As a Research Design Service adviser, working with health and social care researchers to maximise the chances of successfully winning funding is a core part of my role. One of the most rewarding aspects of the job is supporting researchers whose work has the potential to improve outcomes for service users. However, this potential can only be realised if the funding application is successful. My colleagues and I use our research skills and methodological expertise to support researchers to design the best possible research projects. We also use our experience to advise on the mechanics of grant writing to ensure that funding applications are likewise as strong. After all, a research project cannot be delivered until its funding application convinces a committee that it merits funding.
In the run-up to a funding deadline, one of the roles an RDS adviser can play is that of a funding committee member. This can be a useful mindset to adopt to help identify potential weaknesses which can be addressed prior to the application’s submission. We do this out of a concern that a ‘real’ committee member may also identify these weaknesses and use them as reasons to reject an application.
However, this mindset is not truly that of the ‘real’ committee member. In my experience, funding committees want to support as many projects as possible so that service users may benefit from their potential impact. Just as it is one of the most rewarding aspects of being an RDS adviser, helping identify projects that will positively impact the lives of service users is one of the main incentives for serving on a funding committee. The truth is that funding committees are looking for reasons to fund projects rather than reject them.
Of course, you do need to cover the core areas in your funding application. Make a convincing case for the priority of your research topic, ensure that patient benefit lies at the heart of your project’s potential impact, and embed the diverse voices and inputs of service users throughout. Your local Research Design Service can help advise you on all these aspects. You also need to have a clear research question, a strong multi-disciplinary team, and a research design that is appropriate and robust. Your local RDS can offer expertise and support in these areas as well.
We’re here to support every stage of your journey to submitting your research funding application. We want to help you design and develop the strongest possible research project and funding application so that service users may in the future benefit from your ideas and expertise. As you near submission, we can put on our ‘funding committee’ hats and critically review your application, hoping that we can spot any remaining weaknesses so that they can be addressed. But be reassured that should we encounter your application post-submission at an actual funding committee meeting, we are no longer looking for its weaknesses. Rather, we are looking for its strengths and its potential to improve outcomes for service users. We are as excited to help realise these as you are.