A few years ago, to get an academic job having publications was considered the most important aspect of your CV. Increasingly, being able to show a profile of external funding awards is as important. While many scholars regularly receive small grants (of up to £1000) to go to conferences or to do research, securing larger, more prestigious awards is more challenging. This article explores some ways in which you can work towards that.
Pragmatically, it takes a long time to write large funding proposals and often requires support from the administration team at your university. So, it is easier to share this burden with other scholars.
But, working with colleagues on a research project has academic as well as practical value. Research councils are more likely to consider projects which blend the expertise of different scholars. You might either work with people in your department or with others outside. It is considered especially prestigious to collaborate on research with overseas colleagues because this shows that you and your project are developing an international profile.
Cross disciplinary research has been fashionable for a number of years now and is still an obvious way for your to get your project noticed. It shows that your work is relevant in a number of areas and that you are able to use the skills and knowledge base from more than one discipline to inform your work.
Research that involves people from outside the academy is also considered worthwhile by research councils. Working with others in the public and private sector has the advantage of being able to attract funding from sources and also makes the dissemination of your findings in a public forum easier. Collaboration with those outside university life to fund a PhD student is another way of forging institutional level connections.
With the internet and social and career networking sites such as Facebook, Academia.edu and Linked In, it is possible to make electronic connections with other scholars interested in your field from around the world. But it is also important to network in more traditional ways, by going to conferences and workshops and getting your name known among those who work in your field. If you have an idea for a research project that you believe will be of interest to others, approach them by email or in person to discuss this. A warning though, be careful not to give too many of your ideas away until a collaboration is secure.
If you are a university lecturer, you will find it very difficult to cultivate these relationships and to write funding bids while undertaking a heavy teaching load. During term time you probably will not focus on anything other than your teaching, preparation, marking and student support activities.
Another problem is that these funding applications are often bureaucratic. You will often need the support of several senior members of your faculty management and trying to acquire their consent might take weeks. Make sure you allow plenty of time before deadlines approach to complete all the paperwork.
Can’t get a large grant? Try small ones instead!
It is possible to collaborate on smaller projects. They will allow you to forge connections with other scholars, for example, perhaps to host an event or maintain a website. So, if you feel unable to pursue a large collaborative grant at the moment, don’t abandon this route altogether. Having a collaborative project on your CV will look very impressive!