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Marsden Full-Proposal: Results are out - now what?

If you're one of the hundreds of academics that submitted an application to this years' Marsden round, you'll likely know by now that results are out informing those who have 'made it' to the full-proposal stage. We know how competitive this fund is - so no matter if you were invited to full stage or not, I have advice for you.

To those who were not successful - I wish you could have gotten better news. So what are you meant to do in the case of a rejection? First things first, keep your head up. This fund has a very low success rate (think 10-12%), so don't let this news get you down.

Also, on the plus side, in putting together your application for Marsden, you now have a well-developed idea (plus likely collaborators) at your fingertips. You should make the time you have put into this application work for you. What do I mean? You should now take your EOI idea and resubmit it to another funder. If you're an early career researcher for example, submit to the new Mana Tūāpapa Fund. Did you submit a Standard Bid? Consider shaping your idea into an MBIE Endeavour Smart Idea application. If your bid is focused squarely on relationship building, you can also consider applying for Catalyst Seeding funding... By using the work you have already put in toward another submission, you get the most 'bang for your buck' - another shot without too much extra effort. Plus this shows to your collaborators and associate investigators that you're serious about getting this mahi funded.

Now, in addition to this, I always (or very nearly always) recommend to resubmit to Marsden, especially as you'll have a year to refine, improve and add to your bid. Here's a few tips on where your energy is best used to improve a bid for resubmission to Marsden:

  1. Seek feedback - if you scored a certain ranking in Fast-start proposals, you may be entitled to feedback on your bid. I definitely recommend following this up, because any feedback will only serve to make your future bids stronger. If you aren't entitled to feedback (e.g., you submitted a Standard bid), then try to circulate your EOI to colleagues, mentors or even your Research Office to see what further feedback they might have. The more eyes you have on a bid will only strengthen it - every little bit helps.

  2. Grow your relationships - many bids are put together quickly, meaning there isn't much time to find the ideal collaborators, consultants or AIs. With the time you are now afforded, you can put your efforts to finding new (or strengthening existing) relationships. By meeting to co-develop the idea further, you can strengthen your bid by showing clearly the impact the work will have through these different perspectives, skills and talents.

  3. Add further data - Marsden is clear that they appreciate pilot data in bids to show that some fundamental groundwork has been understaken prior to the onset of the work. This feasability/preliminary data collection/review/etc can be a very good use of your time over the next year to add credibility to your EOI and de-risk the science.

To those who were successful - Congrats! Now the next step of the work is ahead of you. Clear your books and get ready to dive in to the full proposal stage:

  • Know your audience - the guidelines have specific details on how you should write to different audiences for the various sections of your full proposal. In brief, you want each successive section to be more technical. By the time you get to your research proposal, you want this section to be highly discipline-specific, as though you were conveying content to a leading peer in your field. Here's how it's put by the guidelines: "The Proposed Research section should address specialists in the field. Here the intended audience are expert referees (and any experts on the panel). It is anticipated that expert commentary on this section will provide confidence to the panel that the proposals are rigorous, and have a basis in prior research using a sound research methodology." This change in tone is important - and a big shift from EOI stage (where you wanted your text to be attention grabbing for diverse specialists from all fields). For the full-proposal stage, you want to go full-tilt scientist - don't worry about reducing jargon or acronyms - write as would be expected in a submission to a leading journal in your field.

  • Dial up the level of detail - As to be expected, with full proposal stage allowing more room for content, assessors will be wanting more detailed descriptions of project aims, background and methods to be used. 

  • Be strategic with referencing - Your full proposal will be assessed by external (likely international) experts in your field. So be strategic to include wide-ranging references to represent what is happenening in your field on an international stage.

  • Cater to international audiences - Along with the point above, remember to keep international reviewers in mind for any content that may be new for those overseas or strongly Aotearoa-specific. What do I mean by this? Define any terms or concepts that may be unfamiliar to international audiences, and consider adding a brief glossary. This can be especially helpful in Vision Mātauranga section (which at the Full Proposal round is up to one additional page).

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