Talk on Applying for Postdoctoral Funding

Yesterday I gave a talk to early career researchers at Bristol University on writing postdoc funding applications. I’ve talked to applicants and run sessions on the topic in the past. As an applicant myself in 2013 I remember benefiting a lot from these kind of sessions before securing funding from the British Academy  (pictured above). Applicants can often be anxious, particularly given how competitive these awards are. To combat nerves and help with your application, here are my top 10 tips.

  1. Plan your time. Successful applications take time to write and revise. There is so much to consider that last-minute applications will never succeed. You’ve got to think about peer review, draft revisions, completing complicated on-line applications, chasing up references, improving your CV to match the funder, working with finance to cost your project, etc. Plan sensibly and start early!
  2. Take peer review seriously. If you’ve never won postdoctoral funding before you may not know what a successful application looks like. However, your research directors and senior academics will do. Address the issues they refer to.
  3. Be concise. Word count is limited and on-line forms will cut you off if you write too much.
  4. Avoid jargon and be clear what your research is about. Reviewers are unlikely to know your subject specialism inside out.
  5. Target your application to the funder. Different funders want different things.
  6. Read everything you can get your hands on and read between the lines. Funders often say what they want to see in your application so make sure you put it in!
  7. Improve your CV. Some schemes (e.g. ESRC Future Leaders) demand a first-class CV so make sure you publish, teach, take on admin etc.
  8. Applying feels egotistical. I don’t like selling myself but that’s part of the game. Become that kind of person and be confident and bold.
  9. Don’t put all your eggs in the same basket. There are several schemes out there so make sure you apply to them all. Competition is fierce.
  10. Be tenacious. If you get turned down apply again. Failure is an essential component for learning. Dust yourself off and do better.

Good luck!


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