Contributors: Liliana Ordonez and Amy Baldwin
The Annual Post-doc Seedcorn Fund gives BIOSI research staff the opportunity to develop their own research interests. Launched at this year’s Research Day, the Cardiff School of Biosciences generously increased its support of the scheme to £20,000 this year from £12,000 previously. The additional funding enabled research staff to design larger projects and the chance to fund more applications. We are grateful that the School of Biosciences is committed to encouraging and investing in the careers of its researchers.
The scheme allows research staff to conceive, design and cost a project, write a grant application and, if successful, demonstrate they are capable of successfully delivering their project too. Additionally, research staff have the opportunity to sit on the panel and review the applications.
This year research staff had the opportunity to apply for funds of between £500 and £3,500 to cover consumables or services, and can dedicate up to 35 hours of their time to undertaking the project. This year, applications ranged from £818 to £3,486 with an average of £2,717. The scheme was advertised widely across the school via posters, BioMedia and direct email notification. We received a total of 21 applications, some of which had been developed and re-submitted from previous years. This is almost double the amount compared to the previous two years. Of these, 10 were from Biomedicine, 4 from Molecular Biosciences, 6 from Organisms and Environment (OnE) and only 1 from Neuroscience. The programme is continually evolving to maximize the benefit for all BIOSI research staff. You can find out more by attending the quarterly RSG meetings. We are now discussing things we can do to make sure all divisions within the school can be equally involved.
Critiquing the applications
As well as being a really useful exercise in applying for grants, we used this opportunity to learn more about how grants are awarded. We decided to review the applications in the style of a grant panel by involving research staff volunteers from the School. This proved to be a great learning experience, and all panel members benefited from the attendance of Prof. Helen White-Cooper, a core member of BBSRC Research Committee herself, who kindly gave up her time to guide us.
“Reading and discussing the merits and limitations of a range of applications was really eye-opening, and certainly made me think more about what makes a strong grant application.”
Each application was reviewed by two panel members prior to the meeting and given a preliminary score based on nine defined criteria. At the review panel each application was discussed in turn. For each application, the 2 reviewers gave their preliminary scores, and then Reviewer 1 introduced the application to the panel. The 2nd reviewer then gave brief comments. This was followed by a discussion and an agreement on a final score by the panel. Any uncertainty or conflict was resolved by discussion with the chair of the committee under the guidance of Prof. Helen White-Cooper. Finally, the applications were ranked by their score and as many were funded as possible. This year we were able to fund 7 applications.
The 2017 awardees are (in alphabetical order):
- Juliet Hynes – A feasibility study: detecting current use pesticides in hair.
- Daniel Pass – Development of dynamic Transcription Factor visualisation with size sensitive chromatin-seq data, evidenced through the amino acid starvation response in yeast
- Rachel Paterson and Amy Ellison – Out of sight: eyeing up blindness to parasite diversity
- David Stanton – Wild Britain?: Modelling Ancient Red Deer Translocations in the British Isles
- Giusy Tornillo – Generation and Validation of Genetic Tools for Deciphering Heterocellular Communication in the Mammary Epithelium
- Helen Waller-Evans – Development of novel lipid binding tools using insecticidal toxins from Bacillus bacteria
- Maddy Young – Investigating the role of Dlg1 loss on tumourigenesis
Congratulations to all the successful applicants! We are looking forward to hearing the results of your projects and hope this will further your independent research careers. The School is planning to support the scheme again next year so if you are interested in applying and/or being on the review panel please keep a look out for the advertisements or contact the current RSG chair, Kenneth Ewan (EwanKB@cf.ac.uk) for more information.
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To read about what a Seedcorn project could do for your work you might wish to have a look back at a blog post from June 2016, where Maddy Young spoke to Sean Porazinski (recipient of an award in the first Seedcorn round in 2015) “INTERVIEW: Why apply for the seedcorn fund?”.