This is a very exciting time for us. We are again in the middle of another bumper grants round with 23 full applications received. We have received applications from researchers already known to us, new and international researchers, allowing us to further widen our researcher network.
Full applications give a detailed plan of what the project is about, what the main aims are and how these will be met. Preliminary data can also be provided within the application form to strengthen the proposal, as well as costs.
January marks the start of a very busy time for the grants team. The next step for each application once received is to be processed and then sent out externally for peer review.
External Peer Review
This is a huge task as we need to source at least two to three referees per application. These referees are international scientists within the MND research community who kindly provide their expertise to the Association. They are asked to use their expert knowledge for certain parts of an application, which will in turn be taken into consideration by our Biomedical Research Advisory Panel (BRAP) before, and during, their meeting in April.
Sourcing these referees takes time and involves approaching scientists from all over the world. We have to make sure these researchers have the appropriate background to enable them to review applications thoroughly and fairly. This process allows us to gain expert knowledge and opinions on each application, which the panel members can then take into consideration when internally reviewing applications and in round-table discussions.
To ensure our applications are adequately reviewed we need at least 69 scientists to agree to review for this particular round (three per application).
Our very rigorous application process ensures we only fund projects of the highest quality and of direct relevance to MND.
Once this process has been completed, the applications are then sent out to be reviewed by individual members of our BRAP, who in turn will present these applications at their meeting, enabling discussion and recommendations to be made. The panel’s recommendations are then taken to our Board of Trustees for approval.
BRAP does Strictly
Our BRAP meetings can be explained in the context of Strictly Come Dancing. We have a panel of judges, (though slightly more than four) which are our BRAP members, and yes, for each application there is always a Craig and a Bruno! Our panel review, discuss and score the applications just like the judges on Strictly review and score the contestants.
Our own Brian Dickie plays the part of Brucie, hosting and keeping the judges under control. Myself and Sadie play the roles of Tess and Claudia, helping the applicants (contestants) through the application process from start to finish, feeding back to them every step of the way, while our Board of Trustees are the audience, making the decision on who stays (award grants to) and who goes (reject).
Last round winners of an MND Association Prize Studentship (glitter ball trophy) were:
- Prof Catherina Becker, University of Edinburgh
- Prof Kay Davies, University of Oxford
- Dr Kurt de Vos, University of Sheffield (SITraN)
- Dr Frank Hirth, Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College London
- Prof Julie Snowden, University of Manchester
- Dr Richard Wade-Martins, University of Oxford