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The Research and Funding Life Cycle
Step 1: Generate Your Idea
You can generate your research idea from any source and at any time. It can happen as you make observations during your morning walk or in the middle of poring over academic material. Though not limited to the following, these are some of the sources from which research topics can originate.
• Your professional subject area
• Your interests
• Your personal experiences
• Challenges you or others encounter
• Review of literature
• Conference participation
Once you have your topic, it is essential that you assess its viability, novelty and timeliness. Discuss your idea with colleagues and mentors for valuable inputs. If you intend to access funding for the research you also need to ensure that it aligns with the mission of funding agencies as well as the objectives of their funding calls. This increases your potential of finding a suitable funder and the likelihood of winning an award.
Step 2: Find Funding
There are various ways to fund your research depending on the size of your project. These include personal funding, departmental funding, university funding and external funding. There are internal processes for accessing departmental and university funding. External funding can be accessed either as a respond to a call by funders or through solicitations. When searching for funding, you will need to find a funder whose interests align with your research topic. The Office of Grants and Research disseminates some Funding Opportunities and a Database of Funders and Sources to assist researchers.
Step 3: Develop Your Proposal
Once you have identified a funding opportunity for which you and the university are eligible, review the funding announcement if it’s a call or the funder’s policy if it’s a solicitation. During your review, extract essential information such as principal investigator (PI) eligibility, deadlines, proposal document requirements, funding call objectives, proposal format and specifications, budget, supporting document requirements, compliance requirements and review criteria among others. This is the stage at which working with a Research Administrator from your College or from our Office is valuable. You will also have to form your research team and initiate discussions and formulate your research plan. Contact us for advice and support as you develop your proposal.
Step 4: Submit Your Proposal
Once your proposal is complete, you need to get the required approvals before submission. These include the departmental, College and University approvals. The Office of Grants and Research reviews proposals to check for completeness, formatting and compliance among other things. We also take care of electronic and hard copy submission of your proposals.
Step 5: Manage Your Award
If you win the award, congratulations! The real work begins from here. The funder will send a Notice of Award or an equivalent agreement. We work with PIs to negotiate awards, provide required information, and sign contracts. The Notice of Award (NOA) is a legally binding document and contains the award terms and conditions. You need to read and understand the NOA as well as other funder guidelines. PIs and institutions need to understand and comply with all award terms and conditions. If your award involves sub-awards or collaboration with other institutions, we can assist you to set this up. On the other hand, if you receive a sub-award, we can assist you to negotiate and set it up as well. Once the award process is complete, the post award processes begin with setting up your project. This includes registering your project at the Office of Grants and Research and your College and being set up in the grant accounting system.
Though the grant is awarded to the University, you (if you are the PI) have the primary responsibility for the research grant or sponsored project. The University has the ultimate legal and financial responsibility to the funder for project performance and the proper use of funds. However, the University relies on the good stewardship and performance of PIs to fulfil its role.
In managing grants, you need to adhere to the appropriate guidelines and comply with both institutional and sponsor requirements. You also need to apply the principles and guidelines of good grant management. During the award period, you are responsible for submitting reports to the funding agency, adhering to the stipulated timelines and following the funder’s formats. The report usually includes both programmatic and financial components. You will need to work with your Research Administrators and Accounting staff to produce the required reports. Contact us for support and submission of reports.
If your award is a multi-year award, you must fulfil all annual requirements of the sponsor. At the end of the project, you must submit all required reports and close the award with the sponsor. You must also close out the award with the Office of Grants and Research and your College.
Step 6: Share your Research
The University expects you to disseminate your research through various means such as publications in peer-reviewed journals, conference presentations, scholarly websites, reports, etc. As a University, we expect our researchers to produce high quality peer-reviewed publications. Most sponsors also require that you publish your research findings. You will therefore have to analyse your data and prepare a manuscript for dissemination. For peer-reviewed publications, select a journal, prepare your manuscript to fit the journal requirements and submit for review. Additionally, you can publicize your research through some of the other channels mentioned above. Be sure to log in your publications with the Office of Grants and Research so we can publicize it further. Finally, deposit your data, research findings and publications in the university’s repository (KNUST Space) for archiving. Some sponsors may also require you to deposit your publications in a specified repository.