Thursday, 16 June 2011

Hints for Postdocs Applying for Funding

On Monday I took part in the Graduate School's Postgraduate Research Festival. It was a good opportunity to meet research students and to read about some of their research in the poster exhibition. I gave a talk on putting together a good funding application, but I also listened to Dr Mario Weick, a lecturer in Psychology, as he gave some personal insights into what it takes to get into academia.

As well as outlining the different (funded) routes you can take, he gave the students some tips on what to bear in mind in the difficult times ahead:
  • Think globally. Academic research isn't limited by national boundaries, and you need to be flexible in where you work. Sure, you might want to aim to work in a particular country, but it pays to open your mind and think more broadly about where you can work;
  • Develop a portfolio of applications. Each scheme has different success rates, and a different level of risk. You need to develop a portfolio of applications to different schemes in order to balance these risks;
  • Make contingency plans. Following on from the idea of a portfolio of applications, you might have 'fallow periods' when you're not receiving any salary or funding. Make sure you save for these fallow periods, or have a plan C, D and E to cover them.
  • Network. Around 50% of researchers and academics found their job though contacts, so you need to make sure that you're tuned into networks to hear about opportunities as soon as you can. Sign up to email lists, twitter accounts, conferences, workshops and any other place you might hear about things through the grapevine. Being in the right place at the right time means being in lots of places at lots of times.
  • Get feedback. This is as true for postdocs as it is for permanent academics. Get as much feedback from as many different sources as possible. It's easy to miss something, or be so wrapped up in your project that you can't see its weaknesses. Get feedback from other postdocs, academics, your supervisor, PI, Research Services, people inside and outside your discipline, and inside or outside your institution. Anyone.

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