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Writing a grant application

Diabetes UK only funds the highest quality research. The selection process for our research funding is independent and decisions are based on the views of world-class researchers and people affected by diabetes.

Below are some tips for writing your grant application.

Essential pre-application reading

Write a good plain English summary

All Diabetes UK grant applications are reviewed by our Grants Advisory Panel: a group of people affected by diabetes. Their role is to reflect the collective perspective of people with or at risk of diabetes and feedback on whether your research is a priority for them. They will review your plain English summary only, so a clear and accessible summary is essential.

Do not underestimate the importance of this section. GAP's recommendations influence the funding decisions made by Diabetes UK’s Research Committee. They will comment and score your project based on how understandable the plain English summary is, and how relevant your research is to the needs of people with or at risk of diabetes. 

Translating scientific summaries into plain English

We strongly encourage you to ask someone without a scientific background to review your plain English summary before you submit.

A good lay summary should include:

  • Context: Why are you doing the research? What is the motivation behind the research application? Were the questions and outcome measures informed by patients’ priorities, experience, and preferences?
  • Aims: State clearly the aims and objectives for a lay audience. What do you hope to find?
  • Strategy: Describe clearly what you are actually going to do throughout the project.
  • Impact: Explain how achieving the research objectives will benefit people with diabetes and what the next proposed action will be if the research objectives are not met.
  • Data on the number of people affected by the condition (e.g. for a specific complication of diabetes).
  • Details of how people with diabetes will be involved in the study design, delivery and/or as research participants. How will they be supported (e.g. will they be provided any training?) and what incentives will they receive for their involvement?
  • Details on whether patient involvement impacted the methods to be used in the research.
  • Timescale to impact on the lives of people with diabetes, and reasons why.
  • Basic science applications must clearly demonstrate how your research relates to diabetes and how it could provide valuable insights for future research and/or translation into clinical practice.

A good lay summary should avoid:

  • Detailed explanations of what diabetes is –  GAP are likely to know a lot about this and will want to know more about the particular research project.
  • Unnecessary jargon, abbreviations and technical terms wherever possible. If you have to use them provide a clear explanation.
  • Wordy sentences. Try to keep sentences short and simple, less than 25 words.
  • The whole scientific story. It’s a short summary – what are the ‘take-home messages’?
  • Using the scientific proposal with a few word changes. It is usually obvious when this is done, and it is important to realise that the plain English summary requires a different approach. 

Helpful resources for writing in plain English

Demonstrate how your research relates to diabetes

Diabetes UK funds research that has the greatest chance of improving the lives of people with diabetes. It is therefore important that you clearly communicate how your research relates to diabetes and fulfills this criteria. Please consider the following tips when writing your application:

  • Basic science applications must clearly demonstrate how their research relates to diabetes and how it could provide valuable insight for future research and/or translation into clinical practice.
  • Applicants whose expertise primarily relate to another field should seek to collaborate with relevant experts in diabetes, and people with diabetes where necessary. Your application should clearly indicate how your proposal is relevant to diabetes.
  • It is helpful to explain how your proposal relates to and furthers existing research.
  • Consider how you can involve people affected by diabetes throughout the research. Please refer to our Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) page for more information.

Ensure your research proposal is clear

  • Explain why your research is important. Provide preliminary data if appropriate.
  • Make sure your hypotheses are clear and are reflected in the methodology.
  • Explain what the outcome measures will be.
  • Identify and address any potential challenges or pitfalls – what will you do if your first aim doesn’t result in the outcomes you expected? Do you anticipate any challenges with recruitment or retention of participants? Have you considered a contingency plan?
  • Provide sufficient detail on the experiments and how they will be carried out to demonstrate understanding of what you are doing.
  • Give realistic sample sizes and power calculations based on evidence, including a statistical analysis plan.
  • Ensure that your design and analysis is optimal for your research study. This applies equally to studies in human diabetes as well as for animal models. Ask a statistician to review the study design, analysis and power calculations.
  • Clearly describe the future clinical benefits and timescales of practical improvements that could result from the research. Be realistic in these estimates.
  • Ensure that the costs associated with the research and staff time allocated to the research are realistic as these will be questioned by the Research Committee.

Applications that require statistical analysis

  • Details of the power calculations and derivation of sample size: applicants should ensure that this includes all of the information needed to replicate the calculations, details of which software or equations were used and which hypothesis test is being used. Details on where the information used in the calculations came from is also required.
  • Data Management: applicants should ensure that responsibilities relating to data collection, storage, verification and security are assigned to an individual with appropriate expertise in data management.
  • Staff on applications: we advise that support from a statistician is sought during the preparation of your application. Where support has been provided, the individual consulted should be named within the application. If continued support with analyses is provided during the lifetime of the grant, appropriate costs may be included for statistician time.

Before you click submit….

  • Ask at least one independent person to proof read your application – reviewers dislike typographical and grammatical errors because they could lead to reduced clarity and risk the reader misunderstanding your text.
  • Ensure the main research proposal is typed in the correct section of the online portal.
  • Ensure figures make sense and are correctly referenced in the text. Attach figures as an appendix, as the online portal will not allow embedded figures.
  • Make sure your research proposal is correctly referenced. 

Helpful resources

  • Research Design Services is part of a network of regional support services funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). The service provides support to those preparing research proposals for submission to peer-reviewed funding competitions for applied health or social care research. The service requires at least 6 weeks to review an application once submitted.
  • AMS Framework for Multimorbidity Research  was developed to drive research into multimorbidity. The resource is designed to support researchers contributing to develop an understanding of global health challenge to multimorbidity.
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