This is the first ever blog from the Faculty Research Officers, Sheena Bateman and Richard Smith, whose role is to facilitate high quality funding applications from our academic staff (and PGR students) to domestic and International funding organisations. We focus on Social Sciences and Humanities research areas with a smattering of human geography, psychology, social and clinical health. Our collective experience in the sector also includes Education and Arts research sectors and we are well placed to support the 300+ academic staff and 300 PGR students within the faculty in their research journeys, whether it stems from long established and experienced funded academics or those tentatively starting out with their first research project.
Are we Administrators or Para Academics? We like to consider ourselves as being part of the professional support for Research, and to this end are senior members of the Faculty Research Office, and are active members of the Professional Association of Research Managers and Administrators (ARMA). Sheena is currently undertaking a course in Research Management under their professional framework programme and is a personal mentor for the Research Administrator Course. Having been involved with ARMA for a great many years, has given me the opportunity to network with many people from many different organisations, I have provided posters and presentations at the annual conference and as a former Director of ARMA and Membership Services Committee member, where I held the portfolio for liaising and organising Study Tours. This is where I arranged for members to visit the HQ of various funders for one day workshops relating to the professional support for funding applications including: the Leverhulme and Wellcome Trust, The British Academy, ESRC, AHRC, MRC, RCUK, UK Data Services, Cancer Research UK, to name just a few. In my time in this role I had very good and close working relationships with senior staff at these funding organisations which helped both my role as ambassador for ARMA but also for ‘the day job’ – in other words I got to learn an awful lot about what funders wanted, what they looked for in grant applications, how they assessed them and importantly how discussions about which ones got funding were all absorbed and incorporated into my day-to-day working practices when advising prospective applicants.
We have had some great news lately in terms of grant successes. We submitted two applications under the ESRC Seminar Series, both on excellent topics – one exploring the implications of the Care Act 2014 and how it is delivered and the other series explores the legal status of medical interventions, both from the UK and Australian perspective. We were especially pleased as we had worked hard with the Principal Applicants to get strong applications written and so were delighted to hear that both of them have been awarded, and will commence towards the end of the year. On another positive note, we worked with the research teams at Keele and Staffordshire Universities, and Staffordshire University on a complex collaborative grant application under the Police Knowledge fund and were one of only 14 successful awards made to this scheme – a major £10m investment from the Home Office.
Planning is a very important word in our daily work – we plan ahead for events, for meetings where we may be required to provide management information, plan our diaries and incorporate workload planning into that so that we arrange mutually convenient meetings, plot funding deadlines as well as internal milestones and a whole range of other activities, including managing funding calls that attract a large number of potential applicants. Although the campus can be eerily quiet over the summer, it’s an important time in our year; it gives us time to consolidate all our work from the previous academic year, catch up on administrative jobs that we don’t get chance to get to during term time, and it also gives us time to prepare for the forthcoming academic year. We are currently planning the next one of these and are organising a workshop, communication plan, rapporteurs groups and the important timeline in which applicants need to adhere to, if we are to manage within our current capacity. There are annual activities which we need to plan for such as advertising for potential post docs, announcing funding calls and schemes, the annual research plans which all need to be thought about in a timely manner, and we spend a lot of time thinking about what needs to be done for each event/meeting, planning how we are going to manage this and the division of labour. Of course, we also plan for when our plans fall apart… Some call this contingency planning, others call it Tuesday. All these skills are continually developed and improved and need to be managed well, particularly when there are a number of competing priorities.
In the next few blog posts we’ll be sharing more about what our job roles entail, as well as some hints and tips on applying for funding. Until next time…..