Advice for grant applicants from people affected by dementia

Every single application we receive is reviewed and scored by both peer reviewers and people affected by dementia. Our volunteers share their advice for researchers applying to our funding schemes.  

A key element of our grants programme is the involvement of people affected by dementia in helping us to make our funding decisions.  

Our lay reviewers are members of the Alzheimer’s Society Research Network, they are over 300 with direct personal experience of dementia - either living with dementia themselves or carers or former carers. 

The network has been working in partnership with the society and researchers across the UK for 20 years.

Our volunteers ensure that research is relevant, credible and has an impact for everyone affected by dementia. 

Research Network volunteers draw on their personal experiences of dementia when reviewing applications.

In particular they comment and score applications based on the explanations provided in the lay summaries of how the applicant’s research will or could improve the lives of people affected by dementia. 

Advice from people affected by dementia 

Our network members have clear advice about how best to maximise your chances of success when writing the lay summary of your application.

Network members suggest focusing on answering key questions that will help them understand the purpose and intention of your research.

  • What will be the benefit of this research to people affected by dementia?  

The general consensus is that Research Network members can easily spot an overblown statement.

What they are looking for is a clear picture of what the outcomes of the research could achieve and how could that make life better for people affected by dementia.

They understand that your research may be addressing a small piece of the puzzle, so will be looking for explanations of benefit, however modest, during or immediately on completion of the proposed research.

  • Where does this research sit in the pipeline for biomedical research?

Is your research looking for the cause of a type of dementia or are you testing a treatment?

If the research is testing a treatment – how long would it be before this would reach humans? Knowing where it fits in the ‘train’ of studies helps put it in context – i.e. what has come before, what will come after, what else is being done that is related.

  • Where does this research sit in the pipeline for care research? 

How long would it take for the research to result in a care programme and who will it inform? The NHS? Care homes? People affected by dementia?

Will this be implemented in a local area or more widely? How will it be implemented?  Including what needs to change and any cost savings and resource requirements involved.

What plans are being made to share the results and roll out the programme to maximise benefit?

  • Are there  public involvement plans? 

If so, provide an outline of these. How do you propose engaging those critical friends for maximum impact?

If not, network members suggest that you look into the importance of public involvement and find out how Alzheimer’s Society and the Research Network can help with supporting researchers. 

Top tips for writing a lay application

Below are a list of quick and easy tips to help you make your application accessible for network reviewers:

  • Language: a good proposal is one that is written in plain English.

Keep in mind that lay summaries should be written for members of the public, rather than peers or professionals. The key is the ability to take complex concepts and make them easy to understand.

Please avoid using jargon, acronyms, or complex, technical and scientific terms. 

  • Clarity: short, clear sentences focusing on what you are hoping to achieve.

What are the aims of the research?  What is the methodology?  How will it benefit people with dementia?   How much will it cost? Does it represent value for money and why?

  • Statistics:  avoid too many unnecessary facts and figures.

'A lot of proposals start by quoting dementia stats. I don't think we need this. We are all aware of the numbers.'

Grant panel members generally agree that statistics telling them the number of people living with or diagnosed with dementia in the UK currently is repetitive and a waste of valuable space in applications.

However, it can be helpful if a small part of the population with dementia is targeted in your research to have an idea of the scale that could benefit.

  • Glossary: The general consensus among members is that it would be useful to see a glossary included in all proposals that use technical and scientific terms as well as acronyms.
     
  • Illuminate: members are looking to be enlightened and informed 
     
  • Novel: What is new and original about the research? 
     
  • Cogent: Is it a persuasive, well expressed and well-presented case? 
     
  • Engaging: Does the proposal hold my attention and interest?  
     
  • Clear graphs and charts: If these are going to be included they need to be clear with an explanation of why they are important.

Clear pictures and diagrams can also be very helpful. In particular please make sure they are large enough to read and explanations are in plain English. 

Find out more 

If you would like to apply for the Research Network’s assistance and expertise in developing your own application before submission to Alzheimer’s Society. You an apply for support through our Grant Application Development programme

Apply for an Alzheimer's Society research grant

Find out more about our funding schemes and apply for a research grant.

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