If you are a researcher in the early stages of your career and you want to pursue a career in academia, you’ll need to start thinking about building your funding profile. Starting off with small pots of money gives you the confidence to navigate the application processes and also gives you a track record of your ability to win money. This will be of benefit to you in the future when you are looking to write larger grant proposals.
With this in mind I’d like to share with you how the Think Ahead: Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience (TA:SURE) scheme can assist with enhancing your funding profile. I’ve previously written about how the scheme is designed to give early career researchers the experience of managing a project from start to finish. Part of this process is recruiting an undergraduate student and then working with the student to apply for externally funded vacation bursaries. The student receives a valuable income over the course of the summer project and the ECR, in their role as supervisor, achieves funding which can be highlighted on their CV.
The need for a bursary ensures that TA: SURE participants get the experience of a competitive funding process. This starts by identifying funding which is most applicable to their research project. If the project is not within the remit of the funding call it is unlikely that the application will be assessed …one application certainly does not fit all! Each funder has specific requirements relating to font sizes, word counts, page limits, line spacing, margin size and even who can submit the application. Failing to adhere to these may mean an application is discounted before it gets anywhere near a review panel. It is also important to confirm eligibility, for example; it may be required to have held membership to a society for a certain length of time before an application for funding will be considered. Being flexible in the application and making the process work for you is the key to success.
The TA SURE student/supervisor pairs are currently at the stage of applying for funding. For many of them this is the first time that they have tackled the application process and, understandably, anxieties are beginning to surface. Undergraduate students are concerned about a potential lack of income over the summer and ECRs want to fulfil their duties as a supervisor and secure the funding to ensure that their project will go ahead.
We recognise that this can be a stressful time and so TA SURE supervisors, as with all researchers writing funding proposals, are encouraged to take advantage of the support available within the University. Research and Innovation Services has specialists who are able to support with identifying funding opportunities, discussing ideas, providing example applications and giving tips on content and writing style. They are on hand to review draft proposals and can organise peer review. By making use of the support available individual researchers can give themselves the best possible chance of succe