Category Archives: Research Funding

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!


British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship (2014-2017)

I’m a very fortunate recipient of a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship. These are three-year funding awards for early career researchers to be a principle investigator and develop their research and teaching profiles. The funding is generous (mine is worth about £310,000 plus additional grants) and not surprisingly the competition is fierce. About 800 people apply each year for 45 fellowships, making the success rate about 5%.

The official title and abstract is below. Follow this blog for future publications!


Examining situated and emerging sociability in children with profound and multiple learning disabilities (PMLD) across educational contexts


This study will address the dearth in research about how different learning environments (special and mainstream, from nursery to post-16) afford alternative opportunities for children with PMLD to engage in social interaction. The study will explore how such interactions support emerging sociability, understood in terms of agency (intentional action), intersubjectivity (awareness of the subjectivity of others), and symbolic communication (deliberate exchange of information). A richly interpretivist participatory methodology will be employed to explore how social engagement impacts on development. The research will broaden understandings of the mechanisms through which learning and development occur for children with PMLD, demonstrate how non-traditional methodology leads to new insights into the lived experiences of children with PMLD, and challenge notions in the PMLD literature that some children are too cognitively impaired to engage with mainstream settings.