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External funding

The following information and advice is adapted from presentations given at a number of SALC grant-bidding workshops (we run these on a regular basis) and is not intended to be comprehensive.  

Why research grants?

Benefit to the School/department

  • Fully Economic Costed (FEC) grants bring significant income; the funding we receive from REF (and before that, RAE), covers well under half of the 40% of our time we allot to research over a year
  • They bring prestige (REF submissions greatly enhanced; research income is one of the key metrics for REF)

Benefit to the team

  • They generate critical mass
  • They fund equipment and other resources
  • They inject new blood and revitalise the research culture

Benefit to the individual researcher

  • They provide support for project (a postdoctoral researcher brings one whole extra body)
  • They stimulate new ideas through collaboration
  • They free up time; you can distribute research time costed into a grant unevenly over the funding period, building in 100% leave elements
  • They greatly enhance your career progression (as part of rolling programme)

General types of research grant

Individual research fellowships vs team-based research projects

Team can mean Principal Investigator (PI)+ Co-investigator(s) (Co-I), or PI + Co-I + Postdoctoral Research Assistant(s) (PDRA)

Large vs small grants

Schemes available cover projects costing from as little as 3- 4K, to as much as 5 million; obviously, as a general rule, the more expensive the more competitive

Response mode vs programme/thematic

Most big research councils have both a response mode scheme in which we request funding for projects dealing with topic generated by us, and various thematic schemes in which applications are solicited to address themes considered important by the councils and by their government funders

Full economic costing (FEC) vs non-FEC

Most research council grants are now costed to take account of all expenses, including those involved in the time spent on the project by the PIs and the Co-Is and all the infrastructure costs associated with running a grant. However, the research councils often fund only 80% of these costs, not 100%. Some grant schemes, for example, those of the Leverhulme Trust, do not involve full economic costing and will fund only replacement posts for the PI and any direct costs, such as travel

Tips for applicants

When applying for grants, check the terms of scheme and eligibility rules carefully. Think carefully and creatively about definition and scope of themed initiatives.

Planning

  • What you want to do may fit more easily within the framework of these initiatives than you think
  • Talk through your ideas

Time is of the essence, therefore:

  • Allow up to a year of planning in two phases: expansion (ideas, drafts) and refinement (self as critical referee)
  • You should expect to go through at least 5 drafts – IT teams will require good period of notice (NB: Technical Appendices need to be completed for AHRC applications)

Consider timing:

  • Ensure that project comes at right time in your research ‘cycle’
  • Ideally, make it part of a programme for the future which will generate further proposals

Lay the ground:

  • Pump-priming schemes – Build in impact strategy from very beginning; check definition of impact
  • Demonstrate institutional support (e.g. training programme)  

Quality

Quality of research remains the overriding criterion on which proposals are judged:

  • Assessment panels consist of people like us, not AHRC officials
  • More attention paid to track records now
  • Collaboration and interdisciplinarity more than just ‘buzz words’; adding value (more than sum of parts); challenging paradigms
  • Use seminar series; away days; group brainstorming sessions as seedbeds for ideas
  • Begin with side of A4 with notes under headings (WHAT, WHY, HOW, WHO)
  • Allot regular timeslot each week to work on developing proposal
  • Use suggested AHRC subheadings in Case for Support to guide planning: Objectives, RQs, Context, Theory, Methods, (intellectual) Outcomes (not same as physical Outputs); Dissemination (including Outputs)
  • Digitisation projects (electronic critical editions; databases) also allowable under some schemes

Finance

Costing, peer review and institutional signatures:

  • Research Office will do the costing, but you need to allow time for this, and for peer review (at least 4 weeks)
  • HoS and others may also need to sign off

Do homework on budget:

  • Make sure you cover all costs you will need to carry out research
  • Be realistic about the FEC-funded time you will require; doesn’t have to be equal throughout the project lifetime You must justify all costs in ‘Justification of Resources’ statement
  • RDM will rely on you to indicate what you need support for and why

Collaboration

If collaboration is envisaged, allow for practical problems:

  • how will relations/communication between different universities be coordinated?
  • where will RA be based?
  • check on long-term availability of all named researchers  

Plan carefully for role of Post-Doctoral Research Associate (PDRA) who will account for major part of budget:

  • Why do you need an PDRA? How does the project gain from his/her participation?
  • Explain how s/he will be inducted into the project and how his/her contributions will develop during the course of the award period

Critical readers:

  • Make use of mentors at every stage; allow time to incorporate suggestions from peer reviewers
  • Take seriously any internal peer review process – get as many different readers as you can find

Contingency

Contingency plans for ‘failure’:

  • What will you do if your application is unsuccessful?  

Attributes of a good application

  • Graphically pleasing
  • Spell-checked
  • Up-to-date references
  • Careful citations
  • Ambitious and exciting, but realistic
  • Clear, detailed timetable and list of milestones
  • Clear Formulation (Context, Goals, RQs, Theory+Method, Outcomes, Dissemination; Project Management); weight each section appropriately (context should not dominate the Case for Support)
  • Make sure you link each section; show clearly how the methods chosen will enable you to answer questions posed; key outcomes to objectives
  • Robust (flexible)
  • Comprehensible to academics in other fields
  • Grounded in existing research (value of prior, pump-priming funding)
  • Coherent research group
  • Role of participants is clear
  • Clear career pathway for PDRA
  • Value for Money: Contribution to field must be substantial and you should highlight ‘value added’ benefit of collaborations
  • Convincing Impact Strategy (Academic and User) - Credible Pathways to Impact Plan Clear distinction between significance to scholarly field and impact on research users
  • AHRC now tend to use ‘impact’ less and ‘public benefit’ more
  • Not every proposal has to have impact; no penalty for ‘blue-skies’ research without it, but expectation that those that have impact potential exploit it
  • ‘Pathways’ term recognises that precise impact can’t be predicted; emphasis on process and strategy
  • New section on previous experience of impact activities
  • Establish links with potential users; secure prior expressions of interest; be as precise and concrete as possible; avoid bold unsubstantiated assertions
  • One’s own students cannot count as ‘research users’; teaching materials for more general use can.

Buy-out policy

Grant applications in SALC: benefits and support

  • Research grants are of enormous benefit to us as individuals. Above all, a successful grant application brings priceless additional time, resources and dedicated postdoctoral support to enable us to carry out our own major research projects. Secondly, our applications for promotion and for salary increments will be significantly enhanced if we can demonstrate that we are active in bidding for external research income. External research income is also valuable to the School. Postdoctoral researchers attached to grants can help reinvigorate the research culture of the divisions which host them, and of the School as a whole. Our school budget includes challenging annual research income targets and every new grant, large or small, is crucial to our success in meeting those targets.
  • We are very fortunate in SALC in having outstanding support for research income generation: a superb research support office; generous research support and networking funds allowing us to lay the ground for grant applications; excellent research income intelligence at Faculty and School levels; a large and diverse peer review college which includes some of the most experienced and successful grant winners in the Faculty.
  • Whilst we do not operate a target system for individuals, it is a school expectation that research-active staff should apply regularly for external research funding, in the same way that we are required to publish research articles and monographs to be entered in research assessment exercises (the latter is in several senses facilitated by the former). SALC normally expects research active staff to be involved in at least one grant application of 100K or more within a three-year period, or to be working on an existing grant project.  

Policy on research grant 'buy-out'

Research buy-outs policy: applicable to all FeC grants starting after 1 August 2014

Buy-outs funded by research council (including EU) FeC grants in which core staff time costs are included in the budget as ‘Directly Allocated’ (DA) are managed by the school in a way which balances the needs of subject areas to buy in replacement teaching and the costs to the School of running grants.

Key buy-out principles:

  1. The Head of School must approve all buy-outs, and is able to either withhold buy-out funding where it is seen as unneeded, or to approve additional funds to hire temporary lecturers when staff absence cannot be covered adequately by hourly-paid staff. Decisions on approval of buy-out funding will normally be taken by the HoS at the point of award, though Heads of Division may want to discuss the issue with the HoS prior to the submission of a bid. For this reason it is very important that you discuss your plans with your HoD before you start writing your grant bid, so that s/he can both advise you and, if needed, discuss the matter with the HoS well in advance.
  2. The School allocates fixed sums to cover the costs of hourly-paid teaching staff for buy-outs on FeC grants. They are based on an annual figure of £25,000 FTE, which is applied on a pro rata basis depending on the size of the buy-out specific to the particular year. A typical buy-out of 20% over 3 years would therefore attract £5000 per year, whereas one of 10% would attract £2,500, and so on, up to the £25,000 maximum. Grants which cover the teaching period (September-June inclusive) rather than the whole calendar year are treated for buy-out purposes as year-long.
  1. Buy-outs are calculated by converting the total annual commitment in hours entered in the grant application into a percentage of the 1650-hour working year as expressed in WAM: eg. a project commitment of 495 hours annually equates to an approximate 30% reduction in overall WAM workload (495 divided by 1650). Successful applicants will therefore receive significant alleviation from teaching and administration duties but should bear in mind that the overall WAM workload already includes within it an allowance for research time.
  1. Grants which are FeC-costed, and where we are not applying directly for teaching replacements, but where the core staff time costs are budgeted as ‘Directly Incurred’ (DI), will be treated analogously to non-FeC costed Leverhulme Fellowships. Divisions will receive funds to cover the cost of a replacement lecturer at point 6.5 on the Lecturer A scale. This affects British Academy Mid-Career Fellowships, AHRC Leaderships Fellowships (including the Early Career variant) and the European Research Council Starting, Consolidator and Advanced Grants. Those portions of an AHRC Leadership Fellowship involving a 50% rather than a 100% commitment will be treated on a pro rata basis: i.e. divisions would receive half of the cost of a replacement lecturer for such periods. Please note that the ‘savings’ made on these grants are incorporated into the ALC budget, since the PIs remain on the School’s Core baseline at full salary, and since the AHRC pays only 80% of the FeC value.

Research leave

School policy on institutional research leaves (sabbaticals)

Research leave serves the major functions of providing time for successful research in a research-led university, and of providing a window through which external research funding may be attracted. It both develops the career of an individual and satisfies the University’s policy objectives, including that of research excellence.

On both these counts it is imperative that it is granted to staff who can use it effectively at a level consonant with the goals of the University and the research strategy of the School. The fulfilment of these criteria is a necessary trigger for research leave, but it is not a sufficient one. The School Research Committee needs to be persuaded that such a leave, if granted, would not have a negative impact on the ability of other colleagues in the Division not on leave to fulfil their own research goals.    

In support of the premises above, the following policy is proposed:  

University research leave

  • Each permanent member of the academic staff of the School is entitled to apply for 1 period of University Research Leave, normally after 6 periods of teaching (including those completed on temporary or probationary contracts at the University of Manchester, and also including periods of maternity leave. A ‘period’ may be either a semester or a year, but a pattern based on semesters is to be regarded as the norm. Part-time staff will have normal entitlement. [Someone on a 50% contract teaches for six semesters at 50% of the time, then maybe awarded leave for one semester, which, of course, continues to be 50% of the time (and salary).]  A rota will be kept by heads of division, in conjunction with the Research Office.  
  • This entitlement to apply may be varied as to timing by up to 2 semesters (prior to or following the sixth) in the management interest. Such variation should be regarded as unusual. Variation by one semester at the request of the candidate may be approved in exceptional circumstances, for example where it is necessary to take advantage of permissions to do fieldwork or for similar reasons; in such cases, it is expected that an early leave will be balanced by a commensurately later leave thereafter.  
  • Failure to submit a satisfactory report (i.e. a report deemed not to have met the proposed objectives) at the end of the period of research leave and to complete appropriate research publications (or to deliver other equivalent outputs) shall normally be a bar to the granting of the following period of University Research Leave. Entitlements to leaves beyond that will be subject to careful scrutiny of the candidate’s track record up to the point of application.    
  • Those on teaching-only and research-only contracts are not eligible for consideration for leave.  
  • Those granted University Research Leave/Externally Funded Leave will be expected to continue to supervise their research students or make alternative arrangements acceptable to the School’s Postgraduate Committee.  
  • Those on leave should make it clear to the School where they will be during the leave period.  
  • If the need arises for any variation to the content of a leave, made after approval has been given, permission must be sought from the Director of Research, via the divisional research coordinator. In general, applicants are advised to be realistic about what they can achieve during the course of a sabbatical, and to discuss this with their divisional or departmental research coordinator.  
  • In keeping with the SALC policy on grant buy-out, a candidate may, after consultation, use some or all of his/her period of institutional leave to work on outputs relating to an externally funded research grant. This must, however, be agreed in advance with the relevant Head of Division and specified within the sabbatical application. If the grant is awarded after a leave application has been approved, a formal request to use the sabbatical in this way must be made to the Head of Division and Director of Research.  

Externally funded research leave

  • University Research Leave may be prolonged by external funding in a manner to be agreed by the candidate and the Research Committee on the terms offered by the funder.  
  • Such external funding may also be applied for (with the support of the head of division) at times other than those indicated by leave entitlement, where the funder does not require a matching period of institutional leave. In such cases, heads of division must be satisfied that the external funding achieved is adequate to the costs of replacing the member of staff for the period in question. Such external funding must normally be sufficient to cover the entirety of the member of staff’s duties, not just teaching hours – i.e. it must enable the appointment of a full-time temporary teaching fellow. [It is not a requirement that such an appointment be made, but that the available money be sufficient for it. A division might choose to spend the money on a larger number of teaching hours, to compensate for the loss of other activity from the colleague on leave, rather than to make a single appointment] When approving applications for such external funding outside the normal rota, due regard must be paid to the effect on other members of staff, the teaching programme, and the balance of responsibilities.  
  • No application for external funding will be acceptable unless it is notified to the Chair of the Research Committee, and has the support of the head of division.  
  • As stated in the University Leave Policy, periods of externally-funded leave will contribute towards future entitlement to institutional leave, subject to the limit that "the amount of such time that can be counted towards eligibility is normally restricted to one period in seven" (University Policy). (Periods of sick leave or maternity leave contribute in full towards future entitlement.)  

Unpaid leave for research

  • Unpaid leave is the only means of total buyout from all University duties which is available in the absence of external funding.  
  • Full buyout leave will involve the forfeiture of 100% of salary for the period for which leave is sought. The University will not normally contribute employers' costs (including USS) during the period of absence, and provision for this will have to be made in the buyout or by arrangement within the School if the Head of School and head of division agree to waive this requirement.  
  • Unpaid leave for research can only be granted with the support of the head of division and the approval of the Head of School. It is not a contractual entitlement.  
  • Partial unpaid leave is not normally a possibility, and will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.    

Leave for purposes other than research

  • These matters are dealt with in accordance with University policy.  

Application and approval procedures

  • Potential applicants should take the opportunity of the PDR system to discuss ways in which the University Research Leave scheme might be appropriate to their career development and how it might be extended by externally-funded research leave, and to obtain assistance in developing their proposals. Advice may also be sought from the divisional Research Coordinator.
  • A rota of eligibility to apply is kept by the Division, in consultation with the research office. Each year during May, the research office sends Memo 1, above, to heads of division. Applications for University Research Leave should be made in the academic year penultimate to that in which entitlement falls.
  • When agreement is reached in principle about eligibility to apply, the research office sends Memo 2 to the relevant members of staff.
  • The candidate then applies for University Research Leave, using the Research Leave Application Form. The application is submitted by e-mail to the research office, where it is logged and prepared for transfer to the head of division. For each candidate for leave within each division, the research office provides the head of division with the application, a copy of the previous application for research leave, plus the report on the previous period of leave (assuming this was granted and taken). The head of division, together with the research coordinator and such other staff as the division deems appropriate, makes an initial assessment of the application. This group considers the proposals for leave, both in their own terms and against the track record of the applicant, taking due account also of the teaching programme.
  • If further information is required from the applicant, it should normally be sought by the research coordinator at this stage.
  • The research coordinator then passes the materials to the School Research Director, together with a recommendation from the division. Here might be included the case for any variation in the semester in which leave is taken, or other local reasons for an unusual application.
  • A subcommittee of the School Research Committee scrutinizes the leave applications, paying particular attention to any identified by the divisional groups as requiring consideration. All applications are given formal approval by the School Research Committee at its December meeting, but most cases will not require close scrutiny or discussion.
  • If approved, the research leave is taken at the time agreed.
  • If the Research Leave Subcommittee feels that further correspondence with the applicant and/or the division is necessary, this is done through the divisional research coordinator.
  • The School’s Research Development Manager will write to successful applicants confirming the period of leave.  

Report

  • Those granted periods of University Research Leave and Externally Funded Leave must submit a report to the Director of Research at the end of the period of leave, indicating the extent to which the objectives outlined in their application have been fulfilled. This will be considered by the School Research Leave Subcommittee. Failure to submit a satisfactory report will constitute grounds for the refusal of the following leave. The Research Development Manager will write to relevant colleagues at the end of the period of leave (whether that is the end of the institutional leave or of matching externally funded leave) to request submission of a report. Reports written for external funding bodies may simply be copied for the purposes of report to the School.   

Cases of dispute

  • Where there is disagreement between a colleague and his/her head of division about any matter relating to the granting of research leave, and attempts to resolve the matter within the division have not been successful, the case may be made to the Head of School directly by the colleague, who may include a statement of support from any senior colleague. The head of division must be informed by the colleague of his/her intended application, and should write to the Head of School stating his/her objections and, where possible, making an alternative proposal. The Head of School will consider each case on its merits. His/her decision will be binding.

Funders

There is a wide variety of sources for external funding. The information below focuses on some of the School's major external funders.

Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

The Arts and Humanities Research Council is the main external funder of research in our school.

Schemes

  • Research Grants – standard route: for projects with fEC between £20,000 and £1,000,000 for up to 60 months. (The budgets can be constructed to include built-in research leave semesters)
  • Research Grants – route for early career researchers: for projects with fEC between £20,000 and £200,000 up to 60 months. Aims the same as for standard route, but PIs must meet additional eligibility criteria (either within 8 years from PhD or within 6 from first academic appt.). The success rates are higher for these.
  • Follow-On Funding - route for researchers seeking to enhance the non-academic impact of previously completed (or ongoing) research funded by the AHRC. Funds of up to 100K are available to support impact activities
  • Knowledge Transfer Schemes – support collaborative activities between academic and non-academic partners; undersubsribed; could dramatically improve REF performance under ‘impact’: ‘The AHRC aims to create opportunities and incentives that increase the flow, value and impact of world class arts and humanities research from academia to wider non-academic, public and private sectors, and to embed a culture of KT across all its programmes’
  • Research Fellowships - provide funding for researchers seeking to devote between 50% and 100% of their time over periods of up to eighteen months to undertake research; route for early career researchers; funding of up to £120,000 (100% FEC) to include research costs and communication and dissemination activities to maximise the impact of the research outcomes. These fellowships now entail a strong emphasis on research leadership and must incorporate activities to that effect.
  • Interdisciplinary Research Networks and Workshops scheme - designed to enable the development of ideas by researchers across disciplines, by establishing new research networks or running workshops, seminars or similar events.
  • Strategic Initiatives which address issues of intellectual and wider cultural, social or economic urgency that the Council considers are best supported by concentrated and coherent cross-disciplinary collaborations (‘Translating Cultures’, ‘Science in Culture’ and ‘Digital Transformations’ are current AHRC highlight themes; ‘Connecting Communities’ and ‘Global Uncertainties’ are run jointly with ESRC). They are deliberately framed in the broadest, most inclusive fashion to maximise their reach to the A&H research community. The sums of money available are often much larger than for the other schemes

Remit

  • ‘No precise definition of the subject domain of the arts and humanities is possible. There are inevitably overlaps and border territories that are shared with other award-making bodies … Disciplines and areas of study are continually evolving … It is not possible to define what falls within the arts and humanities by reference to the methodologies used or by reference to the subject matter …the Board takes into account whether the research questions, the wider context in which those questions are located, as well as the methodologies, can most plausibly be considered as falling within the arts and humanities … In areas such as cultural and communication studies …the stance is that if the focus is on artistic or creative practices, history, languages, literatures, or on the study of texts or images, then it falls within the arts and humanities’
  • A joint statement by AHRC and ESRC on interfaces between social sciences and humanities is available on the AHRC website
  • The AHRC definition of research stresses research processes rather than outcomes

British Academy

The British Academy has a range of schemes for which arts and humanities researchers are eligible.

  • British Academy Research Development Awards (BARDAs) – a recently established scheme for “mid-career” researchers. Provides funds to dedicate time to a project and to develop a distinct research profile.
  • BA/Leverhulme Small Research Grants – ideal for summer fieldtrips/archive visits, perhaps to act as preparation for a larger bid (max. £7,500)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowships – a scheme for early career-career researchers offering three years of dedicated funding enabling ECRs to complete a substantive project
  • Skills Acquisition Awards – for ECRs to work with a mentor at a major research centre to acquire specialist skills
  • BA/Wolfson Professorships – a prestigious fellowship for senior scholars in any field

The BA also offers a range of schemes to enhance the international mobility of scholars.

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)

The Economic and Social Research Council funds research in the social sciences. Like the AHRC, it has a range of schemes, including both response mode and thematic. SALC researchers in disciplines like History, Linguistics, Media Studies and Area Studies have been successful in applying to ESRC schemes.

Remit

  • Anthropology. ESRC is the primary funding body for anthropology. There are overlaps with the AHRC in areas of study relating, for example, to creative and performing arts, history, languages, law, literature, and religious studies.
  • Area Studies. The AHRC and the ESRC share responsibilities for work that may come under the designation of area studies. Which of the two bodies is the more appropriate depends on whether the research questions or problems to be addressed, the wider context in which those questions or problems are located, as well as the methodologies to be adopted, can most plausibly be located in the arts and humanities on the one hand, or the social sciences on the other.
  • Communications, Cultural and Media Studies. As with area studies, which of the two bodies is the more appropriate depends on whether the research questions or problems to be addressed, the wider context in which those questions or problems are located, as well as the methodologies to be adopted, can most plausibly be located in the arts and humanities on the one hand, or the social sciences on the other.
  • Librarianship and Information Science. The AHRC shares with the ESRC responsibility for research in information studies. The AHRC supports studies concerned with the practice and techniques of information andknowledge management as they relate to librarianship, archives and records management, information science and information systems, storage and retrieval as well as research into information use and users in specific organisational environments. The ESRC has an interest in the broader socio-economic context of information use and policy, information flows within and between organisations, and the shaping, use and potential of information and communication technologies. The ESRC also supports research on knowledge management and on forms and structures of knowledge.
  • Linguistics. The AHRC shares with the ESRC responsibility for the support of research in linguistics. The AHRC focuses on support where research questions bear on the structure, history, theory, description and application of language and languages. The ESRC focuses on support for areas of applied linguistics, computational linguistics, psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, and interdisciplinary social science research involving linguistics.

Horizon 2020

Horizon 2020 is the EU's framework research programme (replacing Framework 7).

It allows for large, collaborative bidding for projects carried out in consortia of universities across Europe. Regular calls for applications will be made beginning from December 2013 under three pillars: Excellent Science, Industrial Leadership and Societal Challenges. The last of these includes two themes - Societies and Securities - which allow for Arts and Humanities-led projects designed to address issues such as Heritage and European Values and Identities. Arts and Humanities contributions are encouraged to projects addressing themes under the other pillars, too, however.

It is vital to be part of a network of collaborators from institutions in other European nations as a precursor to making a bid. In addition, Horizon 2020 is an umbrella for schemes run by the European Research Council (ERC). Whilst allowing for large sums of money to be applied for, these tend to be geared more towards the individual researcher and place less emphasis on meeting societal challenges (research excellence is their primary criterion). They include: - Starter Grants - Consolidator Grants - Synergy Grants - Proof of Concept Grants.

Leverhulme Trust

The Leverhulme Trust is an independent charity which supports research in the UK. 

The Leverhulme Trust schemes cover a broad spectrum of disciplines (including Arts and Humanities) and operates mainly in response mode. It offers support for research projects (allowing for the hiring of PDRAs) and research fellowships (for early career and advanced researchers), but its grants are not subject to fEC.