MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Met

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Research Professional recently shared an article about how useful your Research Office can be and we couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

We may not be researchers but the Research Office can be a real help when you are thinking about writing a bid – and not just because you need us to develop your budget and navigate the institutional approvals!

Illustration of creative ideas conceptFUNDERS We know them. If you have a research idea but you’re not sure which funder you stand the best chance of success with, we will help you explore the funders and get to the bottom of what it is they want to identify where your research best fits amongst them.

FUNDING CALLS We read funding calls all day and we know what to look for when picking out key bits: where the emphasis lies and what the funder is really looking for in a proposal. If you’re not sure you are ticking the right boxes or would like some guidance on any particular scheme, we can help you with that.

TIMESCALES Sometimes it can be a difficult thing to establish a timeline either for writing a research proposal or for carrying out the project itself. Your Research Development Manager can help you to think realistically about your goals and map out how much time you will ideally spend on each aspect of the proposal or project.

LAY REVIEW Your Research Office can be a helpful place to get a lay person’s perspective on your proposal. When your project goes off to the funders for consideration, it is likely that those reviewing it aren’t going to be experts in your field. If your Research Development Manager is having a hard time grasping what your research is, then there’s a possibility that those reviewing it will too, and a project that isn’t easily understood is less likely to be funded than one that is.

You can read the full article here, but the main point is that we are here to help every step of the way so make sure you get in touch so we can get started!

Contact the Research Office:

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Meet the AHRC and hear about their plans in a one day engagement event

MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

AHRC 2From November 2019 to February 2020, the AHRC will be touring the UK with a series of free one day events packed with panel sessions, speakers and networking opportunities. These new events are designed to help researchers, research offices, communications, policy and public engagement professionals get a deeper insight into our newly launched Delivery Plan and meet the team from AHRC. Three of the dates have been announced and you can register for your place today.

The ‘Meet the Arts and Humanities Research Council’ events will run approximately from 10am – 5pm, with an additional evening reception for those who would like to attend. Events will take place at the following locations:

  • Cardiff University – 6 November 2019
  • University of Strathclyde – 10 December 2019
  • The University of Manchester – 9 January 2020

There will also be an event in London in spring 2020. Full details…

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HPSC Research Grant Application Workshop

Members of the Health, Psychology and Social Care Faculty are invited to attend a Research Grant Application Workshop hosted by your Research Development Team.

The event has been designed for Academic members of staff who are eligible to apply for external research funding and plan on applying within the next 6 months – this includes Research Fellows on permanent contracts.

  • Date: Wednesday 27th November
  • Time: 12 – 4pm
  • Location: Brooks Building
  • Registration: Via Eventbrite.

To register for this free event please complete the form on the linked Eventbrite Page. You will be required to confirm your eligibility, give a brief summary of your planned research and funder and provide a question that you would like to ask our academic panel.

For further details please visit the Event Page or contact your Research Development Team.

Please note: This event is open to members of Health, Psychology and Social Care only.

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NIHR Fellowships Now Open

NIHR have two Fellowships available which are now open for applicants.

Advanced Fellowship

This is a post-doctoral Fellowship and aimed at anyone with a PhD who hasn’t yet been awarded a chair. Whether you’re someone who has recently been or about to be awarded a PhD, or someone with several years of post-doc experience you will be eligible to apply for an Advanced Fellowship.

Deadline: Tuesday 3rd December

Doctoral Fellowship

This Fellowship supports individuals to undertake a PhD in an area of NIHR research. These are 3 years in duration and may be taken up on a part time basis between 50 and 100% FTE.

Deadline: Tuesday 17th December

Partnership Fellowships

As part of the new structure of NIHR Fellowships, the NIHR has partnered with a number of charitable organisations to offer jointly funded NIHR Charity Partnership Fellowships including:

  • Castang Foundation
  • Chartered Society of Physiotherapy Charitable Trust
  • Diabetes UK
  • Kidney Research UK
  • Moorfields Eye Charity
  • MS Society
  • Muscular Dystrophy UK

For further details of each of these calls, including eligibility, please visit the NIHR website.

If you would like to apply for any of these schemes please contact your Research Development Team.

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An Applicant’s Guide to Full Economic Costing

This article appeared on Cash for Questions, by Adam Goldberg, and Research Professional.

You’re applying for UK research council funding and suddenly you’re confronted with massive overhead costs. Adam Golberg tries to explain what you need to know.

Trying to explain Full Economic Costing is not straightforward. For current purposes, I’ll be assuming that you’re an academic applying for UK Research Council funding; that you want to know enough to understand your budget; and that you don’t really want to know much more than that.

If you do already know a lot about costing or research finances, be warned – this article contains simplifications, generalisations, and omissions, and you may not like it.

What are Full Economic Costs, and why are they taking up so much of my budget?

Full Economic Costs (fEC) are paid as part of UK Research and Innovation grants to cover a fair share of the wider costs of running the university – the infrastructure that supports your research. There are a few different cost categories, but you don’t need to worry about the distinctions.

Every UK university calculates its own overhead rates using a common methodology. I’m not going to try to explain how this works, because (a) I don’t know; and (b) you don’t need to know. Most other research funders (charities, EU funders, industry) do not pay fEC for most of their schemes. However, qualifying peer-reviewed charity funding does attract a hidden overhead of around 19% through QR funding (the same source as REF funding). But it’s so well hidden that a lot of people don’t know about it. And that’s not important right now.

How does fEC work?

In effect, this methodology produces a flat daily overhead rate to be charged relative to academic time on your project. This rate is the same for the time of the most senior professor and the earliest of early career researchers.

One effect of this is to make postdoc researchers seem proportionally more expensive. Senior academics are more expensive because of higher employment costs (salary etc), but the overheads generated by both will be the same. Don’t be surprised if the overheads generated by a full time researcher are greater than her employment costs.

All fEC costs are calculated at today’s rates. Inflation and increments will be added later to the final award value.

Do we have to charge fEC overheads?

Yes. This is a methodology that all universities use to make sure that research is funded properly, and there are good arguments for not undercutting each other. Rest assured that everyone – including your competitors– are playing by the same rules and end up with broadly comparable rates. Reviewers are not going to be shocked by your overhead costs compared to rival bids. Your university is not shooting itself (or you) in the foot.

There are fairness reasons not to waive overheads. The point of Research Councils is to fund the best individual research proposals regardless of the university they come from, while the REF (through QR) funds for broad, sustained research excellence based on historical performance. If we start waiving overheads, wealthier universities will have an unfair advantage as they can waive while others drown.

Further, the budget allocations set by funders are decided with fEC overheads in mind. They’re expecting overhead costs. If your project is too expensive for the call, the problem is with your proposal, not with overheads. Either it contains activities that shouldn’t be there, or there’s a problem with the scope and scale of what you propose.

However, there are (major) funding calls where “evidence of institutional commitment” is expected. This could include a waiver of some overheads, but more likely it will be contributions in kind – some free academic staff time, a PhD studentship, new facilities, a separate funding stream for related work. Different universities have different policies on co-funding and it probably won’t hurt to ask. But ask early (because approval is likely to be complex) and have an idea of what you want.

What’s this 80% business?

This is where things get unnecessarily complicated. Costs are calculated at 100% fEC but paid by the research councils at 80%. This leaves the remaining 20% of costs to be covered by the university. Fortunately, there’s enough money from overheads to cover the missing 20% of direct costs. However, if you have a lot of non-pay costs and relatively little academic staff time, check with your costings team that the project is still affordable.

Why 80%? In around 2005 it was deemed ‘affordable’ – a compromise figure intended to make a significant contribution to university costs but without breaking the bank. Again, you don’t need to worry about any of this.

Can I game the fEC system, and if so, how?

Academic time is what drives overheads, so reducing academic time reduces overheads. One way to do this is to think about whether you really need as much researcher time on the project. If you really need to save money, could contracts finish earlier or start later in the project?

Note that non-academic time (project administrators, managers, technicians) does not attract overheads, and so are good value for money under this system. If some of the tasks you’d like your research associate to do are project management/administration tasks, your budget will go further if you cost in administrative time instead.

However, if your final application has unrealistically low amounts of academic time and/or costs in administrators to do researcher roles, the panel will conclude that either (a) you don’t understand the resource implications of your own proposal; or (b) a lack of resources means the project risks being unable to achieve its stated aims. Either way, it won’t be funded. Funding panels are especially alert for ‘salami projects’ which include lots of individual co-investigators for thin slivers of time in which the programme of research cannot possibly be completed. Or for undercooked projects which put too much of a burden on not enough postdoc researcher time. As mentioned earlier, if the project is too big for the call budget, the problem is with your project.

The best way to game fEC it is not to worry about it. If you have support with your research costings, you’ll be working with someone who can cost your application and advise you on where and how it can be tweaked and what costs are eligible. That’s their job – leave it to them, trust what they tell you, and use the time saved to write the rest of the application.

Thanks to Nathaniel Golden (Nottingham Trent) and Jonathan Hollands (University of Nottingham) for invaluable comments on earlier versions of this article. Any errors that remain are my own.

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MRC/AHRC/ESRC Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind: Engagement Awards

Exciting New Funding Opportunity – Deadline for Submission 17th December 2019 at 4pm.

Engagement Awards are awards of up to 12 months aimed at building and strengthening a cross-disciplinary community in the research area of Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind. These are flexible awards focused on establishing new collaborations, exploring innovative new research directions and building relationships with key stakeholders. This £1.6M call is intended to underpin the development of larger scale research projects and collaborations, as well as build capacity and networks that will add value to future investments to be made through this new cross-Council programme.

Remit and Scope of the Engagement Awards

Engagement Awards can be used by a multidisciplinary applicant team to fund pilot projects, strengthen existing collaborations and create new ones, build partnerships with key stakeholders and facilitate knowledge exchange. It is expected that this call will support a range of awards that are focused on key research challenges in Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind. This may include:

  • Exploration of the dynamic and complex interaction of factors that impact during adolescence, to understand the high degree of inter-individual heterogeneity and the consequences of genetic, environmental and social interactions for life.
  • Understanding the conditions that mitigate risk as well as enable resilience, both during and preceding adolescence.
  • Identification of vulnerable young people in school and other settings, including health services and the youth justice system.
  • Exploration of novel cross-cutting methods, tools, measures and multimodal datasets, and the basis for an open-science data infrastructure.
  • Data collection and the evidence base for mental health support in schools, including understanding and enhancing the education environments that promote learning, healthy behaviours (and reducing antisocial behaviour), positive mental health and wellbeing, executive function and social-emotional skills development.
  • How the digital environment influences brain development and function, mental health and mental health problems, risk behaviours, bullying, loneliness and social isolation. How digital technologies can be harnessed to promote positive behaviours and mental wellbeing.

Funding will be provided to establish new, high-value collaborative activities/capabilities, including those that add value to high quality scientific investments that are already supported by the funders. It is not designed to fund stand-alone, hypothesis-driven research projects, or continuation/extension of existing grants, which may otherwise be eligible for standard research grant type funding from the partner Councils.

Further details can be accessed here

Please contact your relevant RDM to discuss this exciting opportunity.

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MRC/AHRC/ESRC Workshop on Adolescence, Mental Health and the Developing Mind: Expressions of Interest Call


A major mental health research programme, led by the MRC, has been announced today, to explore what makes teenagers more or less likely to develop mental health problems and how we might intervene early.

UKRI has a Call for Expressions of Interest to attend a workshop on the 22nd November between 10am-4pm (venue to be confirmed, London or Birmingham)

The workshops will consist of a mixture of presentations from UKRI, keynote talks, stakeholder engagement and knowledge exchange, opportunities to meet other researchers and facilitated discussions of key challenges and opportunities for research. We intend to:

  • Communicate the scope and ambitions of this initiative
  • Foster cross-disciplinary networking and knowledge sharing
  • Facilitate interactions with key stakeholders, including policy makers, health, social care and education sectors, young people, carers and those with lived experience of mental health problems
  • Explore research and methodology challenges, including opportunities for innovation and novel approaches.

You can complete your expression of interest to attend the workshop via this link

For further details on the initiative and engagement awards can be accessed here

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New Grants Programme: Complex Needs in Primary Care

The Burdett Trust for Nursing is an independent charitable trust that makes grants to support nurse-led projects focused on supporting the nursing contribution to healthcare. The trust aims to use its funds to empower nurses and through this to make significant improvements to the patient care environment.

The Trustees are keen to support innovative, nurse-led, projects that will deliver high quality, compassionate care for people with complex needs in primary care settings. All projects must be nurse-led and have the nursing contribution to healthcare at their core. Proposals must be well-argued and demonstrate why the project is needed, what benefits and impacts it will deliver and how it will generate learning that can be shared, disseminated and adopted more widely.

Amount: £20,000 – £100,000

Project Duration: 12 months

Deaadline: 26th October

For more information about this opportunity please visit the call page on the BTfN website. If you wish to apply for this scheme please contact your Research Development Team as soon as possible!