Earlier this month saw Professor Anastasia Callaghan sharing valuable insights from her experience of being involved in research council grant assessment committees. As part of the Research and Innovation Staff Development Programme, Prof. Callaghan delivered an online session to 28 colleagues, providing them with advice and guidance to support grant success.

Prof. Callaghan’s insights are distilled from her roles with UKRI BBSRC over the last 6 years. These have included providing expert review of project and studentship grants as a committee member, though to her roles presently as part of the Strategic Longer Larger (sLoLa) grants assessment committee and Co-Chairing BBSRC’s committee assessing grants in the area of Molecules Cells and Industrial Biotechnology. Prof. Callaghan feels she benefits directly from these roles, not only as a reviewer, but attributing them to supporting her success in grant applications.

Collectively my BBSRC roles over the years have helped me improve my own bids, and those I’m involved in, as well as making me better at reviewing scientific research in general.

Some of the key messages shared by Prof. Callaghan to maximise grant success included ensuring clarity with grant layout so that the bid is easy to follow, making sure solid and exciting preliminary data are presented, and demonstrating that the project is cost effective with the right team for delivery. Prof. Callaghan also highlighted the importance of getting as much feedback as possible on grant drafts, and acting on suggestions made in order to improve the bid. 

Additionally, Prof. Callaghan advised on how best to address reviewer comments by making sure that you are factual, objective, polite and deferential in how you respond, and taking the opportunity to turn comments to your advantage – with the ability to add new data. Insights were also shared around the committee meeting process, assessment criteria, and scoring and ranking of grants.

Prof. Callaghan believes that there’s a range of experiences you gain from being involved in grant assessment committees, and these vary depending on whether you’re considering studentships, fellowships, project grants, centre bids or strategic investments. For her, the roles have provided unparalleled exposure across the breadth of cutting-edge UK bioscience, enabling her to be ahead at recognising:

  • What’s cutting edge?
  • Where the field is going?
  • What are the scientific landscape drivers/pressures?
  • Where does industry interest lie?
  • How to join the dots between research areas to support innovation and translation?

Importantly, Prof. Callaghan recognises that her roles provide her with the opportunity to represent and champion UoP within these respected fora. She enjoys her roles, working hard to ensure evidenced-based decision making that upholds the highest scientific standards is maintained, such that the process for allocating highly sought-after UK funding is fair and robust. For her, being involved in grant assessment panels is not only about the insights she gains herself and shares with interested colleagues, but is just part of being a good academic citizen.

I feel it’s really important, as an academic citizen, to engage in the processes that support the profession.

REF Still Needs You!

You still have the opportunity to apply to be part of a REF expert panel.

The end of last month saw the latest blog from our PVC R, where he shared his experience of the real benefits of becoming an expert assessor for Research England on the Research Excellence Framework. With the changes to the timeframe for the REF 2021 exercise, the deadline of 3 April for applications has now been lifted and there still remains the very valuable opportunity to shape and influence your academic disciplines.

The nomination system remains in operation and we are encouraging eligible bodies to continue submitting nominations until further notice, where they are able to do so. An appropriate notice period will be given when a new deadline is in place.https://www.ref.ac.uk/panels/nominating-panel-members/