22 January 2019 • Gideon Wille
Researchers learn practical skills
How to set up and carry out a scientific research project is something our researchers already know plenty about. But when it comes to writing an effective grant application, or managing a project, they still have room to learn. Which is why an experienced and beginning researcher both decided to complete the ‘Building Blocks for successful practice oriented research’ course.
For the past four years, Julie Lehmann has been focusing primarily on her doctoral research project into savings groups, a specific kind of microfinancing. “I conducted the doctoral research by myself, but applying for a grant is a cooperative effort that involves partners. I had zero experience with applying for research funding. Even though in the future, that will be vital since all professors will be required to secure outside financial support. But how do you get that money? How do you work with others to that end? That’s something I was extremely interested in learning.”
Link to real-world practice
Thanks to the course, Julie now knows what a path to grant funding might be like if she were to decide to pursue a follow-up study. Research at a university of applied sciences is practice-oriented, whereas at a research university, it is aimed more at filling in gaps in knowledge. “Practical demand is so important: it’s what makes or breaks a grant application for a university of applied sciences. With my doctoral project, I was leaning more towards the type of study conducted at a research university. The course, however, made it clear to me how important the link to real-world practice is. One of the class sessions focused on formulating a demand: what do those in professional practice want? What do they need from me, the researcher, and how can I best respond? The course really inspired me in that regard.”
Monique Berger, former project lead in a study of what makes the perfect sports wheelchair, is responsible for a portion of FAST@HOME, a research project aimed at in-home rehabilitation through the use of e-health. So why did an experienced researcher like Monique take part in the class?
“While I’ve submitted multiple research applications, in the past I’ve always done so based on my gut feeling. I’d like to take part in a European research project some time. A lot of my research involves paralympic sports, but that only involves a limited number of people in the Netherlands. To ensure sufficient size in your research population, you need to expand the study to include other countries. I wanted to find out what it takes to request an international grant. And I’d like to submit another RAAK application, too; by taking the course, I’ve already laid the groundwork. What’s more, competition is increasing — so it’s good to learn all you can about grant applications.”
Like Julie, Monique found the class on formulating demand to be very informative; she took away a lot of knowledge from the last session on project management, as well. “I was a project manager for four years, in which time I ran into a number of problems. Now, I gained some good tips, such as appointing a steering committee to monitor and ensure the progress of the research. I also understand the importance of an ethics committee in connection with things like data privacy and so on. For us, this is an area for attention: other universities of applied sciences are further along in that regard.”
Something both researchers found inspiring was the fact that each session of the course was held at a different university of applied sciences. The course is a joint effort by eight universities of applied sciences, including THUAS; each university of applied sciences was responsible for preparing one of the lessons. Monique: “You can truly learn from one another and it gives you a chance to observe the differences that exist in ‘research land’.
The course helped senior researcher Monique Berger learn more about applying for international research grants.