AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Awards 2013 Highlights Design

Post Grad Research CourseThe Arts and Humanities Research Council’s annual call for Collaborative Doctoral Awards was released earlier this month. CDAs are funded PhDs supervised jointly by an HEI and non-academic organisation – for more detail on how the scheme works please see this previous post.

Applications can be submitted to any area within AHRC’s remit, but this year there is a special highlight on Design, and in particular the role of Design in Innovation in partnership with SMEs in the service industry.

The final deadline for applications: 3rd October 2013. However, potential applicants should be aware that each HEI is capped at a maximum of 3 applications per HEI (assuming that one is for the Design highlight). Therefore, Northumbria may need to have an internal selection if there are more than 3 potential proposals.

If you are interested, please send brief expressions of interest to me, following the outline below by 16th August at the latest.

Internal expressions of interest:

Expressions of interest should be sent to me (david.g.young@northumbria.ac.uk) by 16th August. They should be brief (no longer than 2 sides of A4) and should include the following information:

  • Name of PI and any other co-applicants who will be contributing to the proposal;
  • Proposed title of the project;
  • How many studentships (applicants can apply for up to four linked studentships within a single application – this counts as one proposal in terms of our HEI cap);
  • Proposed research questions;
  • Name of the partner organisation and a short statement about the collaboration: what is the nature of the relationship, what benefits will this partner bring to the research in terms of student training opportunities, access to resources, knowledge, and any wider social, economic or cultural benefits?;

We’re not looking for polished proposals at this stage. What’s important is to give a clear sense of what the proposed collaboration will achieve beyond a standard university-funded studentship. At the end of the day the purpose of an internal competition is to identify the 2-3 proposals which have the best chance of success on AHRC’s terms.

If we receive more than three applications across the University we’ll endeavour to review these and make a decision in the week following (i.e. w/b 19th August). The reason this is relatively soon is to give successful applicants the best chance to fully develop their proposals before the AHRC deadline of 3rd October.

Other options:

Some of you may already be aware of an alternative route available to secure a CDA, separate to the standard application route outlined above, which is through collaboration with one of the organisations holding a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership.

A CDP is essentially a block grant for CDAs awarded to a number of non-academic organisations which have been successful in hosting CDAs in the past. These organisations can then choose how to allocate their annual cohort of CDAs – and which HEIs they choose to work with – as they see fit. The actual processes by which CDA projects are established with CDP organisations vary, so AHRC have published a list of these organisations and contact details [PDF].

Note that any CDAs which are awarded through CDP collaboration would not count towards our cap of CDA submissions in the standard route. The CDP is an entirely separate pot of CDAs.


Northumbria Collaborative Research Studentship Scheme Open

Handshake 52-365 by Julia Taylor CC BY-NC-ND 2.0Northumbria’s Collaborative Research Studentships scheme is currently open for applications. The scheme will jointly fund up to 15 PhD studentships per year in any discipline in collaboration with external organisations: private, public or voluntary sector; small, medium or large; regional, national or international.

Apply now

The application form should be completed by the proposed Northumbria University supervisor and submitted to Tim Baxter, Graduate School Manager.

The annual cost of the studentship (Home/EU fees, stipend and training budget) is £20,000, half of which will be provided by the University and the other half to be met by an external partner. The current round is accepting applications for studentships which will commence in Autumn 2013.

Further details on the scheme are below:

  • Funding (stipend, fees, training budget and other associated costs) to be shared 50 : 50 between the University and external partner.
  • The research degree funding programme to last for 3 years.
  • The scheme allows the candidate to spend some time in the partner organisation [the exact amount of time to be individually negotiated between the relevant parties].
  • Intellectual Property Rights to be agreed and signed by both parties prior to commencement of the programme.
  • All University Academic and Student Regulations and the PGR Code of Practice must apply to any registered student.

Eligibility criteria for the candidate, topic and supervisor are listed below:

1)      Candidate

  • Academic excellence of the proposed student i.e. minimum of upper second class honours degree or equivalent GPA from non-UK universities (preference for 1st class honours); or Masters degree (with distinction)
  • Appropriate IETLS score, if required
  • Home/EU students will have full fees covered. International students must self-fund the difference between the international and home/EU fees

2)      Research Topic

  • Alignment with Faculty Research plans

3)      Proposed Principal Supervisor

  • Research active – has current or recent research of a standard and quality consistent with submission to Research Excellence Framework
  • Relevant subject expertise
  • Attended compulsory supervisor workshop (within last 3 years)

4)      Faculty Resource

  • An appropriate level of any required additional financial resource in place to support the studentship for its duration, including consumables where relevant; and
  • Appropriate space available to accommodate the doctoral student

All applications will be considered at monthly Research Advisory Group meetings, chaired by the PVC (Research and Innovation).


Guardian Panel on Writing A Successful Research Grant Proposal looking for volunteers: TODAY at 12

People Chatting by drewm CC BY-NC 2.0The Guardian HE Network has posted a message on LinkedIn looking for volunteers for its panel for their next HE live chat on “Research funding: writing a successful proposal” which is happening today (Friday 12th April) between 12-2pm.

They’re particularly interested in identifying early career researchers and PhDs for the panel, although anyone with expertise in this field will be welcome. If you’re interested, you’ll need to act quickly: get in touch with Claire Shaw either on Twitter or via LinkedIn. I’ve participated in one of these live chats before and I found it to be a great learning experience and good fun.

Other members of the HE live chat panel are:

  • Adam Staines (Head of Policy, RCUK)
  • Ken Emond (Head of Research Awards, British Academy)
  • Rebecca Stelarios (REF impact advisor to 8 UK HEIs)
  • Andrew Derrington (Executive PVC of humanities and social sciences at University of Liverpool)

**UPDATE 16:00** The chat is over now but there were some useful discussions and thoughts from the panelists. I encourage you to take 15 minutes or so to read through the comments.


Northumbria University Research Degree Studentships

phd notes by Wrote CC BY-NC 2.0As part of our continuing commitment to research and scholarship, Northumbria University is offering research degree studentships, available for uptake from September 2013. Applications are invited across the full range of disciplines offered by Northumbria University. Fully or partially funded studentships may include fees, an annual stipend, travel costs and consumables.

For further details of our research areas and how to apply, please see the links below. The deadline for applications in all areas is 26th April 2013:

Faculty of Arts, Design and Social Sciences (including American Studies; Arts; Design; English & Creative Writing; History; Media and Social Sciences)

Faculty of Business and Law (including Entrepreneurship, innovation and SMEs; Risk, Ethics and Governance; Organisational and Individual Behaviour and Management; Law)

Faculty of Engineering and Environment (including Architecture & Built Environment; Computer Science & Digital Technologies; Geography; Mechanical & Construction Engineering; Mathematics & Information Sciences; Physics & Electrical Engineering)

Faculty of Health and Life Sciences (including Cellular & Molecular Sciences; Chemistry; Food & Nutrition; Forensic Science; Education and Life Long Learning; Healthcare; Psychology; Public Health and Wellbeing; Social Work and Communities; Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation)


AHRC Announce Collaborative Doctoral Partnerships

Together We Are by Mommy Peace CC BY-NC-SA 2.0AHRC has recently announced the outcome of its first collaborative doctoral partnerships (CDP) competition. Twelve organisations and consortia with a strong track record in running Collaborative Doctoral Awards (CDAs – joint PhDs between arts, culture and heritage organisations and HEIs) have been successful in this round of funding.

In total 55 CDAs per year will be distributed across the successful CDPs over the next 3 academic years, each of which will be a collaboration between a non-HEI and academic partner.

The full list is below:

Partner Organisation/Consortium Consortium Partners Annual Studentship Cohort Awarded
Science Museum Group Science Museum, Museum of Science
and Industry, National Media Museum,
National Railway Museum York,
National Railway Museum Locomotion
Shildon, BT Archives
The British Museum 7
TATE Includes all Tate Museums 5
British Library 6
Thames Consortium National Maritime Museum, National
Portrait Gallery, National Archives
Victoria and Albert Museum 4
Imperial War Museums 3
National Gallery 3
Glasgow Life Includes all departments and
organisations within Glasgow Life
Scottish Heritage Consortium National Museums Scotland, RCAHMS,
Historic Scotland, National Galleries of
English Heritage Includes all English Heritage branches 3
RGS-IBG and Royal Society Royal Geographical Society (inc
Institute of British Geographers), Royal

The CDP is a new scheme which ran alongside and ahead of the standard CDA call. The idea was to give organisations with a strong track record in the annual CDA call more certainty and ownership over how to allocate and distribute awards. It was created in response to feedback from assessors and applicants in previous rounds of the CDA. The deadline for CDPs was October 2012. The CDA scheme, which this year was limited to two applications per HEI, closed last week.

I’ve got an idea for a CDA: how do I get involved with CDP organisations?

In short, you need to talk to them. AHRC have said they will advertise a list of relevant contacts at each of the institutions/consortia, so that academic staff from universities with potential projects can approach CDPs to discuss further. Most organisations are also carrying out an internal review process to identify potential existing relationships with academia which can be developed within this new tranche of CDAs.

The process of actually securing funding is a little more complex than usual: although the award will actually be made to HEIs, applicants wishing to work with CDPs should contact the organisations directly with project proposals, rather than go through the AHRC. Following this the organisation will approach AHRC with a list of nominated CDA projects and, once approved by AHRC, the HEIs will submit CDA forms via Je-S. All of the award is paid by AHRC directly to the HEI.


Research Councils in 2013, Part 1: Harmonisation, Demand Management and Early Career Researchers

This is part 1 of a 2-part series. I’ll post the second part tomorrow.

Polaris House, Swindon was the location of the latest joint ARMA (Association of Research Managers and Administrators) RCUK “Study Tour” which took place yesterday. We’ve been to these kinds of events before, but this was a little different. All previous Study Tours I’ve attended have been hosted by a single Research Council or funder, whereas this was a joint effort with representatives from all seven RCs, plus the “Shared Service Centre” – the back office for all RCs – and Je-S help desk. There was also a conscious attempt throughout most of the sessions to be more interactive, and the programme was pitched at “senior” research managers with a promise of greater discussion of policy and future strategic directions for RCs.

The key word was “harmonisation“: Peter Hollinswaite (Business Manager at MRC) set the tone by announcing that the RCs have now reached a more or less “stable state”, following a 2-3 year process during which they have moved to a single physical location and aligned pre- and post-award processes (all Councils now use Je-S, for example). However care was taken to distinguish harmonisation from ‘standardisation’. There was a recognition that different RCs serve different academic and user communities with distinct needs, so business models may differ – for example in the way they support postgraduate students, though even here there have been increasingly harmonised moves towards “block grant” models vs the old individual and project grant studentships across all the Councils.

The usual stats and numbers were rattled through first to give some context:

  • RCs processed 14,000 applications in 2012
  • There has been an increase in success rates from 18% to 26% across all schemes over the past 2 years
  • Demand has fallen 5% per annum over the past 2 years

Peter said that the next phase of cross-Council harmonisation would include: further simplification and rationalisation of funding schemes; a review of the process of peer review; scrutiny of terms and conditions and guidance to reduce confusion. As part of this process RCs will be carrying out surveys with various stakeholder groups, including research admin offices in universities.

The perennial topic of “Demand Management” was the focus of Gerald Owenson’s (BBSRC) discussion session. He outlined a number of measures, which he labelled ‘direct’ and ‘indirect’, introduced over the past few years which have led to the reduction in numbers of bids and consequent increase in success rates. Direct measures include:

  • Resubmissions are now generally not accepted by RCs unless invited (NERC is an exception – you can resubmit after 9 months)
  • Use of outline or preliminary stage applications has increased – the rationale is that outlines require less paperwork and so take less time for both applicant and RC to process. However, I’d argue that significant work goes on ‘behind the scenes’, particularly in terms of costing and partnership formation, which although not present in the submitted bid nevertheless take a significant amount of time
  • EPSRC has introduced individual researcher sanctions which limit repeatedly unsuccessful applicants to one bid per year. This has been controversial but has increased EPSRC success rates significantly, though other RCs have been reluctant to follow suit

Indirect demand management measures include:

  • Providing feedback to PI and Research Organisation (RO), including peer review and panel meeting comments. Peer review comments are not currently systematically returned to ROs, but Peter indicated this is set to change
  • Encouraging ROs to undertake internal assessment or peer review  of bids before submission, which most universities do to some extent
  • On this last point in particular, Gerald encouraged ROs to make use of their own internal staff resources, including the “insider knowledge” of people who are on RC peer review colleges and panels. I suggested to him later that it would be useful to offer opportunities for academics and research managers to sit in on RC panel meetings, in order to broaden experience. However he indicated this would be difficult due to limited space in the panel meeting rooms!

Kirsty Grainger and Avril Allman (both NERC) emphasised the importance of PhD studentships and Early Career Researchers to Research Council future plans. Of the annual UK output of 17400 PhDs, 5000 are RC-funded. For some Councils around 50% of funding is invested in PhDs. Increasingly measures to secure fitness for employment is seen as a key part of student training programmes. In addition all Councils now encourage interdisciplinary studentships, although there must be a lead Council. There was a suggestion that there may be specific joint-Council interdisciplinary calls for studentships in future.

Find out what the Research Councils and universities think about Je-S, as well as some insight on EPSRC and NERC priorities for 2013 in Part 2 tomorrow.


AHRC Launches Expanded International Placement Scheme

Are you an AHRC-funded postgraduate or early-career researcher? Now you have an opportunity to apply for a short-term fellowship at one of four internationally-renowned research libraries and institutes.

The AHRC has just launched an expanded scheme which offers 3-6 month placements at one of four destinations in 2012/13:

This provides an excellent opportunity not only to take advantage of the world-class research facilities on offer, but also to expand your academic network overseas.

Here are more details on the awards and eligibility from the AHRC:

The scheme is open to UK postgraduate students and early career researchers funded by the AHRC and successful applicants receive an award from the AHRC to contribute towards their flight costs and a monthly allowance in additional to their normal stipend/salary paid as part of their AHRC funding.

Applicants can apply to spend from three to six months at the overseas institution with dedicated access to their world-class research facilities, expertise and networking opportunities.

For the purposes of this scheme, “early career” means you need to be within 8 years of the award of your PhD, or within 6 years of your first academic appointment. And note that ESRC award holders are also eligible to apply to the Library of Congress placement scheme, but not to the other destinations. Further information is available in the detailed call guidance notes available at the links above.

As we reported last month, this is part of the AHRC’s wider international strategy. The focus on early stage researchers is significant as the AHRC believe international links made at this stage of an academic career usually last longer and are more productive in terms of stimulating future research collaborations and impact.

The deadline for applications for the International Placement Scheme is 15th March, 2012. Please contact us for advice and support with your application.