MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Metropolitan University


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Applying for research funding – is it worth it?

Adam Goldberg is Research Development Manager in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Nottingham. He runs an excellent blog called ‘Cash for Questions’ in which he shared this interesting and useful article.

A version of this article first appeared in Funding Insight on 6th March 2018 and is reproduced with kind permission of Research Professional. For more articles like this, visit http://www.researchprofessional.com

Success rates are low and applications are more and more time consuming to write. Is it worth it? Here’s a quick list of considerations that might help you reach a better decision.

While the latest success rates from UK research councils showed a very modest overall improvement after five consecutive annual falls, most observers regard this as a blip rather than as a sign of better times to come. Outside the Research Councils, success rates are often even lower, with some social science/humanities fellowship schemes having single digit success rates.

While success rates have fallen, demands on applicants have steadily risen. The impact agenda has brought first the impact summary and then the pathways to impact statement, and more recently we’ve seen greater emphasis on data management plans and on detailed letters of support from project partners that require significant coordination to obtain. It would be one thing if it were just a question of volume – if you want a six or seven figure sum of what’s ultimately public money, it’s not unreasonable to be asked to work for it. But it’s not just that, it’s also the fiddly nature of using JeS and understanding funder requirements. I’m forever having to explain the difference between the pathways to impact and the impact summary, and there are lots of little quirks and hidden sections that can trip people up.

But beyond even that, there’s the institutional effort of internal peer review from research development staff and senior and very busy academic staff. Whether that’s an internal review mandated by the research council – shifting the burden of review onto institutions – or introduced as a means of improving quality, it’s another cost.

Given the low success rates, the effort and time required, and the opportunity costs of doing so, are we wasting our time? And how would we know?

The research

  • Do you need funding to do the research? If not, might it be a better idea just to get on with it, rather than spend a month writing an application and six months waiting for a response? And if you only need a small amount of funding, consider a smaller scheme with a less onerous application process.
  • Do you have a clear idea of what you want to achieve? If you can’t identify some clear research questions, and what your project will deliver, the chances are it needs more thinking through before it’s ready to be turned into an application.
  • Are you and your team passionate and enthused and excited about your proposal? If you’re not, why should anyone else be?
  • Is your research idea competitive? That’s not the same question as ‘is it good’? To quote a research director from a Canadian Research Council – it’s not a test, it’s a contest. Lots and lots and lots of good ideas go unfunded. Just because you could get something in that’s in scope and has at least some text in every box doesn’t mean you should.
  • Is your research idea significant? In other words, does it pass the ‘so what, who cares’ test? My experience on an NIHR funding panel is that once the flawed are eliminated, funding is a battle of significance. Is your research idea significant, would others outside your field regard it as significant, and can you communicate its significance?

Your motivations

  • Are they intrinsic to the research – to do with the research and what you and your team want to discover and achieve and contribute…. or are they extrinsic?
  • Are you applying for funding because you want promotion? When you come and talk to me and my colleagues about ‘applying for funding’ but have less a coherent project and more of a list of random keywords, don’t think we don’t know.
  • Is it because you/your research group/school is being pressured to bring in more funding? Football manager Harry Redknapp’s tactical instructions to a substitute apparently once consisted of “just flipping run around a bit” (I paraphrase) and I sometimes worry that in some parts of some institutions that’s what passes for a grant capture strategy that values activity over outcomes.
  • Is it because you want to keep researchers on fixed term contracts/your promising PhD student in work? That’s a laudable aim, but without the right application and idea, you risk giving them false hope if the application is just to do more of the same with the same people.

Practical considerations

  • Do you have the time you need to write a competitive application? Just as importantly, do your team? Will they be able to deliver on the bits of the application they’ll need to write? As Yoda said, “do or do not, there is no try” (Lucas, 1980). If you can’t turn your idea into a really well written, competitive, proposal in time, perhaps don’t.
  • Do you have your ducks in a row? Your collaborators and co-Is, your industry, government, or third sector partners lined up and on board? Are your impact plans ready? Or are you still scratching around for project partners while your competitors are polishing the fourth iteration of the complete application? Who are your rivals for this funding? Not relevant for ‘open’ calls, but for targeting schemes, who else is likely to be going for this?
  • Does what you want to do fit the call you’re considering applying for? Read the call, read it again, and then speak to your friendly neighbourhood Research Development professional and see if your understanding of the call matches hers. Why? Because it’s hard for researchers to read a call for proposals without seeing it through the lens of their own research priorities. Make sure others think it’s a good fit – don’t trust yourself or your co-Is to make that decision alone.
  • Is this the best use of your time right now? Might your time be better spent on impact, publishing papers from the last project, revising a dated module, running professional development courses?

A companion piece on the costs and benefits to researchers of applying for funding will be republished on Cash for Questions next week.

You can find the Cash for Questions blog here:  http://socialscienceresearchfunding.co.uk/?p=1053

 

 

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ESRC Secondary Data Analysis – changes to eligibility including increase in £ and project duration

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As of 17 May 2018, eligibility criteria for the ESRC Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI) will be changing.

Since December 2015, SDAI has operated alongside ESRC’s Research Grants open call. Following ESRC’s internal review of the Initiative, including an analysis of the volume and review outcomes of applications received so far, along with feedback from external stakeholders, it was concluded that changes to the Initiative were needed to improve the quantity and quality of proposals submitted.

As a result, the following changes to the SDAI have been introduced and will apply as of 17 May 2018:

  • The maximum funding threshold for applications will increase from £200,000 (100% fEC) to £300,000 (100% fEC)
  • The maximum duration of proposals will increase from 18 months to 24 months.
  • Previous eligibility criteria to (a) use only one of ESRC-funded data resources and (b) to include at least one named early career researcher as principal investigator or co-investigator have been relaxed.
  • Instead, as of 17 May, the ESRC will welcome proposals that aim to exploit secondary data from a range of UK and international data resources funded by ESRC and by other agencies, given sufficient justification and confirmation.
  • ESRC will continue to encourage applications that include a named early career researcher as principal investigator or co-investigator and/or applications that seek to use one or more ESRC-funded data resources.

These changes to the eligibility criteria will allow applicants greater flexibility when utilising existing UK and international data resources to deliver high-quality and high-impact research. This also provides a huge opportunity for comparative analysis into some of the most pressing challenges facing society in the UK and internationally.

Please see

https://esrc.ukri.org/funding/funding-opportunities/secondary-data-analysis-initiative-sdai-open-call/

 


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Newton Fund/AHRC Call for collaborative research on ‘Development through the Creative Economy in China’

AHRC 2   newtonfund

This Newton Fund funding call is for joint UK-China research projects exploring the potential of the creative economy to drive sustainable and inclusive growth in China.

The Creative Economy is of central and increasing importance to prosperity and growth in both the UK and China and a major opportunity exists to build a new era of collaborative research and innovation partnerships in the field. Co-ordinated by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) in co-operation with the UNESCO Creative City (Shanghai) Promotion Office, this funding call aims to provide a catalyst for joint UK-China research in the creative economy that will facilitate collaboration between academics, businesses, policy professionals, community groups and other organisations. By supporting collaborative UK-China research projects, it will develop the significant potential of the creative economy as a means of driving sustainable economic growth and social welfare in China.

Proposals should address one of the following three thematic areas:

Design
The Creative and Performing Arts
Heritage.

Eligibility
Proposals must be collaborative, involving researchers from both the UK and China. A Principal Investigator (PI) must be named in both the UK and China
Projects should include collaboration and knowledge exchange with the non-academic creative industries sector
As the funding for the UK budget comes from the Newton Fund, UK applicants must be able to demonstrate the project’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) compliance. Funding for Chinese partners can be applied for from the Shanghai Cultural and Creative Fund or matched effort and resources can be provided from their employing institution or other sources.

Who can apply
The research community in the UK and China. UK applicants must meet standard AHRC eligibility requirements, as detailed in section three of our Research Funding Guide (PDF, 1.3MB). Eligibility for applicants from China will depend on the source of support for their involvement in the project

Full details are in the Call Specification document available here: http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/funding/opportunities/current/development-through-the-creative-economy-in-china/

Please speak to your Research Development Manager if interested.

 


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First symposium of AHRC ‘Metamodernism’ Research Network – Weds 31st Jan

AHRC 2      MMU New Logo

Professor Antony Rowland is Principal Investigator on the AHRC funded ‘Metamodernism’ Research Network. Manchester Metropolitan University will be hosting the first symposium as part of the Network on Wednesday January 31st 2018, 2.00-8.00 pm in the Business and Law School BS 3.01 (South Atrium)

Programme is as follows:

2.00-2.15 Antony Rowland (Man Met University), ‘Introduction’

2.15-3.15 Peter Boxall (University of Sussex), ‘Imagining the Future’

3.15-3.30 Break

3.30-4.15 Alison Gibbons (Sheffield Hallam University), ‘Entropology and the End of Nature in Lance Olsen’s Theories of Forgetting

4.15-5.00 Adam Kelly (University of York), ‘Metamodernism, Anti-Modernism, and the New Sincerity’

5.00-6.00 Light tea and refreshments (BS4.44 North Atrium)

6.00-7.30 Urmila Seshagiri (University of Tennessee), ‘Metamodernism: Contemporary Fiction and the Problem of Modernism’ (BS4.44 North Atrium)

Places are limited so please do register your attendance via EventBrite here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/1st-symposium-for-the-metamodernism-research-network-tickets-41049225338

Any queries: Prof Antony Rowland a.rowland@mmu.ac.uk

Future events will take place at Keele University (May 2018), Oslo (September 2018), Birmingham and Nijmegen (2019).

Summary of the Network:

Metamodernism has gained impetus as an important area of academic research over the past ten years, as a way of understanding what is happening in contemporary literature and culture. However, the different critical versions of metamodernism require refining, as although many critics agree that the more general term ‘post-postmodernism’ is not sufficient, they also disagree on the central aspects of metamodernism. Tim Vermeulen proposes that metamodernism attempts to account for the emergence of a wider ‘structure of feeling’ in the twenty-first century which responds to our historicity, bound up with the aftermaths of 9/11, the financial crash and austerity. Hence this new network provides a unique opportunity to formulate a timely and multidisciplinary response to what Linda Hutcheon has termed the difficult but urgent challenge of pinpointing a more exact ‘label’, and disseminating it to a variety of audiences, including academics working in the area of contemporary literature, culture and art, but also non-academics such as architects, creative writers, and avant-garde artists. The network will bring together leading international experts on the legacies of modernism for the first time in order to reflect on, and then define, the central aspects of metamodernism. The project crosses international boundaries in order to build new collaborations and forge a multidisciplinary response to metamodernism: academics will take part from across Europe (including The Netherlands, Germany, Turkey, Belgium, Sweden and Poland), Japan and the United States; they will be from a variety of disciplines, including literary and cultural studies, American studies, women’s studies, philosophy, sociology, film studies and fine art.


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Manchester Met hosting one of series of AHRC Next Generation Design Workshops – Weds 31st Jan

AHRC 2

The Next Generation Design Research workshops are half-day workshops for design researchers that will explore the processes involved in applying for an AHRC grant. The workshops will be particularly helpful for researchers looking to secure their first AHRC funding grant and for other researchers looking to find out more about the funding schemes offered by the AHRC.

About the workshops

The Next Generation Design Research workshops have been designed to help you to understand what the AHRC currently funds and how to best prepare your AHRC funding application. On the day, there will be opportunities to meet with past and present AHRC design research award holders and network with other researchers.

The agenda will include a briefing from the AHRC Design Leadership Fellow, Professor Paul Rodgers, presentations from successful AHRC design research award holders, a research support office presentation, a presentation from the AHRC, a Q&A session and networking.

Who should attend?

  • Prospective design research academic leads from universities and IROs
  • Early career design researchers

Why attend?

  • Get inspired and learn how to create proposals with impact with presentations from AHRC funded design researchers.
  • Ask the AHRC team about funding and application processes
  • Meet and network with potential research partners

Speakers

  • Professor Paul Rodgers, AHRC Design Leadership Fellow @paulstweet
  • Harry Kerr, Portfolio Manager, Creative Arts and Digital Humanities, AHRC
  • Research Support Officer from the host institute – Germaine Loader @ Manchester Met
  • Early career design researchers –  including Dr Alison Slater and Dr Jea Hoo Na

Are there events in other regions of the UK?

This workshop is part of a nationwide series of workshops taking place during 2017/2018. Other events taking place in the following locations:

Please register your attendance via EventBrite by clicking on link above.


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Forthcoming ESRC research programme: ‘Governance after Brexit’

ESRC

ESRC will be issuing a call in early 2018 for a research programme on Governance after Brexit, directed by Professor Daniel Wincott (ESRC Leadership Coordinator for Governance and Brexit).

The programme will address the implications of Brexit, adding research with longer-term perspective to our portfolio. The implications of Brexit span society, politics and the economy across the UK. It will have an impact on the UK’s constitutional arrangements, the nature of the state across multiple levels and a range of government policy objectives and instruments. Brexit also has consequences for political parties and civil society organisations, business and trade unions. Its consequences may differ for generations and classes; ‘races’ and ethnic groups; genders; nations, regions, localities and communities.

The ESRC Governance after Brexit programme will be developed in two phases: the first will focus on key aspects of future UK governance, the second on the UK’s future relationship with the EU, including UK policies after Brexit.

The term ‘governance’ is understood broadly for this programme, and relevant proposals that draw on a wide range of expertise and experience are welcome. ESRC encourage all potential applicants to think innovatively about the contribution of a range of academic disciplines, about theory and methods and about research that spans and links macro-, meso- and micro-levels of analysis. Applications are sought from the full range of social science and related disciplines.

Timetable

The first call will be issued in February 2018, with the deadline for proposals in early May 2018. Networking events for potential applicants will be held shortly after the call launch. Grants will be expected to start in autumn 2018. ESRC anticipate that the second call will be issued after first call grants have commenced.

Budget and grant sizes

The overall budget for the programme is £5 million. ESRC expect the budget for the first call to be approximately £3.5 million although the amount allocated will depend on the quality of proposals  received. They are seeking to fund a mix of larger (£250,000-£750,000 at 100% fEC) and smaller (up to £250,000 at 100% fEC) grants.

ESRC will fund 80% of fEC. All proposals to this call must be led by a researcher at an eligible UK research organisation and will need to be submitted through the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

Larger grants

A larger project might encompass a number of work streams, such as parallel research in a number of localities, perhaps linked to macro-level data analysis. Larger projects might also put together novel interdisciplinary research teams or mix methods in new or distinctive ways.

Smaller grants

Smaller grants are intended to encourage pioneering and/or high-risk applications, such as proposals that develop novel methods or work in new ways across disciplinary boundaries (within and beyond the social sciences).  The commissioning process will be designed to realise this ambition.

Focus

Proposals for first round projects should address gaps in research related to Brexit, its implications and interaction with related issues and policies. Full details of the call’s remit, aims and objectives will be contained in the call specification. However, examples of such gaps might include:

  • locality or community research in so-called ‘left behind’ places (including comparisons among and across them)
  • ‘everyday’ Brexit – how Brexit emerges in everyday scenes and situations, including the ways in which it is implicated in the futures imagined and planned for by individuals, groups and institutions
  • the third sector and civil society’s contributions to governance
  • future of democracy in the UK (including the roles and functions of legislatures and participatory methods/democratic mini-publics, including participatory toolkits)
  • governance at and across different levels, including devolved nations, devolution in England, city-regions and localities
  • the roles of judges and judiciaries in UK democracy
  • key social and economic issues, such as promotion of social mobility and combatting inequalities, injustice and discrimination
  • key government strategies and policies, such as UK government Industrial Strategy, new devolved tax policies, justice policies
  • identity and culture – questions about gender, ‘race’, class, generation and nationality that are important in their own right and also resonate across a range of other issues.

Applicants should consider how proposals connect to ESRC investments in related areas, to minimise duplication and encourage productive collaboration. Use of large social science infrastructure investments as resources for projects is encouraged.

Summary provisional timetable

  • Call published: February 2018
  • Call closes: May 2018
  • Grants start: autumn 2018

http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding/funding-opportunities/governance-after-brexit-programme/

 


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Call for Applications: UK-US Early Career Research Collaboration Workshop on theme of “violence”

British Academy

The British Academy, in collaboration with the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and the American Philosophical Society, is inviting applications for early career researchers in the humanities and social sciences to attend a research collaboration workshop on the broad theme of violence. The workshop aims to help create and build exchange, cooperation and partnership between the researchers attending.

The workshop will take place in Boston from 10th–11th February 2018. The British Academy will meet the costs for travel, accommodation and subsistence for all participants over the course of the workshop.
If interested, applicants should provide a CV which should not exceed two sides of paper. Applicants are also asked to provide a justification (not exceeding two sides of paper) explaining:

  • Why they are interested in violence based on their research and/or teaching areas;
  • What disciplinary and interdisciplinary skills and/or experience they would contribute to the workshop; and,
  • How the workshop could help to develop their own research and career development.

Deadline for applications is 5pm (GMT) on Wednesday 6 December.

Full information is available  here.