5 Top Tips for a Successful Research Grant
Dr. Bassam Alameddine, Associate Professor of Organic Chemistry and Director of GUST’s Graduate Studies and Research Office, is the recent recipient of a $330,000 research grant from the esteemed Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences. We interviewed Dr. Alameddine about his extensive experience and he provided five helpful tips for researchers to follow while preparing research grants.
Q1: Can you share your top tips to help researchers secure grant approval?
Innovation: I would emphasize innovation as the main driving force to get a research grant proposal funded. This is the key ingredient to make a project stand out and demonstrate the novelty of a person or team’s approach to the discovery of new knowledge.
Multidisciplinary Research addressing Global Challenges: We live in a dynamic and fast-paced changing world where academic fields are getting more interconnected than ever. Therefore, a multidisciplinary proposal with a focus on the global challenges has increasing chances of acceptance. There are, of course, the added benefits of bringing different perspectives to bear on an issue.
Clarity: Clearly stating the project’s objectives along with a well-structured timeframe to accomplish the goals is very helpful in order to convince the funding body about the project’s success. The idea of clarity may seem obvious, but many rejected grants often face difficulties with expressing their objectives, methods and timeline in a succinct and approachable fashion.
Contingency Plan: Unexpected challenges are part of almost any research project. While it is obviously not easy (nor realistic) to be able to predict the nature of these challenges, it is possible to know they might occur. Therefore, researchers should include a contingency plan in case the main research topic face hurdles of any kind. This will reassure the finding bodies that the project has a high degree of success even if challenges arise.
Hope: Finally, do not to give up hope if a project gets rejected. On the contrary, use the reviewers’ critiques and comments about the project constructively to improve the proposal. Just as with publishing, it is through an iterative process of peer input and review that helps us to advance our collective understanding.
Q2: You’ve recently been assigned as the Graduate Studies & Research (GSR) Office Director. What does this position entail?
A lot of responsibilities and a busy schedule, I can say! It is worth mentioning that our President, Professor Walid Bouhamra, is the one behind the idea of establishing the GSR office to serve the university at large, and drive forward academic research, as well as launch new graduate studies programs.
The GSR office includes three units:
1. Graduate Studies (GS): Besides managing and ensuring the delivery of high-quality standards of the MBA program, the GS oversees setting the foundation for five new masters’ programs in accounting, computer science, English literature, management information system, and mass communication.
2. Research and Development (RD): The main task of the RD is to help our faculty attract funding for their research projects, offer professional development support in research related areas, and manage the ongoing research projects. In addition, the unit offers faculty internal seed grants of up to 3,000 Kuwaiti Dinars (USD $9,900). In December 2019, we celebrated the distribution of seed grants to twelve faculty members for projects spanning areas such as artificial intelligence, cancer research, and behavioral psychology.
3. Research Centers (RC): The RC unit serves the four research centers at GUST: Center of Applied Mathematics and Bioinformatics (CAMB), Center for Teaching, Learning and Research (CTLR), Global Studies Center (GSC), and Gulf Financial Center (GFC). Besides carrying out research in social, natural, and applied sciences, the centers host social and professional workshops and talks that serve both the GUST community and Kuwaiti society.
Q3: In your opinion, what makes a research project stand out?
First and foremost, how innovative - yet realistic - the research project is. A second criterion that I would consider is to how does a project serve Kuwait and the region through the acquisition of knowledge and transferring technology to researchers and students.
Q4: How many grants have you applied for vs received throughout your career?
I am fortunate enough to have succeeded in all of my funding requests. In Kuwait, and thanks to the support of GUST and the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS), I was able to establish the Functional Materials Group (FM2GUST). The latest research grant that we acquired from KFAS in December 2019 was for 100,250 Kuwaiti Dinars (USD $330,800) for our project whose total budget exceeds 220,250 Kuwaiti Dinars (USD $727,000).
Q5: Can you tell us about FM2GUST’s most significant ongoing research projects?
The main research area of our group is to design new versatile materials that trap gases which are harmful to the environment, such as carbon dioxide (CO2). We also make new products to stock gases that can be used as fuel, such as hydrogen (H2) and methane (CH4). In addition, our group develops smart materials that can be used in electronics, such as, flexible displays.
Q6: How long have you been at GUST?
I joined GUST in September 2010 after holding academic positions across multiple universities, namely in Switzerland, Lebanon, and Saudi Arabia. I still vividly remember my first impression of amazement about GUST as a private institute with a bold futuristic vision, offering a unique academic environment, with hand-picked faculty members and staff from diverse academic and cultural backgrounds.
Thank you, Dr. Bassam for an insightful interview!