Recent Questions about applications for SPARC Awards
- Funding Limits
- Project Size
- Continuation Project
- Terms and Conditions
- Administrative Authority
- Length of Proposal
- Hard Copy
- Proposal Document Type (PDF)
- SPARC Reference
- Download Application Form
- Nature of Applicant
- Co-Investigator, Partner or Mentor?
- More than One Application
- Number of Bidding Stages
- Cost of Workshop Attendance
- Awards Announcement
- Start Dates
Help: I need help!
Answer: Please look at the questions and answers on this page. They may help. Until Friday 24th February 2006 you should be able to make contact with one of the SPARC Directors or the Coordinators. After then they will not be able to answer queries about the content of SPARC proposals. Technical problems regarding uploading application forms should be forwarded to Daniel Guth.
Funding Limits: What is the maximum amount one can apply for from SPARC?
Answer: SPARC currently has a little over £225k to distribute for Call 2 plus some monies to cover overheads/FEC. The maximum will be exceptionally £40k for Directly Incurred Costs (that is, excluding overheads/ FEC) but the typical award will be much smaller. Whilst we do not know how much most applicants will be asking for we have a fixed sum to distribute, so the more big awards the fewer awards there will be in total.
Project Size: How important is it to stay within the £25k region? The cost of my current proposal is £50k for Directly Incurred Costs. This could be reduced to £25k by reducing the scope of the study and some penny pinching.
Answer: Whilst there is no point developing a research design which is unworkable or unsatisfactory because the resources will be inadequate the more big grants awarded the fewer the number of applicants who will benefit. So the whole community will suffer if the cost of proposals is consistently high. We are hoping that applicants will use SPARC as a stepping stone towards full applicantions to the Research Councils not as a substitute for seeking such research funding.
We expect to receive some bids which are at the maximum of £40k for Directly Incurred Costs but we also expect and want a range of bids generally from £15k upwards and we do want to fund more modest projects as well so as to maximize the opportunities for all. However, a bid for £40k is permissible and acceptable.
Inflation: The guidance notes for SPARC state that "..the costs stated in a proposal will not be reviewed in the light of revisions to salary scales. In essence an award will be for a fixed sum." However, is it acceptable to add an allowance of cost of living awards (e.g. 4% per annum) to the current salary scales when calculating salary costs for this call?
Answer: Yes, by all means include a small percentage for salary inflation for the research assistants.
Continuation Project: I would like to ask for support for a post-doctoral worker to continue on a project for a further 6-9 months. Would a proposal for a continuation of this work be eligible for SPARC support. Our justification is that we require the additional time to refine the methods we are developing, and to disseminate these to a wider audience through journal publications in order to support a responsive mode application. (These would form the objectives of our proposal).
Answer: SPARC will not support simple continuation of an existing project because the PI/applicant is clearly already in receipt of Research Council or similar award and so is not a newcomer! However, an application from the post-doctoral worker to set them up as a PI would be acceptable on the understanding that the institution would meet their salary costs.
Terms and Conditions: I need the Terms and Conditions (between SPARC and the host organisation when an award is made) which our Administrative Officer is supposed to agree to when signing off the application.
Answer: The terms and conditions for Call 1 can be downloaded here. Although some small modifications may be made in the light of experience with Call 1 award holders and FEC and we reserve the right to change these significantly we do not expect to do so.
Answer: This is the standard designation used by the Research Councils for the person or persons in your institution who are allowed to “sign off” research proposals. They are usually to be found in the Research Support Office or Finance Office. We cannot process your application if you do not have the correct signature on your hard copy of the proposal.
Length of Proposal: I have submitted an online SPARC application form (pdf) format and posted a signed hard copy. The hard copy includes two pages of reference details but the on-line application will not accept two pdf documents. Could you please advise.
Answer: The research community has asked for a simplified application procedure and there is an overwhelming view that the form should be much shorter - so for SPARC there are two pages plus a further page for references and another for Triage and Capacity Building information. We have to follow the usual Research Council line of requirements being the same for everyone and cannot accept applications which do not conform to the requirements of the call or the application form - in this particular case the additional document. It is possible to re-upload your application form - so you can change what you already have uploaded. So please make certain that you upload one document and that it is on the required form.
Hard Copy: I know I have to upload my SPARC Award application by 1st March 2006. To whom and by when must the identical, signed, hard copy reach you in the post?
Answer: It must be sent to: Ms Verity Smith, URS Building, The University of Reading, Whiteknights, PO Box 219, Reading RG6 6AW by first post on Monday 6th March 2006.
Proposal Document Type (PDF): I can only supply a completed form in Word format. Can you advise how I should proceed? Can I upload a Word document instead?
Answer: The system allows only pdf files.
If you are unable to convert your document into a pdf, have a look into Pdf995. This is a free printer driver and together with the Converter also available there makes it easy to create pdf files from within your software.
SPARC Reference - I am about to upload my completed SPARC Award Application Form/Research Proposal. The top right hand corner has an empty box for the SPARC reference. I don’t know my number.
Answer: You don’t need to complete that. We, at the SPARC Secretariat, will give your form a number.
Download Application Form: I am already a member of SPARC, what do I need to do now in order to download my own SPARC Award application form?
Answer: You now need to register as a SPARC Award applicant.
Membership: Do I need to become a member of SPARC in order to apply for a SPARC Award?
Answer: Membership of SPARC is not required at this stage of your application, but could in fact be very useful to you. It will mean your receive advanced notification of the SPARC Workshops around UK. There is no charge to be a member or to attend SPARC Workshops. On line Membership Registration is at http://www.sparc.ac.uk/register_membership.asp.
Refereeing: How will the proposals be refereed?
Answer: Initially proposals will be scrutinised for eligibility and “fit” with the Call. Spmetimes we call this the Triage. Those which are eligible will be peer reviewed and then considered by the Awards Panel following procedures which are close to those adopted by the Research Councils. Applicants can nominate two referees and we will approach at least one of these. The main departure from standard practice is that applicants will not have an opportunity to comment on referees reports before thy go to the Awards Panel. This is because SPARC does not have sufficient resources to do this and cannot accommodate this additional time required. However full feedback on proposals will be given. In Call 1 proposals had typically four or five referees reports, 96% had at least three reports.
Nature of Applicant: My head of department, who is a professor of long standing in the ageing area, will be the co-investigator. Is this OK?
Answer: No! The scheme is to support investigators who are newcomers to ageing research. It would be very difficult to make a case on the grounds of Capacity Building if such an experienced person made an application, and it would impossible to distinguish the contribution of each investigator and how development was taking place. The best place for such experienced people is as enthusiastic and committed advisors. In such a role their involvement can add weight to a proposal whereas as a co-investigator they will jeopardise it.
Co-investigator, Partner or Mentor?:What is the difference between a co-investigator, a partner and a mentor? Who should fill each role?
Answer: SPARCs definition of these roles follows closely that used by the Research Councils. Principal Investigators and co-investigators should be net beneficiaries from the award. Thus a co-investigator should be a newcomer, a discipline hopper or similar person who could qualify for SPARC support in their own right. Current SPARC award holders are also allowed to be co-applicants (but not principal applicants). In contrast a collaborator (academic) or partner (non-academic) is a net contributor to the project. They give time, assistance, financial support, reagents and similar resources. Thus a more experienced scientist (or Head of Department) should be entered as a collaborator not as a co-investigator. The SPARC panel may ask such individuals to change role if they are entered incorrectly. Mentors are a specialised type of collaborator. SPARC bases its concept of a mentor on that of Kathy Barker  A mentor is typically an experienced scientist or practitioner with a track record in ageing research but may be a wily practitioner. Effective mentors are very diverse but typically combine a belief in the importance of handing on any 'tricks of the trade' they have picked up with the ability to assess what is good for the other person. Strong communication skills and honesty are also desirable traits in a mentor.  Barker K. At the helm: a laboratory navigator. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press
More Than One Application: Can I make more than one application?
Answer: Not for Call 2.
Number of Bidding Stages: I am wondering whether the review process is a one stage or two stage process, that is, will proposals get short listed and then asked to submit a more detail proposal and be re-evaluated or will final decisions regarding acceptance/rejection be made solely based on what we submit by the first of March? If we have to provide further information when shortlisted isn't that a two stage bidding process.
Answer: A proposal is submitted once but those proposals which are shortlisted for an award will need to submit more financial information on the Further Details form. Although we have simplified the procedure for proposal writing applicants should have generated that financial information already, when they costed their proposals!
Cost of Workshop Attendance: What is the cost of attending SPARC Workshops?
Answer There is no charge to attend a Workshop. Those who achieve awards will be expected to attend some workshops and will have included some travel funds for this - see the guidance notes.
Awards Announcement: When will the results of the call be announced? When will be told which proposals have been successful?
Answer: We hope to approach shortlisted applicants by early July and make a public announcement shortly afterwards. Those who have made proposal whom we cannot fund will also hear from us in July.
Start Dates: So by when must the Project, if successful, actually begin?
Answer: By 1st November 2006.
Studentships: I am costing an application. Can you advise if Tuition Fees for a Research Student on the project are eligible, and if so, where on the form should they be placed?
Answer: The cost of a studentship for up to a year is admissible. Please put the student costs under "Exceptions - staff" on the application form. We follow the standard EPSRC approach. "Exceptions: Project students are outside fEC, and therefore 100% of stipend and fees will be funded, but they must not be counted as research full-time equivalent for the purposes of calculating estates and indirect costs."