An introduction to applying for a NIH grant

NIH funding is a major resource for medical researchers
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by Seema Sharma

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

Good luck with your application!

Useful links

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Tips for applying for EU research Funding – ERC Grants

European Union funding for research is an attractive option.
Looking for European Union Research Funding? Try Mendeley Funding!

 
By Seema Sharma

Introduction

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!

Summary

  • 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
  • Rehearse your interview

Useful links

EU participants portal, current calls for action
http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/opportunities/h2020/index.html,

ERC 2018 work programme

https://erc.europa.eu/sites/default/files/document/file/ERC-Work-Programme-2018.pdf

ERC information for applicants to Starting Grant and Consolidation Grant

http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/guides_for_applicants/h2020-guide18-erc-stg-cog_en.pdf

ERC Information for applicants Synergy Grant

http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/other/guides_for_applicants/h2020-guide18-erc-syn_en.pdf

EU grant eligible ‘associated countries’

http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/data/ref/h2020/grants_manual/hi/3cpart/h2020-hi-list-ac_en.pdf

National Contact Point Portal

http://ec.europa.eu/research/participants/portal/desktop/en/support/national_contact_points.html

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Key steps for submitting a grant proposal to the UK Research Councils (RCUK)

Writing a good funding application is both a science and an art.

by Seema Sharma

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 [1].

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 [2] 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.

Je-S Form

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Attachments A number of attachments are required in the application, including:
    1. CV’s of all named applicants and research team members: These should be succinct and limited to 2 pages each.
    2. 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.
    3. Proposal Cover Letter: Inclusion of a cover letter is mandatory. Letters have no limitation on page length. Any declarations of interest [4] 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.
    4. 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.
    5. Diagrammatic Workplan: This should be a one page diagram that shows key milestones and timelines clearly.
  4. 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/
  5. 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.
  6. 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.

Summary

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

References:

[1] RCUK Grant Handbooks for all seven councils

AHRC:    http://www.ahrc.ac.uk/funding/research/researchfundingguide/

BBSRC:  http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/apply/

EPSRC:  https://www.epsrc.ac.uk/funding/howtoapply/fundingguide/

ESRC:    http://www.esrc.ac.uk/funding/guidance-for-applicants/research-funding-guide/

MRC:      http://www.mrc.ac.uk/funding/guidance-for-applicants/

NERC:    http://www.nerc.ac.uk/funding/application/howtoapply/forms/grantshandbook/

NC3Rs:   http://www.nc3rs.org.uk/funding

STFC:     http://www.stfc.ac.uk/research-grants-handbook/

[2] BBSRC research grant areas http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/grants/areas.aspx

[3] RCUK Guidelines on declaration of interests http://www.rcuk.ac.uk/documents/documents/declarationofinterests- applicants-pdf/.

Useful links:

BBSRC Grants Guide: http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/documents/grants-guide/

Information for BBSRC joint international grant funding:

http://www.bbsrc.ac.uk/funding/internationalfunding/international- funding-index.aspx.


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How to write a good research funding application

How can one write an application effectively to maximise the chances of success?

By Seema Sharma

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.

In summary: 

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
  • Unclear methodology
  • Repetition

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.


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Introducing Mendeley Funding

Mendeley Funding is a new tool to help researchers find the opportunities to launch their projects.

Researchers are under more pressure than ever before to secure the money they need to do their work. The funding exists: the predicted worldwide spend on research in 2016 was $1.9 trillion. This was an increase of 3.4% on the previous year.

But with so many grants available in such a myriad of subjects via such a large variety of institutions, how can a researcher match their aspirations to the right opportunity?

We’re pleased to announce the launch of Mendeley Funding.

Mendeley Funding is a new tool which catalogues funding opportunities from across the globe. It includes calls for proposals from prominent organisations including the European Union, government departments in the United States like the National Institutes of Health, UK Research councils, and many more.

By using Mendeley Funding, Researchers can:

  • Search for relevant funding
  • Save interesting opportunities
  • Access detailed information about funders

For more information, visit http://www.mendeley.com/funding. Then sign in to Mendeley, access the tool by using the link marked “Funding” in the toolbar, and get searching. A world of opportunities awaits you.

Getting Grant Funding for Your Startup

Jan Reichelt

Jan Reichelt, Co-founder and President of Mendeley, talks about his experience of using grants from funding bodies such as EUREKA and the Technology Strategy Board to help grow the company.

Ellie

By: Elitsa Dermendzhiyska, Co-founder of Grant Central

Is there such a thing as a free lunch when it comes to startup funding? That’s the question hanging in the air as I sit down with Jan Reichelt, co-founder of Mendeley, a research collaboration platform boasting over 3 million users and touted as one of the startups most likey to change the world for the better. If anyone had the answer, that would be Jan: on top of a Series A funding and acquisition by Reed Elsevier, over the past 6 years Mendeley has won a slew of national and EU grants whose precise number Jan seems to have lost track of.

Equity-free money in the form of grants holds a special allure for bootstrapped, cash-starved startup founders – an allure Jan is quick to dispel. Grants are like a sweetener, he says. They are nice to have, but startups shouldn’t count on them. Even if you get one, the money can be slow to come in, so you need to have other funding sources ready at hand.

Back in 2008, when Mendeley applied for the EUREKA Eurostars grant scheme, the startup had already secured seed funding and was eyeing VC investment to develop its research collaboration platform. The grant wouldn’t make or break Jan’s vision; rather, it just turned out to be the right fit at the right time.

Jan wouldn’t recommend the grant route for most startups, invoking the somewhat laborious process of obtaining and managing the funds. The amount of time you have to dedicate to writing the application through to forming a partnership to reporting and monitoring the project is only justified if you can find the right fit between your goals and the purpose of the grant, he says.

Grants such as the ones offered by Eurostars exist for two main reasons: to encourage research or to facilitate collaboration between academia and businesses. Mendeley fit both requirements, as the startup was looking to engage with academic experts in crowdsourcing and modern semantic technologies in order to provide real-time impact analysis for its platform users.

With the grant, the startup was able to create a win-win consortium by partnering with the Estonian Technology Competence Centre in Electronics-, Info- and Communication Technologies (ELIKO) and Austria’s Competence Centre for Knowledge Management (Know-Center).

Besides fit, another consideration businesses need to keep in mind is the rigidity of most EU grant schemes vis-a-vis VC funding. Grant applications often call for specific development plans and growth projections over 2 to 4 years down the line – something almost unthinkable for startups used to changing direction (or “pivoting”) on the go. A grant entails pre-committing to a certain course of action and any later changes, while possible, require reasonable justification and official permission from the government funders. A helpful strategy, Jan offers, is to make up a story and define your roadmap broadly enough to leave room for flexibility.

Grants require founders to maintain constant communication, as rules call for regular financial and technical reports to keep the funding authorities apprised of any progress, delays and changes to the project. Consortium agreements and allocation of responsibilities among partners also come with their own set of communication challenges. One example is deciding who would own the IP developed, – an issue that can become tricky if there are two or more commercial partners involved. Further still, aligning academic and business needs may require careful treading – or what Jan aptly describes as “hand holding” – in order to keep the theoretically appealing in line with the practical commercial realities.

Grant funding can appear rather rigorous to founders tied in the day-to-day running of business, and Jan, who tackled the initial Eurostars application by himself, concedes that the initial learning curve can be steep. Apart from hammering out a comprehensive application, he needed to then setup solid management and reporting processes in the post-grant period. And yet grants, while no free lunch, offer an opportunity for startups to grow on their own terms if they can muster the management skill, clear vision and R&D potential.

Have you had any experience of applying for similar grants? Share them with us in the comments!

Top Tips for Crowdfunding Your Research

 

Crowdfunding for Research

We had a great response to our last blog post about crowdfunding for research, with lots of people joining our Mendeley Crowdfunding Group and emailing questions and comments.

So yesterday I joined a live Google Hangout with the folks from Indiegogo to try and answer some of those questions and also give some general guidelines about how to start a campaign to raise research funds through crowdfunding.

Breanna DiGiammarino, Educational Vertical Lead at Indiegogo, advised researchers to think about what audience their research speaks to, but also pointed out that you can often be surprised at how many people are interested in what might seem a very niche subject. Crowdfunding, she explains, reaches a wide global audience, and that reach can be much bigger than you expect.Read More »