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Managing Demand for research funding

Research Councils receive more high quality applications than they are able to support and institutions submit more applications than are likely to be funded. The Research Council success rates reflect the level of demand balanced against the available resources during the year. Access to the success rate statistics allow individual Institutions to identify potential issues which they can work through with the councils.

In addition to the costs for all those involved in preparing and submitting proposals, another significant driver for demand management is the increasing burden being placed on peer reviewers, the risk being that the quality of decision making could be affected if that burden continues to grow. By its very nature peer review is designed to identify successful and unsuccessful grant proposals. However there are some proposals submitted which have little or no chance of success. It is the pre-sifting of these proposals by applicants and institutions, leading to a reduction in peer review burden to the community and improvement in overall success rates that the Councils encourage.

Research Councils need institutions to actively encourage self-management of demand and quality control. To help with this, Research Councils will continue to seek an active dialogue with their research communities concerning levels of demand and funding rates and in disseminating best practice.

RCUK has also developed a shared set of principles which underpin Research Councils’ approaches to demand management:

Research Councils have agreed to:

  • work in partnership with research organisations such that they self-manage demand and quality control;
  • use quality, impact/added-value and, where appropriate, Research Council strategy in delivering quality decision making;
  • consolidate and simplify/streamline funding schemes where possible;
  • maintain a range of funding models to deliver the objectives of each Research Council (e.g. for core business, capacity building, translational research etc);
  • use sift / triage processes robustly to reduce the burden on the peer review system;
  • share good practice and strive for continual improvement;
  • remain sensitive to the challenges of reviewing and supporting multidisciplinary and collaborative research;
  • discuss plans for demand management with stakeholders;
  • develop and share tools for demand management across Research Councils and research organisations;
  • maintain awareness of the effect of demand management on the wider community and relevant stakeholders.

Institutional demand management processes

There are many examples of Institutional Management processes. The Councils do not currently have data to support any system in particular and would encourage institutions to consider which system for reducing demand would be the most appropriate in their particular situation. We are aware that many institutions already make use of internal triage or sifting processes, which RCUK regards as good practice.

Advice for Applicants

Further advice on writing/submitting proposals is available via the documents listed below.

Grant writing guides and presentations

Guides to peer review processes


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