So you’ve found a research funding opportunity to apply for…where do you begin? By this point, I’m assuming you have read all the call guidance (and not just the once!) and have considered whether the stars align (enough) for a competitive application to come from your efforts.
So, where to begin:
1. Your first port of call should be your faculty research support colleagues (especially if you have not yet touched base for this application). Here at the University of Portsmouth each of our five faculties has its own processes and sign-off procedures and it is worth knowing these and the timeframes involved (especially if your application involves colleagues from another faculty). Every faculty has colleagues to support you with developing your costings and some have further support on offer too – so pick up the phone or drop them an email and book in some time with them (the contacts are noted at the bottom of this post).
Just to note: an ‘Intention to Apply form’ (accessible when logged into your University email account) will need to be completed by you – unless you are from the Faculty of Business and Law and then one of your colleagues in your faculty’s Business Services and Research Office (BSRO) will complete this after a friendly chat. This form alerts support colleagues (centrally and faculty-based) of your intentions and you are given a BID-number, which helps us all keep track of your application.
2. Before you jump into developing the application, if you haven’t done so already, discuss your research idea with your trusted critical friends/colleagues with expertise in your subject area. The aim is to critically consider your idea to ensure that it is an excellent one (novel, timely, significant etc.) that funders are likely to be interested in. These discussions can also help you frame the answer to the “why now?” question (a key question for you to answer). Furthermore, your departments and schools have Research Leads or other knowledgeable and experienced colleagues who can provide academic support.
3. Now to the application – Write a list of all the components you will need for the application. There will likely be an electronic application system (registration may require University validation via our colleagues in Research Finance) and there may also be other documents that are uploaded to this. Some funders, especially the UK Research Councils, have multiple guidance documents and it is important to comply with each one and seek clarification if there are any contradictions. For example, some funders allow International Co-Investigators and there may be a separate policy relating to this that stipulates further requirements for the application (such as a ‘Letter of Support’ from their Head of School, or a separate budget and justification).
4. Work backward from your deadline to plan when you will need to have the application ready for institutional approval (this requires a few days) and faculty peer review (this will depend on your reviewers’ availability). If your application also requires review through the University Peer Review College, you will have been provided a deadline within the reply email to your ‘Intention to Apply form’. Plan your schedule to ensure you hit the pre-deadlines and give yourself plenty of time to refine your application before submission.
5. Coordinate your team. Make sure everyone involved in developing the application is engaged and willing to contribute to and review the application (especially external colleagues as they may have other internal deadlines to meet). Importantly, be clear within the team as to who has time (and when) to work on the application and plan together how you will coordinate your efforts (will you take a section each or have one person write and the others review and edit?). Even if you are a lone applicant, it is still important to ensure that you have peers lined up to review your application and provide constructive feedback in good time before the deadline.
6. Access further support and guidance where available. This is particularly important for sections of the application that you might be unfamiliar with. For example, many funders now ask you to outline how you will manage your data and support for this aspect can be found here. We will be posting more blog articles highlighting the support and resources on offer, so watch this space!
For further support in developing your application speak to your local Research Lead and faculty research support colleagues. If your application is interdisciplinary and falls under one of the University R&I themes you can also contact the associated Research Development Officer to see if they can provide additional support. If you are not sure who to contact send your queries to RIS@port.ac.uk and we will direct you to the right person.