The BSG Research Sub-committee (RC), chaired by Professor Steve Darby (University of Southampton), met at the University of Leeds on Feb 13th, 2013, as part of its biannual cycle and I was invited to attend as a representative of the BSG Postgraduate Forum. The intention was to gain insight into the role of the RC as the decision-makers for the BSG Grants and Awards, the mechanics of this process and to seek clarification from the Committee on issues raised by BSG postgraduate members and subsequently relay this information back to all BSG PG’s.
Firstly, a number of important points relevant to all PG’s:
- There are two BSG grant rounds per year, February and September
- The next deadline is September 30th, 2013
- There are two types of grant available to PG’s – Postgraduate Research Grants (up to £1000) and Postgraduate Conference Attendance Grants (up to £1000, or £250 for the BSG AGM)
- The RC strongly encourage applications from Postgraduates for these awards (but note comments below for advice on the best time to submit applications)
- The Dick Chorley Medal and Award is given each year for the most significant, original publication by a Postgraduate (or 3 years from graduation)
- Anyone is able to nominate candidates for the Chorley award (including self-nominations!) and the RC are keen to attract as many nominations as possible each year
Feedback from the RC
– The RC emphasised proposals are treated primarily on scientific merit, so it is the applicant’s responsibility to demonstrate this effectively from their respective branches of geomorphology. Further guidance regarding the evaluation procedure is available on the BSG website and all applicants are strongly encouraged to examine these in detail. It was also emphasised that each application is viewed independently of prior applications, whether successful or not, and indeed they encourage re-submission of unsuccessful applications.
– One important procedural change that affects PG grant submissions is that, with effect from the next round there will no longer be a requirement for two supporting statements (one from a Supervisor and one from a Head of Department). In future rounds, only a reference from each candidate’s Supervisor will be required. However, it is essential the supervisor’s reference explicitly confirms the registration status of the applicant and clearly states the source of any additional funds required to complete the proposed work. PGs should also be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that supervisor’s upload their references into the grant application prior to the stated deadline – incomplete applications cannot be assessed.
– Efforts are on-going to improve the online application process as the RC is aware of some technical issues. The possibility of auto-generated emails to PG applicants to confirm receipt of the supervisor supporting statement will also be investigated.
– The Committee noted some Postgraduate Research Grant applications to the February round requested funds to support fieldwork comprising a core part of the PhD and they are concerned by this pathway. Instead, their preference is to support complementary avenues of research and I feel it is important to bring this to the attention of all PG’s.
– It is at the Committee’s discretion to split the annual budgeted funds across the two grant rounds. In the past the committee have tended to split their available funds equally between the two funding rounds, but at the February meeting it was noted that more applications tend to be received in February than September. The committee are monitoring demand closely to ensure that available funds are matched to patterns of demand from applicants
– It was noted that applicants to the Postgraduate Conference Attendance Grant in their 1st year may be more likely to receive financial support to attend the BSG AGM, whereas those in subsequent years, who have obtained more substantive data and a clear research pathway, will likely be able to put forward a stronger application to support attendance at international conferences.
– Professor Mark Bateman holds the role of Grants Award Officer which includes compiling the grant assessments from each RC member and informing applicants of the RC decisions and he highlighted his willingness to provide feedback in the cases of unsuccessful proposals.
– The 2013 BSG Annual General Meeting is being held at Royal Holloway University of London (9th – 11th September, 2013) and, following the great success of the Workshop held last year in Nottingham, a similar event will be run this year by Professor Steve Darby and Professor Phil Ashworth (ex-RC chair) on writing effective RCUK grant proposals. This is scheduled to take place on the Monday morning (Sept 9th) prior to the official opening of the conference and more information is available on the AGM website (http://www.geomorphology.org.uk/assets/agms/documents/bsg_nerc_workshop_2013.pdf). Professor Darby also stated he will make himself available to all BSG members during a pre-arranged timeslot to answer queries related to the BSG grant application procedures. Note that a ‘Meet the Editors’ session has been also proposed following the success of the Workshop last year.
I hope this information has been clear and has been of value to other PG’s, please do get in touch if there are any other queries you feel I may be able to answer.
BSG Postgraduate Forum member
School of Environmental Sciences
University of Liverpool
+44 (0) 151 794 2858