Example SOC proposal for MSCA IF: Impact (dissemination and communication, 2.2)

In 2015, sub-section 2.2 of my MSCA IF proposal on “Effectiveness of the proposed measures for communication and results dissemination”, in the Impact section, identified strategies for “exploiting” or “valorizing” possible business ideas stemming from the proposed work, as well as disseminating results and findings to academics, and communicating the value of research to non-academic audiences.

This example wasn’t funded in 2015, but was the following year when it was amended in response to reviewer comments. The full suite of posts I’m sharing on this proposal includes:
Abstract and Eval
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section
Final Report from 2016 submission

2     IMPACT

2.2  Effectiveness of the proposed measures for communication and results dissemination

Table 4: Integrated plan for data collection, outreach, and training (by host and partners)

Exploitation strategy.

To meet global challenges, engineering must become more flexible, creative, and socially responsive4, 5, 6. Dr. Chance’s work will help transform the culture of engineering education and track outcomes. Results will facilitate publication of a book and possible spin-off businesses in consulting both addressing Question Q5) What knowledge of epistemology and design thinking can help educators support student development?

There is global demand for dramatic changes in engineering today, but education leaders don’t yet know what to do. Dr. Chance and Prof. Tyler have fresh, innovative ideas that are based on their prior work. Their body of work can provide a solid foundation for this EF project. So far the thrust of modernization in engineering education has been to implement Student-Centered and Problem-Based Learning (PBL). Similar pedagogies have been used to teach architecture since the Renaissance and engineering is fostering a healthy new focus on teamwork. Bridging the best practices from these fields and supplementing them with research is essential. Collaboration among architecture and engineering educators is crucial for knowledge transfer. R&D Dr. Chance leads as an EF will reach:

  • 2nd level students (via outreach to STEMettes in the UK for girls ages 11-22, RoboSlam robot-building workshops in the UK and Ireland, and Perspektywy Education Foundation in Poland for supporting girls in STEM)
  • 3rd level students (through new UCL undergraduate engineering modules and Perspektywy mentorship programs)
  • 3rd level teachers (through new UCL post-graduate modules that exploit Dr. Chance’s research) (see also Table 4)

Exploitation activities will embed research findings (collected and/or generated by Dr. Chance) into project briefs and module descriptors. The new MSc programs will have tremendous positive impact. This MSc program (to be launched in 2016) will be unique. It will be the world’s first and only Masters-level program designed to help university tutors upgrade their teaching skills across the realm of engineering topics. (DIT is launching an MPhil to train engineering education researchers, and Aalborg offers an MSc in Problem-Based Learning.) UCL’s program has broad appeal and a captive audience, since every new university teacher in the UK must earn at least one credential in teaching and learning. Two other avenues for exploiting Dr. Chance’s research findings are the creation of new programs for Creative Industries Federation and the possible creation of a business to help organizations (universities, businesses, and corporations) design and implement more effective education and training programs.

Public engagement strategy.

Dr. Chance will encourage public interest and involvement through engineering activities and communication. During the EF, Dr. Chance will advise multiple organizations—assisting some with program evaluation, strategic vision, and grant-writing support—and conducting engineering events for various age groups. In the UK, Dr. Chance will make public presentations through Creative Industries Federation (CIF) and STEMettes. Activities for STEMettes will include STEM projects (for 50+ girls) plus one or more RobSlam robot-building workshops (for 20+ girls). Dr. Chance will seek opportunities to make school presentations, become a MSCA Ambassador, and deliver public talks. Communication activities involve attracting the attention of news outlets. Dr. Chance will write one or more articles for Perspektywy Magazine. To help attract attention of TV, radio, and newspapers in the UK, Dr. Chance will attend UCL workshops in media relations for researchers. A 2014 workshop she took on this topic helped gain recognition for her work and as a result she was quoted in an Irish Timesarticle on women in STEM. She will continue to build public relations skills using UCL’s exceptional resources. She will maintain an educational blog to increase public understanding of research topics and activities.

Table 5: Impact targets for communication and dissemination (see Table 4 for outreach targets)

Dissemination strategy.

Dr. Chance will disseminate research findings to international audiences via conference papers, journal articles, and publication of a 100,000-word handbook for educators with a comprehensive new set of resources on epistemological development and design thinking (addressing Q5). Its planning, compilation, and editing will take 2-2.5 years. It will likely include 10 chapters of new primary research by leading experts in various aspects of epistemological development and design thinking, 8 chapters summarizing and synthesizing existing theories and literature in new ways, and an introduction and conclusion by Dr. Chance. She will seek funds to support an invitational symposium on the book’s topics to recruit specific experts internationally. This will facilitate knowledge generation and prompt submittal of high-quality chapters. Her work will help overcome a current problem, identified by Dr. Bill Williams (a probable co-editor for the book), wherein EER journals published in the USA almost exclusively cite US scholars. Trans-Atlantic authorship can help. She will recruit a 3rd editor as well.

Dr. Chance has the goal of publishing results of Research Questions 1-4 in two of the world’s top-ranked journals in EER and higher education. These ask: Q1*) To what extents do design and pedagogy influence women’s choice to study engineering at third-level? Q2*) Among women, to what extents do design-based pedagogies prompt more sophisticated epistemologies than traditional teaching formats? Q3*) How do women experience engineering over time, from early design projects to entering industry? Q4*) Among men and women, to what extents do design pedagogies prompt more sophisticated epistemologies than traditional teaching formats? She is targeting Learning and Instruction (impact factor 3.585, SJR 2.907) and the Journal of Engineering Education (impact factor 2.059) for publication. Dr. Chance aims to present preliminary findings at three top-tier conferences (AERA, ASHE, and REES) where she will also network internationally. She will assemble teams of peers to co-author conference papers on educ. design (for SEFI, PAEE, EPDE, see Table 5); leading these teams will develop her skills.

Example SOC proposal for MSCA IF: Abstract and Eval

I’ve decided to share an example proposal submitted to the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 for the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions (MSCA) Individual Fellowship (IF) program. It was prepared for the SOC panel, which reviews all the social science research proposals, including educational and learning sciences, where my proposal resides.

Specifically, I do engineering education research (EER). I moved to Europe from the USA to develop mastery in EER, and MSCA funding has been fundamental to me developing as a researcher. Of the three proposals I have submitted to MSCA, two were funded (the first for the 2013 call and the second for the 2016 call) and one (submitted for the 2015 call) was not. I will be sharing parts of the 2015 proposal that was not funded along with the evaluators’ comments.

Over the course of the week starting August 3, I will be posting blogs on each of the following topics:
Abstract and Eval (here)
• Excellence Section 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4
Notes on using tables
• Impact Section 2.1, 2.2
Implementation Section 3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4
Ethics Section
Final Report from 2016 submission

After enjoying a 2014-2016 IIF (International Incoming Fellowship under FP7) to Ireland, I was eager to stay in Europe with my new research skills rather than return to the USA. I submitted this proposal in 2015, hoping to go to the UK to work for a couple years. Although this 2015 version of the proposal was not funded, the score wasn’t terrible (87.8/100), and it left me with hope that I could secure funding if I did not meddle with the content too much. I had specific review comments in hand to guide me. A score of 92-93 is normally needed to garner funding.

I submitted a modified version of this proposal in 2016 and was funded for a 2018-2020 IF. It enabled me to spent two glorious years living in London and working at University College London–ranked #7 in the world for research. What a truly amazing opportunity!

I had spent 5-6 weeks full-time writing the 2015 version that I am sharing, and in 2016 I dedicated just about three days to revising that proposal using the evaluators’ comments. That version succeeded in winning the funding I needed to pack my bags for London.

I am sharing the 2015 submission because I feel this version is most helpful to others writing proposals. They can use these resources to learn to critique to their own proposals.

Just look to see what the evaluators said, and to what degree you agree with them….

In today’s blog post, I will share the abstract and the evaluators’ comments.


Individual Fellowships (IF)

Call: H2020-MSCA-IF-2015


“Designing Engineers”


Europe is suffering an enormous deficit of engineers and this adversely affects the number of patent filings, top tech companies, and level of R&D. In 2011, Germany alone fell short by 76,400 engineers. We urgently need more engineers, particularly ones who can work collaboratively and creatively. Failure to attract women exacerbates the crisis. Today, women comprise 26% of engineering professionals in Sweden, 20% in Italy, 18% in Spain, but just 9% in the UK.

As an MSCA fellow, Prof./Dr. Shannon Chance will receive crucial training at at University College London and will investigate overlaps between epistemology (‘what is knowledge?’) and design thinking (‘how is knowledge created and used in the process of design?’). She will evaluate the role of design projects in the learning, epistemological development, and retention of engineering students, particularly women. She will collect data in Ireland, Poland, Portugal, the UK and USA. A three-month secondment in industry will help her extend and exploit her research.

Overarching research objectives are to: (1) develop and promote better ways to teach and support engineering students, (2) help transform engineering into a more diverse and creative field, and (3) track results via five primary research questions surrounding the theme:

To what extents do design projects influence the cognitive and epistemological development of undergraduates in engineering and architecture?

Dr. Chance will produce: mixed-methods research in a ground-breaking field; new design project briefs (and pilot test them); outreach and dissemination to crucial target audiences; and publication of an educator’s handbook intended to revolutionize engineering teaching methods. The interdisciplinary approach draws from Dr. Chance’s unique skill set and synthesizes state-of-the-art in three realms: (1) practices from architecture education, (2) research on engineering education, and (3) theories on college student development. 

List of Participants

Evaluation Summary Report

Total score for my proposal: 87.80% (Threshold: 70/100.00)

Scoring Rubric

Scores can range 0-5. Interpretation of the score:
0– The proposal fails to address the criterion or cannot be assessed due to missing or incomplete information.
1Poor. The criterion is inadequately addressed, or there are serious inherent weaknesses.
2Fair. The proposal broadly addresses the criterion, but there are significant weaknesses.
3Good. The proposal addresses the criterion well, but a number of shortcomings are present.
4 Very good. The proposal addresses the criterion very well, but a small number of shortcomings are present.
5Excellent. The proposal successfully addresses all relevant aspects of the criterion. Any shortcomings are minor.

Criterion 1 – Excellence

Score for my proposal: 4.50 (Threshold: 0/5.00 , Weight: 50.00%)

Reviewers are scoring based on:
* Quality, innovative aspects and credibility of the research (including inter/multidisciplinary aspects)
* Clarity and quality of transfer of knowledge/training for the development of researcher in light of the research objectives
* Quality of the supervision and the hosting arrangements
* Capacity of the researcher to reach or re-enforce a position of professional maturity in research (You must earn at least 70/100 in this category to be eligible to receive funding)


  • This is an ambitious interdisciplinary proposal which includes original and innovative features.
  • The research objectives and questions are clearly formulated.
  • The proposal clearly illustrates the new competence and knowledge that the researcher would gain through training and supervising at the host institution.
  • The supervision and hosting arrangements are credibly described and match the needs of the proposed research.
  • The proposal demonstrates that the proposed research would contribute to the professional maturity of the researcher. The methodological framework is appropriate and gender considerations are taken into account.


  • Certain aspects of the research methodology are not explained in sufficient detail; for example, the sampling procedure and the quantitative survey, data analysis and the comparative aspects of collected data.
  • Some aspects of the state of the art are not well elaborated, e.g., no adequate information is provided on theories of student development as related to research on engineering education.

Criterion 2 – Impact

Score for my proposal: 4.20 (Threshold: 0/5.00 , Weight: 30.00%)

Reviewers are scoring based on:
* Enhancing research- and innovation-related human resources, skills, and working conditions to realise the potential of individuals and to provide new career perspectives
* Effectiveness of the proposed measures for communication and results dissemination


  • There is clear evidence that the researcher would benefit from the hosting institution’s participation in research and the international
  • The strategy for communicating results to non-academic audiences is well elaborated and is likely to be effective.


  • The proposal does not convincingly demonstrate that the measures planned for the dissemination of results are feasible within the duration of the fellowship.
  • The issues related to intellectual property are insufficiently addressed.

Criterion 3 – Implementation

Score for my proposal: 4.40 (Threshold: 0/5.00 , Weight: 20.00%)

Reviewers are scoring based on:
* Overall coherence and effectiveness of the work plan, including appropriateness of the allocation of tasks and resources
* Appropriateness of the management structures and procedures, including quality management and risk management
* Appropriateness of the institutional environment (infrastructure)
* Competences, experience and complementarity of the participating organisations and institutional commitment


  • The work plan is clear overall.
  • The proposal provides a clear structure of the project organization and management, taking into account financial and administrative
  • The institutional environment proposed for the project is well described and matches well with the needs of the proposal.
  • Quality and risk management are taken into due consideration and a basic contingency plan is described.
  • The institutional commitment of the host to the project is well described.


  • The level of institutional commitment of the participating organisations is difficult to assess given that not all of the partners are already secured.
  • The Gantt Chart has some imprecisions, e.g., it does not precisely indicate when the activities occur within the project timeframe.
  • It is not clear whether the deliverables proposed can be finished within the timeframe of the project.

In summary, you can see that the evaluators thought I was trying to accomplish an unreasonably high amount, and I also lost points for mentioning a possible secondment without providing a convincing level of detail.

Fund your PhD in another country

Did you know that you could get full funding to complete a PhD in a foreign country?

The website FindAPhD.com might help you locate one in your area of interest. For my many of my friends that would be education or architecture and built environment.

You can also search on EURAXESS Jobs to find jobs and fellowships, which can include funding to complete PhDs.