The FLF Development Network is dedicated to fostering innovation and collaboration among research leaders. Central to this mission is the Plus Funds initiative, which provides flexible funding for projects aligning with the network’s goals. Let’s explore how this initiative works and learn from valuable feedback shared by reviewers.

The Plus Funds scheme was always part of the original design of the Development Network, designed to offer flexible funds up to 25K that can be used for organising activities that address the aims and objectives of the Network.

At this stage, the sorts of activities that were in scope were: [i] small collaborative research/innovation projects to support interdisciplinary proposals; and [ii] running seminars, lectures, expert working groups, sandpits, skills training sessions.

 

Process

The application process is designed to be collaborative and supportive. We encourage applicants to discuss their project idea with one of our managers before applying. Once an application is submitted the Plus Funds Review Group, meets to look at submissions. The group is made up of a mixture of the Advisory Board, FLFs and Network specialists who are asked to declare conflicts of interest — so there is still an appropriate level of rigour to the process even if an applicant gets lots of help in putting the proposal together.

The Project Manager then checks that all elements of the application have been submitted, and that proposal meets the eligibility criteria. Applications are redacted, so that the Review Group does not see personally identifying details. This is important to note when describing the team you have put together, i.e. focus on skills & experience more than institution or position.

EDI is strongly weighted by the review group. It’s really important that this is not an afterthought — we can usually tell!

Following review, there are three possible outcomes: [1] award; [2] revise and resubmit; and [3] reject. We try hard to avoid outcome 3 and offer supportive feedback.

In addition to standard plus funds awards of up to 25K we are launching a new scheme: Creative Flexible fund. This smaller fund of awards up to £10k to ‘Design Your Own’ training/development. We aim to turn around applications to this fund more quickly, and again managers can support applications and provide guidance.

 

 

Top tips from PF reviewers

 

  1. Proposals must address the aims and objectives of the Network, so it’s important to centre the benefits to/impact on the wider constituency of Fellows — often, this feels bolted on. The panel will be considering why the PF scheme is the appropriate fund for your idea (rather than another source of funds)?
  2. One way to approach this: how does your unique positioning as FLFs inform the conception, design, and/or impact of what you’re proposing?
  3. Find a fellow. The most effective proposals tend to be collaborative, reaching across cohorts, disciplines, and regions. Also: sense-check the demand/interest among the wider FLF community — this is very useful. Some applications tend to presume that other Fellows will always already be interested.
  4. Let’s be honest: the application form does have some slightly confusing elements, e.g. the difference between Project Description and Project Implementation. My advice: the former is more about whether your proposed intervention is suitable to meeting your objectives (the right format); the latter is whether the aims themselves are well justified & whether it is clear how they will be measured.
  5. Salaries. Many proposals include costings for Research Assistants. It’s important that these costs are justified and some context is given (e.g. is the RA already employed on someone’s project; would this be buyout for their time?). As reviewers, we often struggle to understand/rationalise salary costs.
  6. EDI. There is so much to this, but common pitfalls include [1] who is potentially excluded? We get a surprising number of applications that include invitation-only events. Consideration of barriers to participation, e.g. resulting from travel, need for visas, etc. And [2] how is participation supported? Budgeting for support in line with (e.g.) our Family Friendly Policy works well. Charters/commitments/policies like Principled Spaces.
  7. Risk assessment. This tends to score lower, and panels do look closely at the perceived risks.
  8. Timeframe. Is it realistic & feasible, e.g. recruitment into support roles? Does it fit with access to the Network?
  9. Don’t assume that online events are completely free of charge.
  10. ‘Off-ramp’ to events. Is simply getting people together enough, or will you need to do something by way of follow-up to ensure uptake/usage?
  11. Related point: legacy, e.g. producing a web resource – how will this be maintained when the PF project has come to an end?

 

Find our more about Plus Funds, view successful applications and access the relevant documents. 

Read case studies on completed Plus Funds Projects, Res-Well and Next Generation Research Podcast.

 

To get in touch with a manager for support on your application visit out 1-1 guidance offer.

 

Oliver Mytton is a round 5 Future Leaders Fellow based at University College London. Oliver is a public health physician and academic and leads the FLF project Generating Evidence to Inform Policies to Prevent Child Obesity.

In June 2022, Oliver Mytton attended the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network Crucible event in London. It was during the Crucible event that Oliver met Laura Carter, Future Leaders Fellow based at the University of Leeds, and the idea for the Next Generation Podcast Series emerged.

The Crucible in London was the first Development Network event that Oliver attended.

Oliver says, “I was initially sceptical about the Crucible Programme. I thought that it would be a challenge to make connections in two days. Maybe it was all down to chance and luck, but I found points of connection (with other FLFs) around the podcast idea. Long-term support for the idea followed and so engaging in a Crucible early was very worthwhile.”

Next Generation Podcast Series

Oliver and Laura applied for a Crucible Programme grant in September 2022 to scope and develop a proposal for a pilot series of six podcast episodes that would showcase the work of UKRI Future Leaders Fellows and explore some of the shared issues that Fellow’s experience. Producer Hester Cant was commissioned to scope and develop the pilot proposal.

Following the scoping and development phase, Oliver, Laura, and Hestor submitted a Plus Fund grant to produce the series. The Plus Fund grant was awarded, and six podcast episodes were produced on the interdisciplinary topics such as how human medicines get into our food, how our society depends on industrial chemistry, and what societies can learn from Indigenous communities about how to prevent domestic violence.

Project Legacy

The podcast episodes were released weekly under a creative common license and hosted on the UKRI FLF Development Network website. So far, there have been downloads from thirty-eight countries across five continents.

For Oliver, the Plus Fund project provided an opportunity to  learn about making a podcast, and using different media to engage with the public, as well as further developing his project management and leadership skills.. Oliver says, “working with Hester, someone with a lot of podcast and media experience was hugely helpful, learning about different approaches to research translation and how this relates to my own research and engaging with the public.”

Since developing the pilot, the team now believe a much larger audience could be reached with a dedicated and better resourced dissemination strategy. The Development Network are exploring opportunities to support other Future Leaders Fellows to continue the podcast and take it in a new and interesting direction, building on the work of Oliver and the project team.

 

The Next Generation podcast series is available to listen to and download via Acast. Click on the following link to access the podcast series: Next Generation Research – Future Leaders Fellows Development Network (flfdevnet.com)

More information about the Plus Fund

If you have an idea for a Plus Fund project, contact the Development Network at hello@flfdevnet.com to discuss your idea further with one of our Network Managers.

Click on the following link for the Plus Fund Governance and application form: Plus Funds – Future Leaders Fellows Development Network (flfdevnet.com)

 

Jenevieve Mannell is a Professor of Social Science and Global Health at University College London (UCL). She specialises in the prevention of violence in the world’s high-prevalence settings. She is a round 2 Future Leaders Fellow and leads the EVE Project, which is developing new evidence for preventing violence against women in high-prevalence settings…

The idea for a practical toolkit for researchers, Principal Investigators, Institutions, and funders to support researcher wellbeing emerged in the second year of Jenevieve’s Fellowship. Recognition of the emotional burden the research was having not only personally, but on the wider research team and the limited institutional support for researchers conducting ethically and emotionally challenging research prompted the idea. The Development Network connected Jenevieve and post-doctoral researcher Silke Zschomler with Future Leaders Fellows Katie McQuaid, University of Leeds, and Emily Bridger, University of Exeter, to develop the idea further and in April 2022, the idea was awarded funding.

The content of the toolkit was informed by several iterative project phases. The project team first undertook a scoping review to map the existing support available to researchers and practitioners whose work is emotionally and ethically challenging. Jenevieve describes this as a growing body of research literature drawing on practice-based evidence from clinical psychology and policing.

The project team then led a series of practical workshops in collaboration with Body and Soul, an NGO that specialises in mental health and trauma related support services. The workshops were aimed at Future Leaders Fellows and were designed to support Fellows to think about how they, their institutions, and funders might support their own ongoing mental health and wellbeing and that of their teams.

The project then conducted a survey with Future Leaders Fellows in the first instance, and later with research organisations based in the UK, to understand the personal impact of emotionally challenging experiences on individuals and their teams.

The observations and information gathered from these three activities informed the final content and design of the toolkit, which was launched in December 2023.

Leading the project with Emily and Katie and creating the toolkit has been a positive experience for Jenevieve. Jenevieve says, “the process made me more aware of the higher echelons of my own institutions and helped me to map what UCL are doing to support researchers at a School and Faculty level. It has also helped me connect with other Future Leaders Fellows that I might otherwise not have met. I’m often introduced by email to a Fellow that wants to talk to me about the toolkit, which I find really rewarding. Developing the toolkit was a new experience for me and I wasn’t fully aware of how much the toolkit was needed. It feels nice to have contributed and given something back to the research community.”

To view the toolkit, please click on the following link:

V2 A TOOLKIT TO SUPPORT RESEARCHER WELLBEING (RES-WELL) (ucl.ac.uk)

 

Image credit: Illustration from the researcher wellbeing toolkit, Andi Setiawan.

By Clare Barrie, Future Leaders Fellows Development Network, Communications Officer

 

UKRI Future Leaders Fellows Oliver Mytton and Laura Carter are launching their brand-new podcast series, Next Generation Research. The pilot podcast series was created to share their exciting and innovative work with the public.

Working with freelance producer Hester Cant, they have produced 6 episodes, hosted by Cambridge University’s Professor Giles Yeo, that explore their cutting edge research and innovation with four of their peers.

Each episode features a different research area based on the work of one FLF, with co-researchers, case studies and other relevant professionals. The exciting, cerebral and informative episodes answer an intriguing research question that is relevant to wider society.

***

The series follows 6 unique episodes –

Radish on Prozac: exploring how human medicines get into our food with Dr Laura Carter

Medicines which we consume to help treat and cure disease are making their way into our environment. These medicines are present in our soils and surface waters where they can enter the food chain. We’ll explore the fate and behaviour of these chemicals and what this means for human and ecosystem health.

 

Love Shouldn’t Hurt: What indigenous communities can tell us about preventing domestic violence with Dr Jenevieve Mannell

Domestic violence is a global health crisis. It feels like an impossible problem to solve, but is it? This podcast explores what communities in remote parts of the world – from the Peruvian Amazon to ancient civilisations in the Pacific – are doing to address it.

 

Catalysis makes the world go round: understanding how our society depends on industrial chemistry with Dr Andrew Logsdail

Over 90% of human consumption is facilitated by catalysis, including the provision of fuel for transport and heating, and the fertiliser that helps to grow food to eat. But what is catalysis? We’ll explore the concepts, impact, and future of how this chemical process is supporting your life.

 

We have the tools to stop HIV: learning from girls and young women about the barriers they face with Dr Valentina Cambiano

HIV is still with us. Every day around 600 girls and young women become infected with HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa. We have the tools to prevent this, why are we not using them? This podcast explores barriers girls and young women in Zimbabwe face in accessing HIV prevention.

 

Why my child? Understanding life-threatening infection with Dr Vanessa Sancho Shimizu

Why do infections make some children really sick, whilst others have only a minor illness. Genetics influence how our body responds to infections; understanding this may help us treat severe infections more successfully.

 

Turning the tide on childhood obesity: learning what governments need to do with Dr Oliver Mytton

Governments everywhere need to tackle childhood obesity. This podcast explores what policies work, what policies don’t, and how researchers know.

***

The podcast came about through discussions at a Network Crucible, a residential event with sessions designed to encourage cross-cohort and interdisciplinary collaborations. From these conversations exploring exciting ways to share their research, the Fellows applied  for a Crucible Pump Prime grant. These grants are awarded to applicants looking at original, innovative ideas that utilise the expertise of two or more disciplines. The award facilitated a meeting and initial piece of work with Hester to scope this podcast series.

To create and share the podcast, the Fellows were awarded with a Plus Fund grant.

On the motivation behind creating the series, Dr Oliver Mytton, UKRI Future Leaders Fellow said,

“I am often inspired by the ambition and great work that so many Future Leaders Fellows are leading. We were sat around as a group trying to boil our research down to a catchy title and byline for a podcast. It struck me there were some great stories here: how research happens, the joys and challenges; and the potential to benefit people and society.

 

As a group, we want to share our research with the public. We are passionate about what we do. Our work is of wide interest, having the potential to touch on the daily lives of many people. We also recognise it is vital to build trust and understanding in our work, to help it have its maximum beneficial impact.”

The first episode, Radish on Prozac: exploring how human medicines get into our food with Dr Laura Carter, will be released on 27th June on the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network website.

Dr Laura Carter, UKRI FLF said,

“Creating the podcast has offered an opportunity to think about the wider implications of the research underway in my group. When you are working on your project day to day I think it is often easy to forget about the bigger picture and how your research is contributing more broadly to societal needs. It has been fascinating to work with Hester to think about how to convey our key research themes to a broad audience.”

View the trailer here

If you would like to meet the people and ideas behind the most innovative research in the country, subscribe now so the episodes are delivered to you on your preferred podcast platform as soon as they’re released. Subscribe here.

 

The Plus Fund is pot of flexible funding available to Fellows in the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network. The funds are designed to support the delivery of novel training and networking opportunities in response to other elements of the programme. Grants of up to £25K will be awarded via a rolling open call, supporting well-defined initiatives that develop and deliver transferable skills, training experiences, or resources – whether short-term or recurrent. Read more about Plus Funds

 

This podcast was supported by the Future Leaders Fellows Development Network and funded by UKRI. The views expressed in the podcast are the views of the individuals in the podcast, and do not necessarily represent the views of UKRI or the FLF Development Network.

Photo Credit – Future Leaders Fellows Development Network, Next Generation Podcast 2023

The FLFDN Plus Fund is a flexible funding stream open to FLF+s within the Development Network, offering funding for innovative projects that are aligned with the ethos and aims of the network.

The fund offers up to £25k per project, and has a rolling peer-review group that assesses applications each month so we can get you a decision asap. The review group consists of representatives from across the FLF network (including FLF+s), and offers in-depth and tailored feedback to each applicant regardless of outcome so that applicants can learn about the application assessment process, and have the opportunity to adjust their applications based on the feedback and resubmit.

We as a network are really excited to be able to offer this funding to FLF+s, and can’t wait to see the innovative and exciting projects you are planning. When we start getting projects off the ground we’ll be delighted to share them with the rest of the network so you can see what your peers are doing – for inspiration and collaboration!

If you have an idea for a project that could be funded through the Plus Fund then please visit our Plus Fund webpage for the application form and guidance documents, and don’t hesitate to contact hello@flfdevnet.com if you have any questions.