Applying for and managing funding
Research project lifecycle
Researchers must ensure that applications for research funding, whether they are for grants, contracted research projects or donations, are authorised by the University. Authorisation is through a signed certification form (for specific Australian Competitive Grants), or registration on the Research Management System and signed Research Project Application Tool (RPAT).
Research Support Officers will assist with entry on the Research Management System, and development of the budget.
Except where explicitly communicated otherwise, the Principal Investigator (lead Curtin investigator) must ensure that all research applications for external funding are lodged with the Office of Research & Development two weeks prior to the external deadline. Grant officers will undertake internal and external compliance checks and organise approval and submission.
Brief considerations when preparing applications for funding:
- Clearly demonstrate why the project addresses the goals of the funding scheme. Don’t attempt to force a fit between your project and the scheme – if they don’t align, it is the wrong choice for funding.
- Ensure compliance with application rules – including formatting, page lengths, and eligible budget items. Most sources of funding are highly competitive and a non-compliant application will be discarded early.
- Last minute applications are rarely quality applications. It is better to await the next funding round than put in a sub-quality application.
- Draw upon colleagues to review the application for research merit. An objective review can highlight strengths and weaknesses in an application.
- Seek to collaborate with the best researchers in the field – internally, nationally and internationally.
- Ensure the project is engaging and comprehensible to the intended audience. Capture the attention immediately and avoid highly discipline-specific terminology.
- Highlight the merits and benefits of the research. Money is provided to achieve a goal, and a project that doesn’t articulate how it will contribute to that goal will be considered poorly.
- Match the budget to the project. Ensure that each item can be justified in terms of essential to meet the goals of the project. An under-priced budget will raise as many flags as an over-priced budget, with the concern being whether the project can be delivered given an inadequate budget.
A Tip Sheet providing more comprehensive advice for preparing a grant application is available.
See also the National Institutes of Health (US) grant writing tips.
Costing and pricing the project appropriately is essential for a competitive application and also to secure internal authorisation. The Research Management System includes a costing/pricing tool and Research Support Officers will assist to appropriately cost identified budget items.
A notification of the funding outcome is provided from the funding organisation. This is normally sent to the Research Office but may occasionally be sent to the researcher, in which case they should be forwarded to the Research Support team.
The award is normally conditional upon one or more actions – the most common being the parties entering into the contract. Where the notification of award has introduced variations to the application (such as a reduction in allocated budget), then the researcher should work with ORD to ensure that the project remains viable.
All research contracts must be developed or reviewed by a Commercial Contracts Officer, Research Services. This includes non-funding orientated research activities such as confidentiality agreements (non-disclosure agreements), data sharing agreements, and Memorandums of Understanding. Intellectual property agreements, including Material Transfer Agreements are developed through IP Commercialisation.
All requests for contracts and contract support should be sent to the Research Support Team, who will prepare a request and brief.
Research activity undertaken with funding from an external organisation must be subject to a contract to ensure that there is clear agreement between the University and the funding organisation regarding the expectations of both parties. Depending upon the size of the funding and complexity and risk of the project, the contract may be as simple as an exchange of letters between authorised officers of each organisation, or a multi-page legal document.
The Principal Investigator (PI) is the responsible officer for their research project and any associated contracts. It is the responsibility of the PI to ensure that Curtin meets all obligations under the project. This includes the timely completion and submission of all progress and final reports.
The Research Support Team provides support for all aspects of research project management. This includes:
- Data entry of contractual obligations, including milestones, into the research management system;
- Establishment of cost centre/s;
- Invoicing the funding organisation;
- Submission of reports to external parties;
- Organising financial reports for the PI and acquittals;
- Closing off the project and arranging archiving of official records.
Where ethical approval is required, research activity must not commence until this has been obtained through the Research Integrity team.