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12 top tips for writing a grant application

Sitting down to write a grant application? Recently submitted a proposal or been successful in the last MRC board round? Building grant writing skills is a great way to help secure funding. With experience of working with various MRC boards and panels, Dr David Crosby, Programme Manager for Methodology and Experimental Medicine, has a pretty good idea of what they’re looking for. Here he describes how to master the application process and make your grant stand out from the rest.

A woman typing at a laptop

1. Allow plenty of time

Everything takes longer than you think it will. No matter how simple it may seem to pull together a project there are lot of different steps, some more time-consuming than others, involved in submitting a proposal.

2. Choose your funder and scheme carefully

It’s good to talk! Speak to the funders – we’re here to help. Ask us questions to get an insight into what we’re interested in. Sign up for information feeds, find out what kind of research is in a funder’s remit and read through guidance and eligibility criteria carefully. We don’t want you wasting your time – or ours – applying for an inappropriate scheme. Read more

Unveiling the genetic potential of UK Biobank

The immense value of UK Biobank as a resource for studying the genetics behind complex traits and diseases is demonstrated for the first time in a genetic study of lung health, published today. With all genotype data from UK Biobank to be made available next year, here Professor of Genetic Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Leicester Martin Tobin shares his experience and exciting study findings.

Super computer at the University of Leicester

The ALICE super computer at the University of Leicester, which processed the data (Image credit: University of Leicester)

UK Biobank is the largest European biobank available to date. Set up in 2006 and part-funded by the MRC, it is a huge resource containing data from 502,682 UK individuals. Participants have provided a range of information about their lifestyles, physical characteristics and health, and they will be followed up for at least 25 years.

We were really excited about the potential value of this data to our research which led us to conduct the first ever genetic association analyses in UK Biobank, the UK Biobank Lung Exome Variant Evaluation (UK BiLEVE) study.

By extracting DNA from participants’ banked blood samples, we analysed the genomes of a subset of UK Biobank participants, 50,008 in total selected according to their measures of lung health and whether or not they smoked. Read more

Behind the picture: Sir John Sulston’s worm cell drawings

Sir John Sulston is best known for the leading role he played in the Human Genome Project. But earlier in his career, he studied the development of the nematode worm. Sarah Harrop tells the story behind a lab notebook entry which contributed to a Nobel Prize-winning breakthrough.

Sketches showing coloured representations of how nematode worm cells divide

A page from John Sulston’s 1980 lab notebook showing his cell-tracking method (Image: Wellcome Images under CC BY 4.0)


These intricate biro scribblings are from the 1980 lab notebook of Sir John Sulston, completed when he was a young postdoc at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge. They’re the result of hours spent staring at the embryos of nematode worms under the microscope, hand-drawing their tiny cells as they divided.

Early 1980s technology wasn’t up to photographing the cells at a high enough resolution to see them dividing. So John took on the ambitious task of watching and recording each and every cell division of the developing embryo to trace the origin of each cell. Read more