Take a look at this excellent blog post from Social Science Researching Funding. Lachlan Smith writes about the “who cares?” question that potential grant applicants ought to consider, and that research development staff ought to pose to applicants on a regular basis.
Why is this research important, and why should it be funded? And crucially, why should we fund this, rather than that? In a comment on a previous post on this blog Jo VanEvery quoted some wise words from a Canadian research funding panel member: “it’s not a test, it’s a contest”. In other words, research funding is not an unlimited good like a driving test or a PhD viva where there’s no limit to how many people can (in principle) succeed. Rather, it’s more like a job interview, qualification for the Olympic Games, or the film Highlander – not everyone can succeed. And sometimes, there can be only one.
I’ve recently been fortunate enough to serve on a funding panel myself, as a patient/public involvement representative for a health services research scheme. Assessing significance in the form of potential benefit for patients and carers is a vitally important part of the scheme, and while I’m limited in what I’m allowed to say about my experience, I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that significance – and demonstrating that significance – is key.
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