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Tips for application writing

Are you struggling to writing an application for a call on sustainable development? Do not despair! Below we have summarised 9 tips for you of things to think about, to facilitate the writing process.

Video on nine tips for writing research applications for calls on sustainable development and Agenda 2030.

9 tips for writing applications for calls on sustainable development and Agenda 2030

Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

  1. Focus of the call: Read the call text carefully, some funders have a greater focus on research excellence while others place more emphasis on collaborations, interaction with external actors, effects, etc. Does the question fit the call and does the methodology fit the questions? The quality of the application is always central. Is the focus at national or international level?
  2. The evaluators' backgrounds differ between financiers and different calls (can be both academic and external), for example, your “outreach” merits can be as important as your academic merits. (Google Scholar is a tool many external experts use.) Evaluations can also be done in several steps.
  3. Present a strong narrative in a pedagogical way (tell a story): The evaluators may not be experts in your field, so you need to write an application with a captivating and convincing story that is easy to absorb from a wider audience where you highlight the importance of your particular project/idea. A general tip is to "zoom in and out" based on societal relevance and the SDGs. Start in a broad context and zoom in on how your project/your research contributes to the solution/will have an impact/expected impact on society. The summary: be so specific that the reader understands what you are talking about, but do not go to deep into the details so that you lose those who are not experts on the topic.
  4. Addressing sustainability issues, societal relevance and SDGs in research projects begins already in the design phase. Use your partners’ (both academic and stakeholders) expertise and perspective to frame your project. Focus on the primary connection to some SDGs where you have indicators and/or can measure impact through your project. (You can mention connections to other SDGs but show/describe that these are further away.)
  5. Use a logical scheme (data pipeline): we will do this to achieve/contribute to this goal. Show innovative features.
  6. System approach - Be critical of your idea: show both synergies and potential conflicts. Can your project have negative effects in other areas? Reflect on how potential weaknesses are handled/eliminated? Are there a need of other complementary changes/pieces of the puzzle for your idea to have an impact (give positive effects/prevent negative development). Often, there is a request to answer strong international and universal issues, however, the project can be based on answering the question in a local context (development potential for future projects). 
  7. Reflect on how your project connects to other projects (completed, ongoing, upcoming). Linking to previous/ongoing projects, as well as showing a vision of how results, outcomes, tools and collaborations can live on strengthens your application.
  8. Start in time (preferably when you get the research idea - do not wait until you see the call). Involve partners (academic and stakeholders) at an early stage. Establishing new contacts takes time. Prioritize and be clear in the dialogue about what engagement is expected (links to resources, time and budget, as well as commitment, prioritized issues and risks). Be prepared to adapt issues, methods and strategies (kill your darlings).
  9. Timing is key. Your idea may be ahead of its time. Reuse and refine your application (in whole or in part) for upcoming calls or for other funders.