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What they are, where they come from, how they work…. Research Grants. Research Grants. Money paid to University to pay for: Staff postdocs Studentships Support staff – secretaries, computer officers…. Teaching replacement Equipment Travel Out to conferences and visits

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Research grants
Research Grants

  • Money paid to University to pay for:

    • Staff

      • postdocs

      • Studentships

      • Support staff – secretaries, computer officers….

      • Teaching replacement

    • Equipment

    • Travel

      • Out to conferences and visits

      • In for visitors and workshops

Some sources of grants for maths cs
Some Sources of Grants (for Maths & CS)

  • From richest and most bureaucratic to poorest & least bureaucratic

    • EU – Frameworks

    • EPSRC

    • Leverhulme Trust

    • Royal Society

    • Royal Society of Edi.

    • Nuffield Foundation

    • LMS

    • EMS

Focus on epsrc but you shouldn t forget the others
Focus on EPSRCBut you shouldn’t forget the others

  • Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council -- www.epsrc.ac.uk

  • Fellowships

    • Post-doctoral, advanced, senior, knowledge transfer

  • Smaller grants:

    • Overseas travel grants

    • Visiting Fellowships

    • Workshops

    • Networks

  • Responsive mode – normal grants

  • First Grant

  • Assorted special schemes – eg Critical Mass


  • Fellowships are special

    • You apply to support yourself

    • Your chosen University agrees to employ you if you get it – in practice usually easy to move

    • In practice you can apply for and get a lectureship while on a PDRF or ARF, then start it with years of unpaid leave

  • Only one application round per year, in autumn

    • For PDRF (theory only) < 3 years from formal PhD decision to closing date, ARF 3-10 years

    • Don’t miss the boat!

Standard research grants
Standard Research Grants

  • Very flexible in principle

    • 1 wk – 6 yrs

    • £500-£6m

  • Mainly 2-3 years, £150K--£300K in CS, a bit less in maths

  • Investigators must have a position longer than the grant

    • Except that existing RAs can be co-investigators applying for their own salary (new)

Price points
Price Points

  • Although EPSRC denies it, grants cluster around certain “price points”, different in different subjects

    • If you aim for a higher price point, you need a more impressive science case

    • In CS: £60K-£70K (a studentship), £100-120K (first grant, 2 year postdoc), £200-250K (3 year postdoc & a student), £300-350K (big grant, two postdocs or a postdoc & a student and big computers)

  • Anything off the top of this scale is very unlikely to fly as a “standard research grant”

How it works 1 the basic grant application
How It Works 1The Basic Grant Application

  • Fill in EPSRC form, prepare 8 page case for support and University pink form, Investigators and head of school sign

    • includes three referees names

    • Research Grants Finance Office (RGFO) provide costs for staff

  • RGFO check and sign, keep pink form + copy

  • Send original + eight copies to EPSRC

  • Catch up on sleep, teaching, life, etc.

Electronic submission
Electronic Submission

  • Now mandatory, but I haven't tried it yet

    • All investigators need to get accounts

    • Fill in form on Web

    • Upload supporting documents in PDF

    • Submit on-line

      • Sent automatically to head(s) of school(s) and RGFO to review

      • Not sure how this works with deadlines

How it works 2 what epsrc does next
How it Works 2What EPSRC does next

  • Paperwork checks, send to referees, usually one of yours + two or three of theirs

  • Reject outright if referees reports are bad

  • For some schemes (travel, networks, first grant) may accept if reports are good

  • Otherwise goes to a panel

    • Normally you get to see the referees reports and respond briefly before the panel

Epsrc panels
EPSRC Panels

  • Panels of a dozen or so – mainly academics, held every couple of months

  • consider up to 50 grant applications

    • Have applications, referees reports, final reviews of applicants previous grants,….

  • Consider scientific merit, and “justification of resources” – not supposed to consider cost directly

  • Panel ranks proposals – EPSRC decides how far down the list to fund

  • Details of past panels on the Web

Example panel july 29 2004 computer science


1/4 (£123K/390K) First Grant Scheme

11/41 (£2M/8M) Standard grants

Funded grants ranged from:

Algorithms of Nework-sharing Games (£89K Warwick)

A Security Model For XML (£309K Edinburgh)

Generative Programming for Embedded Systems (£156K Kevin)


Example PanelJuly 29 2004 Computer Science

  • Prof. A Finkelstein (UCL)

  • Prof. J Derrick (Kent)

  • Prof. Z Irani (Brunel)

  • Dr MJ Kirton (QinetiQ)

  • Dr GA McCusker (Sussex)

  • Dr J Shapiro (Manchester)

  • Prof. S Stepney (York)

  • Prof. IA Stewart (Durham)

  • Prof. Y Wilks (Sheffield)

  • Mrs J Edwards (EPSRC)

What happens when you get funded 1
What Happens when you Get Funded 1?

  • The “Grant progress tracker” on the EPSRC Web site goes to “decision reached”

  • A week after the panel, you can phone EPSRC and ask what the decision was

  • Usually you need to talk to them to agree the actual start date before they can send the formal letter to the University

  • Research Grants Finance get the letter and give you an account code (like 1-SCS2-XEP279) to use to spend the money

What happens when you get funded 2
What happens when you get funded 2?

  • If there are staff on the grant, Human Resources will send you terrifying documents about recruitment procedures

  • You can start spending money when:

    • The start date is reached and

    • At least one person has started work (if there are people on the grant)

    • Although you can bend this a bit

Using the money

You can’t pay for

Your own salary, or teaching replacement

“departmental computing costs”

Travel by staff/postdocs not on the grant

Overseas student fees

The university sorts out the cash flow issues

You effectively have all the money to spend from day 1

Remember that different funders have different rules

Using the Money

  • You can pay for:

    • Research staff as funded

    • Support staff, but tends to be grabbed to pay for existing people

    • Home/EU fees and maintenance for students

    • Equipment (over £3K)

    • Consumables (under £3K)

    • Travel for people named on grant

      • Have to justify conferences not named

      • This isn’t closely policed

  • You can move funds between categories “vire” fairly freely


  • Funding bodies pay some money for “indirect costs” of staff – rooms, light, library, human resources, secretarial, etc.

    • EPSRC pays 46% of staff costs

    • EU pays 10% of everything

    • Leverhulme pays nothing

  • At St Andrews most of this money goes to Schools (eventually), but may be siphoned off to help meet School deficits

    • Some is supposed to be earmarked for PI to spend, eg on setting up the next grant

  • This is going to change from Sep ’05

    • “Full Economic Costs”

Final report
Final Report

  • You have to submit a final report within 3 months of the end of the grant

    • They keep back 10% of the money until you do

    • Also you can’t put in any other applications

    • Usual stuff about how successful it all was, publications, etc.

    • Justification for moving money between headings, attending extra conferences

  • This report goes to a referee or two

  • Their assessment is sent to panel with your subsequent applications

Writing the application
Writing the Application

  • Apart from boring factual stuff and costs, you have to produce

    • Summary, relevance to beneficiaries, and objectives (4000 chars each) for the form

    • 2 page track record

    • 6 page case for support

    • 1 page diagrammatic project plan

    • CVs of named researchers

The generic application 1 the basic message
The Generic Application 1The Basic Message

  • Area X is really important.

    • Famous people have worked in it,

    • it has led to important discoveries

  • Subarea Y is important and topical

    • Reasonably famous people have worked in it recently

  • What subarea Y really needs right now is a thorough and systematic investigation of topic Z

  • The investigators are uniquely well qualified and equipped to do that investigation – fund them!

The generic application 2 the subtext
The Generic Application 2The Subtext

  • We know what we’re talking about

    • We have a clear idea what we want to do

    • We know the recent and current work in the field

    • We have some understanding of a larger context for it

  • We have some idea how we might go about the investigation

    • You have to give ludicrous detail, but it doesn’t matter

  • We are reliable

    • We can organise ourselves enough to do the work and hand in the final report on time

    • We are willing to cooperate in helping EPSRC prove that it met its political goals

Who you re writing for 1
Who you’re writing for 1

  • EPSRC Admin

    • Key words in title and summary guide choice of referees

    • Keep them sweet

      • Do the paperwork right

      • Give them ammunition to prove to their bosses that they’re meeting their goals

  • Your nominated referees

    • presumably they’re going to support you

    • give them ammunition to make their case

    • Give them things to put in all the parts of the form.

Who you re writing for 2
Who You’re Writing For 2

  • EPSRC nominated referees

    • Will read the whole thing, reasonably close to the area

    • Large luck element – friendly, neutral or hostile

    • Give ammunition to friendly referees; avoid things that neutral referees might pick on; genuinely hostile referees are a lost cause

  • The Panel

    • Will not read the whole thing, may not be in the area

    • Aim the summary and the first page or so of the Case for Support at them, also beneficiaries and similar.

Final tips
Final Tips

  • There is a large random element in the process

    • resubmitting virtually the same grant six months later can work

  • Coherence is important – the grant should be structured around a simple story

    • Line up aims, objectives, work packages, behind your story

  • Always try to see the referees form and write with it in mind (EPSRC ones on the Web)

    • Failing that, get the “criteria” for the scheme and make sure you have addressed them all