Tiina Petänen

Applicant feedback on autumn 2022 call provides valuable information to make the process run smoother

29 Dec 2022

Each year after the autumn call, we collect comments from applicants and research services personnel on the flow of the application process. A total of 635 people responded to this round’s survey in October 2022, which puts the response rate at 22%. The results show that 55% of the respondents had applied for Academy Project funding, 38% for an Academy Research Fellowship, 4% for other funding and 3% represented research services. Thank you very much to all those who responded.

Research plans submitted again as a PDF attachment

In the autumn 2022 call, applicants could submit their research plans as an attachment to the application. 88% of the respondents felt that the return to the previous practice was successful: 32% found it good and 56% very good. In the previous call, the research plan was written on the application form with an editor. Applicants were also relatively satisfied with this solution, but based on the feedback we received, we decided to return to the PDF research plan under certain conditions.

We received some development proposals for the functionality of the Word and LaTeX templates, and we will focus on them in spring 2023. We will also improve the instructions for the online services in this respect.

Feedback on instructions and guidance (Ask & Apply)

In 2022, we organised seven Ask & Apply webinars, which attracted around 1,500 participants. Based on the feedback, only one-third of the respondents watched the webinars or the replays. However, the overall number of participants was 15% higher than in the previous year.

80% of the respondents found the information they needed in the call text. The respondents considered the instructions for the different sections of the call text to be mainly clear and understandable. Preparing the project’s funding plan was considered the most difficult aspect; it inspired the largest number of questions (28% of respondents).

Of the Academy’s social media channels (Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook), Twitter was the most popular (30% of respondents). However, it is notable that 64% of the respondents said that they did not follow the Academy on social media at all.

We also asked what the most desirable channel for application guidance would be: The online ‘Questions and feedback’ form (i.e. helpdesk) received 24% support and a chat function proposed as a new feature received 31% support. 20% of the respondents would like to receive guidance by email. Only 3% favoured Twitter.

Revised Academy Research Fellowship scheme

In November 2022, we organised a discussion for those applying for Academy Research Fellowships to collect applicants’ experiences of the application process. The most popular discussion concerned the preparation of the funding plan and the writing of the ‘Merits and increased competencies’ section. The same issues were also raised in the written feedback received in the applicant survey.

In the preparation of the budget, the respondents praised the support of their host organisation (51% of respondents). The support provided by the site of research when determining the funding to be applied for is important also because the organisation is financially committed to the project. We received a great deal of questions about why we had not announced the maximum funding limits for each research council. Our idea is that funding for the project can be applied for according to the needs of the research. In some fields, it is most appropriate to apply for funding for a small team, in others not.

Writing the ‘Merits and increased competencies’ section was considered difficult on the one hand, but a good way to describe one’s career in a wider sense on the other hand. The length of the section was considered somewhat short. Many applicants felt it was difficult to fit all the essential information within a certain limit, which is why they called for more detailed instructions on what to write in the section. We will take this feedback into account in the planning of the next application round.

Some applicants were also concerned about whether the review adequately considers the different stages of the research career. This issue has been particularly emphasised in the instructions given to the reviewers.

Research information system to be revamped

We are currently working on revamping our research information system. In the feedback survey, we asked applicants whether they were willing to participate in the redesign of the online services. The first user tests start in January 2023. Thank you to all those who registered as volunteers to help us develop our new system.

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