Research grants - how does it all work


Hi all

I'm in my final year and will probably look to start a postdoc after submitting my thesis. However, I have been asked to collaborate by someone overseas once I finish my PhD - this collaboration would involve analysing already collected data and writing a joint publication (or publications) based on it. My question is - do you just do this sort of thing alongside whatever else you are doing (e.g., looking for postdoc, working as an RA...) or is this something that you should try and get funding (to support yourself whilst carrying it out).

I am not sure if I have explained what I'm asking very well...

I guess the bottom line is - this person has mentioned collaborating and we have a proposed idea of several research questions we want to address (not yet written up as a formal proposal). But I am wondering do I just do this off my own back or can I be supported financially?

I have an understanding of how grants normally work - you apply for funding to carry out your research. Is this essentially the same thing and I should be applying for funding from a relevant research body? Can you even apply for a grant if you aren't attached to a University at the time? Feeling very ignorant about all this.



Hi Tudor Queen

As it happens, I've just spent all day in a training session about making successful grant applications and a similar situation was discussed.

From what I can gather, if your collaborator puts a grant application together to a relevant funding body, they can specify in the grant that they want you specifically as a post-doc. So if your collaborator is in a uni, they would be best heading up the proposal, with you as part of it. Part of the grant costs would therefore be a salary for you, for however long it would take.

Does that help? I'm by no means an expert, as you know, having just come into things myself (more an enthusiastic amateur) but I saw your post and thought 'ooh...they mentioned that today!'.

Hope it helps, anyway.


I think it depends on the scale of the project. For large projects for postdocs, it's as fallenonion has said.

For small projects, it's more usual to do these things alongside another job or project. You can still apply for funding, but it might just cover travel or consumables - we have a pot of money in my department for things like this for example. In other cases, there's no money at all and you just do it. I don't think the large research councils are set up for giving out funding like this.

Either way, you do have to be attached to a department to apply and there are rules around whether you can lead a large funding bid for example.

Maybe someone who has actually applied for a large grant from a research council could comment?


Thanks fallenonion and ToL. This is definitely helpful. I think since she is the more senior academic, and the one who has suggested the collaboration, she will probably be the one adding me to the grant (or else I do it off my own back). Anyone else with knowledge or experience of this, please continue to comment...