SAGE Concept Grants: Advice for applicants

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SAGE Concept Grants

In case you missed the post on SAGE Ocean, now in its fourth year, the SAGE Concept Grant program is inviting applications for new software tools that support social science research.

First launched in 2018, the Concept Grant program was initially conceived to provide funding for software tools that supported the use of computational methods in social science research.

This year, we are excited to be expanding the scope of the grant program to now invite applications for research tools that support novel applications of a broad range of traditional and emerging methods. We’re interested in hearing from you if you’re developing software that introduces an exciting new way of approaching social science methods, helps social scientists save time during the research process, to start applying new skills and methods with minimal training, or simplify the collection, cleaning and/or analysis of data. You can find out more about what we’re looking for here.

If you’re not sure whether your research tool fits the bill, or if you want pointers for building a strong application, then this blog post is for you. We’ve put together the following advice for applicants based on our feedback for previous years’ applicants, and the criteria we’ll be using to judge this year’s applications.

Your main users must be social science researchers 

  • We are interested in tools specifically for social science researchers. However, if your tools is currently used by STEM researchers, or academics from other disciplines, we will consider your application only if you can demonstrate its applicability to social science. You’ll need to consider what tools social scientists are currently using to achieve the same thing, and what would incentivize them to use your tool over others.We know that many of the tools social scientists are using originated in other disciplines, so we definitely consider such tools, but we have to understand how and whether you’ve considered social science academics as your main use case.

Your tool must have to do with the research process

  • The purpose of the SAGE Concept Grants is to support tools that address the challenges social science researchers face during the research process itself, including data access and collection, experiment design and implementation, and enabling the use of new and unfamiliar research methods. Any applications that focus instead on specific societal challenges that researchers can help to solve will be out of scope for this grant.

A well-defined problem space 

  • You must have a clear idea of the problem that your software tool solves, and be able to define it succinctly. It’s important to illustrate the problem from the perspective of the user or researcher, rather than simply focusing on the features of your tool in their own right. It might be that there’s nothing like your tool that currently exists, but that being the case is not a sufficient analysis of the problem space. It’s worth considering why it doesn’t exist: Is the problem space only just emerging? What other factors are affecting how researchers are working in this space? And crucially, is the problem big enough to justify building a new tool to address it?   

A good understanding of your competitors

  • Before applying, you should have a solid understanding of your tool’s competitors. Your competitors will not necessarily be an exact copy of your technology, rather the next best solution that your target researcher is currently using. Remember, academics are creative and innovative: They will go out of their way to figure out how to do something, even when there is no technology that can easily support that. So even if you think there is no direct competitor, there will always be some alternative that researchers are using, DIY or not. You should consider, why would your target audience choose to use your tool over the other options they already have available? A good starting point for getting to know the landscape is this list of more than 500 research software tools compiled by the SAGE team, and the associated whitepaper.

Consider how you will keep your tool sustainable once the grant money runs out.  

  • Instead of a ‘build it and they will come’ approach, think about the life of your software tool after the grant and consider ideas for ensuring the tool’s sustainability. With the SAGE Concept Grants we support all models that can help sustain a tool for the long-term, be it open or closed source, free for academics or not. 

You can find more information about the SAGE Concept Grants and links to apply here.

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