UWA Grant Peer Support
The Grant Peer Support aims to:
- "raise the bar" - improve the quality of grant submissions from UWA investigators at all levels and across research funding programs;
- advance the awareness of the standard of application required for success in national and international competition;
- build collegiality; and
- increase opportunities for collaboration amongst colleagues within and across Schools, Faculties and Centres
Background and Rationale
UWA aims to improve the quality of grants submitted to research funding agencies for several reasons:
- to improve the University's grant success at a time when competition for research funds is high and increasing
- to build the University's reputation as a top 100 Go8 research intensive university.
As institutions providing peer review of grant applications submit more grants of higher quality, UWA has introduced Grant Peer Support.
Grant Peer Support of grant application schemes benefits applicants, UWA and our research community through improving collegiality amongst our research community and promoting internal research collaborations. Participation in Grant Peer Support serves as training for our early career researchers who will learn about applying for grants as well as specific research topics in their school. High quality grants:
- improve the chances of success for the applicant,
- build the University's reputation,
- grow research enterprise at the University by increasing the flow of funds directly to investigators for research and indirectly to the institution through monies derived through formula based processes used to cover the indirect costs of research.
Grant Peer Support is an annual cycle for researchers applying for major grants schemes such as NHMRC and ARC. We encourage applicants to use Grant Peer Support for all externally funded research grant applications.
The following guidelines have been prepared for those wishing to improve their chances of success and to be eligible for central funding support.
Step 1: Proposal Planning
The "Lean Canvas" Approach to Proposal Development 6-18 months prior to the agency deadline (for ARC and NHMRC grant and fellowship schemes)
We encourage you to plan early for applications to competitive grant schemes and have made available a 'Lean Canvas: for public good research proposal development' tool to support the planning process. This planning tool can assist you in the design and planning of your proposal for the specific funding agency before you "Pitch Your Project" and write your actual proposal. If you require support completing a lean canvas plan, please contact the Research Development Office.
Utilise the "Lean Canvas" dashboard template with your team members and potential industry partners, collaborators, and peers. It will help focus your research ideas on the key points that need to be driven home across the proposal to produce a strong compelling case for funding.
Step 2: "Pitch your Project"
6-10 months prior to the agency deadline (for ARC and NHMRC grant and fellowship schemes)
"Pitch Your Project" provides you with the opportunity to pitch your idea for a grant to a panel of experts and receive feedback. Any investigator planning to submit a project grant or fellowship application in the following year can participate. Applicants need to prepare an Expression of Interest including hypotheses, specific aims, general methods outline and preliminary data using the available template and a two-page CV. Applicants "pitch" the proposal to a "panel" of experienced colleagues for critical early feedback.
"Pitch Your Project" sessions are run by the Research Development Advisers and are held in April/May (and at other times as organised by Faculties and Centres).
Step 3: Internal (Scientific) Peer Review
3-4 months prior to the agency deadline - submission of application on Plutus. 2 months prior to the agency deadline - review of application on Plutus
Scientific internal review allows time for critical and thoughtful review of grant applications by colleagues as well as adequate opportunity for the applicant to respond to those comments within the grant scheme timeframe. Although participation in "Pitch Your Project" or internal scientific peer review will not guarantee success, it will improve the competitiveness of your application and help you develop the grantsmanship skills necessary for a successful research career.
Internal peer review of a research funding application may take the form of written and/or verbal feedback. As a tool to help facilitate internal scientific peer review, we have developed "Plutus" which is a web-based system where applicants submit a draft application and nominate reviewers on-line. The reviewers are then able to provide written feedback on-line or indicate they have given verbal feedback.
Applicants are required to nominate at least 3 reviewers - one scientific reviewer, another who has expertise with the relevant funding scheme e.g. someone who has participated in an ARC/NHMRC review panel and an informed non-expert. If you need help with identifying a potential reviewer, please refer to the list of UWA Research Expertise available on the website or contact your relevant Research Development Adviser.
Role of School/Centre
A Research Coordinator (RC) in each School/Centre coordinates the internal scientific review process. However, due to the timing of the major grant rounds and the implementation of UWA Renewal, Research Coordinators will not be required to assist with the process on Plutus for the period January - March 2017. Applicants will be responsible for ensuring they have received 3 reviews on Plutus by the internal closing date for each scheme and these dates will be included in the relevant internal guidelines on the website for each scheme.
Faculties, Schools, Centres and Institutes may wish to impose their own internal deadlines and processes to capture their research activity if required.
Deans of Faculties will be asked to nominate Research Coordinators as soon as possible after UWA Renewal has been implemented.
Instructions for Use of Plutus
We have prepared instructions to assist applicants, Research Coordinators, reviewers and Heads of School/Directors of Centres.
Step 4: Revise and Revise Again (RARA!)
Once you have been through the "Pitch Your Project" Session and completed "Internal (Scientific) Peer Review", you may want to return to the Lean Canvas Dashboard and adjust sections as needed and revise our proposal to reflect feedback gained along the way.
Internal Review by the RGCO
Internal Review by the Research Grants and Contracts Office 3 weeks prior to the agency deadline
Applications received by the internal deadline (time and date) will be eligible for UWA Fellowshp Gap Central and/or UWA Near Miss Central funding - see below.
- Step 1: The applicant submits a complete application to the Research Grants and Contracts Office for review, together with a UWA Application Cover Sheet by the internal deadline.
- Step 2: The Research Grants and Contracts Office will provide feedback to the applicant who will then submit the final version to the Research Grants and Contracts Office for submission to the external funding agency.
Guidelines for the application process and submission deadlines will be specific to each scheme and details will be available on the website.
Central Support Funding
Applications which are reviewed by at least 3 reviewers on Plutus by the internal deadline and submitted to the Research Grants and Contracts Office, together with a completed UWA Application Cover Sheet by the internal deadline will receive the following central support funding providing they meet the eligibility criteria for each scheme:
The funding application form generally requires standard information about the proposed project and the investigators.
The important parts are:
- a clear project title
- a well-designed and well justified budget
- a statement of the time to be committed to this and other projects
- a succinct and convincing project summary.
The importance of the summary should not be underestimated. It often establishes the first impression of a project and may be a factor in determining whether an application passes the first stage of assessment. A good summary captures and illustrates the entire research picture without leaving the reader puzzled or confused.
When writing the project proposal, you must address the selection criteria outlined in the guidelines. These usually include the following sections:
- Aims and significance
- Research plan, methods and techniques
- Justification of the budget
The guidelines might also require you to provide a progress report (where relevant) and discuss what national benefit your intended research would create.
Aims and significance
In this section you should outline the aims of your project, stating clearly what you intend to accomplish over the duration of the grant.
You should critically evaluate the present state of knowledge in the field at the international level, and describe how your own proposal relates to that knowledge. Identify the gaps and contradictions that you will clarify. Cite relevant references where appropriate, and if you have already done work in this area that is of relevance, explain what you have done and why your own approach is different from the work of others.
Explain the significance of the outcomes of the research in your proposal. How will your results advance knowledge of the field at an international level? Does your research fit in with any of the priority areas that are listed by the funding agency? If so, then say so.
Emphasise the novelty of the project, or your approach to it. And above all, communicate a sense of commitment and enthusiasm to your assessors. Do not bluff. Most assessors are very experienced and will quickly see through extravagant claims.
Research plan, methods and techniques
In this section you must outline your approach to carrying out the proposed research. This is often very difficult if you have not already done some ground work in the area, and have some idea of the types of ideas you can pursue. This section should be the largest part of your proposal, and is the place to elaborate on the details of the project.
The research plan should give an overall viewpoint of the research to be conducted throughout the project. The methods subsection should explain the strategies you will use to carry out your research. The techniques subsection can discuss the types of experiments you will undertake to verify your research, or the specific technological requirements to carry it out.
The research plan should make clear the scope and limitations of your project. If you make unreasonable claims about what you might achieve in the given timeframe, your project is likely to be rejected. Commitments of time need to be realistic.
If the application is for a continuation of funding from the same (or a different) funding agency, you will need to include a succinct progress report on the research undertaken to date, sufficient to convince the assessors that funds already allocated have been well spent.
Other important tips to follow in this section include the following:
- There is no need to expound upon well-known techniques; naming them will do.
- If the project is dependent upon the availability of subjects, materials, or specialist resources, explain how you will obtain access to them.
- If your project is collaborative, you need to be able to demonstrate that your collaborators are committed to the project.
Make sure that there is a clear link between the research plan, the personnel section and the budget. For example, if you are requesting a research assistant in the budget, the research assistant's role should be apparent in the research plan.
You should consider including a project timeline to give the reader a snapshot of your project. This usually involves breaking the research down into components of about three to six months' duration and specifying the order in which the research will be undertaken.
Some funding agencies require that the timetable be set out formally as milestones to be achieved by certain dates. Make sure that your objectives are achievable within the timetable you have set.
Some funding agencies require grant funds to be refunded if researchers do not achieve their objectives on time. Others deny researchers further access to their schemes until satisfactory final reports have been submitted.
Justification of the Budget
A typical application seeks funds for research assistance of some form, such as for spending on equipment, operating expenses, and possibly travel money. You have to decide what it is that you need to accomplish the research you have proposed, and you must justify the need for funds in the light of what is already available to you from the infrastructure provided by the school.
For example, you might decide that you need a specific piece of equipment to carry out your research, but you must justify this in terms of the equipment already available in your school.
If school equipment is already heavily utilised, and your programs are likely to require the use of specific equipment in the order of hours or days, then such justification should not be difficult. You should include a quote for equipment costing more than $2,000 (although the value may vary according to the funding agency). The budget should also provide for a maintenance contract on the equipment after the period of warranty, or an allowance of 15 per cent per annum for maintenance.
If there is a wide range of models for the item of equipment that you need, and you want the expensive one, then you will have to provide very strong justification for that choice. Funding agencies are reluctant to fund above the base level unless they can be convinced otherwise.
Similarly, if you want to employ a research assistant above the bottom of the scale, or a research officer rather than a research assistant, you will also need to provide strong justification.
There are four types of Research and Development activity as defined in the Australian Standard Research Classification.
- Pure basic research is experimental and theoretical work undertaken to acquire new knowledge without looking for long-term benefits other than the advancement of knowledge.
- Strategic basic research is experimental, and theoretical work is undertaken to acquire new knowledge into specified broad areas in the expectation of useful discoveries. It provides the broad base of knowledge necessary for the solution of recognised practical problems.
- Applied research is original work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge with a specific application in view. It is undertaken either to determine possible uses for the findings of basic research or to determine new ways of achieving some specific and predetermined objectives.
- Experimental development is systematic work, using existing knowledge gained from research or practical experience for the purpose of creating new or improved products/processes.
Field of Research (FOR) Code Lookup
When preparing a budget for your research, you should take account of the funding agency’s budget rules and the following items:
Applicants submitting grants requesting salaries for UWA staff must use UWA's salary scales.
These salaries are current values and are exclusive of on-costs (that is, workers' compensation, superannuation, payroll tax and the like). Likely increases and on-costs need to be taken into account when preparing budgets.
In cases where non-UWA salary scales and/or costs are required by the funding body, please contact the Research Grants and Contracts Office for advice.
A project costing template is available to assist in the calculation of all project costs, including salaries and on-costs plus likely increases.
Funding of long service leave entitlements, in most cases, will be covered by the three per cent levy included as part of the on-costs. However, some funding bodies will not fund any long service leave unless full details of the leave are disclosed in the application and the leave is taken during the grant period.
The guidelines and conditions of each funding body should be considered carefully.
2. Animal Costs
Animal Care Services is governed by the UWA Board of Animal Facilities which is an advisory committee to the Vice-Chancellor. The role of the board is to ensure the compliance, management, improvements and budget of the animal facilities at UWA.
3. Publication Costs
If the project requires published reports, please include printing and related expenses.
4. Access Fees
Including fees to access equipment maintained by the UWA Centre for Microscopy, Characterisation and Analysis.
If the funding body requires financial statements to be audited by persons external to the University, the cost of the audit(s) should be included in the request.
6. Per diem and Accommodation Rates
7. Relocation and Appointment Expenses
- Advertising costs can be very expensive and should be included in the budget
- UWA Human Resources Relocation Expenses
9. Goods and Services Tax
As a general rule, the University is required to impose GST on a transaction if all of the following requirements are met:
- It has made a supply for consideration
- The supply is made in the course of carrying on an enterprise
- The supply is connected with Australia; and
- It is registered for GST in Australia
A “supply” can be anything. Common examples are:
- Supply of goods (i.e. a piece of equipment, consumables)
- Supply of services (i.e. consultancy, lab analysis)
- Entry into, or release from, an obligation to do anything
- Promise of undertaking to do anything (i.e. research project)
- Creation, grant, assignment or transfer of any right (i.e. Intellectual Property, Publication)
- Grant or assignment of real property
The final decision as to whether or not GST applies is made by Financial Services Tax Team. The Research Grants and Contracts Office will liaise with the Tax Team if the contract is not clear on GST and get a ruling.
Whether a supply has been made by UWA is determined by the legal agreement and the legal obligations (terms and conditions) either expressly stated or inferred from the contract – whether there is a material obligation to the recipient (UWA). As a general rule, any provision of Intellectual Property is considered by the ATO to be a material benefit and GST will apply. A recipients GST registration status does not determine whether we should be charging GST or not, it is whether or not there are legally binding obligations.
Points to consider:
- What is UWA giving in return for the funding?
- Are there any legally binding obligations imposed in relation to the Funding? Examples: requirements to provide regular reports, right to exploit research findings, right to share in the research IP, right to determine where the research is published
- Student scholarships or stipends - GST may be applied; the GST Act doesn’t distinguish between research grants and scholarships
- Philanthropic donations or gifts are exempt from GST
- Some Commonwealth funding is GST exempt
- Recipient’s GST registration status does not determine whether we should be charging GST or not
Funding from ‘non-resident agencies’ can be treated as GST free if specific requirements under the GST Act are met. One of the requirements is that the non-resident’s representatives, employees or agents, must not be in Australia when the research is performed. In order to determine whether this will be treated as GST free, Tax requires the following information:
- Funding guidelines, proposed budgets, terms and conditions of award
- If any in-kind contribution is made by the non-resident (i.e. personnel), is the personnel an employee or contractor of the non-resident agency
- Is the personnel based in Australia, how long are they expected to remain in Australia and is the research being conducted at UWA’s premises?
- If there are regular meetings held between the parties, will the meetings be held at UWA or at an overseas location?
At the time you are negotiating with an overseas entity to undertake research and proposing a budget it would be prudent to liaise directly with Tax to determine whether or not GST will be applied. They will need to assess these situations on a case by case basis. You can contact them directly with your queries at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Budgeting for Research Applications/Proposal
- For Australian funds always state whether your budget includes or excludes GST; it is recommended that all budgets should clearly identify the total cost (ex GST) and include a line for the GST amount (currently 10%) with a total Project Cost including GST
- Use the Online Project Costing template to work out your budget and ensure you include all costs (i.e. salaries, Infrastructure, supplies, animal costs, etc.). This template can be found at http://costcalculator.research.uwa.edu.au/
- GST is applied to the total Direct and In Direct (Infrastructure charge) costs
- If applying for overseas funds it is recommended to get advice regarding GST from Tax and to discuss this with the International Agency.
UWA’S RESPONSIBILITY TO CHARGE GST
Failure to impose GST when it is applicable will expose UWA to potential penalties and interest charges by the Australian Tax Office. The ATO has the discretion to impose penalties ranging from 25% to 75% on the amount of the tax owed, depending on whether reasonable care has been taken.
Financial Services Tax Team makes the final call.
If you have any questions about GST in general, please contact the following:
10. Cash and in kind contributions
In cases where the funding agency requires the University to contribute to the budget, UWA's contribution should include:
- any direct cash contributions being provided by the University
- in-kind cost of any UWA teaching and research staff member's time (including salary on-costs) plus the infrastructure charge calculated from that amount.
A project costing template is available to assist in the calculation of all project costs, including in-kind costs.
If the budget includes direct cash contributions provided by the University, please contact the Associate Director, Research Grants, as these have to be confirmed by the Research Grants and Contracts Office.
Consultancies & Tenders
The following information is provided to assist in the preparation of research tenders.
Research tenders submitted by UWA must be fully costed, thereby ensuring they adhere to competitive neutrality pricing requirements. Infrastructure (indirect) costs must be fully covered. For further information refer to the recovery of University infrastructure costs policy.
If you require a statement confirming that your tender has been fully costed in accordance with the recovery of University infrastructure costs policy and competitive neutrality pricing policy please contact staff in the Research Grants and Contracts Office, who will be able to organise the statement for you.
All consultancies that are to undertake research should be administered via the Research Grants and Contracts Office, in the same manner as all other research grants. The only exception would be where the consultancy is undertaken in accordance with the University Policy on: Professional and Consultative Work.
Other key items
Submitting the Proposal
If submitting an ARC or NHMRC application please refer to our ARC and NHMRC guidelines, as these detail the specific internal and external submission requirements for these two funding agencies: ARC & NHMRC
All applications for external research funds should be submitted via the Research Grants and Contracts Office, at least two weeks prior to the external closing date, unless advertised otherwise.
The Research Grants and Contracts Office will review the administrative aspects of an application, to ensure it complies with the requirements that are detailed in the funding agencies funding rules and instructions, including checking the eligibility, the budget and budget justification, and any other specific requirements of the funding agency. Applicants who submit their applications after the internal closing date may not have the benefit of such close scrutiny.
Where a scheme is university-based, such as the UWA Research Collaboration Awards, the deadline set for the submission of applications to the Research Grants and Contracts Office is the final deadline. Late applications are not accepted.
Applicants are strongly encouraged to discuss their application with colleagues before submitting. Some schools have established processes small groups to review the scientific and administrative aspects of applications before they are submitted. Applicants can arrange for peer review via Plutus.
Applications submitted to the Research Grants and Contracts Office must include all the copies required by the funding agency (if hard copies have to be submitted to the funding agency), plus an extra copy for the University's records and an Application Cover Sheet.
The Research Grants and Contracts Office will arrange submission to the funding agency, including via email or post, as required by the funding agency. Online submissions should come via the Research Grants and Contracts Office where there’s a requirement for institutional signoff of submission. Where it’s only possible to submit direct, a copy should be emailed to the Research Grants and Contracts Office, along with the Application Cover Sheet.
Responding to Assessor's Comments
Details of the rejoinder/rebuttal processes are available on the ARC and NHMRC websites.
The same principles apply for ARC and NHMRC when preparing a rejoinder/response and the following should be taken into consideration:
- Rejoinders/responses are an important part of the assessment process and should be taken seriously. They do make a difference!
- Writing a rejoinder/response requires delicacy, skill and tact – they should be carefully crafted.
- Use the rejoinder/response process as an opportunity to build a case for funding – try to understand and put into context the negative comments.
- Do not try to guess the names of the assessors.
- Do not attack or abuse the assessors – your response will not be read by the external assessors. An ARC response will be read by the same committee which appointed the assessors, and the NHMRC Assessor Reports now include comments and questions from Spokesperson 1 & 2.
- Some assessments may appear bland or very good. Some ‘forensic’ work may be necessary to try to select comments that might be of concern.
- Do not discard negative comments. It might be the case that two assessments are positive and one assessment is negative. The negative report might be the credible, best argued assessment so it’s best to work out why it's negative and then respond.
- Answer any questions asked by assessors or committees.
- Ask a colleague to read the assessments and the rejoinder/response. The response should be checked for tone and clarity of content, and must comply with any specified formatting requirements.