Monday, 18 April 2011

ESRC Introduce New Attachment for JeS

The ESRC has announced that all those applying for funding from them via the JeS system will now be required to complete an additional attachment: a 'Data Management Plan'.

They first mooted this back in September 2010 with their Research Data Policy. It will be mandatory from 19 April 2011.

The Plan should be used to describe how any new data are going to be managed through the life-cycle of the award, until data is accepted for archiving by the Economic and Social Data Service (ESDS).

In the Research Data Policy, the ESRC suggested that a Management Plan would include the following:
  • an explanation of the existing data sources that will be used by the research project with references;
  • an analysis of the gaps identified between the currently available and required data for the research;
  • information on the data that will be produced by the research project, including the following: data volume; data type, e.g. qualitative or quantitative data; data quality, formats, standards documentation and metadata; methodologies for data collection;
  • planned quality assurance and back-up procedures [security/storage];
  • plans for management and archiving of collected data;
  • expected difficulties in data sharing, along with and causes and possible measures to overcome these difficulties;
  • explicit mention of consent, confidentiality, anonymisation and other ethical considerations;
  • copyright and intellectual property ownership of the data; and
  • responsibilities for data management and curation within research teams at all participating institutions.
They go on to say the the Rural Environment and Land Use programme was a good example of best practice, and encourage potential applicants to have a look at this when thinking about their Data Management Plan. There's even a template for a Plan available here (doc).

So, if you're planning to generate new data do have a look at this site, and also talk to the ESDS, who are past masters at managing and sharing data effectively, and can help you prepare your Plan so it cuts the mustard with the ESRC.

Friday, 15 April 2011

'I'll Name that Scheme in One, Tom...'

Interesting news from the beleagured David Willetts. Research Fortnight was reporting on Tuesday that he'd asked readers of the Times to help him name the new 'British Nobel' prize (you'll need to subscribe to the Times to see the original article, here). The prize was announced in the 'Plan for Growth' at the time of the Budget in March. It's intended to kick start a buzz around engineering and science. Allegedly. The prize is likely to be awarded every two years and could be worth up to £1 million.

Now two things occurred to me about this. Firstly, at a time when small grants are being cut left right and centre, bunging £1m at one scientist every couple of years doesn't seem like a great use of public (or private endowment) funds. Wouldn't it be better to - say - fund 100 pilot projects? Or 500 young scientists to go to conferences, now that the Royal Society is cutting its funding for conference attendance?

Secondly, what is it with people asking us to name things? Willetts' request came shortly after the EC's competition to find a new name for FP8. Is this the Big Society at action in research funding? Pitch in and help, everyone! Feel involved! Though of course there's no money available at the end of it...

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

PVC's Lunchtime Seminars: 'Violent & Nonviolent Protest'

The final PVC’s Lunchtime Research Seminar of the year is a change to that originally advertised, and will focus on ‘protest’:

'Violent & Nonviolent Protest’
Wednesday 11th May 2011 12.30pm-2pm
Cornwallis NW Seminar Room 5


Recently, heroic protests, both violent and non-violent, have achieved astonishing results in some countries in the Middle East. But there have also been protestations at some kinds of protest. The front cover of a recent Private Eye shows Colonel Gaddafi saying to a sidekick ‘What news of the rebels?’, and the sidekick replying ‘They’ve invaded Fortnum and Masons’. Great figures such as Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King have advocated nonviolence, and we tend to think of nonviolent protest as noble. Why? What happens when nonviolent protest is ineffectual? Under what circumstances, if any, is violent protest justified? These are some of the issues that will be debated in this session. The convenor is Laurence Goldstein (SECL) and the other speakers are Helen Frowe (Philosophy), Adrian Pabst (PolIR) , David Radlett (KLS) and William Rowlandson (Hispanic Studies).

A light lunch is available from 12:30pm, together with tea and coffee, and the Seminar itself will start around 1pm.

All are welcome, but do let me know if you would like to come so that I can get a sense of numbers.

Monday, 11 April 2011

Scanning the ESRC Horizon

Following on from the last post, I think it's worth highlighting the other ESRC schemes that haven’t actually opened for applications, but we know are on the horizon. Given the time it takes to put together a good application it’s worth having a look at these and planning ahead for your funding bids.
  • ESRC/AHRC Public Policy Fellowship Scheme (to be announced shortly). For those wishing to spend time working within partner organisations to undertake policy relevant research, to develop research skills and facilitate knowledge exchange within Government, public sector organisations and across academic networks. Public Policy Fellowships also encourage colleagues from partner organisations to spend time within academic units to work on an agreed project(s) and to increase their research skills. They will be available for 3-6 months, but up to 12 months by exception. They can be full or part-time.
  • Open Research Area – Collaborative Grants (info available shortly; open for applications from 1 July 2011). The ESRC ran a pilot call with sister funders in France, Germany and the Netherlands last year, and plan to run it again this year. The Open Research Area (ORA) scheme will provide for the funding of integrated projects by researchers coming from more than one of the four participating countries - in any combination of two or more countries. The call for proposals for the ORA call 2011 will be published on the ANR, DFG, ESRC and NWO websites in spring 2011.The four funding organizations will prepare a common point for electronic applications. An online platform will be open for applications under this scheme from the 1of July 2011. The Deadline for the Call will be in Mid September 2011, with decisions by the end of June 2012. The earliest start date is 1 July 2012. More info here.
  • Seminar Series (info available in May). Already mentioned this, but for completion's sake: the ESRC has announced that the scheme will run in 2011/12. Details of it are available here. The scheme offers up to £15k for researchers and users to 'meet regularly to exchange information and ideas with the aim of advancing research within their fields.' Details of the 2011/12 competition will be available in May.
  • Professorial Fellowships (info available in October, with deadline in December). The scheme is designed to support leading social scientists working in the UK, by providing them with the freedom to pursue their own innovative and creative research agendas. Fellows will have an outstanding track record of research and be acknowledged scholarly leaders in their field at the international level. More information is available here.
  • Future Leaders (details and dates to be confirmed). This scheme was announced in the ESRC’s Delivery Plan, and is intended to replace the Postdoc Fellowships and First Grants schemes. No details yet, but think about whether you (or someone you know) would fit the scheme. It will be open to new researchers within 6 years of their PhD, and will provide funding for up to two years for clearly defined projects that will develop ‘future research leaders’ in one the three ESRC priority areas, namely: Economic Performance and Sustainable Growth; Influencing Behaviour and Informing Interventions; and a Vibrant and Fair Society; or in an area where there is an identified skills shortage. The scheme will support 50-80 new grants per year.
  • Large Grants & Centres (details and dates to be confirmed). Info here is even sketchier than that for the ‘Future Leaders’, just a statement on their website as follows: ‘We will be integrating our large grants and centre competitions. More information will be available shortly.’ So it looks like there will be ‘big’ funding available for centres, large and long-term projects. I’ll pass on any details when they are announced.
In addition, the following are currently open (in order of closing date):
  • ESRC/AHRC Placement Fellowship at Dept of Culture, Media & Sport (deadline 11 May 2011). The key tasks will be the production of accessible guidance on ‘measuring the value of culture’. This guidance should meet the needs of policymakers, practitioners and other stakeholders. In addition, the fellow should identify, and scope out, areas where valuation studies could be undertaken to meet existing policy needs. More info here.
  • Innovation Research Initiative (deadline 12 May 2011). The Initiative supports ‘research and knowledge exchange focused on the broad role, drivers and impact of innovation.’ More info here, or discuss your ideas with Brian Lingley, the Enterprise Funding Officer at Kent Innovation and Enterprise.
  • DFID/ESRC Growth Programme (deadline 26 May 2011). Intended to fund world class scientific research on issues relating to inclusive economic growth in Low Income Countries (LICs), with high potential for impact on policy and practice. There are three themes under the call: Theme 1: Agriculture and Growth:This theme will focus on developing understanding of the relationship between agricultural development and broader economic growth, and on the impact of policies on agricultural productivity.o Theme 2: Financial Sector Development and Growth: This theme will focus on macro issues in finance in LICs, including regulation and supervision of financial markets, the structure of the sector, and management of capital inflows. Theme 3: Innovation, Diffusion and Economic Growth: Raising Productivity in Low Income Countries This theme will investigate issues around innovation, the spread of know-how, and the process of adapting know-how to meet local conditions in LICs. More info available here.
  • ESRC/AHRC ‘Digging into Data’ Challenge (deadline 16 June 2011). This is intended to spur cutting edge research in the humanities and social sciences based around new analytical techniques and new forms of data with research value. The Digging into Data Challenge poses the provocative question of how can we use advanced computational methods and new forms of data to address new questions about and gain further insights into our world? The ESRC has a particular interest in research projects that will assess: the suitability of new forms of data for particular research purposes; the accessibility of new forms of data for research in the social and economic sciences,whilst demonstrating the value of such data for social and economic research. More info on the scheme is available here.
  • Rising Powers and Interdependent Futures (deadline 8 Sept 2011). This focuses on the implications of the Rising Powers for the rest of the world (paying attention to both developed and developing countries), and on how the rising powers’ interactions with each other and other countries are changing. Applications are expected to focus on one or more of the themes below from an interdisciplinary perspective and international comparative and/or collaborative work is welcome. The three themes are: Causes, sustainability and competitiveness; Global and regional governance and the balance of power; Well-being and equity. This call has a budget of £3.3M available for Research Projects at 100 per cent fEC. The ESRC welcomes Research Grant Proposals with total costs of between £200k and £750k (at 100 per cent fEC). Consistent with the Research Councils' arrangements for fEC, the ESRC will contribute 80 per cent of this cost and the remaining balance must be guaranteed by the Research Organisation. Eligible institutions may include applications for attached project linked studentships within their proposal. More info here.
  • Standard Grants (open deadline). As you know, the lower limit for these was raised to £200k, and the higher limit upped to £2m. You can apply anytime. More information here, or contact us here for help with developing a proposal and calculating the costs of your project.
Do get in touch if you want to know more about any of these.

Friday, 8 April 2011

ESRC Seminar Series

A little sliver of good news on this sunny spring Friday: the ESRC Seminar Series is back! After a year of uncertainty, when all enquiries about the scheme were batted in to the long grass (the last I heard was that the ESRC were commissioning an 'evaluation' of it in February), the scheme will run in 2011/12. Details of it are available here.

It's refreshing, after a winter of bad news and cuts to small schemes, that the ESRC is standing by this funding minnow, which offers up to £15k for researchers and users to 'meet regularly to exchange information and ideas with the aim of advancing research within their fields.'

Details of the 2011/12 competition will be available in May, so keep an eye on the webpage listed above if you need funding for meetings between you and your collaborators.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Work! What Is it Good for?

Thanks to all those who were able to make it to the 'Reworking Work' Lunchtime Seminar today. Tim Strangleman (SSPSSR) started by outlining the purpose of the Seminar, namely to hear about the range of research with a focus on 'work' that was already happening across the University, but also to kick start a 'work network'.

He spoke a little about his own work, which focuses on ideas of identity, representation and culture, and encompasses the sociology and historiography of work. He has recently worked on the Park Royal Brewery archive, where Guinness was brewed. It contained a rich visual record of the life of the plant, as well as its construction and destruction.

David Hornsby (SECL) spoke of his interest in how work is a factor in modulating our language: for example, we don't expect a coal miner and a banker to have the same accent, vocabulary or syntax. Patricia Lewis (KBS) talked about gender and entrepreneurship. Currently 75% of entrepreneurs are male, and a lot of the language of business reflects this, 'penetrating virgin territory' being an extreme example.

Joachim Stoeber (Psychology) outlined the relatively under-researched question of perfectionism and work. Whilst some work has been done on the negative connotations of this - such as stress - little had been done on the positive - such as efficiency. Finally Dawn Lyon (SSPSSR) finished by explaining her BA-funded project on craft, workmanship and labour, particularly in relation to the processing of fish. Her project had looked at how a trade is learnt and conveyed, tools handled and knowledge transmitted. In addition she had done research on collective identity and memory (in relation to ship building in Sheppey), and on the visual representation of work (in the refurbishment of the Medway Campus).

I know UCAS days, Union meetings and the myriad other draws on academic time might have prevented you from coming, and I'd like to invite all those with a research interest in work to get in touch to be a part of a 'work' network across the University. Such a network will act as a focus for future discussion, debate and collaboration.

In the meantime there's time to look forward to the next Lunchtime Seminar, to be held on 11 May, which will look at 'Violent and Non-violent Protest.' Do let me know if you'd like to come along.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Notes from Leverhulme Visit

There was a good turnout in the Senate yesterday to listen to a talk by Prof Sir Richard Brook, Director of the Leverhulme Trust. He was an engaging speaker, and his talk stimulated a good discussion around the philosophy and function of the Trust.

The Leverhulme Trust was founded on a bequest left by the soap baron and founder of the Lever Bros, Lord Leverhulme, in 1925. It had a simple remit to provide ‘scholarships for education and research.’ This has been interpreted broadly since then, and it provides about £50m worth of funding per year for people (rather than infrastructure and equipment) across the sciences, social sciences and humanities.

The Trust Board is the most important body within the Trust. It decides on policy, but it also decides on who gets the awards. So it’s worth spending a little time on understanding its membership and thinking. It is made of ex-Unilever employees, almost all of whom have been the CEO of the company. They are not academics, and many don’t have a background in the UK. So they’re straight talking, straight acting businessmen, often with an international background. With this in mind, the Board should be viewed as:
  • Generalist: They don’t understand your discipline. Unless it’s business, of course, in which case you should be very, very careful...
  • Decisive: these are businessmen. Don’t flannel. Tell it like it is. And they’ll tell you if they think you’re worth backing.
  • Resistive to fashion: don’t bang on about impact, or the REF, or how your research fits with whatever government initiative. It won’t wash. They don’t care.
What they do like are projects which have:
  • Originality;
  • Forward significance;
  • Lateral significance (i.e. significance for other disciplines);
  • Risk.
In addition, the icing on the cake would be:
  • A clear individual vision;
  • An apparent fresh direction;
  • An unawareness of traditional disciplinary boundaries.
And whatever you do, make sure your project avoids:
  • ‘empire sustenance’: I’ve been ploughing this furrow for the last 30 years, I’ve got a lab of 20 people dependent on me, and this project will sustain them.’ No.
  • ‘initiative sustenance’: just because your area has been dropped as a priority by another funder, it doesn’t mean that Leverhulme will be interested.

What they’re completely bored with are applicants who:
  • Make a claim to status entirely in metrics (eg how many 4* publications, which journals, which award, on which panel etc)
  • Think there’s some kind of hidden agenda. Really, there isn’t.
  • Talk in jargon. Remember, they’re non-academic generalists.

Sir Richard made it clear that Leverhulme was refereshingly unfettered by the political demands of government, and that it ‘tries to avoid rules’. Above all, it wants to fund interesting research that has the potential to make a difference to the individual, to their discipline, and to others more broadly. To this end it doesn’t so much encourage interdisciplinary research as research that is blind to subject distinctions – what he called a ‘disdain for disciplinary boundaries.’

You could almost hear the collective release of breath from those in the room. At last! A funder with the imagination and freedom to fund what they want, untethered from the policy fashions du jour.

If you want to find out more about Leverhulme and its schemes, or would like help with putting together an application, do get in touch.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Royal Society Cuts Conference Grants

In a move that will surprise no one, the Royal Society has followed its sister academy the BA in cutting funding for conference attendance. In a statement in their latest funding newsletter, the Society said:
"Following the latest Comprehensive Spending Review, the Society has unfortunately had to discontinue the International Travel Grants scheme and International Joint Projects scheme. Instead applications for international collaborations will from now on be managed through a new International Exchanges Scheme. However, the Society will unfortunately no longer be able to support conference attendance through this scheme. Whilst we acknowledge that conference attendance is important in raising the profile of UK science and scientists, the Society felt that facilitating international collaborations should be the priority during a period of budget constraints."
I think their belief is that universities should be providing this kind of funding themselves. However, in a time of cuts, I know that departments will be forced to trim their budgets, and the losers are going to be the individual academics, particularly the early career ones.

Still, not to worry. Rather than highlighting this on their news page, the Society is going instead with a story about it raining ants. It'll be skateboarding dogs next.