Thursday, 22 January 2015

ESRC vision includes plans to promote bold new approaches to knowledge exchange

Posted by Mandy Cheetham
An ESRC grant writing workshop last week organised by Durham University gave us some insight into the ESRC's vision and priorities for 2015 / 2016.

In a helpful overview, Sally Johnson at Durham Research Office, summarised the plans, which include a continued focus on excellent research, quality, timeliness, value for money and potential impact, both in and outside academia. ESRC’s vision is to support ‘transformative’ research, pioneer methodological and theoretical innovation, extend partnerships in priority areas and deliver new, more effective approaches to knowledge exchange. And you don’t have to be a senior academic to submit, as fresh ideas from Early Career Researchers are encouraged. Proposals which include international collaboration are particularly welcomed. There’s more guidance available on the ESRC website.

We heard about a range of current ESRC funding opportunities, including the Transformative Research call which encourages novel developments of social science enquiry, and supports research activity that entails an element of risk (closing date 19th Feb 2015).

Information about all the ESRC funding streams is available here on the ESRC website.  If you’re not sure whether and how your plans fit, you can email remit queries to:
Drawing on their experiences of ESRC grant writing Emma Flynn and Peter Tymms from Durham University shared some of their reflections on lessons learned. Thanks for their permission to share these top tips;
  • Take your time, plan ahead and identify the appropriate funding stream for your proposal. 
  • Identify stakeholders and possible co-applicants with interest and expertise. Engage them early on in the development of the research.
  • Look at other people’s successful grant applications, if available.
  • Turn up at public meetings and events organised by the funding board.
  • Start small and build up towards larger grants over time. Be realistic.
  • Apply for seed corn funding from your University to start to build a track record. Make step changes into new and different areas.
  • Write clearly, avoid jargon. Think about content, structure, headings and format. Put yourself in the position of the reviewer.
  • State clearly why you, why this research, why now, why this university?
  • Seek comments from those with a track record from the relevant funder. 
  • Read, re-read, revise, revise and revise again.
  • Think about who to suggest as reviewers. Build in time to approach them and seek permission before you submit the application. Send them a draft outline copy of the proposal for comment.
  • Learn from reviewers comments, even when (perhaps especially when) they are critical. Rejections are common and everyone gets them. Treat them as a learning experiences. Don’t take them personally, reviewers are not perfect, and keep trying.
  • Accept constructive feedback in a positive spirit. Work from it. Be persistent.

There’s helpful guidance on the ESRC website too about how to write a good research grant proposal.

Good luck!

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