04 November 2015

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Writing a good research proposal is essential to improve chances of success in the face of stiff competition for limited research funding. Alphonsus Neba, a programme manager at the African Academy of Sciences, shares some tips on how researchers can improve their chances of success.

Know the funder

Different funders have different strategic priorities and these might change from one funding cycle to the next. A researcher must find out what the funder’s priorities and how they work before responding to a call. This will ensure that their proposal is aligned to the funders’ priorities. Knowing what the funder seeks to achieve through the grant and reflecting it in the application will also improve chances of success.

Assess and understand the call

Understand what it is that you are applying for, for example, is it a grant or a fellowship? It’s important to distinguish between the two for a researcher to tailor their application accordingly. A fellowship, for example is about developing the individual and would therefore assess their potential, the quality and relevance of their project, their research environment and mentors. Without a clear understanding of the distinction between a grant and a fellowship, a candidate is likely to develop an application that does not connect with the key objectives of the call and consequently lose out on funding.

It is important to also prepare an application that responds to the objectives of each call. Avoid retrieving and resurrecting an old unfunded proposal and panel-beating it to fit the new call. Common sense indicates that if it wasn’t funded the first time, chances are slim that it would be funded the second time (though it may). However, bear in mind that if the proposal is not funded it does not necessarily mean that it is a bad. It may just be that funding is limited, and that there are too many excellent proposals submitted, as is often the case.

Be affiliated to an institution

Most funders’ require grant applicants be affiliated to research institution because agreements are typical signed between the grantee’s institution and the funder. As the funding is channelled through the institutions, there are a host of obligations they must adhere to such as having financial and legal systems. Please note that donors are willing to help institutions that do not have financial and legal systems to set them up.

Stick to deadlines

Do not submit an application after the deadline. This is fairly obvious yet researchers continue to miss deadlines.

Alphonsus Neba is responsible for the implementation of the Wellcome Trust-supported, Developing Excellence in Leadership, Training and Science (DELTAS), in which AESA is a partner.


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10Nov 2015
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When will be the next call for DELTAS grant..?

Zohra, Tunisia