Win/Win: How facilities can help applicants with grants

A unique workshop provided by the VPTN encouraged facility managers to be proactive in netting some research dollars for their facility

First published: 19/11/2014

Updated at: 20/11/2014 at 5:18 pm

Facility Managers can be a key to the best chance of successful funding for ARC and NHMRC grant applicants.

In the latest of VPTN’s continuing professional development program, the VPTN recently conducted a unique workshop for Facility Managers, research office personnel and researchers across Victoria. Entitled Bang for Your Buck, the workshop examined how managers of core facilities can be proactive in attracting more of the research grant dollar to their doors.

By helping researchers with their grant applications, Facility Managers can feed into the grant application process to increase the chances of funding and the proportion of funds granted. The more successful customers are in grant applications, the more funds they have to spend at the facility.

The VPTN gathered together the wisdom of leaders from funding bodies:

  • Dr Laura Dan, Chief Program Officer, ARC,
  • Professor Roy Goldie, Lead Scientist: Peer Review, NHMRC

and insight from two Chief Investigators:

  • Dr Jason Howitt, Senior Research Officer, Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health
  • Dr Sasha Wilson, Lecturer School of Geosciences, Monash University

The views from both funding bodies was, overwhelmingly, that neither body wished to reduce funding in applications. Rather, grant review panels have trouble reconciling the dollar amounts requested with the justification of what the funding will pay for, in particular with the use of outsourced technologies, such as VPTN facilities.

Workshop participants worked with the panellists to look at costs that can be included in facility pricing according to grant funding rules, communication strategies for engaging with researchers before grant writing time and how to justify the costs of facility usage requested in grants.

The groups developed some useful tips for Facility Managers such as:

  • Demonstrate track record and feasibility by helping generate preliminary data ahead of grant submission;
  • Quote hourly rates or project quotes for facility usage;
  • Justification of the costs expected to be incurred is key to informing the grant review panel that the requested dollar amount is legitimate, including number of hours/samples/repeats expected and what the costs cover (eg preparation, instrument time, post-acquisition analysis, etc).

Some collective sage advice for researchers was to:

  • Start to gather information 5 months ahead of application deadlines;
  • Justify the budget request in the project, by seeking quotes from facilities;
  • Discuss the technical details of facility spending requests from the budget in the main body of the grant;
  • Be specific about why you will use a certain facility, at what cost to achieve the expected result. The quality of the technology and expertise will have a bearing on the outcome of the research.

With applications for ARC Discovery Project proposals already open and NHMRC Centres of Research Excellence, Project Grants, and Research Fellowships opening in January 2015, applicants can start obtaining information, quotes and preliminary data from VPTN facilities now.

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