Today we opened again for outline research project grant applications. We understand that for applicants it can be a complex business, as funders have myriad priorities and criteria.

Sadly, we receive many more outline applications than we can possibly fund, which means that we conduct an initial assessment and rank outline applications, with the highest ranking 30-35 outline applications being invited to submit a full application.  This sometimes means that if we receive a particularly high number of excellent applications, some will not make it through to the next round. Also owing to the sheer volume of outline applications we receive, we are unable to provide detailed feedback at this first stage of the process.

We thought it might be helpful, therefore, to highlight some common issues in the hope that it will assist you as you start to prepare your submission to our outline process. Do please remember to read this alongside all of the other guidance you’ll find on the website for research project grants – and to take the eligibility quiz before starting an application. We don’t want you to waste time on submitting an application that does not meet our funding criteria.  Our frequently asked questions also contains some top tips (under “What would you say a good application looks like?”) from the Research Grants Committee.

Aside from a review of eligibility and overall fit with the portfolio, outline applications are initially scored and ranked according to the three criteria below:

  • How the project will contribute to the achievement of the Dunhill Medical Trust’s strategic objectives
  • How the project will help expand and/or sustain research capacity in the Trust’s areas of focus
  • How the project will make a difference to older people and the time frame in which it will do so (your “pathway to impact”).

Accompanying guidance is provided alongside each question.

Here are some examples of answers that don’t quite make the grade.

Please tell us how this project contributes to the achievement of the Dunhill Medical Trust’s strategic objectives

X is a disease of ageing and affects the older population predominantly.  Y million people suffer from it and it is growing at z% annually.  

It is not sufficient to assume that because the condition you are researching affects older people, your project automatically fits the Trust’s strategic objectives. We would like you to engage with our strategic objectives, which you can read about on our website.

Please explain how this project will help to expand and/or sustain research capacity in the Trust’s areas of focus

University X is a world leader in the fields of dementia and cognition, so there will be opportunities to transfer knowledge to other researchers and develop collaborative future work. 

We are very keen to attract to, and retain researchers in, ageing-related research. We would therefore like to hear about your specific plans for how your project is going to help to do so. Is this your first grant as a Principal Investigator? How are you going to be supported? Are you going to be employing a research assistant-how is the research team/ the wider university infrastructure/ the wider ageing research community going to help develop their career in this field?

Involvement of older people: How are you planning to involve older people, service users, carers, members of the public in designing and planning this research and/or in other ways (NB this does not refer to using any member of these groups as research subjects). If you are not planning to do so, please use this space to say why not.

It is not necessary to involve older people, as this is an in vitro study.

We understand that for some projects it is not appropriate for older people to be involved, however, we would expect applicants to engage with the general public in other ways, perhaps through a relevant disease support group, disease-specific charity or university public engagement activities.

We will recruit care home staff to deliver the intervention.

We would want to know that you have already engaged, and have relationships with, a series of care homes as it can be notoriously difficult to do this once your project has begun.

Finally, and this should probably go without saying, but we’ll say it anyway…we receive a surprisingly large number of applications from Principle Lecturers and univesrities… please read through your application before submitting it and, if possible, ask someone else to read it as well. We’ve never specifically marked down an application for spelling mistakes alone, but it doesn’t look good and has been something about which peer reviewers express concern…