Orbital: some reflections on the bid-writing process

Joss Winn and Paul Stainthorp have both blogged recently on their experiences of writing a JISC bid for the recent call in their Managing Research Data programme. I’d encourage you read their posts for some interesting insights into the bid-writing process.

You can even have a look through the finished and submitted bid on Google Docs. As you’ll see, Annalisa and I are involved in this one. Our contribution will be around integrating the developed research data management system with our ePrints repository, and specifically on how the RDM might form part of a CRIS (Current Research Information System), such as the JISC-funded RMAS (Research Management and Administration System) project involving Exeter, Sunderland, and Kent.

This would pull multiple strands of research management information (e.g. project data, outputs, financials, impact, researchers and research data) into a single system. It would enable researchers to easily access all information relating to their research projects and outputs, while managers could quickly run reports to facilitate institutional-level strategic planning on research.

Here are some of Joss’ reflections on writing the bid:

Although the bid has been sent off now, and who knows whether it will be funded or not, the process of writing the bid has been really useful. I had planned to spend much of July drafting a journal paper but seeing the call, switched into bid writing mode. Writing bids regularly, I try to get something out of them, despite knowing that they may not be funded. The idea of retrospectively viewing unfunded bids as a waste of time would depress the hell out of me and so I try to approach it as a reflective process, where I talk with colleagues about what we’ve done, where were are now and where we want to go with our work. Through writing this bid, it became really clear how the work we’ve been doing on other projects has brought us to the point where we have a good team of people who have developed a very modern, extensible and flexible technical framework which we can deploy in a number of domains, including managing research data.

It’s encouraging to see such a positive attitude to bidding, viewing it as a learning experience rather than simply a hurdle which must be cleared to get in the funding.

As research funding becomes increasingly competitive, it really is important to see it as an ongoing process rather than viewing each individual application in isolation. Some will be funded, probably most won’t be, but unsuccessful bids needn’t be a waste of time. They can lead to the formation of new networks and collaborations which wouldn’t have taken place had the bid not been attempted. It is undeniably disappointing when you get knocked back, but persistence often pays off in the end. Taking on board the reviewers’ comments and advice of colleagues helps to identify weaknesses in the bid structure and eliminate them.