tuesday 7th September 2010
  • University College London, Wednesday 8th September 2010
  • University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Thursday 16th September 2010
  • School of Advanced Study, University of London, Friday 17th September 2010
The aim of each session is to provide participants with an overview of the ERC, and a deeper understanding of the proposal format and the key issues they are required to address in planning, writing and costing a Starting Grant proposal.

Attendance will be free of charge. More info is available here, and you can sign up here.

JRF: Climate Change & Social Justice

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation has issued a couple of calls under its Climate Change and Social Justice Programme. The deadline is relatively short - 28 Sept - so if you work in the borderlands between environment and society, have a look at them. They are:

Monday, 9 August 2010

RCUK Shared Services Centre: 'Fantastically Expensive Failure'

Interesting post on Exquisite Life about the Research Councils' Shared Services Centre (SSC). In case you're not up to speed with this, the SSC is an initiative by RCUK to pool their backroom operations and thereby save money. However, Prof John Seddon thinks it's done anything but: he suggests that it's three times over budget, and still not working properly. RCUK rebuffs his accusations. The full post is available here.

Research Services Twitter

You can now keep update with the world of research funding via the University of Kent's Research Services Twitter updates. We'll alert you to any new posts on this blog, but also info on recent funding alerts, and news gleaned from sources across the twittersphere.
You can follow us here.

New Sciences Faculty Funding Officer

We have recently recruited a temporary Funding Officer, Jo Stichbury, to cover for Carol Moran for six months whilst she’s away. Jo has a background in sciences, but has more recently worked in mobile technology.
If you would like to talk about your research and your funding plans, do drop Jo a line. Alternatively, if you want specific help identifying funders or preparing an application she can help with this. Her contact details can be found in the Campus Online directory.

Back from Holiday...Am I Still Dreaming?

After two weeks away from my desk, I'm beginning to plough through my emails and try to get to grips with my job again. One of the stranger items in my inbox was this, from the President of the British Academy. Sir Adam Roberts (for it is he) will be cycling from Lands End to John o'Groats to raise money for the Academy.
Now I'm as keen a cyclist as anyone, and any excuse for pedal...but times must be pretty tough if the BA is sending out its President to wheeze around the country drumming up funds. And £2k will only go so far: it's less than a third of one BA Small Grant.
But I appreciate the gesture: if nothing else it highlights the difficult times ahead for research funding in the UK. So give generously via Sir Adam's Just Giving page; you never know, your donation could come back to you as part of your next grant...