This post summarises some of the points that were made during a panel session about research funding held during a ‘research fiesta’ that has held by the School of Computing and Communications
The panel comprised of four professors (if I’ve counted correctly), a research manager from the STEM faculty, and was facilitated by our director of research, Robin Laney. Although the focus was about research funding, it could have also easily had another title: how to become a professor.
Here’s a list of some really useful tips that I noted down about gaining research funding:
- Think about how you might go about forming a working relationship with a funding body. This might mean keeping an eye out for different research related events that they run. Networking is important. Take time to speak to them.
- To develop relationships with funders, join mailing lists, check their websites and respond to calls for advice and consultation activities.
- Take time to understand the motivations of a funding body and what their priorities are. Simply put, the closer a research proposal or bid fits the aims and objectives of a funding body, the higher the probability of success.
- As well as understanding their aims and objectives, take time to understand the processes that they use, both in terms of bid submission and also in terms of how bids are evaluated. A key tip here is: talk to colleagues who have been successful and know what the procedures are.
- Always try to play to the strength of the university. Each institution is unique.
- Consider projects or proposals that are a little ‘left field’; proposals that are slightly unusual or explores an unexpected area may cause interest and intrigue.
- Look for new funding programmes. Getting in early might benefit both the funder and the organisation (and project) that is funded, especially as the funding programme builds up experience and finds its distinct focus.
- Successful bids often have components of interdisciplinarity and collaboration. Unsuccessful bids don’t present a clear story.
- Find collaborators who are able to work between disciplines; these are rare people who can help with the writing of project bids and proposals.
- Find external stakeholders who have a lot to gain from their involvement in a project. When describing this, present a clear project narrative that others can easily understand.
- When working with collaborators and stakeholders, make sure that you give them plenty of time to create supporting documents, such as letters of support.
- Think in terms of teams. Working with a team of people means that funders might see certain bids as being less risky. Use your team to read and review your bid.
- Learn how everything works. Become a bid reviewer and seek out opportunities to sit on funding panels. The experience of reviewing other bids is invaluable.
- Speak to your university ethics committee early (and show that you have done so).
- Think about creating what could be described as a portfolio of ideas to work on at any one time.
- Smaller grants can be important; small grants can lead to large ones. Small grants can help researchers and research groups to develop their experience and expertise.
There are lot of really helpful points here. The biggest points I took away from this session was: be strategic (consider your portfolio of interests), look at what funding bodies are doing and what they are doing, and network to find collaborators, and build a team around project bids. In essence, take a collaborative approach.
Thanks are extended to Robin Laney for running the event and for proofing an earlier version of this post. A version of this blog is also published on Chris Douce’s OU blog pages.