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Tips for writing grant applications

In March we attended several of the Research Festival: Focus on Funders events. Here's the tips we picked up on writing funding applications for research councils and other funding bodies.

  • Keep up to date with the latest funding opportunities via mailing lists, twitter, RSS feeds, the Research Professional Database, and checking the funders' website regularly.
  • Make sure you read all the funding information carefully and understand the application process thoroughly, so you can target your application correctly.
  • Start working on the application as early as possible.
  • Use the buzz words that appear in the call for funding and in the instructions for reviewers.
  • Ensure your proposal is innovative, interesting, based on sound principles and fits the priorities of the funding body.
  • Follow the application instructions completely - even if you think they are asking you to repeat information there will be a reason for it!
  • Understand who you are writing the application for - usually writing for two audiences
    • Experts in the field - the peer-reviewers
    • Non-experts from a wider field - panel members, introducers
  • Common mistakes in applications:
    • Not fully identifying the context of the work
    • Unsound methodologies and techniques
  • If you are an early career researcher then:
    • Be a junior partner on a grant proposal to gain experience and build up a reputation for delivering.
    • Get good at networking at conferences.
    • Start applying to small grants as the main applicant.
  • EU, international collaboration and funding from smaller bodies can be good opportunities - often less visible calls for funding, so seek them out.
  • Use the internal review process - get feedback from colleagues before submitting your application. There are schemes within the Colleges to help you with this or contact the Research Support Office.
  • Budget correctly - do not over or under estimate - again the Research Support Office can help you with research costings.
  • Learn from successful applications - some are available to view via your Departmental Research Director.
  • Important to write a good impact statement.
  • Make sure you write an excellent plain English summary for the non-experts on the funding panel - you need to get people who aren't in your specialism excited about your research.
  • Respond to reviewers comments politely and succinctly – your response is another opportunity to impress the funding body.
  • Ensure word counts are adhered to and proof read your application!
Take home message - do your homework, get advice from colleagues, target your application.


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