BBSRC and MRC seek to establish a group of challenge-led, interdisciplinary research networks that will bring together novel and diverse groupings of researchers and stakeholders. The aim is to enhance collaboration, building interdisciplinary communities and knowledge exchange in the field of ageing research.
Research in this area has tended to take a reductionist view, focusing on single aspects of the ageing process. There is now a need to integrate expertise and knowledge across disciplines in order to deliver a better understanding of the trajectories that underpin the ageing process across the life course.
Integrative approaches leveraging the expertise of molecular, cellular, organismal and population level research offer the potential to identify key ageing pathways, biomarkers and intervention strategies.
Linking across disciplines will enable a broad spectrum of researchers to work together to understand how we might:
- increase healthspan and quality of life in old age
- address health inequalities
- strengthen overall resilience.
Applicants are therefore encouraged to include a diverse range of disciplines and stakeholders to ensure the outcomes and impacts of work undertaken by the network are maximised, including representatives from:
- environmental sciences
- physical and engineering sciences
- economic and social sciences.
Wider engagement with stakeholders from industry, the charity sector and individuals with lived experience is also encouraged. It is anticipated representatives from these types of organisations would be involved as project partners, network members or external advisory group members.
We strongly encourage applicants to think creatively and to form networks around key challenge areas in the ageing field.
Applicants may wish to consider aligning their network to one of the research themes listed below, but these do not represent an exhaustive list:
- the mechanistic basis of lifespan and healthspan
- ageing immune system
- cognitive health
- extrinsic factors that impact on healthy ageing.
These awards can be used flexibly to support a range of relevant and justified activities and should be used in such a manner as to best address the challenge.
We will not fund networks that are:
- focused solely on age-related disease or pathologies
- based solely on existing collaborations or existing networks.
Problems associated with the ageing process may end up causing disease, but the focus of the network needs to be on understanding the biological mechanisms of the challenge area and not on an age-related disease, for example, dementia.
Looking at early signs of an age-related disease is also not acceptable, as this is focused on disease.
Existing collaborations and networks
An existing collaboration is one that is already established and might have recently worked and published together. We understand groups of people will have previously worked together, but we want collaborations to be novel, or expand upon what has already been achieved and bring in new expertise and disciplines to address the challenge area.
Networks that include members who have worked together should aim to draw in new members who are yet to work together and look to incorporate members from a wider geographical area. It is important that you justify why you want to work with an existing collaboration and how you are bringing in new expertise.
Outcomes and outputs
Your network should:
- build a new interdisciplinary ageing research community, by:
- drawing in a broad range of disciplines
- attracting new expertise and partners to strengthen the UK ageing research base
- increase collaborations between:
- academic communities
- policy makers
- health practitioners
- civil society
- integrate ageing research communities to:
- gain new knowledge
- broaden science disciplines
- develop a more holistic approach to ageing research
- understand barriers to research innovation
- ensure widespread inequalities across the life course are considered and addressed
- deliver a tangible output relevant to the challenge being addressed (for example, white paper, framework for future activity, position statement)
- position collaborative groups to apply for future research funding opportunities.
Strong leadership and an inclusive approach to bringing innovation, building capacity and a diverse collaborative research community must be demonstrated.
A proactive and enthusiastic leadership team is an essential component of a successful network.
Networks should be inclusive and open and may grow and develop over the period of the award where this is relevant to the challenge.
Network management and governance
The network director must be the PI of the application. The network must have a co-director who must be a Co-I of the application.
The PI and Co-Is should all be involved in the management of the network and should have defined roles. A network manager is strongly encouraged
External advisory group
The network must have an external advisory group. The external advisory group should act as a ‘critical friend’ to the network, providing unbiased advice and support.
The membership of the proposed external advisory group should be detailed in the full proposal and include cross-sectoral and stakeholder representation. An expanded table of initial external advisory group members should be submitted using the template provided (see ‘additional information’).
No salary costs should be requested for members of the external advisory group.
The full economic cost of the network project can be up to £200,000. We will fund 80% of this, except the network manager salary and network event costs. We will fund these costs at 100%.
Salaries and support costs
The director of the network should be the named PI on the proposal and under full economic costing (at 80% of full economic cost) may request funds to cover their salary costs for the time spent developing and directing the network.
Requests can also be made for:
- one co-director who will be named as the Co-I to assist the network’s director in this role
- up to four other Co-Is.
It is envisaged that staff costs will not form the majority of costs of the proposal and should be reasonable.
Costs can be requested for an appropriately skilled network manager (full or part-time) to be responsible for activities such as:
- the day-to-day network management
- event coordination
- website development for the network.
As a community support role, the salary of the network manager can be requested at 100% fEC. The costing should be included in the ‘100% full economic cost exceptions spreadsheet’ in the ‘FEC exceptions’ tab, with all details included above the ‘DI- Staff (i.e., Network Manager, please fill…)’ subheading.
Recruited network managers or other administrative staff must be based permanently at an eligible UK institution in order to be eligible for salary costs.
No general estates and indirect costs should be claimed in association with the network manager’s role.
No other salary costs should be included.
These costs should be justified in the ‘justification of resources’ document.
Salary costs for members of the external advisory group or network members should not be included in the proposal.
Costs for supporting and facilitating network meetings and events can be requested at 100% fEC. These costs should be justified in the ‘justification of resources’ document.
No general estates and indirect costs should be claimed in association with network events.
Salaries and network event costs will represent the ‘core grant’.
General estates and indirect costs are not eligible for inclusion in the ‘core grant’ except where they relate to the PI or Co-Is salaries.
Costs requested at 100% fEC should be detailed in the ‘100% full economic cost exceptions spreadsheet’ (see additional information section below) and entered under the ‘exceptions’ heading on the Je-S form.
Some examples of networking events are:
- public dialogue
Pump-priming funds for allocation by the network should also be requested. The amount should be indicated and justified in the ‘justification of resources’ document.
These funds can be used for a range of projects, including:
- feasibility studies
- proof of concept studies
- generation of preliminary data
- method development
- tool or technology development
- desk-based studies
- lab exchange
- discipline and sector hopping
- writing policy documents
- commissioning reports and analysis
- early career research training.
It is envisaged that these funds will help to support the development of new interdisciplinary partnerships and foster the development of new approaches between network members.
Pump-priming funds will be funded at 80% fEC by the funders and should be allocated at 80% fEC for each project by the network’s host institution. It is anticipated that individual pump-priming awards will not exceed 25% of total requested cost.
The total amount requested for the pump-priming activities, including a component to cover estates and indirects, should be entered in the ‘directly incurred – other costs’ heading on the Je-S form.
You cannot request:
- salary costs for members of the external advisory group or network members
- international travel and subsistence
- overseas costs
- relocation costs
- publication costs
- cost of any time spent in quarantine as a result of travelling on this grant
- macro-coordination costs (to be decided separately)
- PhD stipends.