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Grant Review and Submission Process

1.6-8 weeksNERC/BBSRC Only - Pre-Application Assessment
2.1 monthCreate Project in UCL Worktribe
3.2 weeksComplete budget development in UCL Worktribe
4.2 weeksInternal review complete
5.1 week MAXIMUMResearch Services and Divisional Approvals (and Faculty approval if necessary)
  • the application must have been through internal peer review
  • the minimum PI or co-PI time has been included (or Dean’s approval given)
  • time for technical support staff has been included
  • costs for data storage and high performance computing, where applicable, have been included
  • any commitment for matched funding from division has been approved
  • any commitment for additional space or modifications to existing space has been approved

It is essential that we include costs to cover the salaries of departmental technical staff on all grants.  For lab based research, this can be a percentage of a lab technician’s time (10%). For computational research not involving high performance computing (HPC) it can be a contribution to the GEE Informatics Technician (10%). For projects involving HPC it should be a percentage of the System Administrator’s time (5%).  See

.  The HoD will not sign off on grants without this unless there is a strong financial reason not to. 

All grants except Wellcome Trust grants should include a contribution towards non-HPC data storage (eg the S:\ Drive). This is costed at £150 per year.  Projects including HPC should include appropriate contributions for storage, computer nodes, and System Administrator time as detailed in the exemplar justification statements.

You are advised to start the Project Creation in Worktribe one month before the funder's deadline which will allow time for costing salaries, obtaining Director’s approval, agreeing any matched funding etc and provide sufficient notice for Research Services to check and submit the application.  Contact your Senior Finance Officer (Anastasia Vasileiou) for assistance with your budget development.  Contact David Gregory for HPC advice.

All grant applications from GEE must be subject to internal peer review. The aim is to provide feedback and help improve the quality of submissions.  GEE Internal Review is required for HoD sign off on all grants.  Internal peer review process

The final application must be submitted on Worktribe  AT LEAST 5 working days prior to the funder’s deadline.

Review of NERC and BBSRC Grants

For NERC Pushing the Frontiers of Environmental Research and BBSRC Standard Research Grants, the review process is more rigorous. The scientific case for these grants will be assessed twice: the first step is a formal Pre-Application Assessment by a panel of 2-3 senior PIs. Following their provisional go-ahead, GEE Internal Peer Review of the full application is required to ensure that only applications with a good chance of success will be submitted.  (See the table below for details of assesment panel composition and assessment dates.)

NERC & BBSRC Pre-Proposal Assessment Dates & Panel Membership:

 Panel Assessment DateSubmission DateChairPanel memberPanel memberPanel member
BBSRC & NERC14 November 202317 & 24 January 2024Max ReuterSeirian SumnerFlo CamusTrent Garner & Patricia Brekke (IoZ)
BBSRC5 March 2024 24 April 2024Seirian SumnerAida AndresFrancois BallouxMaria Secrier
NERC14 May 202417 July 2024Max TelfordTim BlackburnDan MaynardPatricia Brekke (IOZ)
BBSRC22 July 202425 September 2024Alex PigotDuncan GreigFerdi Marletaz -
UKRI Cross Researchw/c 7 October TBA19 November 2024----

All GEE PIs will be asked to sit on a panel at least once in a two year cycle.  The panel chair will typically be a senior member of the department with extensive experience of grant funding. Junior PIs are encouraged to sit on panels to gain valuable insight into funding assessment criteria.  

See UCL's triaging procedures required for demand management within UCL for other sources of NERC funding.

Internal Peer Review

You should ask two of your colleagues to read the scientific case for support for your grant. They should provide constructive feedback on the quality of the science and the clarity of the writing and structure of the grant. It is important to recognise that your grant will be reviewed in much the same way once submitted

  • PIs should arrange their own reviewers in advance.
  • PIs should of the reviewers with the GEE EO.    
  • Reviewers can be from GEE or any other department in UCL.
  • Grants over £100k should have two reviews – ideally a scientific review and a review by someone not directly in the field to give input on clarity of message. Grants below £100k need have only a single scientific reviewer.
  • All grants should be sent to the peer reviewers at least 3 weeks before the submission deadline. This will give adequate time for the review process and for comments to be fed back and incorporated into the final text.

Candidates should approach potential peer reviewers direct - they are not appointed by the HoD. Reviewers should report direct to the candidate about substance and to HoD if they are concerned about readiness to submit.

If submission is recommended, the applicant will develop the proposal taking into account reviewers’ comments.

Worktribe  sign off will not be agreed until this review is complete and the HoD is satisfied.

There will be no exceptions to this process either for seniority, previous track record, external partners etc. for any Standard or Pushing the Frontiers of Research application that requires a UCL JeS form. If GEE staff are project partners on proposals and do not require a UCL JeS form, then they can proceed outside this system – but they are advised to subject their involvement to normal review (two people).

NERC and BBSRC Pre-Application Assessment

This internal process (which also applies to resubmissions) is specific to: 

  • NERC Pushing the Frontiers of Environmental Research Awards

  • BBSRC Standard Grants 

To achieve the highest possible chance of success for applications to BBSRC and NERC, for a number of years GEE has had an internal pre-application review process of grant applications. An additional aim of this process is to ensure we comply with demand management from NERC by ensuring that applications with a low chance of success are not submitted. 
 

Assessment procedure (8 weeks before funder deadline)

Written application summary. To be submitted 1 week before the Panel meeting.
 
We ask applicants to submit a document containing a lay summary, a more technical description of the project motivation and aims and a brief summary of potential weaknesses, limitations or risks of the proposed work. To make the process as efficient as possible, the lay summary and technical description correspond to sections of a UKRI application and can later be recycled for this purpose. 
 
Lay summary (550 words)

This corresponds to the “Details” section of the UKRI application. From their guidance, it should conform to the following format:

This should be written to be suitable for a variety of readers, for example:
•       opinion-formers / policymakers / the public / the wider research community
 
Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:
•       context
•       the challenge the project addresses
•       aims and objectives
•       potential applications and benefits

•       (AND BBSRC specific) its relevance to the BBSRC long-term research and innovation priorities and/or Responsive Mode Spotlight area
 
Technical description of the work (500 words)
 
This corresponds to the “Vision” section of the UKRI application. We suggest you describe the question and why it is important; what is the state of the art; how the overall approach of your proposal will advance this (and why you are positioned to do so); the specific aims and how they work together to address the question.

From the UKRI guidance:

Explain how your proposed work:
•       is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s) 
•       has the potential to advance current understanding, or generate new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area  
•       is timely given current trends, context, and needs  
•       impacts world-leading research, society, the economy, or the environment 

Weaknesses, limitations and risks
 
Please think about what a critical referee might pick you up on and how you might head such criticisms off. Write brief bullet points for discussion in the panel meeting.

Panel Review Meeting

The role of the panel is to assess the quality of each proposal based on the written submission, the elevator pitch and the discussions that follow.  The Applicant should prepare a 3 minute elevator pitch to the panel to help identify the Big Thing that they are trying to sell. 

The Panel
 
Will consist of 2-3 senior members of GEE and if possible, a UCL external. They will assess whether your proposal represents compelling science with well thought out realistic goals, and whether it is likely to be fundable by NERC/BBSRC. 
 
The Panel’s task is to provide helpful advice to all applicants on how to improve their proposals (they do not have an adversarial role). They will provide feedback in writing within 2 days of the meeting. The role of the panel - further details.

AFTER the panel meeting:

Full draft (4-5 weeks before funder deadline)
a)     A first full draft will be needed by 4 weeks before the final submission deadline. It will be internally peer reviewed by two expert GEE members. Candidates should approach potential peer reviewers directly - they are not appointed by the HoRD. Reviewers should report direct to the candidate about substance and to HoRD or Max Telford if they are concerned about readiness to submit.  Worktribe sign off will not be agreed until this review is complete and the HoRD is satisfied.

b)     If submission is recommended, the applicant will develop the final proposal taking into account reviewers’ comments.

There will be no exceptions to this process either for seniority, previous track record, etc. (except where the GEE member is a co-applicant in a proposal lead by another institution).

Pre-Application Assessment - the Role of the Panel

The role of the panel is to assess the quality of each proposal based on the written submission, the elevator pitch and the discussions that follow.  
 
The panel will assess whether the proposal is compelling science, with well thought out realistic goals, and likely to be fundable by NERC / BBSRC. Expert appraisal of the detailed scientific methods is not the role of this panel; this advice should be sought by applicants within their centre or via colleagues working in a similar area.  Instead, applicants need to convey the need and logic of the project, as well as the novelty of the approach.  The role of the panel is intended to be similar that to that of the grant presenter at funding panels who will often not be expert in that particular field.
 
The panel will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal with the applicant and make suggestions for how the initial proposal could be altered to strengthen it.  The panel could also make suggestions for alternative funders if it is felt that the proposal would do better elsewhere.
The Panel chair will collect written feedback from the panel members, collate this and provide the panel’s advice to applicants within 2 days of the meeting. The panel MAY decide that the grant concept is not yet of a standard to proceed to a full application (along with advice on how to improve it).
All GEE PIs will be asked to sit on a panel at least once in a two year cycle.  The panel chair will typically be a senior member of the department with extensive experience of grant funding. Junior PIs are encouraged to sit on panels to gain valuable insight into funding assessment
 criteria.    

SLMS Research Facilitators
All applications must pass through the GEE (and NERC & BBSRC if applicable) internal review process. The LMS Research Facilitation Team are available to provide additional advice, resources and guidance on your application. For more information please visit their webpage.