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FSE Researcher Development

Building a Research Funding Portfolio – PGRs

Building a Research Funding Portfolio – FAQs for Postgraduate Researchers

These notes relate to building a track record of funding. Many researchers obtain funding for research conferences, research visits and other smaller items, prior to applying for independent fellowships and lectureships. To gain a competitive research appointment, one must have a competitive track record: whilst publications and expertise are clearly crucial for any researcher, funding wins can make a candidate stand out.

Successful researchers are strategic about how they invest their time; they may pursue short international research visits, academic or industrial collaborations, knowledge transfer, public engagement and other activities detailed below.

Note that items below may be relevant to several headings but only appear once. The information contained in this document was sourced from (a) professors who contributed to previous sessions of this workshop and (b) the internet. Note that information related to funding bodies and grant/fellowship schemes is highly changeable!

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list and you are strongly encouraged to visit the funding body websites and to use:

Our Faculty site gives an overview of funding at: www.researchsupport.eps.manchester.ac.uk/funding/

Q: How should I indicate the award of small grants and bursaries on my CV?
Any funding that you are awarded should be listed on your CV as evidence of your ability to attract funding to support your research and demonstrate that you are on the way to gaining research independence.

You could include an achievement and awards section in your CV, which includes a summary of your total grants/bursaries awards to date and then highlight the bigger or most prominent awards. If you contributed to a research proposal that has been awarded to your PI and you can demonstrate your contribution to that bid and to the research then you should also include this in your CV.

Q: What funding is there for international travel?
Here are just a few of the travel awards on offer. Be sure to check out the availability of funds from the professional body or learned society that best fits with your research discipline.

Q: What short-term funding is available for research visits to other countries?

Q: What other funding is available for other activities?

Q: What funding is available for public engagement?
Many of the UK Research Councils and funding bodies put out calls for outreach and public engagement activities, particularly around events like National Science and Engineering Week, science festivals and big national events like the 2012 Olympics. You’ll have to do a bit of research, but places to start include:

Q: Can I get additional funding to support my PhD?
The Institution of Engineering & Technology Postgraduate Scholarships aim to encourage excellence in research in the fields of electrical, electronic, communications, manufacturing or power engineering at a university in the United Kingdom. Worth £2500 and tenable for one year, for individuals already funded on a research degree – conferences.theiet.org/ambition/index.cfm

Q: What career development funding is available at the University of Manchester?
The Faculty of Engineering & Physical Sciences Researcher Development funding for professional and career development can cover small projects or external training for non-discipline-specific skills – www.researchsupport.eps.manchester.ac.uk/funding/external_training_&_development_fund/

Q: What about funding for immediately after my PhD is completed?
Some of the following have not yet confirmed dates for 2012 applications. If you are serious about applying for a major Fellowship, you should ideally begin preparing your case 6-12 months in advance of the deadline.

University of Manchester EPSRC Doctoral Fellowships – This scheme to support the best PhD students for up to one year of additional research after the submission of their PhD thesis. The aim of the funding is that projects can be completed and high profile publications prepared and submitted. It is a stepping stone for students between the end of their PhD and the beginning of post-doctoral or research fellowships. For more details contact the University Research Office – www.staffnet.manchester.ac.uk/services/rbess/

EPSRC Postdoctoral Fellowships – in specified Challenge Theme areas such as mathematical sciences, theoretical physics and energy are made available each year. The aim is to help talented young researchers to establish an independent research career, normally shortly or immediately after completing a PhD. (The call papers define the specific maximum time period for applicants after completion of a PhD.) – www.epsrc.ac.uk/funding/fellows/Pages/default.aspx

Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowships – This scheme aims to provide career development opportunities for those who are at a relatively early stage of their academic careers but with a proven record of research. The Trust provides funding covering approximately half of the Fellow’s salary, plus some travel and consumables expenses. It is important to establish the source of the remainder salary in discussion with your School – www.leverhulme.ac.uk/funding/ECF/ECF.cfm

The Toshiba Fellowship Programme – open to PhD level researchers of EU nationality currently working in a UK academic institution. The research areas vary broadly from year to year in the field of science and engineering. The Programme offers the successful Fellow a generous package including a fixed salary and travel to and from Japan – www.toshiba-europe.com/eur/fellowship/

Royal Academy of Engineering Schemes for Engineers in Research and Development – Research Fellowships are aimed at outstanding researchers from all branches of engineering who are about to finish their PhD or have up to three years Post-Doctoral research experience. The scheme provides funding for five years to encourage the best researchers to remain in the university engineering sector – www.raeng.org.uk/research/researcher/postdoc/default.htm

Postgraduate funding opportunity search – mostly funding sources for Postgraduate courses, available across the University. The database search function allows you to identify the types of funding most appropriate to your individual circumstances – www.manchester.ac.uk/postgraduate/funding/search/

Euraxess Funding Search – Search for international funding (for travel to conferences, research visits, fellowships etc), by discipline, region, or career stage. http://euraxessfunds.britishcouncil.org/Search.aspx/Index

Q: Where can I find out more about funding from Charities?

  • Charities Commission – A searchable register of all UK registered charities by subject area which gives contact details and information concerning the charities’ remit. Some may provide funding for overseas conferences even though they do not explicitly advertise this – www.charity-commission.gov.uk/
  • AMRC (Association of Medical Research Charities) – Includes a grant search facility by funding category and links to all AMRC charities – www.amrc.org.uk/homepage/

Q: Which is of prime significance to funding bodies while assessing a research proposal: the quality/novelty/relevance of the deliverable outputs OR the writing up of the proposal itself?
Actually both are as important as each other. You need to provide a proposal that has been written in a clear, concise, organised, coherent style and which demonstrates good, innovative ideas. The quality of the proposal will go some way to enhancing a good (rather than a brilliant) idea, but an average idea is never going to be seriously considered no matter how well the proposal is written.

Crucial to the success of your proposal will be how well you have written for your intended audience. How relevant will your scientific idea be to the funding body you are approaching? Will the panel be made up of discipline-specific experts or will it be a multi-discipline panel?

Q: What are the typical success rates for different funding opportunities?
The Royal Society has a fairly good average for non-Fellowship applications (small equipment, travel etc); successful applications for Fellowships however are tough. For example in 2006/07 there were 150 applications, only 15 were awarded. The Leverhulme Trust has a better average but this funding body is looking for specific research areas to progress. Success rates for Research Council Fellowships are at similar levels. We know that for the EPSRC Career Advancement Fellowships in 2007/08, around 500 applications were received and only around 60 of those were selected to be developed into full proposals. At the latter stage, a 50% success rate is anticipated, but this is not yet finalised as the process is ongoing.

Q: When applying for grants and fellowships how important are the ideas versus your track record?
All grants are judged based on the career stage at which you are at, however you will be competing against people at the same career stage who have a proven track record. For this reason you should look to apply for small grants and bursaries, for example instrumentation funds or conference bursaries. Show that you have the ability to obtain funding even if it is only a series of contributions to date.

You do need to convince panels that you are capable of performing the research you say you can. This is particularly true if you have an innovative idea. At this stage in your career you need to balance risk with adventure. Your proposal will need to show that you have thought about how you will approach and pursue the research, providing options for showing how you could achieve the more realistic paths of your research idea.

When it comes to your track record your publications list is key. You need to be clear about whether you are first author and if you are not what your contribution was.

Q: Can I be a Post-Doctoral Research Associate (PDRA) and Researcher Co-Investigator at the same time?
You can’t have more than 100% of your time paid for by the Research Councils, so if you are nearing the end of your PDRA contract you may be able to convince your PI to allow you to work for 50% of the time on their project and 50% on your own. However, how the other 50% of time is funded is, of course, an issue.

Q: How do I calculate the Full Economic Costings (FEC) within a proposal?
Contact your School Research Support Manager who should be able to assist you with any FEC queries. They will hold generic information related to estates, the library, administration, computers and salaries that can complement the FEC that is specific to your project e.g. instrumentation costings. Be aware that SRAs will need time to support your grant proposals, so you should contact them at the earliest opportunity in the process.

Q: How do I know if my idea is of interest to the funding bodies?
Take a look at recent grants that were successfully awarded. Are you aware of the hot topics in international research? Will your research contribute anything to these topics? What are the current areas generating significant interest in key journals or conferences in your area?

The EPSRC have six core and five strategic themed programmes – does your research contribute to these themes?  – www.epsrc.ac.uk/ourportfolio/Pages/default.aspx

The other key point to keep in mind is how you “package your ideas”. You need to be able to show that your research will go someway to answering the big fundamental or applied questions. Think about how accessible your idea is and always think about your target audience for any given proposal. What are they going to be looking for? How familiar will the panel be with your research field?

You might have a great idea but may not have a fully formed, convincing story to tell. This is where peer review is essential.

Q: How long does it take for an award to come through?
For awards such as Fellowships you can wait up to a year for an award to be granted. For this reason you need to make yourself aware of the dates for proposal calls, for the submission deadlines and for the award dates. Don’t wait until the end of your contract before you think about applying for an award. Seek advice from experienced academics in your School, and feel free to phone up the awarding bodies with your (well-prepared) questions. Your School Research Administrator is also a valuable source of support.

There are no university or faculty schemes to keep researchers in place until they hear about an award. There may be provisions within your School or research group; however you are advised to speak to your Supervisor.

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