What are your research interests/describe a typical working day “I research organic chemistry in the broadest sense, but am particularly interested in total synthesis and catalysis.” Tim leads a research team of 16-20 people, a mixture of graduates/undergraduates plus postdoctoral researchers. “My job is to support them and together do the best research possible.” As well as this, Tim is also responsible for teaching and has various administrative duties. What’s more, he’s also an editor for Tetrahedron Letters!
How do you measure success in your work? “One thing that gets my fist pumping is when we get a really nice piece of work accepted for publication. Or when a grant gets funded – we can then do more research! Another thrill is when a member of the group gets a job (especially if it’s in chemistry!).”
Do you have any particular advice for younger researchers? “Scientific research is hard”, says Tim “…so you have to enjoy it! The opportunity to have a job you enjoy is a privilege. If you enjoy it, work at it to be best you can be. Read widely. Make sure you are good at communicating science – presentations, writing at the board and that sort of thing.”
What drove you to become an Editor? “I was invited!” Tim started his editorial work with the journal in January 2014.
What is the most rewarding aspect of editorial work for you and what do you find difficult about the role? In terms of reward, Tim finds it pleasing to be able to “help get great science published”. He sees his job to help the journal and grow its reputation. He also likes helping researchers around the world. “It’s great to see a manuscript coming back with helpful referees’ comments, then see the improvements in the revised version.” What’s not so good is having to make difficult decisions. Sometimes papers are “in the middle” – which way to go? Occasionally referees’ comments are short and unhelpful to both the author and the editor – so then one’s left in a quandary.
What professional use (if any) do you make of social media and/or scholarly collaboration tools like Mendeley? Tim does make use of some tools. Not much social media though. Tim finds Mendeley helpful to share ideas with other editors and Elsevier staff: the group discussion aspect is useful. “At the TET conference in Budapest – we had a virtual poster symposium. You could join the [Mendeley] group and look at the science that was being presented. You could comment and interact, even from home. That was great as it gave those unable to attend a chance to participate.” Tim doesn’t use Twitter as an active user but browses journals’ feeds.
If we could build a tool/device to help you most in your career or editorial work; what would it be? If we’re looking at a scientific demand then something that would help organic chemistry research, in particular catalytic reactions. “There’s a lot going on in a catalytic reaction. If a particular reaction doesn’t work, we don’t know why. What we need is a simple way of working out WHY: some way of interrogating unsuccessful interactions!”
Have you any particular interests in what remains of your time apart from university and editorial work?
“Family! Squash. And I go to the gym to keep fit.”
What are your research interests/describe a typical working day
“Generally a lot of it is spent on a train somewhere!” As well as working at the John Innes Centre, Rob is active as CEO of Iceni Diagnostics, which develops diagnostic tools for examining and/or diagnosing infectious diseases e.g. influenza or the norovirus. If that wasn’t enough, Rob has also recently taken over a role as President of the chemistry-biology interface division with the Royal Society of Chemistry! Rob spends much of his time nowadays doing managerial or strategy work but was trained as a chemist and is active with his research teams.
How do you measure success in your work?
The academic markers of success are clearly important, but Rob also looks to the question of impact. For example Rob and his team got involved after anglers on the Norfolk Broads complained of finding large numbers of dead fish. Working with them – and the environment agency, Rob discovered that the issue was down to algae which had been infected by a virus. Rob’s team had similar experiences with their work on influenza so they worked out a method of tracking and neutralizing the algae as well as implanting measures to keep an eye out for reoccurrence. This was hugely important for the local community.
Do you have any particular advice for younger researchers?
“Don’t do whatever everyone else is doing” is Rob’s motto! It’s a very competitive environment, so you have to be distinctive. To Rob’s mind; there is a “growing realization that chasing the Impact Factor is not the best way to do the best science”. More important is to hit the right audience – by e.g. targeting a specific journal. At the same time, it’s important to note that there is a lot of pressure on researchers and corruption that needs to be tackled.
What drove you to become an Editor?
Rob got gradually involved with his journal as a handling editor then in time became editor-in-chief. In doing his editorial work, Rob recognizes that science is “never static” but nonetheless some traditional journals occasionally stay still. Rob is keen to ensure that Carbohydrate Research leads from the front and maintains its edge and usefulness to the community.
What is the most rewarding aspect of editorial work for you and what do you find difficult about the role?
Workflows and timings are the difficult issues for Rob. Getting c.150 emails a day makes for a huge workload! On the plus side, Rob enjoys the position of being able to determine which research progresses into the journal. Whereas he sees some journals as taking in everything – and in doing so losing focus; Carbohydrate Research maintains selectivity and thus rejects c. 2/3 of submissions.
What professional use (if any) do you make of social media and/or scholarly collaboration tools like Mendeley?
“This really depends on whom I am working with – everyone has their own pet approach.” Part of the difficulty, Rob says, is that there is no standard format or tool at the moment – even for data sharing. It can be Dropbox for one project, Mendeley for another or something from Google for the next! More and more young people are coming in though and they are even more IT savvy than those in their 30s. There is an obvious and increasing use of Twitter or Facebook to access information. One big change that Rob has observed is the shift away from Web of Science type database searches to simple Google searching. Generally, there is more and more need to share data as part of collaborative work and have access to literature as well as documents and reports. “I sit on lots of funding bodies. In the past, you would have got a suitcase of hard copy – now there is a web portal!”
If we could build a tool/device to help you most in your career or editorial work; what would it be?
For Rob, one frustration dealing with primary research papers is dealing with different formats between publishers. Therefore, access to a central bank which smoothed out formats would be great. “Some formatting is overkill”, he says. Another thing would be more streamlined access to research papers. “The move to OA makes sense but it is nightmare to get there.” Finally, quality control is getting more and more difficult. Younger people don’t have experience to navigate the huge number and variety of journals and sources. They often take everything at face value.
Have you any particular interests in what remains of your time apart from university and editorial work?
When he’s not wearing one of his many work hats, Rob enjoys fishing, watching rugby and travel.
In 2016, India spent 0.85% of its GDP on research and development. Although this may lag behind some of the research commitments of its Asian neighbours, (China spent 1.98% and South Korea lead the region with a significant investment of 4% of its GDP), it still represents a non-trivial funding amount of ~$70 Billion annually. In recent years, Indian Research Institutes have significantly increased their influence in global rankings for research output, with the Indian Institutes of Technology (IIT) now ranking 41 globally, and in the top 10 in the Asia-Pacific region .
DST Funding Overview
In this post, we’re focussing on funding opportunities from the Indian Department of Science and Technology (DST). The department has a multi-functional role that includes setting scientific policy, advising the government, supporting its 21 research institutions and promoting emerging areas of science and technology (S&T). Additionally, together with its subsidiary body — the Science and Engineering Research Board (SERB), it allocates S&T research grants within its funding criteria to undertake research at its institutions and beyond. Note, there are several other Indian governmental departments, including the Department of Biotechnology (DBT), that also support grants in scientific research fields. The full list of all departments can be found here.
The funding focus available from the DST in India falls into the following 6 broad categories: Scientific & engineering research; technology development; international S&T cooperation; S&T socio-economic programmes; technology missions division and women scientists programmes.
There initiatives and projects funded in these categories are diverse. Some examples include: the technology mission division supporting solar energy research though a dedicated Clean Energy Research Initiative (CERI); women scientists programmes providing funding for those women returning to work after career breaks; the technology development funding a new quantum computation and communication systems project.
Calls for proposals have a definitive submission deadline and those currently available can be found listed at http://www.dst.gov.in/call-for-proposals. Announcements, in the form of ongoing funding opportunities are also invited throughout the year, with no definitive deadline, and are available here. The format and requirements for funding applications differ and researchers should play close attention to the guidelines stipulated in the individual call or announcement.The DST has adopted an electronic project management system portal (e-PMS) for the online submission of research proposals. Researchers are required to register on the portal (onlinedst.gov.in) and then upload the proposal in the given format specified in the call.
Proposals will be sent to at least three peer reviewers selected by DST. Applicants can nominate three reviewers and the DST guarantees to select at least one of these, subject to ensuring there are no conflicts of interest. Applicants have an opportunity to respond to reviewers’ comments in writing. In addition, applicants may also be called to an interview before a panel to gather more information and clarity on the proposals. The expert panel may review and moderate peer review reports and seek further information based the what it presented by the applicant at interview.
DST International Collaborative Funding
As part of a focus on international cooperation, the DST has a number of joint global calls for funding, teaming up with international partners. It’s notable that many of its current calls for proposals involve collaboration with one or more countries. The DST states that in recent years its cooperation has strengthened notably with Australia, Canada, EU, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, Russia, UK and USA.
UK-India, Germany-India, France-India and US-India collaborative calls are regularly announced. Here, research applicants are required to apply jointly from the two countries involved, and each proposal should involve one or more organisers from each country. Two funding councils will be involved, the DST and the joint partner research council.
In the UK, a number of recently funded grants have included joint collaborations between the DST with the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) on projects for improving water quality through monitoring pollutants, and reducing energy demands in the built environment. Current Indo-UK joint research calls available through the Research Councils UK (RCUK) can be found here.
The DST require that all international collaborative research projects proposals should emphasise the joint research effort between Indian researchers and the other participant country. Furthermore, both applicants should clearly demonstrate the added value drawn from a collaboration with India. They also encourage the exchange of research staff, including travel funding specifically for that purpose. The Indian Lead applicant researcher must work at an institution that receives grants from the DST and have registered online at their portal.
Finally, we’ve listed a number of standard assessment criteria to help when submitting international collaborative projects with the DST, these include:
Quality of proposal
Pathways to Impact
Appropriateness of applicants (CV’s are submitted as part of this)
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the US, is one of the world’s largest funders of biomedical research grants. It awards funding of over $30B annually, for research that falls within its mission to understand living systems, enhance health, extend healthy lives, and reduce the burdens of illness and disability. The NIH is funded by the US federal government and is made up of 27 institutions and research centres, with 24 actively offering funding grant awards. The funding criteria for each individual institution may vary from that of the NIH as a whole, so researching the institute whose grant you are applying for is crucial.
NIH grants have three types of calls to funding, including program announcements, requests for applications and parent announcements. All current funding opportunities are listed here https://grants.nih.gov/searchguide/. The first type, program announcements, are open for 3 years and usually highlight an area of focus, offering three opportunities for submitting applications a year. The second category are requests for applications (also known as RFA’s). The latter have a narrowly defined title and focus, a single submission date and a preallocated amount of funds.
Finally, if there are no available program announcements, or RFA’s available for your research project, a third type of grant called parent announcements are on offer. These allow researchers to submit speculative or investigator-initiated applications, encouraging new research ideas. Note that parent announcement applications need to be in line with the NIH’s mission, and fall within the criteria of specific NIH activity codes available here. For further information and advice on the different types of grants available, including help on which would suit your needs best, resources are available online at http://grants.nih.gov
Tips on submission
Remember to pay close attention to any specific requirements and instructions outlined in the funding announcement. Your call to funding will normally stipulate whether electronic or paper submission is required. Paper submissions require use of the PHS 398 application form, whilst electronic submission requires the SF424 (R&R) application. The majority of calls require electronic submission, details of which will be included in the funding announcement. A general application guide is also available for guidance on submission.
You need to take into account that there are multiple systems that your institution must be registered with to insure you can submit an application. These include having what’s called a Dun & Bradstreet number, (comprising a unique 9 digit code), registration with eRA commons — a grant administration interface used to share application information and track its status, institutional registration at grants.gov and also at the system of award management (sam.gov). Individual investigators applying for grants also need to register on eRA commons and grants.gov. It can take up to 8 weeks to register with all of these, so make sure you factor this in when preparing your application.
NIH encourages you to contact their staff during the grant submission and review process. A list of staff contacts and the types of support they provide is available here. Program officials can be a useful point of contact for researchers when submitting an application, as they are responsible for developing grant initiatives and the programmatic content of a grant. Scientific review officers are responsible for conducting the technical and scientific review process. A review panel will be recruited by them from global scientists with relevance to your field. They evaluate the application to ensure it meets the criteria set out in the funding announcement, review it for scientific merit and identify potential conflicts of interest. Ultimately, their job is to provide a fair review of the grant application and provide a summary of their evaluation to applicants.
When writing your application, bear in mind NIH awards favour high impact research, that meets the priorities of the specific institute you are applying too. They also ask that you directly address the following key criteria in your application, each of which will be assigned a score by reviewers:
Reviewers will want to know how the project will advance knowledge, solve a key problem and help progress in your scientific field. They will want to see a sound scientific premise for the research. Make sure you highlight the impact of the successful completion of the research project. They’ll be looking for it to be described in terms of scientific knowledge progress, advances in technical capability, or clinical practice, as relevant. Take time to describe how it might change the concepts, methods, technologies, treatments, services, or preventative interventions that are key to your field.
Investigator(s). All those team members carrying out the project should be outlined here, including a clear programme of work for each contributor. You need to describe how they hold relevant training, experience and an outstanding research track record relevant to the area. If a collaboration is required, how will the experiences of the Principal Investigators, or other researchers involved, come together to deliver a successful project?
Your project should aim to use new theoretical concepts, methodologies, instrumentation and interventions. You should clarify whether these represent a novel approach in your specific field or are unique across fields. Describe how you will seek to advance current research or clinical practice paradigms through your project to show innovation.
Approach. Reviewers will be seeking a sound strategy, clear methodology, and analyses, that are all pertinent to achieving the stated aims of the project. They will want you to detail and pre-empt potential roadblocks and risks to the project that might arise. More importantly, you will need to state how you will deal with problems, including the alternative approaches could you take. Benchmarks for success, with clear quantifiable objectives throughout the course of the project, should be made evident. Your methodology should be justified as being scientifically robust, free from inherent bias and addressing biological variables. The use of animal and human subjects needs to be clearly justified.
Environment. Here, an outline should be given of the scientific environment in which the work will be conducted. This should include all relevant resources, equipment, institutional support and collaborations, outlining how they will contribute to success.
What happens after submission
After submission of your application through your existing institute, it is handled by the Center for Scientific Review at NIH. They assign the application to the relevant reviewers and the institute you are applying too. There is a two tiered version of peer review, with the first level being referred too as the study section. During this time, your project is evaluated solely for scientific and technical merit, with the assignment of an impact score.
At the next stage, your grant submission is passed on to the institute you are applying too. The institute then evaluates it against its current priorities. After review, an advisory board from the institute will recommend whether funding should be awarded or not. The Institute Director will receive their recommendation and holds the final decision.
If successful, the institute will make the grant funding award via an applicant’s organisation to allocate funds to the Principal Investigator(s) involved in the project. The entire process normally takes at least 9 – 10 months, from the point of a submitted application to the successful receipt of a grant. There may be further stipulations that need to be met in order for the grant funding to be awarded – for example education certifications, or relevant documentation regarding any use of human or animal subjects in your research.
Horizon 2020 is the EU’s current research, innovation and development framework, offering €80 billion in grant funding to researchers over a seven year period (2014-2020). It differs from its forerunner, FP7, in that it combines all funding directives into a single programme for innovation, education and R&D. The framework splits the majority of the assigned fund available between three areas: excellent science (€24.4 billion), industrial leadership (€17 billion) and societal challenges (€29.7 billion). There are a few areas outside of these, for example — science with and for society, and spreading excellence and widening participation.
The main aim of the European Commission, when outlining the new programme was to simplify and streamline the funding and application processes. One additional goal was to cut decision times on successful applications from an average of a year to eight months. The Horizon 2020 scheme provides a 100% reimbursement of direct costs for research projects and a 25% refund of indirect costs.
Useful background for applying for EU funding
To apply for funding, researchers much go through the open calls for proposals, submitting their project electronically and adhere to the deadlines stipulated. Some applications involve a two-stage submission with a short proposal initially, which if successful, will require a further full proposal.
In order to apply, your organisation needs to be registered and have a 9-digit Participant Identification Code (PIC). All current open calls for proposals are available on the participants portal, where you can perform an advanced search by topic.
Applications are open to those outside Europe, and researchers with a non-EU nationality are encouraged to apply, however the calls for proposals state that the research institution where the project is carried out must either be established in an EU Member State or an associated country, or it may be an International European Interest Organisation (e.g CERN, EMBL, etc.). Further information on what count as associated countries are listed here. You can also direct general enquiries to the National Contact Point in your country.
As an example of the grants available, we’ll be covering the stages of applying for European Research Council (ERC) grants that fall under the ‘excellent science’ category of EU research call for proposals. ERC grants constitute a significant pooled budget of over €13 billion in funding.
Available ERC grants
ERC grant funding covers any individual research projects that are pioneering in frontline research, for example the life sciences, physical sciences and engineering and social sciences. They emphasise that their main selection criteria is the scientific excellence of the researcher and the project. They also prioritise projects with high risk but high gain potential. Currently, five types of grants are available.
ERC Starting Grant. This is an award of up to €2M with the criteria that you must have completed your PhD., 2-7 years before the publication date of the grant call. In addition, you must have at least one key publication in a high-ranking journal without the help of your PhD supervisor.
ERC Consolidation Grant. This follows on from the Starting Grant and has an award of up to €75M, aimed at those who completed their PhD., 7-12 years prior to applying. Grant criteria stipulate that the researcher should have gained an excellent track record and shown independence and research maturity, with several high-impact publications under their belt.
ERC Advanced Start Grant. This is subsequent to the Consolidation Grant, based on increasing levels of research experience. Here applicants must have a significant track record of research achievement gained in the last 10 years. The award is for up to €5M.
ERC Proof of Concept Grant. In order to qualify for this fourth type of grant, you must have previously received an award from the ERC. Additionally, you must demonstrate that you have research outputs that can be turned into a valuable commercial or social proposition. If successful, the grant award is up to €150M in value.
ERC Synergy Grant. Unlike the other grants that are aimed at an individual researcher applying, synergy grants are available for 2-4 Principal Investigators to collaborate on ambitious projects. The individual PI’s must have either an excellent early track record or more significant experience in the form of a 10 year record of achievement. The maximum award is for €10M to cover a 6 year period. Additional funding is available for PI’s needing to move to the EU as part of the proposal, equipment and access to facilities. This grant is currently on hold and will be re-introduced for 2018.
All grants awarded cover up to 5 years of research and aim to cover all of the direct costs of the project.
Tips on applying for an ERC grant
The administrative and summary forms required to apply for an ERC grant are straight-forward, although they may seem lengthy. It is essential to read the information for applicants for the specific ERC grant you are applying for (see the links at the end of the blog). Leave plenty of time so you can prepare each section with due care and attention. Also, its important to allow time for colleagues to review your application before you submit. Successful applicant researchers we spoke to spent between 3 months to 1 year preparing their ERC grant.
There are two stages to submitting the application. The first section (B1) consists of a 5 page synopsis of the project, with an accompanying 2 page CV and a track record document. Note that in the initial stage, this is all that is seen by the reviewing panel and they base their full decision on it, so it has to be outstanding.
Each panel normally consists of 10-15 experts in your field and they may not be in your direct area of expertise, so aim for clarity and concise statements on the significance of the project for a lay research audience. They are looking for individuals that demonstrate a rigorous scientific approach and management skills.
Include succinct objectives, as well as details of the scientific feasibility of the project with some preliminary data. Use this section to balance out the high risk, high gain aspects of the research. Your CV should be compelling and informative, and together with your track record showcase your expertise and excellence in your research field.
At this first stage the panel evaluates your proposal and grades your application A, B or C. Only those applications that receive an A grade are deemed high quality and will progress to the second stage. In past years one quarter of all application received a grade A to make it through to the second stage.
It is at this point the second part of your application (B2) is taken into consideration. This consists of a fifteen page explanation of your project. This must include detailed objectives, methodology and resources, including time commitments and budget. Make sure you include details of the team members involved and what they will be doing. Make the reviewers task easier by breaking up the prose with relevant figures and data. Again, ensure you have plenty of time to prepare this part of the application. Get colleagues to review it and use any support available to you — for example your institutes grant office, to help.
If you’re successful for the first stage of the application, you are also invited to an interview in Brussels, where you give a ten minute presentation about your project. Advanced preparation with plenty of rehearsal is key to achieving the clarity the panel are looking for. Successful candidates we spoke too had spent a month preparing and rehearsing the presentation in front of peers. Preempt any doubts that may arise over scientific weaknesses in the project by explaining how you will deal with them. Ensure you provide preliminary data and demonstrate how you would problem-solve if any road blocks occurred. Project your enthusiasm and commitment to the project to the panel. Finally, the panel are looking for a certain degree of honesty, so do not be tempted to over-stress the scientific impact of your work.
Based on your B2 form and interview, your final application will be evaluated and graded A if it is excellent enough to be funded. On average, 40% of grants meet the ERC’s excellence criterion and receive a grant award at this second stage.
Good luck with your application!
Leave plenty of preparation time
Your synopsis (B1) form is crucial in the decision to get to stage 2
Ensure you get colleagues and peers in adjacent fields to review before you submit
Demonstrate outstanding knowledge of your scientific field
Show time commitment and an exceptional track record
You can now export references from your Mendeley Web Library into the Microsoft Word Citation Manager — without opening your Mendeley Desktop.
The export feature uses Microsoft Word’s built-in citation tool. This feature is only available on Windows for Word 2010 and above.
To export your references:
Open your Mendeley Web Library
Select the references you want to export
Click on Export to MS Word, which will download an .xml file.
Open Word and go to “References” and then “Manage Resources.”
Browse your folder and select the .xml file. Your references will be available in Word’s Citation Manager.
The number of citation styles in Word are limited but you can install more styles from BibWord.
MS Word’s citation system is not the same system used by Mendeley Desktop. Using both on the same document will yield two sets of citations and two bibliographies.