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The one thing missing from your research CV

Your CV is an absolutely fundamental piece of a funding application - especially for bids that support salary of specific people, such as postdoctoral fellowship funding, or award-based funding that acknolwedges prestige in one's field.

To that end, it is critical that your CV is not only compelling (more on that here) but also accessible to the people who will be reviewing your application. Now, many people assume that because most NZ-based funders use a standard CV template, there is already consistency in CVs and nothing more is needed than filling in the boxes. However, there is one key thing missing from most people's CV: context.

What do I mean? By context, I mean spelling out for a reviewer what excellence looks like in your field. For example: we all know that research CVs include a list of publictions. How could context be important here? Well, authorship order conventions vary wildly on publications across fields. Excellence in one field might be first authorship, while in another field excellence is being named in the last position, and in another field authors may all be listed in alphabetical order! How will a reviewer be able to rank your CV against another without appropriate context? So use this chance to add context to your CV - a simple line at the start of your publication list where you can explain author conventions, footnote or annotate publications that were led by a student you supervised (for example), and use any other footnote or annotation to share context (e.g., adding an *asterisk for Q1 journals).

This is even more important in fields that weigh outputs differently - for example, some fields within engineering place more value on conference proceedings than peer reviewed journal publication. So if a reviewer looks at a CV and sees one journal article but ten conference proceedings, adding a line or two to explain this critical context is essential.

Why does this matter? First, you will make the reviewers job easier (and we all like happy grant reviewers), but second, and more importantly, you will be able to better explain how and why you are a stand-out applicant when you have the context of your field to support these claims. This matters because many people who are new to grant funding or are early career researchers may not appreciate how diverse funding panels are. For example, a Marsden panel - even though it is divided in to subtopics - is still incredibly diverse:

Economics and Human and Behavioural Sciences (EHB) Including: economics; psychology (experimental, cognitive, neuro-); cognitive science; cognitive linguistics; archaeology; biological anthropology; business studies; commerce; management studies; marketing; communication science and demography. Imagine - a bid for a clinical psychology study may have to be assessed by an archaeologist or a marketing bid would be reviewed by someone in biological anthropology...

...And this is better than other funding circumstances where there is even more diversity in subject area. These fields could (and do) have wildly different context, so adding a few lines in your CV to explain what excellence 'looks like' in your CV will make all the difference.

What are some other ways to add key context in to your CV?

  • Add metrics that are relevant to your field: give standard ranges for metrics like citation counts, impact factors, and publication rates so reviewers will have something to compare to. My field, for example, has leading journals with quite low impact factors (relatively speaking), so making a note that these journals are leading in the field can help give that all important context.

  • Use available tools to support you: many Universities can help you take advantage of tools like Scival, which helps you visualise research performance, benchmark against peers using a number of metrics and can add weight to claims you make about your research outputs. You can use this data to build a case around your excellence in context that gives the reviewer something to believe in.

You will be amazed how just adding one or two lines really makes your CV look and feel that bit more professional, polished and comprehensive. Let's do everything in our power to help you and your work stand out, eh?


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