Computer Laboratory

Writing a proposal

Unless you're responding to a specific call, it might first be worth considering who you're actually going to apply to. EPSRC is obviously the funder of choice for most people, but don't rule out bodies such as the Leverhulme Trust (particularly for cross-disciplinary proposals) and the European Research Council (large amounts of funding over 5 years for a single PI and their team). A summary of the 'normal' research grant funding offered by each of these can be found here. For early career researchers in particular, a fellowship application may be a more appropriate route to take.

General points:

  • Read the scheme notes carefully, checking things like PI criteria, ineligible costs, and assessment criteria. For a targeted call, make a note of any key words or phrases that can be cited back in the application, for example 'transformative research', 'crossing disciplinary boundaries' etc.
  • Don't tailor your proposal to an amount of money (unless of course an upper limit is specified). Work out what you want to do and how much it will cost - large proposals are just as likely to get funded as small ones, provided the costs are in line with the work proposed
  • Peer review is generally undertaken by academics in your broad area, so don't underestimate the importance of networking, making contacts, and giving talks at other institutions, particularly if you are relatively early in your career
  • It can be helpful to have someone outside your field read your proposal and comment things like general readability, whether the summary is comprehendable to a non-expert, and if your 'track record' clearly sets out why you are a fundable proposition. Andrea can help here.
  • If you need a Letter of Support from the Head of Department, notify Joanne as soon as possible
  • Simon Peyton Jones (MSR Cambridge) and Alan Bundy (Informatics, Edinburgh) have written a more comprehensive general guide to writing a good grant proposal

Proposal documents

The headings below are taken from EPSRC documentation, but most funder application forms will use the same or similar terms.

Summary: This is intended to be read by a general audience, so explain what you're proposing, why it's important, and how you're going to do it. Keep the prior history or underpinning research brief (even if you've done much of it) - this is about the current proposal.

In the main project description, set out clearly:

  • What you are proposing to do
  • Why it needs doing
  • Why you and your team are the right people to do it - more expertise, better access to equipment, novel approach
  • How you are going to do it - tasks (and in sequence or parallel), people, equipment, collaborations/external inputs
  • How long it will take
  • What the risks are, and how you will mitigate these. Don't undersell any risks, just show that you've thought about them carefully and can demonstrate alternative ways of doing things.
  • What the outcomes will be and how you will recognise them as 'successful'

Track record: Why are you the best person to do this work? Include reference to prior successful teams you've managed (particularly if the same staff are being employed this time round), previous successful collaborations if it's a collaborative proposal, existing links to industry if relevant, evidence of how you're already pushing research boundaries in your area etc.

In the 'Justification of Resources', remember to justify everything. Staff - why? Travel - where and why? Consumables - why? If you've asked for computers, why?

The budget

Discuss the proposal with Tanya as soon as possible. She can provide guidance on appropriate costs, and can help with the X5 (the University's official costing form). Useful things to remember:

  • It is Lab policy that you MUST include:
    • PI time at 20% or more (any less requires HoD approval in writing to Tanya)
    • 10% Computer Officer time at spine point 64, as a contribution towards pooled labour
  • Salary scales are: pre-doctoral RAs Grade 5; RAs Grade 7; SRAs Grade 9. Costs, including pension and NI, are here (use the drop-down menu to select the appropriate grade)
  • Computers can only be included if they are a specialised requirement for undertaking the project. General purpose laptops and PCs are not normally funded on grants

Some examples of recently submitted proposals

To be completed

Further information

The Research Operations Office has more information on general submission procedures on their webpages.