Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to The Gig Economy; picking a winner was not easy, however in the end, we selected Rita O’Connell’s post:
From the perspective of the dominant companies behind the rise of the gig economy, the prevailing designation of the gig workforce is not one of precarity, but rather of individuals who are “entrepreneurial” and “independent” – craving economic freedom, desiring control of their own work and lives. These companies will tell you that the advantages of flexibility and freedom far outweigh the sacrifices of having no “traditional” job security. However: we now know that the vast majority of people participating in the gig economy are working multiple jobs, for more than forty hours a week, at or below minimum wage, without any of the protections that accompany standard employment. Where, then, their freedom? The fact that this economic model has been promulgated largely by massive multinational companies who are seeing enormous valuations and unprecedented profits and growth on the global market – on the backs of an underpaid, undersupported, anxious workforce – points to the need to closely consider cui bono, and demand fairer treatment for the gig workforce before it’s too late.
We asked Rita what inspired her, she wrote:
I’ve actually been a beneficiary of the have it your way promises of the gig economy on and off in my career. However, during my graduate studies at the National University of Ireland Galway this past year, under the guidance of Cian McMahon I began looking more closely at the likely long term economic impacts of the gig model, thanks in part to works like Guy Standing’s The Precariat, and some excellent research the folks at Pew released in late 2016 (http://www.pewinternet.org/2016/11/17/gig-work-online-selling-and-home-sharing/) — it’s especially telling that the gig economy is obviously not just the brightly-sold “side hustle” allowing young people to pursue creative entrepreneurial efforts with more freedom, but is proving to be yet another social and economic trap for members of our already-vulnerable low-income communities. I now strongly believe we need to be shining a stronger light on the exploitative nature of the gig economy and insisting on new types of worker protections for independent workers if we’re going to slow our headlong rush towards a massive social disaster as this model systematically erodes the social safety nets previous generations fought for (and rely on).
In this post, we will guide you through key steps for grant submission to one of the UK Research Councils (RCUK). RCUK is made up of seven individual grant bodies that have some shared core principles, alongside differing council-specific criteria for applications that need to be followed closely. We’ll be using the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) as an example.
Each year the UK Research Councils invest around £3 billion of public money in research and associated training in the UK, covering the complete range of academic disciplines. An essential function of the Research Councils is to demonstrate the economic, societal and cultural impact of the research it funds. As a result, your application needs to go beyond stating the academic advances you will make and how this translates to progress in your discipline, to justify the investment of public funding. We’ve taken a look at all of the key areas of the application, using the BBSRC as an example, to highlight essential things to include and pay attention to.
Essential preparation work
Individual research councils provide grant handbooks on how to apply for funding. The BBSRC’s guide is available here http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/apply/ .The others are referenced at the end of the post .
It’s very important to read all the details that are included in the guide. If you’re applying with a spontaneous proposal, sometimes referred to as a ‘responsive mode research grant’ rather than answering a call to funding, you need to ensure that your proposed research fits within the research areas covered by that funding body. For example, the BBSRC fund research in plant science, microbes, animals (including humans) tools and technology underpinning biological research. Their funding remit  spans from a molecular level to whole organisms, but does not include research on human disease or disease processes. The latter being the remit of the Medical Research Council (MRC). There are, however, interfaces between the two, the details for which are outlined in a joint statement.
If you are applying as a result of a funding call, ensure you read call-specific requirements carefully, as they may differ to the general guide. The submission procedure across the seven councils has a similar framework, involving a Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) form. There are, however, differences in guidelines, page length and format. In this post, we focus on the BBSRC as an example.
All RCUK applications require the completion and online submission of a Je-S form. Detailed advice on how to complete the relevant sections of the application form can be found in the Je-S handbook: https://je-s.rcuk.ac.uk/Handbook/index.htm. In the first instance, if you are not registered, you need to set-up an account and then add a new application document of the type required, or a new research proposal or outlined in the funding call. We’ve included some tips for completing the main sections of a standard grant proposal:
Format – Be careful to check the precise formatting requirements for your proposal. For example, the BBSRC recommend that you use Arial, Helvetica or Verdana fonts. Also, a minimum font size of 11 must be used for the entire Case for Support, Justification of Resources and CVs. Other stipulations include minimal single line spacing, single character spacing with margins of at least 2cm. Administrative staff check that your proposal fits this criteria and you don’t want formatting issues to cause delays.
Case for Support and Previous Track Record – The page limit for the combined ‘ Previous Track record’ and ‘Case for Support’ section is a maximum of 8 sides of A4. The aim of the scientific case for support is to provide a description of the proposed research and its content and value. It should start with an introduction to the topic of research, explaining its impact in an academic and wider context. Bear in mind that some members of your reviewing panel may not be specialists in your particular field. Use this section to show you have a clear understanding of past and current work in the subject area.The overall aims of your project with clear quantifiable objectives, against which success could be measured, should be covered here. Additionally, it’s important to emphasise the novelty of the work as if its similar or identical to what’s currently being funded, your application will be unsuccessful. Your methodology and experiments should also be included in the case for support, remembering that reviewers will pay particular attention to this to assess the quality of the core research in your application. A programme of work, detailing what each member of the research team will be doing and how the project will be managed needs to be incorporated. References should appear in a list at the end of the case for support and shouldn’t be used to link to documents to extend the case for support.The previous track record section is used to convince the panel that you have a strong and successful background in the area of your proposed research. As such, you should summarise the results and conclusions of your recent research relevant to the current grant application. This encompasses any collaborative research and work funded by other research councils. Remember to emphasise the impact of the research at an academic and societal level. The expertise of all of the members of the team undertaking the research should also be highlighted here.
Attachments — A number of attachments are required in the application, including:
CV’s of all named applicants and research team members: These should be succinct and limited to 2 pages each.
Letters of support: Proposals that include project partners and collaborators should include a letter of support from them, confirming the resources and expertise they’ll be contributing. It’s important to note that Individuals providing letters of support are usually excluded from being peer reviewers for that particular proposal.
Proposal Cover Letter: Inclusion of a cover letter is mandatory. Letters have no limitation on page length. Any declarations of interest  should be covered here, and you can also list reviewers that you prefer aren’t approached. Although, the funding body ultimately holds the final decision on the reviewers it appoints. Facility Request Form: If your proposal requires the use of specialised facilities, (the sort listed here for the BBSRC http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/research/facilities/), a form must be filled in to request access and attached to the proposal.
Final Interim Report: If you have a prior existing grant from the BBSRC funding body you must submit an interim report on its progress, using the form they provide. It excludes grants under six months old and training grants.
Diagrammatic Workplan: This should be a one page diagram that shows key milestones and timelines clearly.
Justification of resources — The main aim of this section is to help reviewers assess whether the research project you propose warrants the funding and resources requested.It includes a ‘Pathways to Impact’ document used to explain the academic, applied and societal impact of the research project. It’s acknowledged that some proposals may advance academic understanding, without an immediate applied impact. If this is the case, bear in mind reviewers will expect you to include how your advance fits into a pathway that will lead to an application.If there is a clear academic impact, the panel will want to know how you will deliver this to relevant end users to get the message out, beyond relying on others to read a publication. Examples here would be through conference engagements or collaboration. Public engagement can also be covered here if relevant.Project management, timing, and personnel involved in delivering the project should also be discussed here. Make sure you choose the best team for your project and also include how you will specifically be involved.A budgetary breakdown of all aspects of the proposal should also be presented. Reviewers tend to pay close attention here, to insure the individual components of the project have been appropriately costed. Over-costing without justification can kill your application.Further background information on Pathways to Impact is available on the RCUK website: http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/innovation/impacts/
Data management plan — This section of the form should include concise plans for data management and data sharing for your proposed project. You may include information on the type and volume of data that will be generated. Additionally, timeframes for public release, secondary uses and whether or not any data is proprietary and why, should also be described.
Nominated referees — Applicants can nominate four reviewers who they feel can give an independent assessment of the proposed project. Recent collaborators, or members of any of the applicants’ own institutions are not permitted as referees. Note that, only one reviewer from any one institution is allowed.
The BBSRC’s assessment criteria for proposals include scientific excellence, relevance to their strategy, economic and social impact and value for money, amongst others. With this in mind, here are some key summary points for your application:
Read the grant application guidelines provided carefully – pay attention to the format and any stipulated page limit for all the individual documents requested
Ensure your research falls within the remit of the council – if in doubt get in touch with them
Ensure you pay close attention to any additional call-specific criteria
Read the handbook on how to complete the Je-S form
Leave plenty of time and get your colleagues in a related field to review your application for feedback
The core science in very important, but don’t be tempted just to focus on the case for support — spend as much time on the pathways to impact
Ensure you submit accurate budget plans, demonstrating good value for money. Over-costing will result in proposal rejection
Recently, PhD students at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology made a breakthrough in the field of Quantum Computing. They successfully simulated a 45-qubit quantum circuit; this brings closer the day when current computers will be obsolete. Is quantum computing an evolution or revolution? What will be its effects? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes September 13, 2017.
Quantum computing has been on the lips of computer scientists and computing enthusiasts for years. By utilising quantum states, it promises to liberate computing from the traditional bounds of binary processing. This means that quantum computers, theoretically, will be massively more powerful than existing machines.
The Future is Near
It still remains challenging to build a quantum computer, however; the breakthrough by the Swiss students is a momentous occasion. They’ve approached a milestone referred to as “quantum supremacy”, at which a Quantum Computer’s performance surpasses that of any current computer.
The arrival of vastly more powerful machines could have a substantial impact on the field of artificial intelligence, certainly it will help in data processing. How will this new technology affect us? What is your view? Tell us!
About Mendeley Brainstorms
Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research. We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.
On June 22, it was announced that Mendeley Data’s open research data repository won the Data Seal of Approval certification; this award confirms that the repository complies with the Data Seal of Approval guidelines, and is a trusted digital repository.
The 16 rigorous guidelines include guarantees to the “integrity and authenticity of the data” and “protection of the facility and its data, products, services, and users”. Also, these guidelines ensure that data can be easily cited.
When choosing a repository to deposit and share your data, it’s important to know that your data will be stored safely, and will be available, findable and accessible over the long-term. Choosing a certified repository is a way to ensure this. For this reason JISC, the UK’s publicly-funded research advice body, recommends selecting a certified repository to store your data.
The Data Seal of Approval certification highlights the value of the services provided by Mendeley Data, and Elsevier’s wider commitment to helping researchers make maximum use of their data, as well as store their vital data safely.
About Mendeley Data
Mendeley Data is a secure cloud-based repository where researchers can store data, ensuring it is easy to share, access and cite, wherever they are. Research data is published with a Force11 compliant citation; it is backed up by DANS (Data Archiving Networking Services) to ensure that it is safely archived.
Many thanks to all those who entered the Mendeley Brainstorm related to The Future of Energy; picking a winner was not easy, however in the end, we selected Neil Frandsen’s post:
Folks, I write from the viewpoint of a mountain-born, high plains of Alberta raised, retired Seismic Surveyor. For ye Urb-folk, this means that I experienced heating using coal & wood, thru adding large Coleman Heaters burning diesel fuel, on to Natural Gas heating the water in a low-pressure (<25psi) steam radiator system, thru forced-air heated by natural gas, with an excursion to All-Electric Sleigh Camp (supplied by Borek Construction, of Dawson Creek, BC, Canada fame). All Electric heat, at temperatures below -30°C, suffers from DiHydrogenMonoxide’s nasty Hoarfrost Trick, which formed on the grid over the intake fresh air opening, and choked it off! The fuel consumption, of the 4 diesel-driven alternators, really drove home the efficiency hit that converting a hydrocarbon to electricity, then the electricity to heat, makes on your fuel stocks, be it on the High Arctic Ocean Ice, or be it 65 miles south of High Prairie, Alberta, in -40°C (and colder) temperatures. Yes, I experienced that Camp twice. I can easily imagine how Great Britain’s pensioners were making the harsh choice, between freezing to death, or starving to death, when the pricing of Electricity soared!
In the long term, Orbital SolarEnergy collectors, transforming the sun’s energy to microwaves that traverse our atmosphere thru the Low-Loss Window, are the simple solution. The Rectenna Farms may be placed on top of 15 meter tall supports, allowing farm machinery, and domestic animals free passage. The antennas of the Rectenna Farm do not block very much of the incoming daylight, allowing farming, dairy cows, and ranch animals the growth of useful plants. In treed areas, using the tops of hills makes logical sense, and only requires poles 25, or 30 meters high, so tree farming can carry on with little to block the growth of trees.
I see the soy-distant ‘Fast Charging’ of current battery-powered vehicles as risible.
For real fast charging, a pair of 4″ diameter copper cables, well insulated, and solidly clamped to massive granite blocks (reinforced concrete’s rebar would not react well to the electromagnetic fields made during real fast charging), would have to have coolant circulated under their insulation. The Battery in the vehicle would also have to be connected to a powerful coolant circulating system during charging, which must be left doing cooling until the battery had settled down!
In winter, ordinary batteries suffer a performance hit from cold temperatures.
The battery must also supply energy to heat the passenger cabin, plus defrosting air that must be heated, and blown across the glazings, so the driver may see where he/she/it is going.
Self-driving vehicles must be able to ‘see’: I suggest a multi-spectral arrangement: across visible light; IR; and a useful short wavelength radar, to enable distinguishing among solid ground, snow-covered ground, and either snow, or ice that has naught but air beneath it.
The ‘battery’ that uses propane, CH4, or H2, as fuel, the Fuel Cell, is actually a better bet than a mere battery bank, due to the exothermic nature of the Fuel Cell’s work = in winter, especially in Arctic Winter, Propane will effectively stop self-converting to propane gas, because the tank’s environment is not supplying enough heat! The simple device that controls the pressure-drop, from Tank to Fuel Cell’s fuel line, has a bellows. That bellows gets warmer/colder than the ambient air, thus collecting H2O, which freezes, and may build up enough to stop the work of the Bellows. Which is why you see 100W incandescent light bulbs carefully arranged under duct-taped cardboard windshields affixed to each Pressure-Reducer device, to keep the Bellows warm, and free from ice.
I challenge the Fuel Cell folk to create a device which keeps each Fuel Call vehicle from dribbling water along the road, thus enhancing the black ice cover for following vehicles to cope with!
We asked Neil what inspired him, he wrote:
The question of Energy Supply is a very complex situation, and has given rise to lots of different “Solutions”!
I first looked into WindPower, and Solar Power, and lots of Batteries, as a solution to the huge cost of flying in all the Gasoline, Diesel Fuel Jet Fuel, and Propane, to our Petty-Ray seismic camp on the Alberta Forestry DFB-6 emergency E-W Grass-surfaced Airstrip, of DC-3 length, built upon a nice level-topped, very wide Esker, in the summer of 1964. I was 25 that summer, and pitchforked from being a simple Field Clerk, to being the Seismic Crew’s Manager, when Dick (the regular Manager) had to go to Calgary, Alberta, then into the NWT to set up his Winter seismic crew’s barge-delivered supplies, on the Mackenzie River.
We were approximately 90 miles WNW of High Level, Alberta, which was still using the original High Level Airport (three gravel-surfaced runways, iirc). Our supply-run aircraft were Cessna 185; Beech-18, and DC-3, with an actual twin-engined Boeing 247 (yes, thick wings, no flaps, and electric-screws for retracting the main gear, I do not remember the arrangement for the tail-wheel). The costs, of flying-in everyone, and all supplies, was horrible, such that even our Seismic Crew, which recorded 10 miles per day, was running a cost per mile of over C$5,000.00, charged to our Client.
Therefore, I checked into how much windpower, and solarpower would cost, including the costs of setup, and collapsing the towers, and the rotors, the costs of unfurling, and furling, the folded solarpanels, and the costs of hauling the extra weight & volume of equipment to a new Camp Site.
Unfortunately, the reliability of wind, and of solar, power was such that the Battery Bank needed was excessively costly. Adding a supplemental Diesel-fueled Power Plant allowed the battery bank size to drop down to ‘only’ a 40-foot-long semi-trailer full of lead-acid batteries, but the Diesel-fueled Power Plant had to be the size of the one we were already running!
I continued to follow the improvements in WindPower Turbines, and in Solar Power systems (the German engineering company, who erected the 50kW updraft windpower in Spain is the only one to work out a reliable solution, to harvesting tamed windpower by using solarpower to heat the ground under the extensive glazing surrounding the Power Tower).
A few years back, we energy eaters, in Baen Books “Baens Bar” website, chatted about practical ways to harvest the floods of energy roaring past our Globe. The consensus was for the Orbital Collectors, converting the energy into microwaves that used the least lossy ‘window’ in Earth’s atmosphere, to energize Rectennas on top of poles, in Rectenna Farms. The Down-going ‘Beam’ could be sent using a phased array of emitters, thus avoiding the weight of a parabollic antenna, plus using a Beam Energy intensity too low to hurt any animals, or hurt any plant life.
To get the electricity to customers, burying a Cryo-temperature loss-free cable inside a Natural Gas pipeline, in existing Pipeline right of ways, was suggested, and one of us (not I) created a well-thought-out plan to improve the North American Power Grid, by utilizing such Power Lines. I see that method as a way to save a lot of electricity nowadays lost to the realities of long-distance A/C 60-cycle transmission.
My educational background includes only 2 of the 4 years needed to pass the University of Alberta (Edmonton) Engineering courses. That is where I learned my Surveying Theory, my Drafting Skills, and honed my abilities to extract information from books, periodicals, and brain-picking of fellow workers. The Borek Construction folks included Catskinners with experiences in Antarctica, as well as the Canadian Arctic, and their own home forests, and fields, around Dawson Creek, BC.
Grant writing for research funding can be a difficult and time-consuming task, but one that underpins your academic success. We’ve put together some useful pointers and advice to help you with the application process.
Do your background work: Funding bodies, eligibility and guidelines
Prior to starting a grant proposal, it’s essential to study your funding source. Ask yourself— is this the right funding body to apply to, for your proposed research? What details are included in the funding opportunity announcement? What recent grants have they approved in a similar specialism to yours? What are their other calls to funding? Does your research match their priorities?
If you feel that your research traverses two disciplines, one of which your funding body may not cover, it’s worth contacting them to discuss the details and relevance.
Individual funding bodies have differing criteria for research funding applications that need to be followed closely, with many opting for online submission. For example in the UK, the Research Councils (RCUK) use a Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) form. Whilst the framework is very similar, each of the seven individual councils that make up RCUK, have differences in guidelines, page length and format. Further details for RCUK are available here. Individual councils also provide case studies of best practice applications that can be useful to read as a pointer.
In the US, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has an online submission system using an SF424 form, again with a defined format. They provide online tips to help with completing your application.
All funding bodies will provide guidelines for submission, usually available as a document to download from their site. These must be read carefully and digested. Any applications must strictly adhere to what’s stipulated, as you risk your proposal not being accepted at all, or annoying the panel and reviewers before they’ve even given consideration to the content, however outstanding, if you don’t.
Be aware of the different sections they need from you and the page limit. If it’s a few pages — you can’t include every detail, but will need to be succinct and prioritise the key facts that are asked for. Take care to emphasise how your proposed project fits into their criteria, at every stage of the application.
Leave plenty of time
You need to allow yourself plenty of time ahead of the deadline, to prepare a grant application. Each section requires due care and attention, with time set aside for you to review and get feedback from colleagues before submission. Reviewers complain that it’s sometimes clear that researchers have spent the majority of their time on the case for support, rushing critical areas like budgets and an impact plan
Be clear and get feedback in advance
Outstanding research that receives good peer reviews from the experts in the field is essential to your grant application’s success. However, bear in mind that some members of your reviewing panel may not be specialists in your particular field. As such, clearly articulated statements on the significance of the project for a lay research audience, are also crucial to include.
Try to articulate how your work is going to change things, transform thinking in the field or advance research. It’s an area that has to be perceived as important within your specific discipline and beyond. A useful way to get feedback for improving clarity is to ask colleagues, who are not experts in the field, to read it and provide input, making adjustments as required. Furthermore, asking colleagues, who have applied successfully to the same funding body, to review the proposal can prove invaluable.
Explain the impact
Most grant applications include a section for you to discuss the impact of your research. It’s acknowledged that some proposals result in an academic advance in understanding, without an immediate applied impact. If this is the case, bear in mind reviewers will expect you to know and state how your research fits into a pathway that will lead to an application.
If there is a clear academic impact, the panel will want to know how you will deliver this to relevant peers and get the message out, beyond relying on others to read a publication. Examples here would be through conference engagements or collaboration. If your research has a wider societal or economic impact, public engagement should also be discussed.
Choose the best team for the work
You need to include the details of a strong team to deliver the research and stipulate exactly what they will be doing. A common grievance from reviewers is that researchers include a name that is well known, just to influence the panel, without specifying a clear contribution. If a junior researcher is going to be doing the majority of the work, you should be clear about that. Additionally, your role in the project should be clear. Your application may require you to attach a short form CV or resumé for all those individuals involved in the project.
Budget carefully and provide value for money
Your application should be presented as good value for money to the funding body. All aspects of the project should be budgeted for. Reviewers tend to pick through things quite carefully, to insure the individual components of the project have been appropriately costed. Over-costing can kill your application. Ask yourself, does the advance you will make in the field justify the cost of the project?
Provide a clear methodology
Reviewers focus most on the quality of the core research in your application. As such, it’s important to explain and reference detail of the methodology and experiments. Make sure you include data analysis methods — sometimes requested in the form of a data management plan, and avoid being vague.
Avoid common pitfalls:
Writing only for specialists in your field
Proposing a project that does not meet the funding call criteria
Not allowing yourself enough time
Over-costing or poor budgeting
Neglecting the impact plan
Not clarifying your role or contribution in the project
Given the constraints on public funding, judging panels for grants and peer reviewers will select proposals that, not only include outstanding science or research, but also incorporate carefully thought out plans to reach end-users, represent value for money, with methodology that’s clearly detailed and budgeted.
The “gig economy” is a fact of life. To “Uber” has become a verb. Airbnb is ubiquitous. People sell their skills in short term engagements via freelancing websites. This has opened up a world of low-cost services; however, is the gig economy’s destruction of secure employment worth it? We are looking for the most well thought out answer to this question in up to 150 words: use the comment feature below the blog and please feel free to promote your research! The winner will receive an Amazon gift certificate worth £50 and a bag full of Mendeley items; competition closes July 12, 2017.
A New Economy
People used to “take a taxi” or “get a cab”, now they just as readily “Uber” to wherever they want to go. This shift in language is indicative of a broader change in the economy: with Uber, Lyft, Airbnb and other services, people are becoming accustomed to ordering services online from contracted individuals who are “paid by the gig”.
Anyone who has had trouble getting a cab in the middle of a crowded city can appreciate the convenience and low cost of utilising Uber. Airbnb offers real experiences of living in a location rather than a sanitised venue. Being able to hire a freelancer to do everything from design birthday cards to editing manuscripts is extremely convenient and much cheaper than it once was.
Employment in the gig economy is precarious and not necessarily well paid. Furthermore, secure professions like taxi driver and employment in hotels is under threat. Competing in a world, online marketplace tends to favour lower cost providers.
Is the Gig Economy just a fact of life? Or can we make changes to lessen its downsides? What is your view? Tell us!
About Mendeley Brainstorms
Our Brainstorms are challenges so we can engage with you, our users, on the hottest topics in the world of research. We look for the most in-depth and well thought through responses; the best response as judged by the Mendeley team will earn a prize.