MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Met

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ESRC will soon announce call on Urban Transformations


Pre-call announcement

The ESRC will shortly open a call for research projects as part of their urban transformations portfolio.

Major changes are taking place in cities across the globe, both in the fast-growing urban centres of developing countries and in the declining or resurgent cities in the developed world. The majority of people now live in urban areas and the urban population in many developing countries will exceed 50 per cent by 2030. Transformations in urban economies, new technologies, and responses to environmental change are reshaping the distribution of power, resources, and information in cities. These transformations are radically reshaping social relations and the built environment in some cities, while others experience continuity or decline, seemingly unable to garner the opportunities flowing from these changes.

The ESRC will invite innovative and ambitious proposals between £500,000 and £750,00 (at 80 per cent FEC), and will commit up to £3 million in total to support new research which adds significant value to the broad portfolio of cities and urban transformations research currently supported by the ESRC. High quality proposals are sought which fill clearly identified gaps in the current funding landscape, primarily the topics of ‘social innovation, urban living and technology‘ or ‘urban economies‘. Proposals for this call should also adopt one or both of the cross-cutting areas ‘Inequalities, diversities and difference‘ or ‘Politics, governance and democracy‘.

Potential applicants are strongly advised to familiarise themselves with the ESRC Urban Transformations portfolio, the scoping report (PDF, 109Kb) and the priority areas identified for social science investment.

Full guidance and the call specification will be released on 20 November 2014 and the closing date for full Je-S applications will be 5 February 2015.

Key dates

  • Call specification and guidance available – 20 November 2014
  • Application closing date – 5 February 2015
  • Commissioning Panel meeting – July 2015
  • Decisions to applicants – August 2015
  • Grants to commence – December 2015

Please see:


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Opportunities to work with Catalonian Researchers


Colleagues with an interest in strengthening ties with Catalonia, might be interested in the TECNIOSPRING Scheme which is designed to improve the research and development infrastructure in Catalonia. A call for proposals with a deadline of 25 November 2014 has been announced, which will support fellowships linked to the network of TECNIO Centres established in Catalonia.

There are opportunities for two types of fellowship:

Outgoing Fellowships – researchers from Catalonia can spend time in host institutions in other countries (e.g. UK) to undertake research projects (Note: the fellow will have all expenses paid, but hosts will not receive any funding directly).

Incoming Fellowships – researchers from anywhere in the world (including the UK) can apply to be employed by a TECNIO Centre for two years to work on a project.

Full details of the scheme (including details of the specific opportunities at TECNIO Centres) are available here.


‘The TECNIOSPRING fellowship programme is co-financed by the European Union through the Marie Curie Actions “Co-funding of regional, national and international programmes (COFUND)”. Therefore successful candidates will be Marie Curie fellows as well as TECNIOSPRING fellows.’

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What’s on the Horizon for 2016/17? Part 2 – more information from Advisory Groups


The Horizon 2020 Advisory Groups are continuing to share their thoughts on priorities for 2016 and 2017, giving us an insight into potential future calls. Following on from our earlier post, more of the Advisory Groups, which bring together experts from different disciplines, have published their views on the key challenges that need to be addressed and what activities will help Europe to overcome these challenges.

The following are brief summaries of the latest priorities to be shared, complete with links to more detailed information available via the European Commission’s website:

The group identified six strategic themes: healthy and personalised food products; one-health perspective in food, agriculture and livestock; smart, holistic and sustainable solutions for efficient of management of resources, forests and land; systemic approaches for developing the Bioeconomy in rural and coastal areas; integrated bio-based industries and biorefineries in the optic of circular approaches; and marine and maritime research: fisheries, aquaculture, biodiversity and society.

  • Energy (Societal Challenge 3) – click ‘Additional Information’ and select document headed ‘Summary reports for the AGE meeting of 11 June 2014′

The group is structuring thinking around the four areas of Energy Efficiency and Smart Cities; Electricity Grids; Energy Conversion Technologies; and Cross-cutting issues with a focus on social science. The group see systems integration; regulatory, governance and institutional market aspects; and behaviour and the demand side (households, SMEs, business, industry) as having key significance.

Planning is one of the keys to success in Horizon 2020, so we’d encourage you to take a look at reports in your area to get a head start for future calls!

If you’re interested in getting involved in Horizon 2020 and would like to know more do get in touch (

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Seminar on Collaborative Drug Discovery with MRC Tech

MRC Technology is coming to MMU to explain what they do and how we might work with them. The organisation was established in 2000 to handle the technology transfer needs of the Medical Research Council. It now has a broader remit to work with universities, medical research charities, pharmaceutical and biotechnology organisations to help bridge the gap between basic research and commercial application to ensure that innovative life science research reaches its full potential.

The seminar will be held on Friday 5th Dec in the Council Chamber, Ormond Building.


11:00 Registration & refreshments
11:15 Welcome & introduction
11:20 Overview of MRC Technology – outlining collaboration opportunities (Dr Duncan Young, MRC Technology)
12:30 Buffet lunch & networking
13:15 Opportunity for 1-to-1 sessions to discuss in detail about specific projects

To register and book 1 to 1 sessions, please contact Merveille Mankoto ( Tech - 5 Dec 2014

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Guest Blog – Open Access: Access to Knowledge

 In an article published today for the European GeoSciences Union, Dr Sam Illingworth, Lecturer in Science Communication at MMU, writes an in-depth overview of Open Access. 

The full article can be read on GeoLog – the European Geosciences Union blog page here.

“Access to knowledge is a basic human right.” Yet sadly as scientists we are often forced to operate in a framework in which this is not always the case. This week sees the celebration of the eighth Open Access Week, and whilst there have undoubtedly been many achievements by the Open Access (OA) movement since 2009, there is still a long way to go before mankind’s basic human right to knowledge is restored.

Open Access-1Open for business: The Open Access logo (Photo credit: Wikimedia)

So why all the big fuss about OA in the first instance? If you are reading this as a layperson or as a scientist at the outset of their scientific career, then you may be surprised to find out that it costs (often large sums of) money to read online research articles. Even if these fees are not being charged to you personally, the chances are that it is costing your research institution or library thousands of pounds/euros/dollars that could otherwise be spent on research, resources, jobs, or infrastructure (as an example, in 2009, Clemson University in the US, an institute with less than 17,000 students, spent an astonishing $1.3 million on journal subscriptions to the publishing magnate Elsevier alone).

Over the past 30 years, journal prices have out priced inflation by over 250%; but it wasn’t always like this. In the past journals existed for two reasons: as an affordable option for scientists to publish their work in (as opposed to the more expensive option of personally-published books), and as a place where members of the general public and the wider scientific community could find out about the advances in science that their taxes were helping to fund. Sadly, in recent times many journals seem to have lost their way on both counts, hence the need to open it up again.

Open Access-2Climbing Higher: The cost of journal articles continues to rise completely out of proportion to inflation (Photo credit: Association of Research libraries)

The beginning of the modern OA movement can be traced back to the 4th July 1971, when Michael Hart launched Project Gutenberg, a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works for free. However, it wasn’t until 1989 (and with the advent of the Internet) that the first digital-only, free journals were launched, amongst them Psycoloquy by Stevan Harnad and The Public-Access Computer Systems Review by Charles W. Bailey Jr.

Since then, the OA movement has grown considerably, although it is important to note that publishing articles so that they are free for all is itself not without expense. Despite the lack of print and mailing costs, there are still large infrastructure and staffing overheads that need to be taken into consideration, and so rather than make the reader pay, alternatives have to be found.

One alternative, known as the Gold route to OA, is to make the author(s) of the article pay for the right to have their research accessible by all. Many journals already require an Article Processing Charge (APC) to be paid before publication, and so some journals have simply elected to add an additional charge if the author wants to make their journal open to the general public.

The other main alternative is the Green route to OA, which involves the author placing their journal in a central repository, which is then made available to all. The journal in which the article was originally published will usually enforce an embargo period of a number of months or years that must pass before the published articles can be placed in these repositories, although this can often be circumnavigated by uploading final, ‘accepted for publication’, drafts of the article. You can read more about OA subject repositories in this article.

Open Access-3A sea of golden green: the availability of gold and green OA journal articles by scientific discipline in 2009 (Source: Björk, et al.).

Both of these approaches to OA have their respective advantages and disadvantages, and normally research intuitions and/or funding bodies guide the route that researchers choose. The Research Councils UK (RCUK), for example, has a policy (which can be found here) that supports both the Gold and the Green routes to OA, though it has a preference for immediate access with the maximum opportunity for reuse. It is worth noting at this point that another key aim of the OA movement is that published research is free to reuse in future studies. This might seem like a fairly trivial point, but currently for any articles published in closed access journals, express permission is needed from the publishers if the results are to be used in any future studies.

The major barrier that still needs to be overcome with regards to OA is determining who pays for the right to free access. At the moment many governments have a centralised pot, which they allocate to their different research institutes. However, issues arise when one considers the limitations that this imposes on poorer countries, institutes, research disciplines, and independent researchers. There is also the minefield of determining who gets how much and why; my own institute, Manchester Metropolitan University (MMU) has only been allocated enough funds to pay for 7 academic papers a year via the Gold route to OA. When you consider that some researchers would hope to publish that many papers themselves on a yearly basis, there is clearly a disconnect. It is for these reasons that many are pushing for ‘OA 2.0’, an initiative in which articles are, in the words of EGU’s former executive secretary Arne Richter, “Free to Read, Free to Download and Free to Publish.” However, such an approach will require a major change in the modus operandi of almost all publishing companies. It is worth noting that Copernicus, who are responsible for publishing the majority of EGU’s affiliated journals are very strong proponents of the Open Access movement, and have been one of the leading lights in an otherwise murky world.

Open Access-4


Top of the food chain: the top 10 UK universities in terms of APC funding distribution (Source: RCUK).

The sad truth of the matter is that many of the more traditional journals are now run as big-business, moneymaking machines, safe in the knowledge that they can get away with charging large fees, because scientists are still desperate to publish in places with a ‘high-impact’. However, if enough scientists rise up and move away from these restrictive journals, and migrate towards those with an OA policy, then the impact factors will soon follow suit (in fact, there is already strong evidence that publishing in an OA journal will result in more citations for your research). Only then can we begin to reinstate knowledge as a basic human right available to all, rather than as an expensive luxury dolled out to the privileged few who can afford it.


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Open Access in Focus – Guest Blog part III

Open AccessGuest Blog from Mary Pickstone, Research Support Librarian 

This article was originally posted on 26th March 2014

In this week’s blog I’m going to look at some of the advantages, and some of the disadvantages, of OA.

Two of the advantages are a wider readership and quicker dissemination of research.

Research published OA is more widely read, therefore authors get a much wider audience than they would through the readership of a subscription journal.  Readers, for example those in developing countries, who may have only limited access to research literature because of the high cost of pay-per-view charges (journal subscriptions and article viewing charges) can access more journals.  The general public, small businesses, and other readers from ‘outside the academy’ can access research literature, which is, after all, often paid for by their taxes.

Research published OA is disseminated more quickly than research that is published via a more traditional subscription route and can also be re-used, subject to the conditions of the relevant Creative Commons (CC) licence attribution.

A key factor in the success of research is its impact, and funding bodies, including HEFCE via the Research Excellence Framework (REF), are looking for evidence of how this can be demonstrated. Widening the readership and a more rapid dissemination of the research through OA publication can contribute to this.

Some of the disadvantages of OA include:

The article processing charge, or APC, required by many journals to publish articles via the gold route; embargo periods imposed by traditional subscription journals on articles deposited in subject or institutional repositories; the potential threat to the viability of journals published by small publishers such as Learned Societies if subscription charges disappeared; the perceived threat to peer review, and hence quality control, of research in OA journals.

How funds are allocated amongst researchers to pay for APCs is a question currently vexing many universities, and there is a perception that it could disadvantage new and early career researchers who may need to bid for funds against more senior colleagues. APCs are an additional expense for many institutions whose libraries are paying subscriptions for journals, often the very same ones which charge APCs to publish via the gold route.

The green route to OA via repositories is thought to hinder OA as publishers try to maximise subscription income and prevent full-text access to their articles.  They do this by imposing embargo periods on published articles.  Research Councils UK (RCUK) in its OA policy has stipulated that these embargoes should be no longer than 6 months for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Maths) subjects and 12 months for Arts, Humanities, and Social Sciences.

The concerns about the demise of peer review are probably unfounded.  There are now many OA journals that are highly reputable and insist on a rigorous peer review process, for example PLOS One and PubMed.  Hybrid journals, which publish some articles via the gold route, apply as rigorous a peer-review process to these articles as they do to those published conventionally.

Next time I will round off this series by outlining MMU’s response to OA.