How to apply for the KT Boost Fund - and other grants
Prof. Dr. Bernhard Renard
Bernhard Renard is the head of the KT Boost selection committee. Oya Cingöz has been a KT Boost fellow since 2022. Here are their best tips.
»Take the perspective of the reviewers«
With reviewers looking at hundreds of applications with limited time, the easier and more accessible you make your application to read and understand, the better, explained Bernhard. Can they find the information they are looking for quickly?
You need to convince the reviewers that you have thought your project through and that it fits the funding scheme; that you know the relevant literature; that you have a realistic goal of what you want to achieve within two years. And that you know what budget you need to accomplish this.
Since you only have two pages to describe your project idea, Oya focused on What am I planning to do? Why is that important? How am I doing it? What do I expect?
The GSO’s best tips
- Check the guidelines, webinar presentation and FAQ – formalities are important!
- Make sure you can explain the »Boost« – especially if you are already a group leader
- Write your application clearly and accessible – so that reviewers who might not be experts from your field get what you project is about
»What’s a good project idea?«
Oya and Bernhard agreed to choose a topic you are passionate and enthusiastic about. It is a tough job to sell ideas convincingly – and it shows in your application if you are fully behind your idea.
Sure, reviewers are looking for excellent, cool, novel, and interdisciplinary ideas – but with the limited amount of funding and time let’s also be realistic: You should have a good idea that you have not yet already been working on for the past years – but it does not need to be the biggest idea covering several research fields with a technique no one has ever used before resulting in three Nature publications.
Have a look at our current and previous fellows on the program website to see what ideas they came up with.
The importance of the »Boost« – Make it visible in your application
The KT Boost intends to positively impact the career of scientists. That’s why the selection committee wants to learn why and how this funding will make a difference to you. You can be honest here, explained Bernhard, yet, also be realistic about what is possible with this funding for the next step in your career.
Oya took the following questions as a guideline to tell her story: Where have I been in my career? What am I doing now? What am I trying to achieve? And how is this funding helping on my way?
For example, this could be to hire a Postdoc or Ph.D. student for the first time to build up leadership / To prepare experiments needed to apply for bigger funding where prior results are expected / To change your field of research / To re-enter science after time-outs /To add a missing puzzle piece before the next career step becomes accessible.
»Think like a project manager« – Also in preparing your application
In comparison to some other funding schemes, e.g. of the DFG or the European Commission, the Boost Fund is simple and compact. Nevertheless: Start early – things usually take longer than expected. This might be the case if you need other stakeholders – for signing your institution’s support letter or for calculating the personnel budget including all employer’s expenses.
So count backwards from the end what you need to do until when at the latest – and leave room for delays and feedback. You should have your project idea, aims, milestones, and goals ready before you can set up a realistic budget plan.
When planning your milestones and expected results, consider using a Gantt chart to make your timeline accessible to the reader. Your project can take up to 24 months – and the reviewers do not look for the speediest project, but for those that are feasible and well thought through – even if you have to adjust the timeline later.
»You can’t write a good grant application all alone« – The importance of feedback and how to get it
Many young researchers do not have a mentor for regular support. That is why Oya recommends proactively reaching out, for instance to your PI, colleagues, to professors you met before, or to your former Ph.D. supervisor. Create your chances by asking to meet for a coffee or online to discuss your application.
Be specific about what feedback you are looking for. One very important aspect: Is your application clear and understandable – also to a broader audience?
Since reviewers might not be that familiar with your specific field, Oya recommends getting feedback from both: someone from your field – and someone from outside.