MMU Research and Knowledge Exchange Blog

Funding opportunities, news and guidance from RKE at Manchester Met


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Wellcome: it’s not just for health and biomedical researchers.

If you thought that Wellcome was a funder only for biomedical and health researchers, think again.

Although Wellcome is primarily known as a funder of biomedical research, it has always provided funding for bioethics and history of medicine projects. About five years ago the trust expanded its remit in this area, and it now spends more than £30 million a year on a wide range of humanities and social science projects that are relevant to health or biomedical research. In the past Wellcome have supported a huge range of disciplines that include anthropology, economics, geography, law, literature, philosophy, political economy, political science, science and technology studies and sociology.

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What kind of schemes do Wellcome offer?

The bulk of their funding is offered through open or responsive-mode schemes, although they do occasionally have themed calls. They range from small grants and seed awards, to fellowships, investigator awards and large collaborative grants.

Have a look at what they have on at the moment by following this link.

So what makes a good Wellcome proposal?

They’re looking for something ambitious but feasible. As an independent foundation they are able to support research that might not fit elsewhere, and in contrast to public funders, they’re less interested on research being applied or having a defined impact. In fact, a project that appears fixed on, say, trialling an intervention is less likely to be supported. That said, they want to fund work that has the potential to have relevance in the real world. They are interested in the research they support to offer a theoretical contribution, even if it’s mainly empirical in natural and/or has applied elements.

You can read the full article on Research Professional by following this link.

If you’re interested in learning more about Wellcome, head to their website for more information. The schemes however are competitive and RKE will often engage in a conversation with the funder around project suitability prior to beginning your application, so we would always encourage you to contact your Research Development Manager or Officer before moving forward with any research ideas. You can contact RKE at researchapplications@mmu.ac.uk.

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MS Society – Searching for New Panel Members

The Multiple Sclerosis (MS) Society are searching for new members to join their Biomedical and Care & Services Grant Review Panels (GRPs) and their Research Strategy Committee (RSC). This is a great opportunity to get some insight into how funders award grants and what exactly they’re looking for!

About The Panels

Grant Review Panels: Panel members help to decide which projects will receive funding. There are two panels available; Biomedical Research (GRP1) and Care &Services Research (GRP2).

Research Strategy Committee: This panel looks at the strategic picture, providing advice on broad areas of research, setting priorities and scrutinizing the larger, ongoing research programmes.

Who They’re Looking For

For GPR1, applications are encouraged from individuals with expertise in the following areas:

  • Myelin Biology
  • MRI
  • Epidemiology
  • Stem Cells
  • Genetics

For GRP2, applications are encouraged from individuals with expertise in these areas:

  • Implementation science/health delivery research
  • Neurology
  • MRI

For the RSC panel, individuals whose expertise align with the Research strategy themes (see below) and following areas:

  • Capacity Building (supporting research career development)
  • Clinical Trials 
  • Translational Research
  • Health Economics

The closing date for all applications is Monday 14th January, 12pm 

To apply please email research@mssociety.org.uk with your CV and a briefcover letter outlining your experience and how that will positively contributeto the work of the panels. 

For more information please contact your Research Development Team or the email address above. 


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Developing your NIHR Proposal

Last week the Research Design Service North West (RDS NW) hosted an event on developing funding proposals in applied health and social care. The event was aimed at academics putting their first bid in to any NIHR scheme – I went along to find out what NIHR are looking for.

What is the RDS?

The Research Design Service is a free service offered by NIHR to help you design and develop your research and offer methodological support to health and social care researchers. The service isn’t just for NIHR though, you can seek their advice for any funding application going to a national peer-reviewed funding programme.

The team are able to help develop your ideas, help you chose the correct funding stream and give advice to improve your research. They recommend getting in touch as soon as you decide you’d like to apply – at least 6 months in advance, if possible.

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 Developing your research question

A well-structured question is an important aspect to your proposal and the RDS had a few good acronyms to help to guide your question formation, you should look to include the following elements:

PICOPopulation – Intervention – Comparison – Outcome

CIMOContext – Intervention – Mechanisms – Outcome

SPICESetting – Population – Intervention – Comparison – Evaluation

Hit all of the points in your chosen acronym and you should be well on your way to a clear and structured question.

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The Importance of PPI

Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) is a major focus for NIHR, they want to see bids that have been developed, not just with beneficiaries in mind, with them helping to shape the entire proposal. NIHR want to see that you’ve engaged with the public to understand what end users want to gain from your research, how it can improve the NHS and to make sure it’s an area worth researching!

Many proposals give PPI as an afterthought, simply conducting a few interviews and treating it as a tick box exercise but, on the Research for Patients Benefit panel (RfPB), 15% of reviewers are lay people and for them it’s an important issue. I met with a reviewer on the RfPB panel who explained the importance of being able to clearly understand the proposal (no unexplained acronyms or technical jargon!) and how lay reviewers often go straight to the PPI section to see what work you’ve already been conducting.

It’s important that you don’t treat this like a tick box exercise, like it or not PPI is here to stay. For anyone looking to carry out PPI work prior to an application the RDS offers a small pot of money (£350) to allow you to conduct some small scale work – see here for details.


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BBSRC Future Priority Areas for Funding

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On 27th September the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) released a report, Forward Look for UK Bioscience, which is the first strategy update since the creation of UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Forward Look identifies the backbone of BBSRC’s strategy and maps out key areas of direction for future funding, identifying three challenge-led priorities in which it believes UK research can deliver strong and sustainable impact:

  • Sustainable agriculture and food security.
  • Renewable resources and clean growth.
  • Integrates understanding of health.

It seems the theme of future funding will be focused on advancing the frontiers of bioscience discovery, tackling strategic challenges and building strong foundations.

“There is a real opportunity for BBSRC to ensure the strength of the UK biotechnology and biological research and skills base continues to be selected as partner of choice globally and to harness the power of biology to drive a more healthy, prosperous and sustainable future” – Melanie Welham, Executive Chairwoman UKRI – BBSRC

You can read more about the BBSRC Forward Look report here and take a look at the full report here.


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Know Your Funder: The Wellcome Trust

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Research Professional recently posted an article which gave some insight into who The Wellcome Trust are and what they’re looking for in the applications they receive. To read the full article visit here, for a brief summary read on!

Some quick facts and figures about the trust

  • They’re the worlds second largest research charity.
  • Their remit isn’t just Biomedical sciences it also includes “humanities and social science research to improve and inform human health”
  • They offer 15 different schemes (although some are only available to current award holders)
  • The funding ranges from £5k – £7m
  • Most schemes are based on a responsive mode but occasionally there are themed calls available, as well as awards for career development.

What makes a good proposal and what are they looking for?

Whilst, like every funder, Wellcome are looking for an ambitious project it must also be feasible. Overall what the committee members want to see is:

  • Novel, ambitious ideas answering a specific research question.
  • A well thought out team with the knowledge and expertise needed to answer that question.
  • Robust and appropriate methodology.
  • Value for money.

Thinking of applying to Wellcome?

You can find what funding is currently available via the Wellcome Trust website.

If there is something you’d like to apply for, or simply want to discuss a potential Wellcome proposal then please get in touch with your Research Development Team.


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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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The Minister, the Civil Servant and the Vice Chancellor

I am afraid this is not the start of a salacious tale but actually a reflection of some of the meetings I’ve been to recently.  And at each of them, I’ve been left feeling hopeful about European & International funding, whatever the Prime Minister does (or does not) say in her latest Brexit speech (2 March).  And here’s a few reasons why:

  1. European and International Research is valued at the heart of Government. 

When Sam Gyimah, Minister of State for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, took questions at Manchester Met last week, he emphasised the importance of research and the importance of continued participation in Horizon 2020.  He’s working with his EU counter-parts towards continued UK participation, contingent on excellence and value for money, as well as establishing research agreements with countries such as China, the USA and Israel.

  1. Research underpins multiple UK policies

But it’s not just the Minister for Universities who thinks research is important as it features in other national strategies.  Manchester Met’s Pro-Vice Chancellor for Research & Knowledge Exchange gave a presentation recently about the UK Government’s Industrial Strategy and how it mapped on Manchester Met in terms of our location, research strength and networks.  Likewise, through the Global Challenges Research Fund, research is being linked to international development.  Research remains important to the UK, its economy and its role in the world.

  1. Work is well underway to ensure continued UK participation in EU-funded Research

At a presentation by a Civil Servant from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy, it was clear that the department is carefully preparing for a range of scenarios post-Brexit.  There is quiet hope for continued UK participation in EU research projects up to the end of 2020 and detailed work happening to ensure a smooth transition as the UK leaves the EU.  There’s lobbying for continued participation in the Framework 9 programme when it launches in 2021 – and the UK’s and EU’s politicians seem genuinely aware of the importance of British Universities.

  1. Research is at the heart of what we do as a university. 

At his all-staff presentation, the Vice Chancellor talked of Manchester Met as being involved in knowledge generation, dissemination and translation.  He emphasised how our research informs our teaching and, indeed, all our work as an institution.

And there’s some really interesting international activity happening at the moment, ranging from work on historic site preservation in Myanmar to European research infrastructure development, from improving speech & language therapy in Rwanda to creating tools to help Hydrogen Education in Schools.   All these are funded by different funders and are at different stages in the research process: from early stage conception to translation & dissemination.

When closing the Question & Answer session with the Minister for Higher Education, Manchester Met’s Vice Chancellor ended by saying that it is easy to look back but we should look forward as there are many positive things happening in the sector, including in EU & International research. So keep your eyes on this blog for further updates on research policy and funding opportunities as things will continue to evolve rapidly.