SOME THOUGHTS ON WRITING
RESEARCH PROPOSALS
HENDRIK FERREIRA
University of Johannesburg
Faculty of Engineering and Built Environment
2012-08-22
1
OVERVIEW
A GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS:
•
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
•
COMPETIVE ENVIRONMENT
•
TRACK RECORD AND POTENTIAL
•
FOCUS
•
COMMON FAILURES
•
TYPICAL STEPS OF EVALUATION
•
PRESENTATION
•
FIELD, GOALS AND RESULTS
B EXAMPLES:
•
NRF APPLICATION FOR EVALUATION AND
RATING: BACGROUND
•
NRF APPLICATION FOR EVALUATION AND
RATING: TEMPLATE
•
UJ URC: TEMPLATE
•
ESKOM TESP: TEMPLATE
•
NRF ISL: TEMPLATE
•
NRF COMPETIVE RESEARCH: TEMPLATE
•
SUMMARY
2
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
• APPROPRIATENESS? DOUBLE CHECK.
• UP TO DATE INFORMATION: LATEST TEMPLATES ( INTERNET?) OR
CONDITIONS FOR APPLICATION OF FUNDING (INTERNET,
NETWORKING, ENQUIRY.)
• HIT THE GROUND RUNNING! PRESTUDY.
• SCARCE FUNDING: OFTEN PREFERRED TO NURTURE (YOUNG)
TREES OVER PLANTING NEW SEEDS.
• YOUR STRENGTHS: HOW TO EMPHASIZE?
• YOUR WEAKNESSES: HOW TO COMPENSATE?
3
COMPETITIVE ENVIRONMENT
• RISK: INVESTMENT TO MAXIMIZE FUNDING AGENCY’S REPORTED
OUTPUTS.
• ACADEMIC OUTPUTS: PAPERS AND POST-GRADUATE DEGREES.
• INTERNAL ENVIRONMENT: OTHER FACULTIES MAY HAVE LONG
ESTABLISHED PUBLICATION CULTURE.
• EXTERNAL ENVIRONMENT: OTHER UNIVERSITIES HAVE ALUMNI
AND PRESTIGE.
• CAREFUL POSITIONING! OWN NICHE? EMPHASIZE POTENTIAL
OUTPUTS.
4
TRACK RECORD AND POTENTIAL
• TRACK RECORD: QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF OUTPUTS.
• POTENTIAL: MAINLY FOR YOUNG RESEARCHERS. HOW CAN YOU
MAKE A CONVINCING CASE?
• BIAS OF SCIENTIFIC OR ACADEMIC FUNDING SOURCES:
POTENTIAL
VS
TRACK RECORD
• BIAS OF INDUSTRIAL FUNDING SOURCES:
USUALLY SHORT TERM APPLICATION VALUE, ALSO DEVELOPMENT
OF MAN POWER.
5
FOCUS: VERY IMPORTANT!
• COMMON COMPLAINT: UNFOCUSED, ATTEMPT TO
COVER TOO MANY APPLICATIONS, OR VAGUE.
(POSSIBLY
RESEARCH
FIELD
TOO
NARROW
MENTION
WIDER
BENEFITS)
↑
FOCUS POINT
6
COMMON FAILURES
• PRESENTATION: IMPOSSIBLE TO READ OR HARD TO
FOLLOW!
• UNFOCUSED! TOO ALL ENCOMPASSING OR TOO
VAGUE.
• INADEQUATE TRACK RECORD (OR POTENTIAL) OF
PROPOSER(S)
7
TYPICAL STEPS OF EVALUATION
SUCCESS
←
↖
____
↖
7. | IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTION: BREAKTHROUGH, APPLICATION.
↑
___
6. | PERCEIVED VALUE. GOALS, MANPOWER, EXPERTISE.
↑
___
------5. | CONTEXT: SCARCE SKILLS, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, INSTITUTION, NETWORK.
↓
___
4. | FEASIBILITY: GOALS, WORK PLAN. TIME LINE.
↓
___
3. | PROPOSERS: TRACK RECORD OR POTENTIAL.
↓
___
2. | DISCIPLINE / FIELD: PERCEIVED IMPORTANCE. ENGINEERING: ADVANTAGE!
↓
___
1. | PRESENTATION: LANGUAGE. ORGANIZATION. STYLE.
↓
↙
FAILURE
←
8
PRESENTATION
• LANGUAGE: GET HELP EARLY! MONEY WELL SPENT.
• ORGANISE CONTENTS! IF NECESSARY, CREATE YOUR
OWN SUBHEADERS, BULLETS, NUMBER SYSTEM.
• FLOW: TIME LINE (STORY?!) OR: ARGUMENT FLOW!
• STYLE: PROFESSIONAL AND SCHOLARLY. REFERENCES,
etc.
• TONE AND BALANCE: MODESTY VS ASSERTIVENESS.
9
FIELD, GOALS AND RESULTS
• EMPHASIZE WORKING IN A FIELD RATHER THAN ACHIEVING
SPECIFIC RESULTS.
• KEEP IN MIND: SOME FREEDOM OF REDIRECTING RESEARCH AS
YOU PROGRESS.
• WILL FUNDING AGENCY HOLD ME TO SPECIFIC TECHNICAL
SCIENTIFIC GOALS?
– ACADEMIC/ SCIENTIFIC AGENCY: SELDOM OR NEVER! JUST
PRODUCE ACADEMIC OUTPUTS!
– INDUSTRY: CHECK EXPECTATIONS CAREFULLY. HOWEVER,
SOMETIMES TRAINING MANPOWER IS SUFFICIENT.
10
TEMPLATES FOR PROPOSALS:
SOME EXAMPLES
• NRF APPLICATION FOR EVALUATION AND RATING
• UJ URC: APPLICATION FOR A GRANT FROM INTERNAL
RESEARCH FUNDS
• ESKOM TERTIARY EDUCATION SUPPORT PROGRAMME
• NRF ISL APPLICATION FOR A JOINT RESEARCH GRANT
• NRF COMPETITIVE PROGRAMME FOR RATED
RESEARCHERS
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NRF APPLICATION FOR EVALUATION
AND RATING: BACKGROUND
•
KEY QUESTION: WHAT IS THE IMPACT OF THE APPLICANT’S RECENT RESEARCH
OUTPUTS?
•
EXTERNAL REVIEWEWERS (NOMINATED AND INDEPENDENT) WRITE REPORT ON
KEY QUESTION AND APPLICANT’S STANDING.
•
PANEL MEMBERS: ONLY INTERPRET REVIEWERS’ REPORTS.
•
TYPICAL PROGRESS: Ph D → 3 YEARS → Y/P → C,B,A
•
Y 0R P, NOT OLDER THAN 35 YEARS, OR WITHIN 5 YEARS OF Ph D AND NOT
OLDER THAN 40 YEARS.
•
LABLES C,B,A SHOULD BE INTERPRETED WITH CARE – PERHAPS UNFORTUNATE
CHOICE OF LABLES.
12
NRF APPLICATION FOR EVALUATION
AND RATING: TEMPLATE
• Research outputs during the past 8 years: Books/chapters in
books, Refereed/peer-reviewed articles in journals,
Conference outputs, Patents, Additional research outputs
• Best research outputs in the past 8 years
• Best research outputs of students supervised in last 8 years
• (Best research outputs prior to last 8 years – Background)
• Other research-based contributions
• Brief description of completed research
• Self-assessment of research outputs
• Ongoing and planned future research
13
UJ URC: APPLICATION FOR A GRANT
FROM INTERNAL RESEARCH FUNDS:
• Form URC-1:
Some Preamble Information
• Additional Information to URC-1:
- Running Cost Motivation: Short Term Personnel Cost,
Running Costs, Operating Costs
- Travel Costs Motivation (Not conferences!)
- Small Research Equipment
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UJ URC: DETAILED PROPOSAL
EXAMPLE : SECTIONS CREATED
1 INTRODUCTION
2 VISION
7 POWER LINE COMMUNICATIONS
AND SMART GRIDS
3 STRATEGIC POSITIONING
8 RESEARCH PROJECTS
4 STAFF: DEVELOPMENT,
ENVIRONMENT AND
LONG TERM SUCCESSION
9 COOPERATION
10 PERMANENT INFRASTRUCTURE
5 THEME OF RESEARCH
11 MEASURABLE OUTPUTS
6 FUNDAMENTAL AND APPLIED
RESEARCH
12 EXTERNAL FUND RAISING
13 BUDGET
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ESKOM TESP
EXAMPLE: SECTIONS CREATED
1. PREAMBLE
5. COLLABORATIONS, LOCAL AND
INTERNATIONAL LINKAGES,
AND. GLOBAL RELEVANCE
2. PROJECT
2.1 Title:
2.2 Duration:
3. OBJECTIVES:
3.1 Development of manpower:
.
3.2 Alignment of research with Eskom’s
scientific and engineering manpower needs: .
•
5.1 Industrial:
5.2 South African Universities and
Academic
5.3 National Research Foundation:
5.5 Other experts in the field of
interest to the centre:
5.6 Industrial partners and industrial
relevance to
5.7 Collaboration with communities in
rural areas
3.3 Sustainable development aspects of
the research work undertaken:
6. OUTPUTS
4. GOVERNANCE OF THE CENTRE
6.1 Human Resources
6.1.1 Academic staff development:
6.1.2 Students: Table
16
NRF ISL APPLICATION FOR A JOINT
RESEARCH GRANT
•
•
The following are suggested headings (NRF request, maximum 10 pages):
•
Detailed description of the project.
•
Discussion of the scientific and technological background (including references and the
relationship to previous research activities relating to the present proposal).
•
Specific objectives and expected significance of the project.
•
Methodology and plan of work. The respective roles of the co-operating partners in
carrying out the proposed project should be indicated.
•
Record of preliminary results relevant to the proposal
•
Detailed account of available resources including all personnel and equipment.
•
Mode of co-operation between the South African and Overseas teams.
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NRF ISL APPLICATION FOR A JOINT
RESEARCH GRANT (CONTINUED)
•
Bibliography relevant to the research area.
•
Possible socioeconomic benefits to the country.
•
BIOGRAPHICAL AND PROFESSIONAL INFORMATION
•
Principal Investigator – Abroad
•
Resume (Relevance of the researcher’s professional background to the proposed project).
•
Principal Investigator – South Africa
•
Resume (Relevance of the researcher’s professional background to the proposed project).
•
PLEASE IDENTIFY THE NAMES OF AT LEAST SIX PEER REVIEWERS
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NRF COMPETITIVE PROGRAMME FOR
RATED RESEARCHERS
•
Research Expertise
•
Project Information
•
Details Of Research:
Problem Identification, Rationale and Motivation, Research Objectives,
Research Methodology/Techniques,
Work Plan – Research Activities,
Human Resource Development, Equity and Redress, Collaborations,
Potential Outcomes,
Progress to Date: Summary, Research Outputs, Students,
Co-investigator Outputs (if applicable),
Ethics, Disability, Data Management and Utilisation
19
NRF COMPETITIVE PROGRAMME FOR
RATED RESEARCHERS (CONTINUED)
•
Additional Attachments
•
Participating Members
•
Possible Reviewers
•
Excluded Reviewers
•
Financials: Operating Costs, Other Sources, Student Support
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SUMMARY
• BUILD YOUR OWN TRACK RECORD!
• DEVELOP YOUR LANGUAGE AND PRESENTATION SKILLS.
• EVALUATE ENVIRONMENT, POSITION YOURSELF AND START!
• CONSIDER YOUR RESEARCH FOCUS CAREFULLY,
• FAMILIARIZE WITH FUNDING OPORTUNITIES, PROCEDURES,
RULES, CONSTRAINTS.
• TEMPLATES: DEVELOP YOUR OWN IF NECESSARY. ANYWAY
ORGANISE MATERIAL AS YOU PROCEED, CREATE SHORT
SUBSECTIONS AND/OR NUMBERED ITEMS AS NECESSARY.
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RECAP: THE STEPS
SUCCESS
←
↖
____
↖
7. | IMPORTANT CONTRIBUTION: BREAKTHROUGH, APPLICATION.
↑
___
6. | PERCEIVED VALUE. GOALS, MANPOWER, EXPERTISE.
↑
___
------5. | CONTEXT: SCARCE SKILLS, AFFIRMATIVE ACTION, INSTITUTION, NETWORK.
↓
___
4. | FEASIBILITY: GOALS, WORK PLAN. TIME LINE.
↓
___
3. | PROPOSERS: TRACK RECORD OR POTENTIAL.
↓
___
2. | DISCIPLINE / FIELD: PERCEIVED IMPORTANCE. ENGINEERING: ADVANTAGE!
↓
___
1. | PRESENTATION: LANGUAGE. ORGANIZATION. STYLE.
↓
↙
FAILURE
←
22
COPY OF THESE SLIDES:
WILL BE POSTED ON OUR RESEARCH GROUP’s WEBSITE:
http://www.ujtrg.co.za
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some thoughts on writing research proposals