EPSRC Regional Meeting – Newcastle

This presentation was followed by 2 interactive sessions:
‘How can we support world-leading teams to deliver excellent research that meets UK and global priorities?’
‘How can we maximise the impact of our excellent research and talented people?’
The main points to note from David’s presentation was that EPSRC is no longer in passive funding mode. They have a set of 3 strategic goals over the next 3 years:
  • delivering impact
  • developing leaders
  • shaping capability
Their main aims are to support researchers throughout their careers and to shorten the pathways to impact.
Due to a 30% cut in their administration budget, EPSRC have cut the number of schemes they support to try and streamline their grants system. A full picture of the EPSRC portfolio is available on their website.
One of the key messages of the day from David was that EPSRC want to encourage universities to collaborate more and compete less. Also, there will be increased investment in high performance computing, encouraging Europe working together to compete with the US, China and India on quality not quantity.
National Importance: From 15 November 2011, EPSRC introduced National Importance as an additional assessment criterion. In 2010 EPSRC published its Strategic Plan articulating a very clear goal of Shaping Capability – namely to focus our portfolio in areas of international research excellence and national importance. We will therefore base all investment decisions over the Delivery Plan period primarily on international excellence but also on national importance (set in a global context) and the EPSRC portfolio while continuing to encourage the free generation of ideas, curiosity and research creativity.

Applicants will now need to clearly identify the national importance of their proposed research project in their case for support and reviewers will be asked to consider national importance as a major secondary criterion, after research quality, in their assessment.


BUPA Foundation – Prizes for 2012

BUPA have announced their prize competition for 2012. The BUPA Foundation Prizes reward researchers’ completed work as well as ‘seeding’  follow-on studies, or piloting work in a new direction prompted by the successful project.

The prizes are presented in November each year, at the BUPA Foundation prize giving dinner held in London. A short video of each winning project is featured, followed by presentations and dinner.

The prizes are made annually in recognition of excellence in medical research and healthcare in four categories:

Healthy Lives Prize: for enabling people to make sustained behaviour changes towards a healthy lifestyle in realtion to smoking, diet, physical activity and /or alcohol consumption.

Patients as Partners Prize: for development of shared-decision making tools that help patients to make informed decisions about their own health care.

Vitality for Life Prize: for work with older age groups promoting and encouraging healthy ageing.

Technology for Healthy Outcomes: for work using new technologies to organise and interpret health outcomes data to improve health and care.

For further details see the BUPA website.


David Cameron announces £66 million for Dementia Research

David Cameron has recently announced a significant increase in funding for dementia research from £26.6m in 2010 to £66m in 2015.

dementiaWith an ageing population, the number of people living with dementia is set to rise over the next five years. Currently dementia affects approximately 670,000 people in England. By radically stepping up research into cures and treatment it hopes to improve the understanding, prevention, detection, care and treatment for people suffering from dementia.

There are pockets of research interest around dementia across a number of Schools here at Northumbria so we will watch with interest how this funding pledge manifests itself into real opportunities to bid for funding. Watch this space!

David Cameron said he wanted Britain “to be a world leader in dementia research and care” and the national challenge would look to ways of improving the treatment of people with dementia and support for them and their families.

For full details of this announcement see the BBC website.


Wellcome Trust – International Recruiting Supplement

MWellcome Trust have recently announced an ‘International Recruiting Supplement’ (IRS) to new awards made under their existing Senior and Principal Research Fellowships and New and Senior Investigator Awards. Institutions can apply for 1:1 match funding  to attract suitable candidates from outside the UK. The Wellcome Trust will now add money to new awards to scientists who come from outside the UK to help fund start-up packages and cover some of the other associated costs of their recruitment

Awards are intended to reduce the barriers in bringing people into the UK, and to support and improve biomedical sciences.

A maximum of £1 million is available from the Trust, with the host institution expected to contribute matching funds. Funding would be in addition to that provided with the fellowship or Investigator Award and may cover costs for:

  • large-scale laboratory refurbishment
  • office refurbishment (under exceptional circumstances)
  • addition or enhancement of relocation expenses for the applicant and/or for members of the applicant’s laboratory. This may also include funds to cover short periods of housing rental (for the applicant only) to assist with relocation, where appropriate.


For full details for the new supplement see the Wellcome Trust website.


Research Integrity Consultation – Have your Say!

Universities UK has been working with the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), Research Councils UK (RCUK), the Wellcome Trust and government departments to develop a concordat to support research integrity.

The concordat outlines five important commitments that those engaged in research can make to help ensure that the highest standards of rigour and integrity are maintained. It also makes a clear statement about the responsibilities of researchers, employers and funders of research in maintaining high standards in research.

The objective of the concordat is to support the research community to maintain the highest possible standards in the conduct of research. It does this by identifying five key commitments for signatories to make. These ensure that all those engaged with research:

  1. underpin their work with common values of rigour and integrity
  2. conform to all legal, professional and ethical obligations
  3. strive to create an environment based on best practice
  4. support the development and application of robust processes to deal with allegations of misconduct
  5. play an active role in an ongoing process to strengthen the integrity of research

Take an look at the draft concordat and have your say. The consultation phase will close Friday 11 May 2012.

For more information download the invitation to comment.


NERC introduces Demand Management for Responsive Mode Schemes

logo: NERCFollowing consultation with the NERC community, in July 2011 NERC Council approved the introduction of demand management measures for responsive mode proposals submitted from 1  April 2012. The measures will be applied to applications submitted to the following NERC responsive mode schemes: Urgency, Large and Standard grants (including those lead by new investigators).

The measures will NOT apply to the NERC Fellowship schemes or outline proposals.

The NERC Delivery Plan 2011-2015 includes the target to reduce demand and manage success rates for responsive mode research grants.Demand management aims to minimise the inefficiencies in the funding system for both resaerch organisations and NERC by reducing the number of proposals submitted and reviewed whist maintaining the quality of grants awarded.

Provisional timetable for introduction of demand management measures

1 April 2012
Monitoring of submissions and outcomes for demand management purposes commences

April 2012
Request for research organisations to nominate designated point(s) of contact for demand management interactions.

July 2012
Initial identification of research organisations with high number or proportion of uncompetitive submissions.

Summer 2012
Provision of past performance data.

Rolling schedule starting Autumn 2012
Scheduled visits and dialogue.

Annually from Autumn 2013
Provision of updated data and analyses.

For full details of this announcement see the NERC website.


AHRC Study Tour 2012 – Knowledge Exchange and International Opportunities

This is part four in a series on the 2012 AHRC Study Tour.

Knowledge Exchange
Jo Lansdowne – Knowledge Exchange Strategy & Development Manager.

AHRC are moving from Knowledge Transfer to Knowledge Exchange, funding ‘collaboration’ between academics & non-academics, recognising that Knowledge Exchange is a 2-way process.  The small dedicated schemes focusing on Knowledge Transfer will end and instead AHRC are embedding Knowledge Exchange in all of its schemes, though they will still fund KTPs through TSB. This term, embedding, appeared regularly throughout the day and the same applies to their international opportunities – discussed below – where the move is away from smaller scale specific schemes towards larger, multipurpose, higher impact grants.

The Creative Economy is the major focus of Knowledge Exchange and AHRC have moved supporting a small number of longer, larger grants for Knowledge Exchange Hubs. The Creative Economy covers 4 key areas:

  • cultural promotion & conservation – museums, cultural tourism
  • creative activitiesperforming arts, fashion, gaming
  • creative communicationsadvertising, experience economy, broadcasting
  • creative interfacesdesign industries

The types of activity in each of the Hubs will depend upon the needs and aspirations of a Hub’s target organisations and businesses and could involve a range of different knowledge exchange models, creative engagements and interactions. There are currently 4 Knowledge Exchange Research Hubs:

  • Design in Action – baased in Dundee – food, sport. ICT, rural economy
  • CreativeWorks London – led by Queen Mary College – creative economy
  • The Creative Exchange – based in Lancaster (NW) – content creation & distribution
  • REACT – led by University of the West of England, SW & S Wales – creative economy & SMEs

AHRC also provides targeted research support, for example:

  • Digital R&D for Arts & Culture – jointly with Arts Council of England & NESTA
  • Brighton Fuse – £1m grant awarded to expand the creative, digital and IT sector in Brighton and Hove.
  • Strategic Partnerships

Jo’s slides can be viewed on the AHRC website.

International Opportunities
Naomi Baeumont – Head of International Strategy

AHRC’s Priority Regions are:

  • South Asia
  • North America
  • Europe
  • China & Brazil

AHRC look to engage with early career researchers as links made at this stage in your career are usually enduring.

Current interactions with Europe:

  • Humanities in the European Research Area (HERA): upcoming call with €19M available. Linked to the AHRC Translating Cultures theme. www.hera.org
  • Joint Programming Initiative (JPI) on Cultural Heritage & Global Change – possible joint calls in the future www.netheritage.eu
  • Engagement with European Commission on the Socio-Economic & Humanities theme in Horizon 2020.

Worldwide Interactions:

AHRC have a number of worldwide Agreements & MoUs: Germany, Ireland, Japan, Taiwan, as well as an open responvive mode scheme for international collaboration with Brazil & North America.

There are a number of current and planned co-funded programmes:

  • digging into data – USA, Canada, Netherlands
  • Humanities and Wellbeing – links with USA under the Science in Culture theme

Under the Research Networking Scheme proposals for FEC up to £30,000 for a period of up to 2 years may be submitted.   An additional threshold of up to £15,000 FEC can be requested to cover the costs of any international participants or activities in addition to the £30,000 fEC scheme limit.  Applications can be made at any time.

The International Placement Scheme is aimed at Early Career Researchers who are currently holders of an AHRC grant. The Scheme provides support for access to international collections and libraries and will cover flights and additional living expenses. The placement should add value to an existing AHRC award.

In the future AHRC will be looking to work strategically with British Council. Furture avenues of collaboration have been identified in India and there are already relationships with the SHRC in Canada that are still to be explored.

Naomi’s slides are available on the AHRC website.


AHRC Study Tour 2012 – ‘Emerging Themes’ Overview

This is the second part of a series on the AHRC 2012 Study Tour.

Adam Walker – Strategy & Development Manager provided a whistle stop tour of the AHRC ‘Emerging Themes’. Although these are still referred to officially as “emerging”, the point was made that by now many of these have “emerged”.

The Main Themes are:

  • Science in Culture: looking at the historical evaluation of science, creativity & discovery, imagery & museums, public debate & enagement
  • Digital Transformations: how can we transfrom arts & humanities
  • Care for the Future: how the past can inform future thinking; custodianship of cultural heritage
  • Translating Cultures: need for diverse cultures to understand & communicate verbal & non verbal artforms; cultural understanding in a globalised economy & society

The main aims of the 4 emerging themes are:

  • knowledge exchange
  • capacity building
  • informing public policy
  • partnership activities – large consortia grants
  • build on previous programmes

Each of the main themes has a series of more focused sub-themes. Details can be found on the AHRC website, under ‘Emerging Themes’.

Connected Communities: this is a cross-Council theme, led by AHRC. Annual summits are being held for existing award holders with the opportunity for follow-on funding. There will be a Development Workshop announced in March for an event in May/June looking at Communities, Culture, Environment & Sustainability.

Advisory groups have been held for the 4 main emerging themes. There are development workshops planned and it is anticipated that future calls will be for longer, larger grants with a greater focus on the sub themes.

Current open Highlight Notices:

  • The highlight notice for the fellowship scheme has been extended until December 2012 and the highlight notice in the networking scheme until the end of July 2012. Both schemes remain entirely open to proposals addressing any topic and proposals to the scheme do not need to address any of these themes.
  • Care for the Future: a research grants scheme highlight notice is open,  looking at humanities approaches to environmental change (value up to £1.5m for a large consortia of either a group from one university OR a consortia of HEIs)

Although no commitment was made, Adam indicated that there have been discussions around opening up highlight notices for other themes within the responsive-mode standard research grants call.

Finally, there will be a Development Workshop, associated call & activities considered on community resilience, & provisionally on Communities, Culture, Diversity & Cohesion announced in 2013. There will be Devlopment Workshops announced under all of the other Themes but these are still to be decided.

Adam’s slides are available at: http://www.slideshare.net/AHRC/arma-themes-presentation