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Applying for a grant of sea time on CSIRO research vessel (RV) Investigator is a competitive process but doesn't need to be daunting! To help applicants, we’ve gathered advice from members of the independent committees who oversee and assess applications for sea time to find out what makes a good application.

“One of the key things that stands out for me is that the applicants actually make the case for why the research should be conducted – not just what research they are proposing, but why it is important to do it, and to do it now, and what value added by this new body of knowledge. Making the link to national value is also essential, but the research quality assessment will also look for the value to scientific advancement as a whole.”

—Advice from Dr Sue Barrell, MNF Steering Committee Chair (2019-2023)

Advice from other members of the MNF Steering Committee, the National Benefit Advisory Committee and the Research Advisory Committee, on what makes a strong application:

  1. The MNF wants you to succeed and is here to help you get the best out of the process. Talk to us if you have any questions. If you are uncertain on what might be possible for RV Investigator to deliver or have questions on considerations/constraints with science systems offered through the MNF, make contact early to discuss your ideas. There are also a range of ways you can get your research onboard with Primary, Supplementary and Piggyback application pathways and considering the size and scope of your project will help determine the best option. You can even talk to us about whether RV Investigator is the best vessel for your research.
  2. It sounds simple but, read and understand the questions asked and review the guidance material. Answer the question in the text box provided – do not rely on links or attachments to answer the question. Be realistic and succinct, rather than aspirational or grandiose in your answers, especially in relation to national benefit. 
  3. Clearly explain both the significance of the research you are proposing in the context of your field(s) as well as the impact on broader society. We want to understand what you propose to do, how you propose to do it and why, what the inputs, outputs, outcomes, outreach will be, and the expected impact. 
  4. For Stream 1 applications, we want to know you have co-conceived and co-designed the project with next-and/or end-users, so clearly identify and engage with end-users of you research early. This is essential. Approaching an end user and saying “we have this project that is going to do A, B and C, and will help you with D. Will you write a letter of support?” is not co-conception/co-design. Ensure your collaborative engagement and communication is end-to-end.
  5. Early consideration is essential for partnership and engagement with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities that will be part of your proposal. You need to demonstrate you have co-conceived and co-designed the project with Traditional Owners, that your engagement is genuine, and you are considering Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and communities in relation to your research well beyond the voyage. 
  6. Ensure you have a strong indication about what you are going to do post-voyage. Make sure that you clearly show the pathway for ongoing collaboration, on the voyage and in the post-voyage analysis and research outcomes. You should have a theory of change that demonstrates a pathway to impact and must extend beyond an expectation that decision-makers will read and act on your results in published in high impact journals. Is there a wrap up/evaluation element (to consider what worked, or could work better)?
  7. Looking to the next generation, clearly demonstrate how the younger scientists (graduates and early career researchers) are going to explicitly benefit from the voyage experience, what their learning opportunities will be, both in the science itself and in the planning and conduct of the research.
  8. Training and capacity building should show evidence of strong consideration of how you will deliver against it and what outputs and impacts that might flow as a result. Aspirational statements that don’t demonstrate any real plan for delivery are likely to weaken your application.
  9. Explore and understand the true capabilities of the MFP (Marine Facilities Planning) platform and systems available (or not) to ensure the project methodology is appropriate and achievable.
  10. For Partnerships and Policy driven applications, your research should align with national interests, be likely to deliver upon national needs, have a path to impact and the right team to deliver benefit to justify investment of MNF resources. It is very important to co-conceive, co-design and collaborate with your next- and/or end-users before you start your application, describe what you have done in your application and articulate how your research will benefit next- and/or end-users and the nation.
  11. If you are interested in applying for Stream 4, discuss your ideas with the MNF to consider how it will fit and should be framed.
  12. If you are applying for Stream 5, reach out to MNF in the first instance.
  13. If you are uncertain on what might be possible for the ship to deliver or considerations/constraints with science systems offered through the MNF, make contact early to discuss your ideas.

Lastly, make sure you reach out to with any questions, and ensure you get your applications submitted in MFP by the advertised application deadline.

We look forward to receiving your application.

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