I was really annoyed when I started writing this post – I’m glad I didn’t hit send on the first draft I wrote – I have had a chance to reflect and calm down after a period of steam coming out of my ears! Having said that I think it’s best to just get straight to the point >>>> So, to just to cut to the chase please do read the funding guidance before developing a research application as it makes life so much easier for everyone, especially the applicant! Let me explain:
Research Development is complicated (and sometimes tough!), you are often working with a raft of people at the same time who are each working on an application (or two) which will be targeted to different funders. Each of these funders and often different schemes within each funder will have different rules and regulations regarding what you can apply for, the type of research you can do, what the budget can and can’t pay for and how an application should be presented (amongst other things). Now I’m always happy to read applications and provide guidance and I know that research development professionals all over the country and the world are happy to do the same. What really helps us though is when we know that the PI has, at the very least, had a read of the guidance. This initial read may only at headline level but it gives a good sense of what is required. It’s also helpful when you come to us to clarify any areas of misunderstanding or concern. The reality is that you ignore funding guidance at your peril and it can lead to many wasted hours of work, time that is precious to academics (and believe it or not, administrators and managers too!). So in order to save the stresses involved in hitting hurdles and barriers later in the application process I’d suggest the first priority for a PI, once they have identified a funding scheme, is to read the guidance. If it is long and complicated (and some guidance is ridiculously long and complicated!) then it might be worth making time to sit down with your research office and go through it. Two heads being better then one and all that. In addition to this I would suggest doing (or not doing) the following:
- Talk to your research office as soon as possible – as soon as you have an idea. They can point out all the immediate and obvious pitfalls that you should take account for as you develop your application. This is often generic advice (not particular to a specific funder or scheme) but is really valuable.
- Send drafts for comment (to research office and colleagues) on an ongoing basis. Don’t wait until you have finished your first full draft. By then it may be too late (I’ve blogged about this before).
- Start your budget as early as possible. It really can help shape your proposal and avoid problems later down the line. I have outlined the basics of budget preparation in a previous post but do remember your research office and finance teams will support you with this too.
- Do not base your application solely on previous successful (or unsuccessful) applications as this can lead to disaster. Why? Because often funder rules and priorities change and these won’t be obvious by looking at previous applications alone. They can be a useful guide but as the following blog by Adam Goldberg highlights there are pitfalls to using them and I’d suggest all applicants and aspiring researchers should read it.
- Lastly – if in doubt please don’t make it up! This applies especially to the budget but to the application more broadly. Talk to your research office, they will be able to help or will know someone who can. A lot of unnecessary time can be spent undoing mistakes made when assumptions are made about what is required.
Okay, so rant over – save yourself some time and read that guidance! Any other tips and thoughts welcome, what do you think?