Preparing Research Grants
Anyone preparing a research grant in the Computer Laboratory ("the Department") should read and understand this outline guide.
The Principal Investigator (PI) has overall reponsibility for the research grant application.
On the advice of the PI, the Finance Office draws up the internal budget for the project and checks the financial details on behalf of the Department.
On the advice of the Finance Office, the Head of Department approves that the Department is willing to undertake the project.
On behalf of the University and on the recommendation of the Head of Department, the Research Operations Office does a final sanity check and approves the grant. This office is the body that formally submits most grant applications. Research Operations approval normally takes between three and five days depending on the complexity and type of grant.
The Research Operations Office has a useful webpage explaining how to apply for funding.
The Departmental Procedure
Full grant applications
As soon as you know that you will be applying for a research grant, draw up a draft list of what you will be asking for and e-mail that to the Department's Finance Office. This will allow the Finance Office to prepare a draft budget for discussion with you. If you have notes or instructions for the particular grant call, please provide a web link to those notes or include the notes with your e-mail.
To enable the Finance Office to handle all applications fairly and to give them time to handle applications well, the Head of Department has imposed the following timetable.
As soon as possible: inform the Finance Office that you are applying for a grant and provide a draft list of what you will need and a link to the instructions for the particular grant scheme to which you are applying.
Two weeks before the sponsor's deadline: Final date for providing that draft list to the Finance Office along with a good draft of your justification of resources document.
One week before the sponsor's deadline: Final date for producing the final budget in collaboration with the Finance Office (but see stricter deadlines below).
The Head of Department will refuse to support any grant application where the final budget is not in place one week before the sponsor's deadline.
High risk applications
High risk applications require extra processing time. Add a week to the minimum times given above, i.e., the final budget and justification of resources must be complete two weeks before the deadline.
High risk applications are those where:
- a new sponsor is sought which requires ethical and finance checks by the University; or
- the status of the PI or any co-Is in relation to eligibility and duration of their remaining contract may be in question; or
- extra budget checks are required to ensure no ineligible costs are included, eligible costs are fully justified, and potential financial liability is understood.
Preliminary grant applications
Some funding bodies require a first round of applications, with draft budgets, that do not need formal approval by the Research Operations Office.
However, please still advise the Finance Office that you will be putting in an application. Please use the Finance Office to help draw up your budget properly. Please give the Finance Office sufficient warning so that they have time to provide the best possible help to you.
Advice on preparing grant budgets
- Prepare your draft budget and send it to the Finance Office before you write your academic case for support. It is most efficient if you can be writing your academic case for support at the same time as the Finance Office is working on the budget.
- Every sponsor has different rules. Know your sponsor's rules.
- The University requires that you put at least 10% of the PI's time on a grant. The Department asks that you put 20% of the PI's time on a grant.
- You need to know how many staff you want to employ, on what grades and for how long. Pre-doctoral RAs are on Grade 5, Post-Doctoral RAs are on Grade 7, Senior RAs are on Grade 9. HR's salary information pages will give you an idea of how much each costs but you must defer to the Finance Office to do the actual budget calculations for you.
- You need to provide a list of travel and consumables requested, with estimated costs.
- Staff costs are the most expensive part of any grant. Travel and consumables are small by comparison. Do not be afraid to ask for sufficient travel and consumables to do the job and do not under-estimate the costs. For example, two conference trips per year per person is justifiable. As a rough guide, a UK or European conference may cost £1500, a US or Asian conference may cost £2,000-2,500.
- Remember to justify everything in your justification of resources document. What staff? Why?; What travel? Where? Why?; What consumables? Why?
- Be aware of things that are inelgible costs. If there is something needed for the grant, but which you cannot claim on the grant, talk to the Head of Department before submission of the application - there may be ways to fund these ineligible costs from other sources.
- If you are applying for large equipment, know whether it is an eligible call on the grant and know whether you will need to provide quotes to the sponsor with the application.