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Benchmark yourself first, apply second

In the wake of the August 29th announcement of the first round of NHMRC Investigator Grants, consultants who help applicants write and improve their grant applications are often asked “What was your success rate?”. We measure applicant “success” in many ways including improved grantsmanship, feeling supported in the grant writing process, and improving on scores from the last time they applied. However, we all know that in most cases people simply want to know what percentage of GrantEd supported applicants won their fellowship. Although we are delighted to say it ranged from 100% - 11% for most of our clients, it was also 0% for two of them.

So why the zeros? Because success is a far more complex beast than simply applying with a quality application. No matter the funding body, if the work has not been done prior to putting pen to paper, you will waste a lot of time (and often money) applying for money you were never in the race for. When applying for Category 1 fellowships of any kind, your track record is always a consideration. You can have the most significant and innovative project idea – it simply will not fly unless your track record is on par with the “quality and contribution to science” expected of your peers.

If we break down the assessment criteria for the recent NHMRC Investigator Grants round, 35 per cent was attributable to “Publications”. Funded applications needed to score at least mid 5s in the publication category, meaning they demonstrated “an outstanding record of publications in terms of quality and contribution to science”, relative to opportunity and their field of research. So, what did “quality” and “contribution to science” look like for the successful applicants?

In the coming weeks, we will provide our analysis of success factors using publicly available data on output quantities, journal quality, fields of research, Indigenous research, knowledge impact (via citation data), and years post PhD to enable us to better understand what “quality and contribution to science” looked like in this round. We are making this information publicly available to better enable applicants to benchmark themselves against similar peers, prior to putting pen to paper to apply.

To start, we analysed Scopus h-index, total citations and number of outputs for each of the new NHMRC Investigator Grant Emerging Leadership and Leadership Fellows, presented below. Follow us to learn more in the coming weeks!


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