Research Councils in 2013: BBSRC, STFC, Outputs and Audits

Star trails and Star tails by Joe Dsilva CC BY-NC-SA 2.0Following the 2-part series last month summarising our visit to RCUK HQ in Swindon, our Assistant Director of Research, Ruth Hattam, has written the following summary of a few of the parallel sessions which she attended. This provides insights into the work and priorities of BBSRC and STFC, as well as a summary of discussions around outputs and the Research Councils’ approach to audits and assurance.

Gerald Owenson from BBSRC outlined forthcoming funding opportunities both for responsive mode (3 calls per year) and open calls.  Three strands (basic, strategic and applied research) mapped to the scheme for new investigators, the industrial partnerships awards (IPA) and stand-alone ‘LINK’ schemes respectively.  The latter two schemes focussed on academia and industry collaboration.  IPA schemes focussed on more speculative research with industry meeting 10% of the fEC.  LINK schemes were more market-focussed with 50% of the fEC from industry.

Other initiatives highlighted were the ‘Excellence with Impact’ awards, opportunities through FAPESP (collaboration bids with Brazil) and the ISIS scheme to support academics making contact with international counterparts.

Unlike the rest of the Research Councils, impact funding is not embedded in STFC awards.  The STFC staff talked about consolidated grants (limited to bid per department per year) and consortium grants (joint consolidated proposals).  A scheme for new applicants is also available.

STFC Innovation funding was being reviewed this year but currently comprised the Innovations Partnership Scheme (IPS) (some industry collaboration), the Challenge Led Applied Systems Programmes (CLASP) and IPS Fellowships (co-funded technology transfer staff to work on knowledge exchange from STFC funded research).   The CLASP scheme was worth £1.5m and was based on collaboration with industry/other disciplines to address global challenges in the areas of Energy, Environment, Healthcare and Security.  These challenges also formed the basis of the Futures Programme, which was around initiating projects based on STFC’s strengths and capabilities through 3 routes: networks, concepts and studentships.

Output, Outcome and Income Data

There are currently two main systems where research outcomes data can be stored, Researchfish and the Research Outcomes System (ROS).  RCUK is currently working to align/exchange data between the two systems.

Dr Ian Viney from MRC gave an overview of Researchfish which had evolved from the MRC e-Val system.  Currently 6,500 researchers use Researchfish, and 9 research intensive institutions have subscribed.  Data stored is mainly related to MRC and STFC projects.

Ben Ryan from EPSRC gave an overview of ROS, which was used by the other 5 Research Councils.  ROS is open source, with both individuals and institutions able to input data on a broad range of outcomes.  Bulk uploads are possible, the system is bibliometric data friendly and can be updated/added to even several years after project completion.  From 1 January 2013 all final reports on EPSRC grants should go straight onto ROS, with other Research Councils following suit soon.  ROS will provide certain data to the Gateway to Research system. The issue of whether one research outcomes system was anticipated was raised, but not directly answered.

Audit and Assurance Processes (Gareth McDonald, Associate Director of the Audit and Assurance Services Group (AASG))

The AASG is newly formed from the merger of Research Councils UK Assurance and the Research Councils Internal Audit Service.   This was a lively last session focussing on assuring compliance with the terms and conditions of awards.  Transparency of approach was emphasised, as was the AASG aim of helping and supporting institutions rather than policing them.  Emphasis was on whether effective control systems were in place rather than the detail of individual transactions.  During an audit visit, the AASG would: assess the regularity of expenditure for around 50 grants; review the use and application of TRAC methodology (ensuring that the institution was complying with minimum requirements of TRAC and that costs calculated were appropriate);  assess the effectiveness of communications (within the institution and with RCUK); and examine the control environment.  There would be increased emphasis on procurement and value for money, but also on non-financial assurance (research integrity and ethics).

A model of ‘Pillars of Funding Assurance’ supported by the control environment at the institution was outlined, with the specific areas of scrutiny listed.

The AASG will be adopting a revised methodology for audit. Research organisations will be asked to undertake an annual self-certification process using a template based on the ‘pillars of funding assurance’.  The templates will inform the visit schedule.  Research intensives could expect the most frequent visits as they receive the majority of funding.  Institutions with low levels of RCUK funding would be audited less frequently (likely to be less than 1 visit every 2 years).  The measurement criteria and definitions were currently being established but there were likely to be three grades: substantial confidence, satisfactory and no confidence.

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Research Councils in 2013, Part 2: Je-S, EPSRC and NERC Priorities

This is part 2 of a 2-part series. Read the first part here.

Je-S, the Research Council (RC) joint electronic submission system used for pre- and post-award management was the topic of an open discussion. A number of issues were raised along with suggestions for improvement:

  • Doesn’t allow for ‘soft’ deadlines, to give admin offices time to review proposals before submission – perhaps ROs (Research Organisations) could be given capacity to set own Je-S deadlines
  • Doesn’t allow you to see where academics are involved in proposals as Co-Is with other institutions. This can lead to last minute costings being requested
  • Doesn’t give enough detail about pre-award status – i.e. it just says ‘with Council’ when a bid has been submitted, but this status covers a number of different stages
  • Doesn’t allow for multiple users to edit at the same time and documents can be locked for up to 2 hours by one editor who forgets to log out
  • Some Councils have started using their own online forms for outline bids which reflects a lack of flexibility in Je-S, but can add complexity and confusion for ROs
  • Not all Councils allow ‘joint’ or linked proposals which allow each institution in a multi-partner bid to input their own costs. The reasons for this were that multiple Je-S forms are administratively more complex for the RC, but this effectively transfers the admin burden to ROs

While answers weren’t forthcoming during the event, all the issues will be taken away by the Je-S team in SSC for a feasibility discussion. Despite these problems, the general feeling among the room was that Je-S is a fairly good system overall for managing pre- and post-award activity, especially in comparison to other funders’ electronic systems.

Sam Madden (EPSRC) gave an update on EPSRC priorities over the coming year. Their spending commitment spike in 2012/13 (which we’ve discussed previously) is almost over, which means that there will be a sharp drop in the number of managed calls from now until at least 2014/15. Most of the budget commitment over the next year for research will be on responsive mode applications.

The main priority for EPSRC in 2013 (reflecting the vast majority of their budget commitment this year) is the Centres for Doctoral Training call, which was prefigured in November last year with a short report on priorities, but will be officially released in early February with an April deadline for outline proposals and a July deadline for full applications.

Physical Sciences are prioritising Early Career Resarchers over the next 12 months, through fellowships and other mechanisms. Engineering and ICT both want to encourage more fellowship applications, having received very few bids over the last year. Maths is also encouraging fellowship applications at the interfaces with ICT and the Living with Environmental Change programme.

In terms of peer review, EPSRC will be looking at the numbers of proposals which are returned for amendment, for example where Justification of Resources or letters of support are inadequate.

Avril Allman (NERC) discussed the new NERC strategy which is currently in development. This will be published in Feb/Mar 2013 for consultation. Current proposals emphasise “Discovery Science” (another name for blue skies/responsive mode applications) alongside three ‘societal challenges’ to be addressed by NERC-funded research. These are:

  • Environmental change
  • Environmental hazards
  • Resource security and supply

There are also preliminary discussions underway at NERC about funding impact through a block grant to ROs, presumably based on the amount of current NERC funding, rather than on a proposal by proposal basis as presently the case. As in the other Councils, there will be and end to NERC final reports (though not to Final Expenditure Statements) as they shift to using the Research Outcomes System to capture this data.

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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.

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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.

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AHRC Study Tour 2012 – Peer Review and Fellowships

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

Dr Sue Carver gave a short overview and update on the AHRC’s peer review process. A bit of background first: The AHRC Peer Review College (PRC) was established in 2004 with 460 members, and now has over 1,300 across five different groupings: academic, knowledge exchange, international, strategic, and technical. Peer reviewers from these groupings are sometimes used for different elements of a single application or for applications to different calls, for example, where a bid includes a technical appendix. The AHRC has a service level agreement of sorts with each reviewer to ensure that they get no more than 8 proposals per year to review.

Membership of the PRC is valuable both for institutions (used in internal peer review processes) and individuals (esteem and improving knowledge of writing bids). There is clearly a high degree of awareness among many research-active staff: a recent AHRC call for membership of the PRC drew in over 300 applications for membership, despite the fact that the call was targeted towards particular themes and research areas.

In terms of the process for funding applications at AHRC, the PRC is a central part of the picture:

  • Application submitted via Je-S
  • Checked in AHRC for eligibility
  • 3 peer reviewers are selected from PRC, plus 1 technical reviewer where necessary
  • Reviews are completed, returned and checked for quality
  • Applications are sifted in AHRC: if not 2 fundable grades then it is rejected
  • Applicant notified and given opportunity to respond to reviews
  • Application, reviews and PI response are forwarded to panel
  • Panel meets and makes decisions on academic ranking of applications
  • AHRC funds as far as they can down this list until funding runs out

Four key points were made in the update:

  1. A new grading scale (from 1-6) came into use from 1st December 2011. This means that grading is now harmonised across all research councils;
  2. From 1st April 2012, resubmission to AHRC will be by invitation only. Again this brings AHRC into line with other research councils, such as the ESRC. This policy is also an important part of their demand management strategy;
  3. In response to a question on the place impact in peer review, we were told that this comes in as a secondary criterion during ranking of proposals. Where two proposals are equivalent in scientific excellence then the one with the higher quality Pathways to Impact statement will be ranked higher;
  4. Where the AHRC has invited applications through highlight notices, a decision will be taken internally in AHRC as to whether to fund additional highlighted projects which may be ranked lower in the scale.

Katherine Warren, AHRC’s Strategy and Development Manager, focused on the recent major changes to the Fellowships scheme.

The most significant change is that AHRC is moving away from funding Fellowships which support “completion” to supporting visionary individuals with the potential to set research agendas. Often the research supported will be at an earlier stage of development. In addition:

  • Fellowships will adhere to the “longer and larger” maxim: 6 months minimum, 18 months maximum (or 24 months maximum for the early career route);
  • There will be fewer and more prestigious awards. Katherine made the point that the AHRC will “only fund the best”. They see this as one way to increase impact from the awards they make;
  • Fellowships will be used to sustain undersupported subject areas and to bolster AHRC’s strategic priorities.

In the early career fellowships route, part of the focus will be on helping the fellow to develop their people management skills. In this regard it will be more like the ESRC’s Future Research Leaders scheme. But the HEI must also be willing to demonstrate its support of the potential candidate: there must be an existing contract in place and further commitment (such as sabbaticals, internal funding, and training for leadership) should be evidenced in the Head of Department’s supporting statement.

Katherine emphasised the importance of internal selection of candidates including linkage and alignment of a candidate’s programme of research to institutional research strategies and aims. The steer was very much to get institutions thinking: “who are our top few people?”. However, the AHRC have stopped short of putting limits on numbers of applications though, much like the ESRC’s position on Future Research Leaders, they have indicated that they will keep this policy under review.

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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

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AHRC Study Tour 2012 – Mark Llewellyn on Future Strategic Directions

This is part 1 of a series on the AHRC 2012 Study Tour: First up was Professor Mark Llewellyn, AHRC’s new Director of Research with a wide-ranging talk covering most of what AHRC currently does as well as future directions for the funder.

And when we say “new”, we mean it! It turns out Mark had only been in the job 20 days when he delivered this presentation – he was formerly Professor of English Studies at Strathclyde. Phil Ward, Research Funding Manager at Kent, has already offered his own useful analysis of what Prof. Llewellyn’s appointment might say about the AHRC’s underlying goals. In any case, Prof. Llewellyn did a good job of summing up the state of play at the research council as well as giving some reasonable indications about what AHRC will be interested in over the next year or so. In what follows I’ve picked out some of the key points from the session. You can also take a look at the presentation slides, available on the AHRC website. And remember to leave a comment if you’d like to ask a question.

“Commissioned” Research

One of the points Mark made fairly early on was that AHRC’s remit is wide – over 50 disciplines are represented and supported by the funder. As with other research councils, this support is primarily channelled through their “responsive” mode: a no deadlines, open all year funding stream for anything within AHRC’s remit. After briefly covering the AHRC’s “emerging” themes (which will be the subject of tomorrow’s more detailed post), Mark briefly mentioned the possibility of a new “commissioned” research funding mode which would respond flexibly to priorities raised by the research community. Not a lot was said about this in the presentation – suggesting it is still at an early stage of development – but the presentation (slide 5) shows that it is clearly separate from the emerging themes as well as the cross-council priorities. This is speculation, but perhaps it is one way of the AHRC responding to criticisms last year over the perceived introduction of the “big society” into their research agenda (an issue on which both Mark and the audience were noticeably silent).

The issue of forming longer-term partnerships with the research community was clearly at the forefront as Mark began his presentation with the observation that “grants don’t just stop”. Of course the funding ends, but there are many more events and activities which outlast the duration of the grant. There was a clear indication that the AHRC intend to take an increasing interest in longer-term outcomes and outputs of the research they fund, not just through the RCUK Research Outcomes System, but also in the nature of the relationship between funder and researcher. This may well signal a subtle shift towards the “funder as sponsor” model adopted by the EPSRC.

“Embedded”

One of the words of the day for Mark and other AHRC presenters was “embedded”. The significance is this: although the AHRC has and will continue to have separate strands of activity devoted to, say, Knowledge Exchange and International research partnerships, the expectation is that these activities will be embedded and integrated across the AHRC’s research themes and schemes. Mark made the point that funding for Knowledge Exchange doesn’t just have to be chanelled through specialist KE themes. This shouldn’t be too surprising, especially since research councils have been hammering on about including costs for impact activities within grants for quite some time now. The picture is of  longer, larger research grants (see below) which also make time for international and industrial engagement, and of researchers who are prepared to be leaders both within and outside academia.

Demand/Expectation Management

Mark wants to work with research organisations and research offices to share best practice on this issue, both processes and user experiences. From “our” perspective, he suggested that demand management might be better framed as expectation management, although whose expectations wasn’t made clear (research managers’ or academics’?) – and who is doing the managing?

One specific point is worth highlighting here: many institutions understandably call on members of the AHRC Peer Review College to act as internal peer reviewers. Mark acknowledged that this is a good way of sharing peer review expertise but cautioned that institutions shouldn’t overburden PRC members. One suggestion was that PRC members could focus on reviewing applications by early career researchers only. Another was to ensure that membership of internal peer review groups included a mix of PRC members and more junior colleagues, giving the opportunity for those who have not had the benefit of working as a peer reviewer to gain an insight into this process.

On the issue of peer review, Mark also indicated that he wanted members of the PRC to feel more like a community. Peer review is therefore to be given its own section on the AHRC’s new-look website, and there is likely to be some investment in online training for the 1300+ member College.

“Longer and larger”

This was another of the key phrases of the day, along with the corollary – “fewer” – which was mentioned slightly less often. In common with all the other research councils, the AHRC are strategically positioning themselves to invest in a smaller number of longer, larger grants which deliver greater impact. None of this is new, of course, having been highlighted in the Delivery Plans published at the end of 2010. However, Mark was keen to point out that it did not necessarily mean calling for projects worth £4M. He insisted that it was also about engaging with researchers in development of research activity and suggested that AHRC would start running EPSRC-style research “sandpits” to do this.

Mark acknowledged that the calls announced to date for the four existing “emerging” themes (Digital Transformations, Translating Cultures, Care for the Future, Science in Culture) might have given the impression that longer and larger was not the priority – there have been a number of small scale research development calls as well as highlight notices on the £45K max Research Networking scheme. These were designed to scope the research area, and would be followed by a larger scale call, in much the same way as has happened in Connected Communities.

There will be more from the AHRC Study Tour tomorrow.

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AHRC Study Tour 2012 – Introduction

Last Friday Sam King and I took the long train down from Newcastle to Swindon to visit the Arts and Humanities Research Council for an ARMA-sponsored “Study Tour” (it took 5 and a half hours to get there – a substantial journey, but not quite the epic 7 and a half hours it took me last time I visited Research Councils HQ). AHRC have helpfully uploaded the agenda and all of the presentations on their website:

AHRC/ARMA Study Tour 2012

Study Tours are a useful opportunity for research support staff like us to meet with research council staff and hear about their latest strategic priorities, discuss any policy shifts, and find out about new or revamped funding opportunities. Despite having the smallest budget of all the UK research councils, the AHRC is the primary funder for many researchers in arts, humanities and related disciplines. One of the messages which came across clearly throughout the day was that their funding has a significant effect on the research community and the UK’s economic, social and cultural well-being (see, for example, their recently published impact report for 2011).

Over the course of this week, we’ll be writing about the main insights and messages from the day on this blog. We’ll also arrange an AHRC update event in the near future open to all Northumbria staff to elaborate on some of the key points and discuss potential opportunities for funding. If you’d like to ask any questions in the meantime, please either leave a comment on the blog or contact us.

Here’s the full list of posts:

  1. Mark Llewellyn on Future Strategic Directions
  2. ‘Emerging Themes’ Overview
  3. Peer Review and Fellowships
  4. Knowledge Exchange and International Opportunities
  5. Research Careers, Block Grant Partnerships and Final Questions
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