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How to write a successful grant application Dr Paul Colville-Nash Programme Manager, Infections and Immunity Board Medical Research Council October 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "How to write a successful grant application Dr Paul Colville-Nash Programme Manager, Infections and Immunity Board Medical Research Council October 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 How to write a successful grant application Dr Paul Colville-Nash Programme Manager, Infections and Immunity Board Medical Research Council October 2010

2 Its work, on behalf of the UK taxpayer, ranges from molecular level science to public health medicine and understanding of the human body in health and disease. The Medical Research Council is dedicated to improving human health through the best scientific research. Medical Research Council

3 Molecular and Cellular Medicine Board MRC strategy and delivery Strategy Board Population and Systems Medicine Board Infections and Immunity Board Neurosciences and Mental Health Board Population Health Sciences Group Translational Research Group Global Health Group Training and Careers Group Developmental Pathway Funding Scheme Methodology Panel

4 4 MRC Review Process 1. Applicant prepares proposal 2. Institution submits proposal 3. Funder’s administrative check 4. Funder’s consult independent, expert referees 5. Referees assess quality of the proposal 6.Triage 7. Funder feeds back referees’ opinions to applicant 8. * Applicant comment on referees’ opinions 9. * Committee assessment & decision 10.* Committee feedback to applicant Key: green = applicant; blue = funder; red = research peers * = applies only to proposals that pass at Triage

5 Application Process What makes a good application? MRC is right for me – what next? Complete application form (MRC: EAA or Web based form) Scientific case for support Cost application (in conjunction with Research Organisation); Obtain Head of Department approval. Own Research Organisation approval Submit application to Research Organisation for final costing/approval They submit to MRC

6 Elements of successful proposals Emphasis on potential for early career investigators A clear rationale for the research Clarity & Succinctness key Emphasize and re-emphasize important points and arguments Methodology - Preliminary Data People, environment, training for fellowships Collaborations

7 Making a successful application - 1 Planning & Preparation Plan your application – don’t rush! Talk to people in the know – funders, senior colleagues, successful previous applicants etc. Know the specific Aims, rough costs and preliminary data needed Consider regulatory approval Read & follow instructions Can take a year from submission to starting of award

8 Making a successful application - 2 What and Why? The Hypothesis What is your hypothesis? Long-term “global” objective of project Why do you want to do this research? Review the relevant literature objectively. Why now? Background to problem, significance; Present knowledge gap to be addressed and show the uniqueness of approach.

9 Be Focused!: Specific Aims Well-defined objectives and/or criteria from which the rest of the project is derived and the level of success is determined. Not too many unrelated questions Relationship with experimental plan should be clear; methodology can be introduced. Presented in a readable form so that readers can see the precise questions to be answered and the outcomes anticipated. Making a successful application - 3

10 Methods: The “Killer experiment” Prove hypothesis; conclusive approach, e.g. functional knockout Statistics and power Present a detailed plan of attack for each specific aim Should support costs proposed in the budget Describe how you will evaluate success in achieving your aims Provide a flow of logic for each experiment’s results and the subsequent steps in the research plan Address sub-optimal methodologies and offer rationale for their use ?Include timetable/ or timeline, often at the end of the section, to make organisation apparent Making a successful application - 4

11 Preliminary Data Shows that the project is realistic and feasible Shows that you/your team can successfully do the proposed work Convinces the reviewers that your hypothesis should be tested Case for support Address all the relevant questions Take account of what reviewers will be looking for Write clearly and economically Making a successful application - 5

12 Personnel & Collaboration WHO proposes to do a project is just as important as WHAT is being proposed because a grant is an INVESTMENT not a contract. Evidence must be presented that the research team is capable of delivering a return on that investment Evidence includes: Education and training Scientific track record Specific expertise Appropriate time commitment Use of appropriate collaboration Making a successful application - 6

13 Making a successful application - 7 Resources Is your research space adequate? Do you have the necessary equipment? What shared/core resources are available? Fully justify resources requested. What is allowed? Travel? Publication costs? External contract costs? Training Fees? Justify sample sizes – power calculations! Justify why needed – don’t just list! Do not under/over fund! Remember it is hard to get supplements for grants once awarded The Big Question: Are there “unwritten” limits to funding? Value for Money!

14 Appendices Often contain publications, manuscripts, surveys, questionnaires, data collection instruments, GANTT charts etc. NOT to be used to circumvent page limits elsewhere BUT CHECK THEY ARE ALLOWED! They may be removed!! Making a successful application - 8

15 The Abstract Summary of the entire proposal – write it last! Understandable by researchers outside the field – don’t underestimate the importance of the lay abstract either! Will be the first thing read by primary reviewers May be the ONLY thing read by other committee members; but not at MRC of course!! Will influence the way reviewers approach the rest of the proposal Making a successful application - 9

16 Making a successful application - 10 Last but not least - REVIEW internally! Mentors for new applicants Get a second opinion Proof read & spell check – remember the little things count!

17 Making a successful application - 11 Response to reviewers comments - if you get past first base! A measured response that addresses important concerns can make all the difference Stick to the key issues Refer to parts of the application which may address concerns Use references Opportunity to add in extra data, publications to reassure

18 Unfocused, overambitious project Unoriginal, pedestrian approach No clear hypothesis, or not hypothesis-driven Methodology not sufficiently detailed Project not intellectually challenging Centre has no international standing in research area Lack of infrastructure/facilities Training element incomplete/unclear; poor training environment Right person - wrong project! And vice versa!! An application will fail because:

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