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How to write an application; and how it will be judged

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1 How to write an application; and how it will be judged
Mats Larsson Fysikum Stockholm universitet

2 Outline Why do we write applications To whom do we write applications
How are applications handled How do we write applications How are the applications evaluated

3 Why do we write applications?
Money from external funding source Money needed to do research Money available from the department

4 To whom do we write applications?
Vetenskapsrådet (VR; Swedish Research Council) Rymdstyrelsen (Swedish Space Board) Foundation for Strategic Research (SSF) K&A Wallenberg Foundation Swedish Institute EU 6th Framework Programme Keep your eyes open for sources of funding

5 Application submitted
Application to Swedish Research Council Application submitted Classification Review Panel meeting Peer review Decision by the Research Council Approval: Contract is sent to the applicant Rejection

6 Peer: A person who has equal standing with another or others, as in rank, class, or age: children who are easily influenced by their peers.

7 VR: Approval/Rejection
The fraction of approved applications has decreased in recent years Fewer and larger grants In some cases, there are boundary conditions that causes an application to be rejected

8 Örjan Skeppstedt

9 How to write an application
Start by reading the instructions carefully

10 Bilaga A - Forskningsprogram Bilagan ska bestå av en kortfattad (12 punkters text, högst åtta A4-sidor) men fullständig beskrivning av forskningsuppgiften med följande rubriker: Specifika mål, en redogörelse för syftet med det föreslagna forskningsprojektet/motsv. Områdesöversikt, ett sammandrag av egen och andras forskning och tidigare resultat inom forskningsområdet. Nyckelreferenser anges. Projektbeskrivning, en sammanfattning av projektets/motsv. uppläggning. Teori, metod och genomförande ska framgå.  Preliminära resultat, en beskrivning av egna försök/förstudier inom forskningsområdet Betydelse, en kortfattad redogörelse för projektets/motsv. betydelse för forskningsområdet

11 Under särskild rubrik ska i relevanta fall i projektbeskrivningen också redovisas/kommenteras:
Utrustning, kortfattad beskrivning av befintlig basutrustning relevant för projektet som huvudsökande/gruppen kan disponera Internationellt och nationellt samarbete, kortfattad beskrivning av samarbete med utländska och svenska forskare/forskargrupper Etiska överväganden Kommersiella intressen Genusperspektiv

12 I förekommande fall, övriga medverkande forskares bidrag, en redogörelse för beviljade och sökta bidrag från andra finansiärer som är av betydelse för hos Vetenskapsrådet sökt bidrag. Personal i forskargruppen/projektgruppen, namn,  ev doktorsexamen (år, disciplin/ämnesområde), nuvarande anställning samt lönefinansiär. I förekommande fall  skall motivering till varför ytterligare ansökan/flera ansökningar skickas till Vetenskapsrådet  skrivas överst i bilagan.

13 Make sure that the application is complete



16 The application must be:
Written in a clear and concise way Possible to read also for someone who is not exactly in the same research field Including a well written abstract Including a good introduction Written without typos and major grammatical errors. Proof reading is important. Delivered on time Not too bombastic(?)

17 Bengt Gustafsson

18 N = knowledge, t = time needed to acquire knowledge, P = area of paper
needed to transmit knowledge

19 Verbosity:


21 "People really underestimate the value of good English," remarks Tim Nilsen, a molecular biologist who reviews applications for the National Institutes of Health's (NIH's) Cell Development and Function study section. Nilsen observes that applicants are still "very casual in the way they write"--possibly because they "write grant applications as if they're talking to labmates who already know and understand their projects." Reviewers, however, become frustrated at having to read, reread, and decipher a research plan before understanding a project.

22 Abstract should contain:
What do you intend to do? Why is the work important? What has already been done? How are you going to do the work?

23 Grant reviewers all agree that the body of the research plan should begin with a basic but thorough introduction to the subject. "I really appreciate a good introduction," reveals NIH reviewer Sally Camper, who complains that many applicants automatically expect reviewers to be familiar with their field of research and so they skip over basic information that can help clarify their research project. This can be a fatal mistake. "People don't realize how diverse the audience is," explains Camper, referring to the variety of peers who assess applications.

24 without basic information to help reviewers fully understand a proposal, reviewers can "get lost in a sea of detail." Ideally, you want to "guide the reviewer through the entire proposal. Feed them everything they need to know slowly," suggests assistant professor Klaus Nuesslein, a microbiologist at the University of Massachusetts. Nuesslein says it's very important for readers to understand the substance of your research plan from the beginning. "Your research plan is like a very high-level sales plan," he declares. "Don't let your reviewer's mind wander or jump. Give them absolutely everything. Be explicit." And don't shy away from stating the obvious, he encourages.

25 Example of scientific writing at its best:
Dirac: Quantum mechanics

26 Be realistic about the amount of money you apply for


28 How it will be judged (by VR)
The application undergoes a classification It is sent to one review panel (beredningsgrupp) The review panel consists of a chairperson appointed by VR and panel members appointed by VR after suggestion by the chairperson One panel member will be primary responsible for your application. Two others will be secondary, or it will be sent to an external reviewer

29 Examples of review panels
BgM: Astronomy, high-energy physics, nuclear physics BgN: atomic and molecular physics, space physics, plasma physics, fusion BgO: Condensed matter physics

30 The review panel evaluates the following:
The scientific quality of the project The qualification(s) of the applicant(s) The feasibility of the project, explaining both strengths and weaknesses Novelty and originality of the research proposal are important components of the scientific quality. For young scientists, their future potential is considered an important component of their scientific competence.

31 Evaluation scale in the 1990s
Utmärkt (excellent) Mycket bra (very good) Bra (good) Fair (godtagbar) Poor (dålig)


33 Application:


35 Appeal:

36 Final decision:

37 Application:

38 Evaluation:

39 It is very important that your primary reviewer is
making a good job. A well written review and an engaged and authorative presentation in the review panel are important. Note that the review panel may change from year to year, and not all review panels may handle applications in an identical way. VR does not have programme officers

40 Review:

41 Decision:

42 Sometime other boundary conditions can enter in a review:

43 The new VR evaluation scale:
5 = ledande/outstanding 4 = utmärkt/excellent 3 = mycket bra/very good 2 = bra/good 1 = otillräckligt/insufficient

44 Priorities: 5 = högsta prioritet 4 = hög prioritet
3 = medelhög prioritet 2 = låg prioritet 1 = avslag

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