Thursday, 30 June 2011
Tuesday, 28 June 2011
- a mentor 'of high international research standing';
- a programme of research skills development;
- a programme of knowledge exchange skills development;
- plans for maximising potential impact, and a 'clear strategy to build relationships and networks with potential beneficiaries and users';
- research proposals involving secondary analysis of existing datasets and the application of innovative research methods;
- inter/multidisciplinary working both within and beyond the social sciences;
- international working;
- strong impact.
- Academic potential of applicant;
- Research design and methods;
- Outputs and dissemination;
- Knowledge exchange, including impact plans;
- Organisational support, including mentor, and commitment of organisation to applicant's career development.
Monday, 27 June 2011
Friday, 24 June 2011
The agenda is as follows:
- 11 – 12 Talk (BLT1, Stacey Building)
- 12 – 1 Lunch (Howard Rogers Room, Ingram Building)
- 1 – 3 Individual meetings (Howard Rogers Room, Ingram Building)
Wednesday, 22 June 2011
- Details of the University's new Internal Peer Review system;
- Information on the research interests of new staff;
- Highlights of some recent awards;
- REF update;
- Changes to RCUK equipment costs;
- Details of how we use the data that EPSRC sends us on 'blacklisting';
- Notes from the Leverhulme visit, and Grants Factory events;
- and, of course, some choice cuts from the Blog.
- 'Discover 2020', with 2478 votes;
- 'Imagine 2020', with 2785 votes;
- 'Horizon 2020', with 3055 votes.
Monday, 20 June 2011
Over the summer we will be preparing the programme for next year. If you’ve got a good idea for a subject that would benefit from an interdisciplinary approach and would be willing to lead on it, do get in touch.
Friday, 17 June 2011
- Starting Grants: 3.3% (2007-8) to 14.9 (2009-10)
- Advanced Grants: 12.7% (2007-08) to 13.2% (2009-10)
- AHRC: 16%
- ESRC: 17% (small and standard grants combined)
- MRC: 19%
- BBSRC: 22%
- NERC: 24%
- EPSRC: 30% (following the introduction of its blacklisting procedure)
- STFC: 53%
Thursday, 16 June 2011
- the need to have had a substantial background in managing project before even thinking of going for European funding. She had run five projects already, from the AHRC, ESF and Marie Curie.
- she had applied for - and got - funding from the Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA) scheme, which was a partnership between national funders (such as the ESRC and AHRC) and the EC.
- you should 'promise what you want to deliver.' You should apply for funding because you actually want to do the research, not because your institution is forcing you to do so, or you feel a sense of obligation to the other members of the consortium. The acid test is: would your heart leap or sink if the award letter came? The research, the project, has to be something you actively want to do.
- a lot of academics in the humanities struggle with the idea of 'work packages', because it's not part of their culture. Work packages are discrete subprojects. However, they should all feed in to and help answer the overall research questions of the project.
- your consortium should be built on a trusted network of contacts, and should 'make sense'. It shouldn't be a flag of convenience. It is also good to involve 'associate partners' - i.e. users and groups outside of academia such as museums or policy bodies.
- you must, must, must include a project coordinator, and ask for the cost of this as part of the application. The academic shouldn't manage the project: it's too large a task, especially as the PI would also be leading one of the work packages. A project manager is expected by the EC, and they might question how you could possibly complete the project without one.
- That's where the funding is. As national funding shrinks, the Framework Programme is increasing;
- It offers you the opportunity to work wiht an exciting, diverse range of people with different skills and backgrounds;
- It gives you access to materials and expertise and information that would be impossible to put together on your own.
- It's good fun.
She illustrated this by giving an example from her HERA project which was looking at the reasons why fashions came and went. At a project meeting at a small town in Finland they uncovered a teasure trove of costumes from the seventeenth and eighteenth century that completely changed her understanding of how contemporary fashion had spread through Scandinavia. Such revelations, such insights, would not have been possible had she not had the impetus and the framework of a European research grant.
The next SSH call will open on 20 July, with a deadline of 2 Feb 2012. If you want any more information on it, do get in touch.
- Risky research. As mentioned before, they will be introducing a new mechanism into their grants scheme for risky research, with a 'breakpoint' mid way through at which the success or otherwise of the pilot project will be assessed. However, they made it clear that, in effect, this would mean the reintroduction of the small grants scheme, but with a very specific remit of encouraging risky, innovative, ambitious research.
- Advanced Sifting. As well as outline applications, the ESRC would introduce 'advanced sifting' of their Research Grants. In practice, this would mean that applications go through an initial peer review by 2-3 academics. If it's an application for a small amount, this might be all the assessment it gets: depending on the outcome, the application will get funded or rejected. If it's for a larger amount, this peer review will decide whether the application goes to full panel.
- Outline Applications. The ESRC will simplify the JeS form for outline applications, including the costing element. They will shortlist approximately three times as many applications as they can fund, so that the success rate for the second stage (full applications) will be around 33%.
- Right to Reply. A right to reply would be built into all their funding schemes.
- Demand Management. The deadline for the consultation process on the demand management options closed on 16 June. They will now consider the responses. It is hoped that they will not have to introduce any of the more draconian measures. They will allow a year to see how the 'interim measures' have worked - eg outline applications, no uninvited resubmissions, encouraging HEIs to implement 'quality assurance' procedures. They admitted that a year might not be enough for these to have a real effect, but it should be enough to see the 'direction of travel'. If they are happy with the 'direction', they will allow more time for them to have further effect.
- Statistics. To support the demand management measures, the ESRC will provide HEIs with stats on their comparative performance. These will be provided three times a year and, it is hoped, they will be more nuanced than just presenting simple success rates. For example, they should show the relative position of an institution's applications in the peer review panel's prioritisation list, so that HEIs can get a sense of the quality of their applications.
- Working with the Other Research Councils. The ESRC made clear that they will be working with their sister councils to implement a common form of demand management. Of course, this will have to allow for variance that arises from the culture and patterns of those working within a council's disciplines. Thus, what works for the EPSRC wouldn't necessarily work for the ESRC. However, as far as possible they hoped for a consistency across RCUK.
As well as outlining the different (funded) routes you can take, he gave the students some tips on what to bear in mind in the difficult times ahead:
- Think globally. Academic research isn't limited by national boundaries, and you need to be flexible in where you work. Sure, you might want to aim to work in a particular country, but it pays to open your mind and think more broadly about where you can work;
- Develop a portfolio of applications. Each scheme has different success rates, and a different level of risk. You need to develop a portfolio of applications to different schemes in order to balance these risks;
- Make contingency plans. Following on from the idea of a portfolio of applications, you might have 'fallow periods' when you're not receiving any salary or funding. Make sure you save for these fallow periods, or have a plan C, D and E to cover them.
- Network. Around 50% of researchers and academics found their job though contacts, so you need to make sure that you're tuned into networks to hear about opportunities as soon as you can. Sign up to email lists, twitter accounts, conferences, workshops and any other place you might hear about things through the grapevine. Being in the right place at the right time means being in lots of places at lots of times.
- Get feedback. This is as true for postdocs as it is for permanent academics. Get as much feedback from as many different sources as possible. It's easy to miss something, or be so wrapped up in your project that you can't see its weaknesses. Get feedback from other postdocs, academics, your supervisor, PI, Research Services, people inside and outside your discipline, and inside or outside your institution. Anyone.
Times have been tough recently for those seeking small grants in the Social Sciences. The past year has seen the BA, Nuffield and ESRC all cut their dedicated small grants schemes. But don’t despair: things aren’t as bad as they seem. Recent news from the ESRC, and a little creative thinking, means the funding horizon isn't as gloomy as it may seem:
- ESRC Secondary Analysis: the ESRC will be offering small grants for those whose research involves analysis of existing datasets;
- ESRC ‘Risky’ Standard Grants: the ESRC will be introducing a new mechanism to fund innovative or ambitious risk-taking projects. Funding will be in two parts: the first tranche will be for a pilot project, the second for a full scale follow up after a ‘break point.’ In effect it’s two grants, the first of which is essentially a small grant. They're ironing out the details of both of these schemes, and more information should be available over the summer.
- ESRC Reciprocal Grants & BA Country-specific Funds: If your research involves working with colleagues abroad, have a look at the countries that the ESRC and BA have agreements with. They include Germany, France, and the Netherlands. And, if your research involves travelling abroad, think about:
- Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowships: provide the direct costs of working abroad. Success rates tend to be higher for these than for other types of fellowships and grants, as they are inevitably more self-selecting. Overall you can apply for up to £22,000, and eligible costs include: reasonable replacement cover whilst the Fellow is overseas; travel to and within the overseas country or countries; a maintenance grant to meet the increased expense of living overseas; and essential research costs. And, whilst thinking of Leverhulme:
- Leverhulme Project Grants: these can be 'up to' £250k - but can be for a lot less. They cover all disciplines, including social sciences, and are looking for interesting blue skies research with has a healthy disregard for disciplinary boundaries.
- Nuffield Project Grants: whilst they’ve explicitly cut the small grants (for less than £15k) their project grants are still available, and the starting point is a low £10k. However, your research has to fit within their specialist areas of interest, namely 'children and families,' 'law and society' and 'education'. If your research doesn't fit within these, there's still hope. As long as your research meets their overall aim of 'advancing social wellbeing', you could try their catch-all 'open door' route. Both Leverhulme and Nuffield have an outline stage, which means that you don't have to wade through torturous, extended application forms. However, they do still expect your project to be well thought through and accurately costed, so don't think that you can cut corners in the designing your research.
- Olive Oil 'Cuts Risk of Stroke by 41%'. The Daily Mail reported this finding from the National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Bordeaux. They 'observed' 7,625 people over 65, who self-classified their use of olive oil as 'none', 'moderate' or 'intensive'. After 5 years 148 of them had suffered a stroke. 2.6% of non-users had a stroke, 2% of moderate, and 1.5% of intensive. This all sounds very dodgy (the other lifestyle factors were not listed), and I'm not really sure what, if any, conclusions should be drawn from it. One to refer to Ben Goldacre, I think. However, it's postively Nobel Prize winning stuff compared with:
- An analysis of the 700 head injuries suffered in the Asterix books. Yes, you read it right. Reported in the Daily Telegraph - shame on you! - researchers at the Heinrich Heine University in Dusseldorf set themselves the task of analysing 'the epidemiology and risk factors of traumatic brain injury in the Asterix illustrated books.' With an apparently straight face, they report that about half lost consciousness, and 188 had hypoglossal paresis, or an outstretched tongue. However, even this seems serious and sensible compared with:
- 'Secret to a Perfect Cuppa.' This was reported in the Mail, Telegraph and Metro. Scientists - broadly defined, and hopefully not research council funded - at the University of Northumbria had produced a formula for creating the optimum cup of tea. Hot water first, brewing time 2 mins, temp 60 degrees, since you ask.
Hmm. I would tell you about a second item in Metro on research into a Harry Potter-style 'invisibility cloak', which was reminiscent of the Third Policeman ('...made up of cells so small they are not visible to the human eye...'), but even I can only take so much. What must the average reader make of researchers? I imagine news of funding cuts garners little sympathy with these stories as the public face of university research.
Tuesday, 14 June 2011
- Discover 2020
- Horizon 2020
- Imagine 2020
Monday, 13 June 2011
‘I looked at the criteria and thought, ‘that’s me!’’ Prof Darren Griffin kicked off the latest Grants Factory event by highlighting the importance of ‘fitting’ the funder’s scheme. The event focused on fellowship funding, and Darren was talking about his experience of applying for a BBSRC Career Development Fellowship.
Fellowships offer more flexibility and freedom than standard project grants, but both you and your research have to be ripe for it. To do so you have to piece together the past, present and future of your research, and demonstrate its momentum and trajectory.
Prof Paul Allain continued by highlighting the necessary ‘craft’ in preparing a fellowship application:
- Read the guidance, but also read the guidance for the funder’s other schemes so that you can understand the specific aims, and specific requirements, of the fellowship. Where the funder has stated their ‘strategic priorities’ make sure that your fellowship fits with them and, ideally, show them how it does. Quote their Delivery Plan back at them;
- It’s all about the person, stupid: highlight your ‘pedigree’, and how previous work, publications and practice lead inevitably to this fellowship. Show how you are the person, the only person, who can deliver on this research. Create the picture;
- Use diagrams and timelines. This both breaks up the text (see below), but also gives a sense of certainty and deliverability – making the ‘picture’ more believable;
- In terms of the language, keep it simple. No jargon. Check and double check for typos. Make the format clear, with paragraph breaks and bullet points. You’re not writing for an academic journal, and the requirements are different here. As Paul said, ‘you can’t be too subtle.’ Use frames and signposts, interlinked phrases, repetition and emphasis;
- Don’t hypothesise: what are you actually going to do? Avoid hesitancy and conjecture, and use active verbs. You want to develop a sense of a momentum that can’t be stopped, and that you’re ready to go if they give the word.
- Who are you? What's your research? Why now? (‘Tickets from Birmingham New Street, please’)
- Why should I care about any of it? (‘Can you hear me? We’re just going through a tunnel...hello?’)
- Okay, okay, so you're right for the fellowship - but what are you actually going to do - and can you succeed? (‘Mum! Muuuuum!’)
- How are you going to tell people about your findings? (‘Tea, coffee, hot chocolate?’)
If you can do that, and keep their attention amongst all those distractions – well, yours is the fellowship, and all that’s in it. As Kipling very nearly said.
Friday, 10 June 2011
- Rudy Markham, a philosopher-king, who tells the FT: “You are one of the few people who can work out where the ship is, because you can read maps, triangulate positions and work out what happens if the ship goes faster or slower. You’re not responsible for the ship, but all that knowledge is useless if you can’t convey to the captain that if you continue at this speed you’ll run out of fuel or hit the rocks."
- Paul Polman: enjoys mountaineering, volleyball and classic car racing. Though not at the same time.
- Stephen Williams: likes 'contemporary art, professional football, pulp fiction or vulgar automobiles'. You can imagine the pre-meeting chats he and Paul have.
Monday, 6 June 2011
Friday, 3 June 2011
o The introduction of a mechanism for funding innovative or risky research. Projects using this mechanism would have two phases: the first would be a pilot phase in which novel ideas and concepts could be tested. If this was successful the project could move on to a second phase of funding. The ‘break point’ for the project, when progress and potential would be assessed, would be agreed between the applicant and the ESRC. They stressed that the intention was for there to be no blame, or no sense of failure, at the break point, if the project did not progress to the second phase.
o Early ‘filtering’ of applications. Whilst they said that there would be more use of outline applications, it would not be introduced for all schemes. For Research Grants you would complete a full application, but proposals would be filtered at an earlier stage and not all would go on to full peer review.
o The Centres and Large Grants schemes would be combined. ‘Considerable’ investment was being made in the new scheme (some £20m), and grants of between £2m- £5m would be awarded.
o There would be a clear expectation of:
- ‘maximising impact’ through working with other investors and international collaborators;
o There would be an open competition, but with strong ‘steers’ towards areas of priority, namely:
- Economic Performance: in particular towards new approaches to macroeconomics, constructions of risk, and regulation and governance. In addition extra funding would be made available for entrepreneurship, rising powers (India, China, Brazil), and infrastructure.
- Influencing Behaviour: understanding risks at multiple levels and settings; the role of technology, social norms and signals as agents of change; and the interplay of childhood, family, community and wider society in influencing wellbeing;
- Vibrant & Fair Society: in particular, social mobility and getting minority voices heard.
Future Leaders Scheme
o This was intended to meet some of the concerns expressed by the sector when the Small Grants Scheme was abolished, by continuing provision for early career researchers (ECRs);
o ECRs with less than 4 years (not 6 as previously advertised) post doc experience would be eligible;
o The scheme would be open, but there would be a strong steer towards secondary data analysis and innovative research methodology. Approximately 70 grants would be available annually.
More generally, it was made clear that their three strategic priorities (economic performance, influencing behaviour, vibrant and fair society) would be ‘refreshed annually’ – i.e. that they would be amended according to the perceived need for research in specific areas. The Council was pleased with the Comprehensive Spending Review settlement, but there was still a need to deal with a 12% cut in programme funding. As such, it wanted to encourage secondary data analysis that would provide value for money insights using existing data. It would introduce a scheme to encourage such analyses, and small grant funding would be available for them.