Preparing new proposals in light of EPSRC’s policy on resubmissions

EPSRC does not accept uninvited resubmissions of proposals to help reduce the pressure on everyone involved in our peer review process. EPSRC expects submitted proposals to have been carefully planned, written, and checked, so it is highly competitive for funding. Applicants should submit fewer, higher quality proposals so reviewers can spend more time reviewing each one. This will produce well considered reviews, benefiting applicants, panel members, and the wider community.

To help explain what constitutes a resubmission, EPSRC asked experienced and diverse peer reviewers what they think differentiates a new proposal from a resubmission:

In order to succeed with a new proposal and differentiate it from a resubmission I think that it is important to reformulate the idea with a different focus and modified objectives. I try to use the constructive comments from the reviewers on the previous proposal and, depending on what they have said, either focus down and tighten up the proposal or consider expanding the objectives by bringing in collaborators who can add a new dimension to the proposal. If it has been possible to do some work in the area, then, including new preliminary results is helpful, and this often opens up new directions that can be capitalised upon in the new proposal.

Professor Paul Raithby, Department of Chemistry, University of Bath

For me, a new proposal would be warranted if it concerned a separate topic from a previous proposal or introduced a major new concept that hadn’t been part of a previous proposal.

Professor Ian White, Department of Engineering, University of Cambridge

I think that a good ‘litmus test’ is that a new proposal would have a different set of objectives to any other previously submitted. I think it is important that researchers are not anxious about submitting proposals that really are different for fear that they may be branded as resubmission. As reviewers, we should remember that many excellent researchers naturally tend to follow a particular line of research enquiry in their work. This inherently means that they will be using a similar overall approach to a set of problems, or will be attacking closely related problems in several grants. However, as prospective principal investigators, it is important that we reconsider all aspects of a proposal. The best way to do this is to start with a blank sheet for every new grant, and resist the temptation to use a previous ‘near miss’ as a starting point. Having said that, I certainly see no problem with the re-use, where appropriate, of referee-favoured aspects of a previous unfunded proposal.

Professor Mark Harman, Department of Computer Science, King’s College London

I would expect to see a new idea that didn’t appear in the original proposal. This could be a new way of doing the project or substantially changed aims. Whatever the change was, I would expect it to come from the applicants and not merely be in response to specific comments made by reviewers for the original proposal.

Professor David Hukins, School of Mechanical Engineering, University of Birmingham

Considerations when Preparing New Proposals

EPSRC expects previously unfunded proposals to be substantially changed before being submitted for funding again. If you amend a past proposal to only account for panel and reviewer comments or other minor changes, the application will be rejected as a resubmission. When preparing a new proposal, consult the Writing proposals and choosing reviewers page.

Examine the first draft of your new application critically, asking yourself the following questions:

  • Are the overall aims and high-level objectives largely the same?
  • Is the general scientific approach used to meet these objectives broadly the same?
  • Is the team of investigators and researchers similar?
  • Are the resources required mostly the same?

If the answer to most of these questions is ‘yes’, particularly the first and second question, it is likely your proposal would be considered a resubmission. Therefore, ensure new applications have different aims and objectives, target a different problem, or establishes a programme using different techniques.

If you still have questions after going through this process, contact the relevant Portfolio Manager for your area to discuss further. EPSRC staff are happy to discuss general principals regarding the policy, but cannot discuss the details of a particular proposal. Contact details for all EPSRC staff can be found on the contact us page.