How Research Grants for ‘Digital’ Projects (Sometimes Don’t) Work

Winning grants for research projects can be difficult – and even more so if you:

  1. are an early career researcher,
  2. are doing something that is not ‘mainstream’,
  3. are using the ‘f’ word too much (no, not ‘funding’, I mean ‘feminist’),
  4. don’t have the time or experience or teams or funds or support to work on a number of grant applications (from the small to the large),
  5. are doing something ‘digital’ in a traditionally ‘non-digital’ discipline.

In the case of this project, I am happy to have received even a modest amount of seed funding – just enough to cover some of the costs of developing the App and a few events. The funding is from three departments/organisations at Goldsmiths: the Women’s Art Library, the Public Engagement Grants and the CIG Research Development Grants. These grants are designed to support researchers faced with the types of problems listed above.

But be aware – having grants awarded to your project doesn’t mean you can always use the funds as initially specified! There can be unexpected disconnects between what funders are willing to support and what host institutions can expense, particularly when it comes to ‘digital’ projects that involve ‘buying hardware’ or ‘developer fees’ – expenses that seem to not always fit well with Finance’s rules. Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Always be clear in grant applications about what you need the funds for (this helped me enormously!) – if it won’t help you use funds, it may help you find work-arounds.
  2. Have early discussions with the host department about how you plan to use funds received from grants and resolve any discrepancies before the expenses are made.
  3. Acquaint yourself with the ‘Finance department’ – consider meeting with Finance to discuss the grants received and confirm the use of funds fits institutional rules.


(Feature ‘Pound’ image from


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