Applying for competitive funding


Oct 29, 2013 (4 years and 8 months ago)


Assessment of Applications


Debbie Thackray PhD

Research Development Officer

Applying for competitive funding

Experience and Insights:

Prof. Dongke Zhang
, Director, Centre for Petroleum, Fuels and Energy, UWA

Dr Tim Sercombe, Senior Lecturer, School of Mechanical Engineering

Prof. Greg Ivey, Professor, School of Environmental Systems Engineering


Debbie Thackray: 2010 changes; Who assesses applications and how
(10 mins)

Dongke Zhang: Recipes for losing an ARC grant application

(15 mins)

Tim Sercombe: Tips to establishing a track record

(15 mins)

Prof. Greg Ivey: How to win friends and influence people
(in the ARC process)

(15 mins)

Debbie Thackray: Summary; Support

(5 mins)

Questions as we go.

ARC Discovery: Understand the scheme

Main changes 2010:

Funds for PI to travel to Australia

1 trip/year

International collaboration awards

6 months, up to $40k

Funds for workshop services allowable

CI eligibility

50% of time (not salary) with eligible organisation


resident employee of eligible organisation may be a PI



Applications to Research Grants Office
at latest

10 working days before close:

* Ensures that good quality, accurate, complete, eligible applications submitted

* Certification

gold forms etc. Ensures support is there.

ARC Discovery: Who assesses applications?

ARC / computer assign Panels and Oz readers usually on RFCD codes

College of Experts (Panel)
: (may have only a general understanding of field)


Engineering and Environmental Science (EE)


Mathematics, Information and Communication Sciences (MIC)

Panel assigns international assessors, based on keywords and project summary.

External assessors


2 Oz Readers:
Australian based readers, scores and text (expert / semi


2 Int Readers: internationally recognized experts, scores and text (expert)

ARC provides assessment reports to applicants.

Applicants submit rejoinders.


2 panel spokespersons: EAC1 and EAC2 provide final scores

Applications ranked based on all assessors rankings. Can be modified by College
based on rejoinders.

Budgets scrutinised, best projects get closest to requested $.

Meet the panel: Engineering and Environmental Science

Professor Graham Schaffer

The University of Queensland

Professor Robert Short

University of South Australia

Professor Scott Sloan

The University of Newcastle

Professor Brian Uy

University of Western Sydney

Professor Xungai Wang

Deakin University

Professor Zhihong Xu

Griffith University

Professor Dongke Zhang

University of Western Australia

Professor Rose Amal

(Chair) The University of
New South Wales







Carbon &

& Energy

Professor Maria Forsyth

Monash University

Professor Ivan Marusic
The University of

Professor Steven Grant
locating from UK

Dr Eric Wolanski
Australian Institute of
Marine Sciences





Meet the panel: Mathematics, Information and
Communication Sciences

Dr Len Sciacca (Chair)

Defence Science and
Technology Organisation

Professor Alan Carey

The Australian
National University

Professor Lorenzo

The University of
Western Australia

Professor Tony Guttmann

The University of Melbourne

Professor David Hill

The Australian National

Professor Geoffrey

The University of

Professor Bill Moran

The University of

Professor Victor Solo

The University of New
South Wales

Professor David Suter

University of Adelaide

Mr Glenn Wightwick

IBM Australia

Professor Mary
Anne Williams

University of Technology,

Professor Yanchun Zhang

Victoria University





String, Index
& Quantum
field theories








ARC Discovery: Get in the “right box”

Find out which panel similar applications have gone to.

Chose RFCD codes and keywords carefully

to try to direct to desired panel

Don’t use novel or unusual words that the non
expert panel will not recognise. Who

do you want to assess it, what keywords would they use to describe their research?

Look at successful applications and write in the “style” for that panel

Write application Summaries for non
experts (Panel)

Write Background and Approach for semi
experts and experts (Oz and Int readers)

Make it easy on the reader

they may have 100 applications to read. Each section

should stand alone and have an introductory sentence or “flag”. Break up text.

ARC Discovery: Selection Criteria

Investigator/s track record


(LP = 20%; Industry commitment = 25%)

Relative to opportunities and/or suitability to supervise postgraduate students (as

appropriate) and capacity to undertake the proposed research.

Proposed project content


Significance and innovation

(LP = 25%)

Approach and Training (including appropriateness of budget)

(LP = 20%)

National Benefit

(LP = 10%)

Prof. Dongke Zhang FTSE (EE Panel)

Recipes for losing an ARC grant application!

Dr Tim Sercombe

Tips to establishing a track record

Prof. Greg Ivey

How to win friends and influence people!

(in the ARC process)

Make it easy on the reviewer

Use line breaks, italics, figures to break up text.

Spend lots of time polishing your summary = instant understanding for the

public / media. “Wow” the reviewer and make them really want to know more!

Reviewers may do their reading in bits

organise your application

so that it can be read in this way. They may only revisit some sections.

State your key message at the beginning of each section, and keep reminding

them of why and what you are going to do and how excited you are about it!

Show a strong link between aims and approach

same headings are best.

Avoid abbreviations, acronyms and jargon. Explain terminology.

Read the application aloud to spot long worded text and unclear areas.

Make sure that your application is free from errors.

Give EVERY section your time

Get feedback on your track record and your proposal early on

2 pager.

A good project is paramount, but don’t spend 95% of your time on the description.

Show clearly, up
front and throughout how significant, innovative and exciting the

research is! Grab the reader’s attention from the first page onwards.

Spend enough time on the CIs profiles (especially for Discovery), use similar

layout, pull out the “wow” factor for each early on, show team links, etc.


National Benefit

list outcomes, name beneficiaries, etc.

Spend adequate time on budget justification

only a few proposals get all.

Mention budget items throughout

show how used.

Address communication thoughtfully and not only “will publish in high quality

journals”. Especially important for Linkage and Collaborative projects:

Get lots of feedback on EVERY section. Submit to Grants Office early.


Workshops: RDOs, Research Exec, OSDS, FECM, visiting funding bodies, etc.

FECM contact and Mentoring: Associate Dean Research Rachel Cardell

Ph: 6488 2231


and Research pages: Research Committee (in
progress), mentoring,

funding, Strategic plan, priorities, presentations, etc.

Research Development Office

Debbie Thackray:

Ph: 6488 4765

Judy Berman:

Ph: 6488 8033

FECM RDO: watch this space

Research Services:

Grants and Finance Office, Integrity and Ethics, Graduate

Research School, Scholarships Office, etc.

The people around you.

Additional Suggestions:

Sections: 100 word Summary

A good summary/abstract captures and illustrates the entire research picture

without leaving the reader puzzled or confused.

Start with a strong sentence which explains the problem for which this research

is a response.

Review panel members often study the application (and prepare written

reports, if required) weeks or months before the meetings. They then quickly

review all the abstracts just before the meetings in order to recall the essentials.

Assume that you are writing for a reviewer in a somewhat related field, rather

than for an expert in your area.

Sections: Summary

Acknowledgements to Mark Cassidy, Mark Randolph, Yuxia Hu

Sections: Track Record (40%)

Get feedback on how strong you are from successful CIs.

Applications with 2 CIs less likely to be funded: Must show genuine commitment (>

5%). Not because CI has 1 DP already, or CI’s track record boosting application.

Collaboration with CIs in WA and east beneficial, but must show team cohesion.

Overseas partners becoming more and more important.

Be sure to write with respect to opportunities, and claim ECR status if you can.

Write in 1

person. Use consistent layout for all CIs

shows cohesion!

Show the reader clear evidence of your strengths and international profile.

Use Impact Factors and Citations and draw attention to these.

Discuss with research grants office, research development officers and mentor

readers how to optimize your track record and how to best present it.

Sections: Track Record example

See Tim Sercombe’s examples

Sections: Background and Aims

This section should answer 3 questions: what is known, what is not known, and

why is it essential to find out.

Critically evaluate the relevant literature and state your contributions.

Discuss fairly all sides of a controversy or disagreement.

Don’t leave out your competitors’ work!

Identify specifically the gaps and contradictions that you will clarify.

Clearly list / dot point your aims and use same headings in Approach.

Ie. Use flags to guide your readers.

Use line breaks between paragraphs, headings, italics, figures (not greyscale).

Balance between innovation and your likelihood of success.

Sections: Background and Aims EG.

See Tim Sercombe’s and Greg Ivey’s examples and listen to Lectopia session.

Sections: Significance and Innovation

Don’t just say it, explain it.

Remember you are writing for non
expert, semi
expert and experts.

Talk about outcomes as well as the research.

Relate to other research in the area.

Relate to national research priorities.

Use title headings: “Significance” and “Innovation” to make it easy for the reader.

Sections: Significance and Innovation

See Tim Sercombe’s examples

Sections: National Benefit

Mention in Summary, discuss in Introduction/background, Significance and

National Benefit sections.

Show outcomes from project and then EXPLAIN how project outcomes are of

national benefit.

Link clearly to National Priority areas and explain why. You can talk about more

than one area if there is a tangible link.

Don’t make exaggerated statements.

Sections: National Benefit

See Tim Sercombe’s examples

Don’t forget to include research training aspects, both PhDs and Post

From part of National Benefit section of ARC Linkage project of Mark Cassidy, Mark
Randolph, Yuxia Hu

Sections: Communication

Conferences: you’ll be informing the best in the world. You and your post

Publications: high impact journals/ best read in field.

Seminars: International, eastern states, local (established series), to partners.

Media releases: through UWA Public Relations/ Faculty Marketing; national


Articles: UWA News, Faculty newsletters, Engineering Foundation, National

association news.

Project Description and Progress summaries on website.

Think outside the box.

Sections: Communication eg.

Acknowledgements to Mark Cassidy, Mark Randolph, Yuxia Hu

Sections: Budget

C1 Budget Details

Set realistic budgets

driven by the science

Teaching relief not recommended.

C2 Justification of funding from the ARC

Fully justify why you are requesting these funds. How would your research be
affected if you did not have what you are requesting funding for?

For personnel simply state why you are requesting a person at that level.
Section E7 is for explaining what they will do.

Equipment request should be realistic (<$120K) and should tie in with methods
and the experiment timeline.

Sections: Budget eg. from Arcady Dyskin


The support is sought for 3 years (2005
2007) for salaries of Research Associate (level A)
and Technician (level 4) plus 30.95% on
cost (total for 2005 is $118,098; with the further
standard increase for each following year, see tables in C1)

The project has experimental and theoretical components. A very large amount of tests
including sample design as well as computer modelling require a qualified Research
Associate (RA) His/her specific skills should also include the basic knowledge of mechanics
of solids. A suitable candidate should have a PhD in Solid Mechanics or any closely related
discipline. Funding for the RA is sought for full
time for the duration of the project.

For the experimental programme an experienced Technician is required to manufacture the
samples, support experiments and maintain equipment. Funding for the Technician is sought
for full
time for the duration of the project.

Sections: Budget eg. from Arcady Dyskin


The experimental programme consists of testing of structures from rectangular
blocks and hexagonal structures. The confining frame with controllable lateral load
is available at the School. Funding is thought from the ARC for manufacturing of a
loading frame for hexagonal assemblies. ($4,250). It is assumed that the School will
provide a PC system for the RA as well as software upgrades.


Sum of $1000 per year is requested for materials for block manufacturing and other
disposable materials and $1000 per year is requested for disposable strain gauges.


A sum of $3,000 is required for CI2 to attend the annual AGU meeting in the USA in
2007 to present the results of the research to the Geophysics community.


No other support is sought.

Sections: Budget eg. from Cassidy et al.

Sections: Budget eg. from Cassidy et al.

Generic features of well ranked application

Use language that presents technical matters in a balanced and accessible way

Present hypotheses and/or controversies and explain how they will be solved

Explain how/why the area demands funding

Show how Australian work fits into the international picture

Back up compelling claims of excellence and innovation with evidence and others‘


Propose daring, ambitious goals but also propose prudent, responsible modes of


Link to large international research networks/activities

Present excellent progress reports on previous grants

Advance compelling arguments in relation to National Interest

Generic features of poorly ranked application

Use dense intractable technical jargon without accompanying “accessible” text

Make grandiose and implausible claims about outcomes

Don't support claims of excellence or past progress with evidence

Are weakly linked into national and international research networks

Emphasize the collection of data rather than the solution to important problems or


Set a persistent negative or depressive tone about the state of the subject in


Show evidence of being hastily prepared