Bidding for Funding (Pt 1)

Mood: rushed rushed
Now Playing: Games People Play (Joe South)

Ok, after having a bit of a talk with Doug on his bid for the ‘shiny new kit’, we got down to more of the hard facts about doing a bid. He said that doing a research council bid is ‘better’ than other bids for the following reasons:

  1. It counts more towards the RAE and have higher credence in the REF (new name for RAE)
  2. Reviewed by fellow researchers
  3. Better reputation (that is you as a research get a better rep)

Types of Bids 

There are usually two types of bids: a) bids with a call and b) bids without a call – think these are called responsive bids … Anyway, bids with a call usually have themes and deadlines and you have to meet the requirements for a bid. Since there is a deadline, usually people are more pressured into putting in a bid and as such there is usually more bids for one with a deadline than one without. Most bids would have some guidelines (including what to include and write as well as how it would be assessed). Although bids from charitable organisations may have two types: one where there is traditional research bids with a proper process application procedure and the second type where it is a very open process where they give some broad headings and they want you to send a short spiel on what you think you can do, and if it sounds interesting they’ll invite you to write/ discuss more on it.

As to finding a consortium/ people to collaborate with is a bit tricky. On EU funding bids, the EU has a website that helps you find partners. However, in most cases you usually find collaborators through friends or friends of friends as you know these people and have some trust in that they will get the project delivered. Always good when you’re at a conference to network, particularly in telling people you’re interesting in putting in a bid and would they be interested in doing so.

In a research council bid, you usually submit it through the JES system. There are two parts of any bid: a) the scientific case which is the actual project and b) the costings and staffing and there is usual a standardized format in which this is submitted.

Full-Economic Costings (FEC) 

Bids must have FEC (Full economic costings), that is the staff costs (the researchers etc) and the consumables (travel, equipment etc.). Within the OU, you can get help from the administrators in filling the forms required for FEC and determining the FEC.

Usually in the OU before you proceed to put together a bid, you should tell the bid coordinator (in our case Teresa) that you’re putting in a bid so they can put aside time to make sure that your bid goes through, get the FEC etc.

When it comes to doing an FEC for employing people, it is easy for people already employed since all you need to send to the finance people, the amount of time they’ll be spending on the job and they’ll adjust the costings. For new people, the salary grade of the person, level of staff and likely start date will be considered in the FEC together with their contribution to NIS and annual salary increments. Also, in some cases you can ‘buy your time’ that is you pay for your salary through the project (although the university handles the money) but you must discuss this first with your line manager.

If the line manager does not want to give you time, you’re allowed in the OU up to 20 days paid external consultancy, so if the job can be done in that time – you can use this for the bid.

Further, in most bids you usually employ someone for more than 6 months. However, if you need someone for less time, then within the IET, you can use short-term researchers from the LTD (learning and teaching development – led by Patrina) team who would do a fractional contract (such as 0.1 full-time) – however, you will need to liaise with Patrina before doing this.

When it comes to costing for conferences, travel, inviting people etc within the bid there are standard costs associated with this which you can ask Karen or Teresa to help with. Further, if it is a large bid, then costings for secretarial support may be needed and in that case if in IET then need to liaise with Michelle.

In general, before FEC, the funding body only paid the baseline costs (staff costs) without taking care of the administration etc. Therefore, now with the FEC bids look more expensive. In most bids the time put in for making the bid and going through the process, the cost associated with this is also included and this is done by putting in a ‘multiplier’ (which takes care fo the central university costs) – which the finance people know more about.

Different funders require different kinds of FEC – no funding agency would pay 100% FEC, the Research councils usually pay 80% whilst the EU bids pay about 50% (which Doug says is about the original baselines costs before the FEC).

OU Coloured Forms  

In the OU there are two types of forms: the FEC form and the coloured forms. There are three coloured forms: blue (Research council), pink (EU funded) and yellow (all others). Each form has a flowchart/ procedure for whom to sign off and at what stage.

Usually, before putting in the bid must discuss with the line manager and then liaise with the bid coordinator (notify them when you plan on putting in the bid for and what bid) who may liaise with the finance people (the type of bid -they’ll know the FEC required for that kind of bid). When you decide to do a bid, the line manager has to sign off on it, then the director of the unit, then the director (who has to agree that it can go forward to costing), then head of the research centre (only if it is a research council bid or sometimes if it is a EU bid) and depending on how large the bid is one or more of the pro-vice chancellors.

The signing off process usually takes about 1 wk to 6 wks (on average about 10-14 days). The university usually submit all bids on your behalf to ensure the bid remains with the university rather than a person.

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