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WHAT IS A GRANT?

 

A research grant is a financial award allocated by a funder to a specific research project.

Grants are allocated to a Principal Investigator (PI), as well as multiple Co-Investigators (CoI) in the case of collaborative grants.

The PI is usually the researcher at the origin of the project idea and is responsible for the general management of the project. 

The CoIs assist the PI in managing the project and are often responsible for separate aspects of the work. The CoIs can be based in different institutions and bring complementary expertise to the one of the PI.

CAN POSTDOCS APPLY FOR GRANTS?

 

In contrary to Fellowships, grants do not include the salary of the PI and CoIs, who need to be already employed by a research organisation.

For this reason, postdocs, who are employed on a fixed-term contract, can not apply for grants as PIs or CoIs.

Grants often include the salaries of research staff who will be hired to carry out the research, such as postdocs. Postdocs can be "named postdoc" on a grant, which means that if the grant were to be awarded, the role would be theirs.

However, being "named" on a grant doesn't automatically imply that a postdoc was involved in developing and writing the grant, which is often the case.

To address this issue, UK Research and Innovation have created a new status for some of their funding schemes: Researcher co-investigator (RCoI). A RCoI is a person who is not eligible to be a PI or CoI, but who is significantly involved in the design and writing of the grant proposal. Postdocs can be RCoIs on applications. At the time of writing, this role was supported by the MRC, BBSRC, NERC and EPSRC.

Why should you get involved with grant writing?

The benefit of getting involved with grant writing of course depends on your career plan. It is mostly beneficial for those seeking to become an academic PI, but can also be relevant in other sectors depending on the role considered.

Prepare for an academic career and improve your CV:

  • Get a better understanding of the grant writing process
  • Get some actual grant writing experience
  • Get a track-record of being awarded funding
  • Develop your leadership: in some cases, you may be in charge of the management of a part of the project you were involved in designing and writing (this should be discussed with the PI when preparing the application)

Additionally, contributing to the grant may secure your next contract if you are "named postdoc" on the grant.

How to get involved in grant writing as a postdoc?

Designing and writing grant applications is very different than writing a paper.

Learning how to do it takes time and there's no better way to learn than to actually get involved in the process:

Introduction to Research Funding

Learn about grant writing at this workshop provided by Research Development

Read successful (or not!) grant applications, and familiarise yourself with the language used, the structure of applications and how they fit the funder's call

Help your PI! Proof-read applications and, when possible, get involved in designing and writing part of a proposal, interacting with stakeholders etc. If possible; work to be listed as RCoI.

Fellowship Programme

Get some additional insight on research funding by watching videos from the Fellowship Application Support Programme