School of Informatics support for researchers: contacts, policies and procedures relating to research funding application and award
Research Support in the School of Informatics: how to work with the Portfolio Management team(PMs)
The Portfolio Management team (Caroline Hastings, Carrie McNamee, Ruta Bader, Laura Rich, Fiona Williams and Helen New) provides support for and management of research grant activity in the School of Informatics. Each Portfolio Manager works with one or more institutes, though they also work as a team ensure cover. They are the first point of contact for the research community from funding opportunity through to close of a research project. Support provided includes:
- funding opportunities, queries
- research grant proposal preparation and costing (including funder, partner, legal liaison)
- financial management of research grant portfolios and institute budgets
- research staff contract extensions and end of employment process
- advertisement of research grant funded positions
- appointment of research staff, in collaboration with Human Resources
- commitment of studentship funds and offers, in collaboration with the Graduate School
The same process applies for any research application, bid or tender, whether you are applying for a fellowship or a research grant, a studentship or travel funding, to a charity, national, international or commercial funder or a Research Council, and whether you are the Principal Investigator or a Co-Investigator on a project.
As soon as you identify a funding opportunity please speak to your Portfolio Manager, providing as much background to the opportunity as possible. This may be a website link, emails or simply something you've heard. This will allow the Portfolio Manager to check that the funder and scheme are set up in the Worktribe system, to ensure that costing and pricing is appropriate, and that we can accept the terms and conditions. For new or unusual funders this can mean talking to them directly where the rules are unclear or we need to explain our processes in their context.
Where you have partners (external or within the University, other academic or industry), please provide contact names so that authorised costs can be collated and held or, if they lead, sent to them. Costs for the School of Informatics must be provided and approved by the PM team.
If we will administer a budget which is passed on to partners, it may be necessary (depending on location, nature of the funding or whether you have worked with them before) to run a due diligence process. Due diligence is provided by the central Research Support Office (RSO) or – where the funder is a commercial entity - Edinburgh Innovations (EI).
When you receive costs for your project, there will be a record number (Project 1234568) with it. Please use it in all correspondence. Using the reference number allows the PM team to identify the proposal, making workload sharing easier. You can request multiple iterations so please don’t re-use older costings without checking as salary scales, overhead rates and other on-costs are updated throughout the year. If you decide not to submit, for whatever reason, let the PM know so the record can be closed.
Please send a copy of your completed application to your portfolio manager as soon as possible before submission to the funder. Portfolio managers check that the costs match those approved, that it has been through internal review or ethics processes and that it fits the scheme requirements. This stage is the School approval to submit. Without completion of this stage, the application is not recorded as submitted and will not be included in research activity reports.
After submission, please ensure that your portfolio manager is included in any communication about the process, especially if there are any challenges from the funder. Award letters or draft agreements should be forwarded to your portfolio manager who will ensure these are negotiated, accepted, signed and set up. While some funders will inform the University through the RSO of success, invitation to resubmit or rejection, other funders may only contact the applicant directly – please let the Portfolio Manager know in each case.
There can be a considerable delay between learning that a proposal is successful to being able to start the project. Where there is no record of costing or approval, the award does not match the approved costs, or where there are unexpected partners with no contact details and no record of their approved participation, this adds greatly to the time it takes to negotiate and finalise the award. Grants cannot start until all agreements are signed but often there is a fixed start date, a need to recruit and a firm end date, so the better prepared we are the faster this can be dealt with.
As well as being necessary for both internal and external (funder) audit, this process enables accurate and timely reporting of application and award activity. Research Information Systems produces monthly Key Performance Indicator (KPI) reports showing this activity
If you have any questions or suggestions, please contact Janet Ball (email@example.com)
Preparing a research proposal or bid - letters of support
Requesting a Letter of Support from Head of School - please contact your portfolio manager immediately. Cover letters which simply need a signature authorising submission will require a copy of the full proposal as well as the terms and conditions of the bid and it may be possible to have them signed within 3 working days (depending on availability) but where a resource commitment (staff time, facilities, sacrifice of eligible costs, contribution of studentships or any other cash or in-kind) is required please give a minimum of 5 working days for the Director of Research to discuss before sign-off and also include any evidence of agreement to other commitments from partners. Principal Investigators should provide a modifiable draft of the Letter of Support. The draft should be in .docx, .tex or .txt format.
More detailed policy to follow.
Research Challenges in Computer Systems for the 2020s
A useful reference for proposal writing, this is the final report on the NSF-Sponsored Community Visioning Workshop on Inter-Disciplinary Research Challenges in Computer Systems for the 2020s, highlighting some priority areas: developing the components for a usable planet-scale Internet of Things (IoT), with provably energy-efficient devices; rethinking the hardware-software security contract in the age of AI; making AI a truly dependable technology that is usable by all the citizens in all settings; developing solutions to tackle extreme complexity, possibly based on formal methods.
The Research Support Office (RSO)
The RSO is the central office supporting research activity and submits grants on behalf of the University (after they have gone through School approval) through systems such as JeS. They have a European team who will help with Commission funding, including writing support. The office also includes a contracts team who will deal with collaboration agreements and other legal documents associated with research awards.
The support team will perform due diligence on partners for ODA/GCRF funding but they need to be told in good time as this can be quite onerous. Their website also contains some examples of successful research funding application but please ask your Portfolio Manager if you don't see what you need. They offer occasional events focusing on particular programmes and funders.
The main contacts in the RSO for the School of Informatics are Emma Giles and Anna Votsi - if you ever need urgent assistance for costing or grant preparation and no-one from the SoI Research Services team is available, please contact them (copying to your Portfolio Manager).
Director of Institute
Your Director of Institute is available to support your research and offer advice.
When preparing a proposal it is a good idea to discuss it with colleagues to help refine your ideas. For many funding schemes your proposal will be read and evaluated by non-specialists so it is good idea to get feedback from colleagues in other institutes to ensure that your work is understandable outside your immediate area of expertise.
Director of Research (DoR)
Standard grant applications (e.g. EPSRC responsive mode) do not need input from the DoR, and should continue to be handled in the usual way via your portfolio manager and peers in your Institute. Two areas that should be discussed with the DoR are (i) major fellowship applications (e.g. EPSRC, ERC, Royal Society URF, RAEng), and (ii) major grants, e.g. EPSRC Programme Grants. The DoR has an office hour every Monday 1-2pm in his office, IF 2.52 (except when unavailable, this will be announced in advance).
Once your research has been funded your immediate support will come from the portfolio manager in your institute, but your Director of Institute will also be available to offer any advice or help needed.
To help researchers prepare for applications we run a regular programme of workshops on relevant topics.
Details of the support offered by the Research Support Office are detailed in the slides below.
Information about potential funding
Information about potential funding is available via the University’s subscription to Research Professional. A quick start guide and fuller user guide offer help on how to use Research Professional, and can be found below.