10 Tips for a Successful CHERISH Digital Economy Escalator Fund Proposal

As the 31st October deadline draws near, the consensus at CHERISH Heights was that you may appreciate some pointers on what makes a successful Escalator application. Sitting on the Escalator panel earlier this year, proposals were marked down for a handful of repeated and easily avoidable reasons.

#1 Mind your language

thing-explainerTrue to its multi-disciplinary, applied research roots, CHERISH peer review and research panels are made up of people from different backgrounds, academic and non-academic. A non-specialist audience will decide whether or not you are successful – so use language that someone who does not work in your area will understand. Someone recently recommended a book called the Thing Explainer by Randall Moore as a good place to start for this kind of thing.

#2 List clear outputs

Applications with clear outputs fare a lot better than those without. Even if the proposed research is quite, quite brilliant – we need to know what you are going to do with it once complete. No matter how modest, well defined outcomes will help your bid . CHERISH is about taking research out into the world, so think about how you can easily achieve this…

  • Can you present a workshop at the end of the research?
  • Are you going to do a talk in your department or your supporting organisation?
  • Will you publish any papers or talk at conferences?
  • Will it allow you to apply for further larger funding pots ?
  • Is it on a theme that may be of interest to The Conversation ?
  • Does it lend itself to public engagement (a big part of CHERISH) at Oriel Science?

#3 Double check staff costs

We will notice if the staff costs you give are incorrect. Miscalculating overheads or salaries basically invalidates your proposal at the panel stage. Talk to your research hub, double-check and give yourself the best chance of success.

#4 Use the CHERISH RA to support your researchwin_20160817_08_55_10_pro

This is Thomas, the RA on the CHERISH project. You can bid on his time and you  don’t have to budget for that cost in your application as it will be covered by the CHERISH project.  But be mindful that CHERISH RAs are not there to *drive* your project.  Rather they can provide focused assistance and expertise to help with *aspects* of your project.  Please be specific about *how* and *when* you plan on making use of RA time.

#5 Don’t round-up costs

Be as accurate as you can in listing any costs. Applications with mysteriously ‘perfect’ costs (e.g. £1000 for a flight, £500 for accommodation) look slapdash. Take the time to include accurate costs that reference the date and source of the figure.

#6 Wherever you can involve Early Career Researchers

There is a huge emphasis within CHERISH on helping ECRs develop their careers. One of our key objectives is ‘creating a next generation of digital economy researchers’, so be creative and make sure ECRs are prominent within your application.

Perhaps you are a senior academic, with a track record of successful large research bids; consider whether a less experienced departmental colleague may relish their first PI experience and suggest they lead the project or join you as a Co-I.

#7 No cutting and pasting

This sounds so obvious, but is surprisingly common. We’ve all been in a situation where we’ve been tempted to cut and paste a paragraph from a different document, rather than re-interpret or re-write a section to anwer a specific question.

The problem is, if you do this it stands out like a sore thumb. Even really ingenious ideas can’t be funded if they don’t answer the questions on the application form. Cutting and pasting from an earlier proposal and hoping for the best just doesn’t work. Some members of the panel may not be an expert in your field, but they are still able to spot a case of ‘proposalese’ when they see one.

#8 Be clear about what we can and cannot fund.

We cannot fund you if you are 100% employed at Swansea University, but we can fund the cost of an RA. We can fund travel and subsistence for academics from outside Swansea University, for example if they are Co-Is, but not their time. We cannot fund any external partners, the idea being that they are supporting the collaborative research process.

#9 Don’t put another university as your external partner 

CHERISH wants research to be taken outside of the academic world and encourages collaborative research with non-academic partners. However, academics from other universities can be Co-Is on a project (see #8).

#10 Consider the other CHERISH funding opportunities

If your bid involves travel for research collaborators based abroad – either for them to visit you or vice versa – why not go for the more straightforward International Mobility Fellowship? It is constantly open for applications and decisions are made without the aid of a formal panel.

Similarly, if you are thinking of spending time at a (non-academic) UK based organisation as part of your bid, you may be better served applying for a more light-touch (and funded) CHERISH Secondment.

If you need clarification on any points – just drop us an email cherish-de@swansea.ac.uk

Good luck!

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