I was recently at a university which prides itself on maintaining links with the industry and getting funding for hot research projects from the research councils. I managed to attend an extremely useful workshop arranged by a representative of the EPSRC.
The EPSRC representative was explaining to veteran academics and budding researchers the dos and don’ts of applying for funding to the EPSRC. He stressed a careful reading of the guidance notes before starting the application. Although it seems like common sense, it is well known how many applications are unsuccessful because instructions had not been followed. I thought it would be useful to mention some of the points that were stressed.
Firstly, researchers who require expensive equipment and resources need not be hesitant about their chances for funding. From what I gathered, the money required is not the main criteria but the quality, novelty and potential of the proposal. As long as the money required is justified, that is fine.
Secondly, the EPSRC rep kept repeating that although the proposal will be reviewed by peers from the relevant research area, the proposal should not assume too much prior knowledge and show the motivation of the project to as wide an audience as possible. In a nutshell, SELL! It was pointed out that key publications in the research area must be referred to.
Apart from selling the idea, self-marketing seemed to be a requirement too. Basically, what the rep was getting at was that the ability to undertake the project must be demonstrated which means that the profile of the researcher, host institutions and collaborators must be suitable.
The way the EPSRC peer evaluation works is that one recieves feedback on the research proposal from the experts and is also given an opportunity to reply back to comments briefly. The audience was urged to write concise and balanced replies with out getting emotional about any criticism.
Another striking thing he mentioned was that at least one week before the deadline should be treated as the real deadline as it takes time for the researcher’s own university to process the application before it reaches the EPSRC evaluation process. The rep concluded by saying that it is always useful to look at a successful candidate’s application.