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MRFF applications: how to align project impact with measures of success

How to align the Project Impact section with the Measures of Success statement is one of the big challenges facing researchers who are developing an MRFF application.

But before we consider how to align your Project Impact section and Measures of Success statement, let’s first consider why they need to be aligned.



Why do Project Impact and Measures of Success need to be aligned?


1/ When assessing the Project Impact section assessors use a range of documents:

·       objectives and intended outcomes specified in the initiative’s guidelines

·       the MRFF’s initiative or Missions’ Roadmap and Implementation Plan

·       your statement against MRFF’s Measures of Success.  

 

So, even though the Measures of Success statement itself doesn’t attract a score, it’s a key document used to assess a section that’s worth a massive 40% of your total score.

We strongly suggest you invest sufficient time developing a robust Measures of Success statement that gives assessors context about what you’ll be doing in your project (column 2 of the Measures of Succes table) and what the outcomes will be (column 3), so they can apply that information when they read your Project Impact section.


2/ In the scoring matrix for Project Impact, one of the descriptors is specifically focused on Measures of Success. Take this example from MRFF’s 2024 Clinical Trials Activity Grant Opportunity matrix for instance:

‘…outcomes in the Measures of Success statement are highly relevant and meaningful to the goal and aims of the Initiative/Mission’.

Because your project must be aligned with the goal and aims of the funding opportunity, the potential impact you discuss should be strongly aligned with one or more of the MRFF’s Measures of Success. The purpose of the funding opportunity, your potential impact and the MRFF’s Measures of Success are inextricably entwined: one can’t exist without the other.


3/ In the MRFF’s 2023 panel discussion about how MRFF grants are assessed, an important take home message was how information in the third/final column of the Measures of Success statement should be easily found in the Project Impact section.

In the third column of the Measures of Success table you will state the project’s intended outcomes against which you will be evaluated if funded, so in your Project Impact section you should discuss the potential impact that will result from those outcomes. Taking that approach when you develop these two parts of your application and using the Project Impact assessment criteria descriptors to structure your response, will help the assessors locate the information they’re looking for.


4/ If the first three reasons aren’t enough to convince you of the importance of aligning Project Impact and Measures of Success, then consider the MRFF’s performance indicators. The Department of Health and Aged Care wants to understand the MRFF’s impact on Australia so has compiled five performance indicators against which the MRFF must report. 

 

“The MRFF performance indicators are a set of quantifiable metrics that primary capture the outputs and outcomes from MRFF-funded projects, to provide evidence on how well the MRFF is tracking in relation to its outcomes (Measures of Success) and subsequently its five impact measures”. (p3, performance-indicators-towards-the-impact-of-the-medical-research-future-fund.docx (live.com))

 

MRFF’s performance indicators mean that it should be funding research that clearly links research outputs and outcomes to impact. So, one way to do this is to convince assessors that the impact produced by your project directly addresses the MRFF’s Measures of Success.

 

If you’re new to developing an MRFF application, here’s the MRFF’s eight Measures of Success (p1, Performance indicators towards the impact of the Medical Research Future Fund (health.gov.au)).




Ok, so we’ve convinced you of the need for alignment, but how do you do it?


Aligning your Project Impact section with the Measures of Success statement


In this short video we discuss how to present a competitive response for the Project Impact section and provide some tips on how to help assessors see alignment with your chosen Measures of Success.



As is discussed in that video, one of the mistakes we commonly see is that the outcomes discussed in the Measures of Success statement are not mentioned when applicants discuss the impact they expect to see. The examples provided in the video can be used to seed your own, targeted response and show how to make it easy for assessors to see alignment between these sections.


General points


Write to your category descriptors

Have the category descriptors in front while you’re writing. The independent chair will ensure panellists and assessors refer to the category descriptors during the panel discussion, so it is vital you align your application to those descriptors.

Self-assess where you are on the assessment matrix for Project Impact; members of the assessment panel will focus on the matrix to ensure meaningful discussions around individual projects. 

 

Be involved in an MRFF Grant Assessment Committee (GAC)

By contributing to MRFF via a GAC you will attain a greater understanding of the assessment and discussion process including ‘what scores well’ and ‘what to avoid’, thereby leveraging your capacity to self-determine if your own applications align with the descriptors for the highest score possible.

 

Grantspersonship

It’s critical to present a polished application so your assessors can quickly understand and appreciate your case for funding. Polished means using accessible language, a logical hierarchy of information, persuasive arguments, and proofreading. Consider enlisting your colleagues, particularly those who don’t know your work or work in your field, to review and comment constructively (and honestly) on your application. Remember, panel members may not be experts in your area, so write for a general audience and avoid jargon. And assessors may review grants at the end of the day, potentially when they’re tired. Try to write clearly and concisely to lead them through your story.

 

Ultimately, it is clear that taking the time to ensure strong alignment between the Project Impact section and Measures of Success statement can pay dividends when your application gets to the GAC and may indeed improve your chances of funding success.

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