TRAINING

COVID-19 UPDATE: All courses are currently taught remotely.

The following courses are available for research groups, departments, faculties, or schools, and I am always happy to discuss creating a bespoke course or workshop based on your specific needs.  Please don’t hesitate to arrange a chat to see how Academic Smartcuts can help make the journey through academia a little easier.

SELF-GUIDED

At present, the Demystifying EPSRC Peer Review full-size course is available as a self-guided session for individuals or groups to take at the time that works best for them. The cost of the course includes lifetime access, free guidebooks, and any future updates.

Please stay tuned: additional courses will be recorded soon.

BITE-SIZE

These are 90-minute sessions that consist of approximately 75 minutes of highly focused content about a particular topic with 15 minutes for Q&A. Bite-size sessions provide universities the flexibility to offer them on a regular basis with smaller groups of participants. For example, sessions can be run once a quarter or once a month, allowing participants to attend when it best suits their availability. However, just let me know if you are interested in a one-off session as that can also be arranged.

Choosing to go down an academic path has many rewards. It’s an opportunity to explore, to search for answers, and to make discoveries that push forward the state-of-the-art and our knowledge of the world.

However, there is a lot to learn along the way: how to communicate to industrialists, members of the public, and peers; how to build a network of collaborators, partners, and supporters; how to manage their time; how to manage their teams; and much, much more.

These skills are often implicit. The problem is that it is difficult to improve or develop when you do not have a clear idea of what needs to be done. The Academic Inventory tackles this head on by explicitly identifying the skills that will lead to success.

This bite-size session is run differently from those outlined below. Participants are sent an Academic Inventory in advance that runs through some of the most common skills needed by researchers. Once they complete it, it allows them to see the areas they are already successful at and what areas need further attention. During the session, participants work in small groups to discuss how they can achieve the new skills and create practical 12-month plan to implement them.

This course is also available as a longer full-size version, and the Academic Inventory is  also available to purchase on its own.

People are often very good at identifying errors in the writing of others. However, a key part of developing as a writer is being able to cultivate the necessary detachment to view our own writing in the same way a reader would. This allows the writer to correct potential problems and ensure that their document hits the right note with their given audience. By thinking like an editor—and editing the writing of colleagues—researchers can improve their overall writing ability as the characteristics of good writing become second nature.

This session highlights:

  • The difference between passive consumption of material and actively reading to improve it.
  • The necessity of separating editing from the writing process.
  • The different aspects of a document that an editor considers, which may include consistent formatting, word choice, grammar, document/paragraph/sentence structure, and the overall flow of the document.
  • The importance of working with a writing or accountability partner, how to give feedback in a constructive way, and how to accept feedback without defensiveness.
  • Suggestions for how participants can approach their own writing with an editor’s mindset.

An extended version of this course allows for practice, reflection, and peer feedback.

Portfolio managers at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are responsible for overseeing the process of peer review. Their role entails understanding the novelty of the research so the proposal will be seen by the most relevant reviewers and go to the panel where it has the best opportunity of getting funded.

This session provides an overview of the peer review process and highlights the areas where researchers can have more influence than they think. By thinking like a portfolio manager (and a reviewer and a panel member), researchers are able to approach their proposal from a new perspective and communicate in a way that will resonate with their audience.   

At its very heart, networking is simply the act of being human: it is engaging with people to learn about what they do, how they do it, and what help they need to be able to do it even better. In academia, it is vital for researchers to build and nurture a network for support, future collaboration or partnerships, and career opportunities.

This session focuses on:

  • Challenging the stereotypes and myths that surround networking.
  • The secret of networking: it’s not about helping yourself, it’s about how you can help others.
  • The importance of getting out of our comfort zones … but also being true to ourselves. For example, introverts and extraverts may choose to network in different ways: it’s about finding a method that works for the individual.
  • Practical steps for how to proactively build and maintain a network.

This session is adapted from the Demystifying EPSRC Peer Review course and Mock Prioritisation Panel experience. It provides an overview of what is involved in a peer review panel and highlights the importance of a well-written PI response.

This session is suitable for those who have not attended a previous prioritisation panel course (e.g. Demystifying EPSRC Peer Review or the Mock Prioritisation Panel) as well as those who would like a refresher.

Writing for a general audience is not simply about running an academic paper through a thesaurus! Instead, different audiences have different expectations and needs. It is necessary for academics to be able to identify these aspects and shift their communication style accordingly. This is a practice-based session to give participants the opportunity to experiment with writing for different audiences and consider how their research can be packaged for general consumption.

In particular, blogging is an excellent way for participants to get the necessary practice to both write on a regular basis and consider how to adjust their writing style to a general audience. As a potential add-on to the Writing for the Mainstream session, Blogging for Academics explores how creating a research blog can help participants:

  • Engage with the public.
  • Develop transferable skills that are beneficial both within and outside of academia.
  • Build a wider research network.

FULL-SIZE

These courses cover topics in more depth and breadth than the bite-size sessions, and typically range in length from 4-6 hours. They take place over multiple days when taught remotely.

Choosing to go down an academic path has many rewards. It’s an opportunity to explore, to search for answers, and to make discoveries that push forward the state-of-the-art and our knowledge of the world.

However, there is a lot to learn along the way: how to communicate to industrialists, members of the public, and peers; how to build a network of collaborators, partners, and supporters; how to manage their time; how to manage their teams; and much, much more.

These skills are often implicit. The problem is that it is difficult to improve or develop when you do not have a clear idea of what needs to be done. The Academic Inventory tackles this head on by explicitly identifying the skills that will lead to success.

The Academic Inventory runs through some of the most common skills needed by researchers. Once participants complete it, it allows them to see the areas they are already successful at and what areas need further attention. This session provides time for the participants to work through the Inventory during the course. They then can work in small groups to discuss how they can achieve the new skills and create practical 12-month plan to implement them.

This course is also available as a shorter bite-size version, and the Academic Inventory is available to purchase on its own.

In an increasingly crowded and competitive academic market, ensuring that the right message reaches the right audience is more important than ever. The course gives participants an overview of the common pitfalls often encountered in academic writing and discusses the tools that will help them improve their own writing. It does not cover the mechanics of language or grammar, but it will introduce attendees to new ways of considering their written work. 

This session is primarily intended for PhD students and post-docs to help them develop a foundation that can be used during their dissertation and beyond. In particular, it encourages students to consider the impact of clear communication throughout their academic career.

AIMS:

After attending this workshop, participants will be able to:

  • Identify features of good and bad writing.
  • Understand writing as a collaborative process between the writer and the reader.
  • Consider how to adapt their writing to different audiences.
  • Understand and overcome the “Curse of Knowledge”.
  • Apply the 7 Cs of Academic Writing to their own work.
  • Develop a writing plan to help deliver their work on time.

The peer review process at the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) can sometimes feel like a maze. And it’s no wonder: there is a lot of information to consider each step of the way, and a lot of misinformation has been handed down over the years. It can be challenging to know which way to turn.

The Demystifying EPSRC Peer Review course was developed to provide a behind-the-scenes map for researchers: see who does what at EPSRC, learn potential pitfalls to watch out for, and explore what happens after a proposal is submitted for a new investigator award, standard mode grant, or fellowship proposal.

Throughout the journey, we will also tackle the most common myths so that incorrect assumptions and mistaken beliefs can be avoided, and your proposal can start from a solid foundation of clarity and understanding.

This course enables participants to:

  • Look behind the scenes to see what happens when a proposal is submitted
  • Discover where they can potentially have more of an influence when writing their proposal
  • Avoid common pitfalls and mistakes
  • Understand the internal organisation and who does what at EPSRC
  • Get tips about how not to write a PI response
  • See what happens at a prioritisation panel
  • Explore common myths that are held about the EPSRC funding process
  • Consider both sides of the review process, as an applicant and a reviewer
  • Ask questions or get clarification about the process through live Q&A sessions

Demystifying EPSRC Peer Review can be accessed as a self-paced online course for individuals or groups. The price of the self-guided session includes any future updates as well as the downloadable guidebooks

EXTENDED

These courses build on the  full-size courses while also providing the opportunity for participants to digest and reflect upon the provided material, put what they learn into practice, and develop a strong foundation for future work.  Extended courses include two instructors.

Three things are necessary to build the foundation of a competitive proposal:

  • An idea: Applicants must understand the needs and challenges of the research landscape they are operating in to develop a sound idea they can turn into a project.
  • Background knowledge: Understanding the funding system and what is being asked of them allows researchers to control the proposal writing process to the best of their ability.
  • Time: Time is needed both to allow ideas to mature and to dedicate to the process of creating a proposal.

This course is designed to provide the required background knowledge while using the motivational power of accountability to encourage participants to produce a draft grant proposal by the end of nine sessions (approximately nine months).

It is taught in two stages by Dr Elaine Massung and Professor Dan Allwood. The first stage is composed of two informational sessions that are open to anyone interested to provide background about the funding process. 

The second stage comprises seven sessions and is limited to 16 participants. Participants at this level must commit to engaging with the material and carrying out the required homework. These sessions will involve peer-to-peer feedback and instruction about different parts of standard mode proposals (i.e. responsive mode, new investigator awards).

AIMS:

  • All participants have a greater awareness of the process a proposal goes through before/after submission and the core aspects they need to focus on regardless of funder.
  • Participants in the second stage have an opportunity to develop their grant-writing skills and get peer feedback on their proposal.
  • The majority of the participants attending the second stage submit competitive proposals within 24 months of taking the course.

OUTCOMES:

By the end of the nine sessions of this course, participants will:

  • Be familiar with the core components of developing a competitive grant proposal regardless of the funding body.
  • Recognise what they can and cannot control in the proposal creation process.
  • Explore the proposal creation process step by step.
  • Develop writing skills that can be used in different domains (e.g. job applications, promotion material).
  • Create a draft research proposal.
  • Develop a plan for ensuring their proposal is finalised and submitted following the completion of the course.

Two key components must be addressed in the creation of a competitive fellowship proposal. First, it is necessary for applicants to understand the application process and to encourage early career academics to think beyond papers to instead constructing projects and programmes of work. Second, fellowships are personal awards, and, as such, the focus is on the applicant as well as the science. This involves ensuring that a proposal demonstrates the researcher’s leadership potential and independence.

Please note: This course is taught by two instructors (Dr Elaine Massung and Professor Dan Allwood), and it was designed to be modular to allow for greater flexibility. It is composed of:

  • First Stage: Sessions 1-2 provide background information; they are open to all attendees.
  • Second Stage: Sessions 3-6 focus on the personal aspects of applying for a fellowship. It and the third stage are limited to 16 participants.
  • Third Stage: This optional stage (sessions 7-10) helps participants develop their programme of research. By the end of the full course, participants will have completed a rough draft of their proposal.

AIMS:

  • All participants have a greater awareness of the pathway towards applying for independent funding.
  • Participants in the second/third stage acquire knowledge and skills that are transferable to other funding schemes.
  • The majority of the participants attending the second/third stage submit competitive proposals within 18 months of taking the course.

OUTCOMES:

Participants in the second and third stage will:

  • Understand how fellowships differ from standard proposals.
  • Be aware of the process a fellowship goes through from submission to funding decision.
  • Produce the first draft of their Track Record.
  • Start to develop their research vision and potential career trajectory.
  • Consider how they can demonstrate leadership through their current activities and take steps to identify additional strategies for leading within their field.
  • Experience a panel interview.
  • Be familiar with the core components of developing a competitive grant proposal regardless of the funding body.

PARTICIPANTS:

It is envisioned that the main participants on the Second Stage and optional Third Stage will be those looking to apply for long-term fellowships such as the EPSRC Open Fellowship or UKRI’s Future Leaders Fellows scheme. As a result, this is more likely to appeal to senior PDRAs or junior academic staff, although more senior academics that are unfamiliar with the UK funding landscape will also find the sessions beneficial.

This course allows participants to experience the final stage of the EPSRC peer review process. Understanding how a prioritisation panel works serves to: 

    • Give early career researchers (ECRs) the direct experience of how a panel makes its decisions. In particular, they have the opportunity to see the reviewer moderation aspects of the panel and that panels do not re-review proposals.
    • Provide ECRs with the psychological distance necessary to see how proposals and their constituent parts work. As the grants under discussion are not in areas where they have direct expertise, they are able to practice putting themselves in the shoes of someone who has never seen the research before. A previous participant highlighted, “The really well-written proposals are possible for someone with a scientific background to follow and skip over the details but still stay on track.”
    • Allow ECRs to see what aspects of a proposal can potentially impact it while at panel, e.g. the importance of a well-written PI response or a clear summary.

    • Offer greater resilience in dealing with unsuccessful proposals. As part of the debrief process, participants recognise that the outcome of the panel is outside of their control: a “failed” proposal does not mean that they are a bad researcher or had a bad idea.

This course is typically run over two days. The first session provides an introduction to the panel process, and anonymised proposals are assigned to participants. The second session involves the mock panel itself and a debrief.

PLEASE NOTE: Due to confidentiality, the department or university will need to provide proposals that can be anonymised.