Grants and Research Funding
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RESEARCH SERVICES OFFICE
Electronic submission of research grant
Some of the University's largest external funders of research are
introducing electronic systems for the submission of research
grant applications. Many have developed their own systems
(although it has now been recognised by both the sponsors of
research and the UK academic community that some form of
rationalisation is required to make the process more `user-
friendly'), and these are at different stages of development.
This summary document provides general information on electronic
grant submission by highlighting the key issues as well as
explaining the University's response to the changes.
What is electronic grant submission?
Electronic grant submission (sometimes referred to as EDS, or
Electronic Document Submission) is the process of submitting
grant applications to a sponsor via the internet or e-mail. Two
types of systems are being developed to facilitate this process.
(a) Off-line systems allow the applicant
to download the form filler software from the sponsor's Web site.
The completed form is then submitted via the host institution's
administrative authorities to the sponsor. The case for support
is completed on local word-processing software and is then
converted to the appropriate format either portable document
format (pdf) or postscript (ps) files.
(b) On-line systems involve the
applicant registering and logging on to the relevant Web site and
completing the application form on-line. The sponsor notifies the
University's administrative authorities that the application
requires formal authorisation. The case for support is prepared
off-line and converted to the appropriate format (e.g. pdf).
Why is electronic grant submission being
Various factors are driving the implementation of electronic
grant submission. Public sector sponsors of research, such as the
research councils, Government departments and agencies, are
required as part of the current Government's Modernising
Government White Paper to conduct the majority of their business
electronically by 2005. In this respect electronic grant
submission can be viewed as the first step towards a more fully
integrated `e-business' relationship between the sponsors of
research and the UK science base. Future electronic interactions
are likely to include other stages in the research grant cycle,
such as the proposal review process, the issuing of award
letters, and post-award administration, as well as the reporting
of both the scientific and financial aspects of the project.
Although other external funders of research such as UK charities
and overseas foundations fall outside the scope of the White
Paper, there are considerable benefits to be realised from the
introduction of e-business, particularly at the application
stage. These include the removal of unnecessary duplication of
effort at the proposal preparation stage and the reduction of
timescales in the grant assessment process. The new systems also
encourage all organisations to improve their data capture and
storage methods. It is possible that in the future some of the
larger commercial sponsors of research may also consider
introducing electronic grant submission mechanisms.
Which grantors are involved?
Several of the University's largest external funders of research,
including the research councils, the Wellcome Trust, and the
European Commission, have either developed (or are in the process
of developing) systems to enable researchers to submit research
proposals electronically. The impact of the changes being
introduced by these sponsors alone will be substantial, since
they account for over 60 per cent of the 2,500 research grant
applications submitted by University researchers each year. Just
over 60 per cent of the University's annual research income (in
1999/00 this represented £76.7M out of a total of
£129.5M) derives from this group of sponsors.
It is anticipated that, in the medium term, other funders, such
as UK and overseas government departments, large non-government
organisations (NGOs), and charitable foundations will also
implement electronic grant submission processes. This will then
account for almost 90 per cent of the University's research
activity both in terms of value and volume.
When can I submit my grant
The ESRC now accepts applications in electronic format.
Researchers applying to the ESRC should contact Pierre Espinasse
(e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org) or Patrick Davis (e-
(email@example.com) of the Research Services
Office before completing the electronic forms.
The EPSRC, PPARC, BBSRC, and NERC had initially collaborated to
provide a research council group solution called Electronic
Document Submission (EDS). At the present time, it appears that
only the EPSRC will go live with the software in the near future,
although it remains unclear whether EDS is seen as a long-term
solution. The University is currently pilot-testing the EPSRC's
The European Commission's version of Electronic Grant Submission
(Protool) is, in theory, live, but initial problems have had an
impact on the level of usage of the system. The EC is attempting
to resolve these problems. At present the University does
not submit electronic proposals to the European
Commission. It is unlikely that Protool will be used
widely under the current Framework Programme V. However, it is
anticipated that a more robust electronic submission system will
be in place by the time Framework Programme VI commences in 2003.
The MRC has introduced a beta version of its Electronic
Application and Assessment (EAA) system. The Research Services
Office recently held seminars for departmental administrators to
demonstrate the EAA and to explain the revised university
business processes relating to electronic grant submission in
general. Documentation from the presentation, including slides,
draft business processes, and a detailed flowchart are available
on-line at http://www.admin.ox.ac.uk/rso/oxonly/rgo/eds.htm.
Although the MRC's system is still in its pilot phase and
enhancements are constantly being added, the system is proving
popular with applicants and administrators.
The Wellcome Trust's electronic grant submission system is still
under development but testing is expected to commence shortly.
Why are so many systems being developed?
The development of a single submission system to suit each
grantor's individual business requirements has not to date proved
possible as every sponsor seeks to design processes to complement
its own business requirements. However as a result of lobbying
from university administrators, the Research Councils instigated
a review of their current submission systems in February 2001 and
launched the Joint e-submission Project (Je-S) to examine the
possibility of combining research council processes. This
feasibility study invites all potential users of electronic grant
submission systems to register and then contribute to the project
via the Je-S Web site in response to issues relating to
electronic grant submission. The Research Services Office
co-ordinates the University's official response to the various
It is hoped that Je-S will enable a common research council
framework to be developed to provide sufficient flexibility to
meet the diverse requirements of each grantor and Higher
Education Institute (HEI) while also ensuring that a standard
interface is made available for all users.
What are the security issues?
The MRC's system uses industry-standard Level 2 Secure Sockets
Layer (SSL) protocols which apply to all users of the EAA at all
stages and is one of the most secure forms of encryption
technology currently available. The MRC system will allow lead
applicants to provide passwords for read-write and read-only
access to other people such as co-applicants, head of department,
and departmental administrator. However, once access has been
provided the whole application can be viewed by the password
holder. Anyone with read-write access will also be able to edit
and submit the proposal to the RSO.
The ESRC's submission system uses industry-standard security
measures at the transmission stage. However, as the forms under
the ESRC's processes have to be downloaded to the applicant's
local computer for completion, the security is only as rigorous
as that used by the Principal Investigator and co-applicants. The
application is submitted by the Principal Investigator to the
Research Services Office via e-mail over an unsecured link. The
Research Services Office is exploring the use of encryption
technology to add a greater level of security to the process.
The EPSRC software, EDS, is similar to the ESRC's software in
that security protocols are invoked at the transmission stage
only (Secure Sockets Layer 3). As with the ESRC system, there are
potential security issues involved with e-mailing applications
forms and other documents between staff on different servers.
What changes can I expect to the
University's current grant submission process?
The University's new business processes
(www.admin.ox.ac.uk/rso/oxonly/rgo/webbusin.pdf) attempt to
provide a single mechanism for all the various electronic
submission systems. It is recognised that the University's
internal procedures, such as the completion of the OG form, will
need to move to electronic format. Therefore, it is proposed that
the Resolve OG form will be e-mailed by the appropriate
departmental authority to the Research Services Office along with
the application form (for off-line systems) and case for support
in pdf/postscript format. The University is seeking advice to
ensure that the proposed changes in processes incorporate the
requirements of the Data Protection Act 1998. In particular,
methods of e-mail encryption are being explored.
Where can I find additional
(a) The RSO's Web site at www.admin.ox.ac.uk/rso/ has
links to most of the major sponsors' Web sites. The business
processes can be also be viewed at
(b) Direct links to each of the main sponsor's
submission software are as follows:
(c) Information on the Joint electronic Submission
project can be viewed at http://www.research-councils.ac.uk/je-s/
(d) Applicants and administrators wishing to find out
more information relating to electronic grant submission should
contact one of the following at the Research Services Office:
Pierre Espinasse (e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org,
telephone: (2)70043); or Patrick Davis (e-mail:
email@example.com, telephone: (2)70130).
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The Oppenheimer Fund provides grants to assist the academic
exchange of senior members between the University of Oxford on
the one hand and universities and similar institutions of higher
education in the Republic of South Africa on the other.
Applications are invited from senior members of the University
who wish either to visit one or more universities in South Africa
or to invite a staff member from a South African university to
Oxford. Grants may be awarded to assist with living expenses for
a maximum of six months, and travel costs. Visits for the sole
purpose of attending a conference will not normally be eligible
for support from the fund.
The maximum level of grants is likely to be up to £1,000
per month for subsistence and up to £700 for the cost of
travel between Oxford and South Africa. Applications for grants
from the fund should include a statement of the purpose of the
proposed visit (including an outline of any research to be
carried out during the visit), duration and estimated costs,
details of any other available sources of funding, and, in the
case of visits to Oxford, a curriculum vitae of the
staff member it is proposed to invite and a letter of support
from a senior member at Oxford. Applications should be sent to
Mrs Katherine McGuire, International Office, University Offices,
Wellington Square, Oxford OX1 2JD.
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