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C-DICE sandpits and the benefits of getting involved

C-DICE sandpits and the benefits of getting involved

By Dr Kathryn North, C-DICE Director, and Sharon Henson, C-DICE Project Manager


The C-DICE sandpits are a unique new opportunity for postdoctoral researchers, typically at an early career stage, to form new interdisciplinary teams to create a funding proposal. They are designed to support the development of postdoctoral researchers with awards of up to £30k in seed-corn funding for the best ideas. The sandpits have been created to combine the development of expertise in interdisciplinary working to solve a complex problem, together with skills in proposal writing, team working, networking and stakeholder engagement. The C-DICE sandpits will address challenges in achieving net zero carbon in the infrastructure, cities and energy domains that will require a multi-disciplinary approach to creating solutions. 

Who will be involved? 

We invite applications from postdoctoral researchers from UKCRIC and ERA universities and will be inviting stakeholders and experts to participate and provide feedback on the proposals as they are developed.  

How will the sandpits be delivered? 

Initially, the sandpits will be delivered online in five sessions across three weeks. They will be highly collaborative and will require attendance at all five sessions. We hope to be able to deliver some in-person elements to sandpits in future, recognising there are benefits in bringing people together. We are also keeping the sessions to part days, as much as possible, to enable participants to fit their participation around other commitments.  

 What are the problems, and why have they been selected? 

The topics of the first two sandpit topics have been selected through a process of consultation and co-creation with the C-DICE community. The problem statements are intentionally broad to enable a wide range of researchers to express an interest. Over time, we will run further sandpits which may address more narrowly constituted questions, for example to tackle a challenge relevant to particular stakeholders – and we welcome suggestions on what topics future sandpits should focus on. The problems should relate to achieving Net Zero Carbon in infrastructure, cities and energy and build on/utilise the expertise and facilities in the UKCRIC and ERA partnerships.  

What are the benefits to postdoctoral researchers? 

Postdocs who participate in the sandpits will experience a unique developmental opportunity that will enhance their track record and future career opportunities by: 

  • building networks,  
  • demonstrably enhancing expertise in multidisciplinary working,  
  • identifying and building impact,  
  • understanding the needs of stakeholders
  • defining budgets and deliverables, 
  • working towards research independence,  
  • benefitting from mentors and experts to help to shape thinking.  

The sandpit process is designed to be developmental. Furthermore for those who are successful and receive an award of seed-corn funding, there is the additional experience of managing a grant, arranging contracts and taking forward a project idea as a lead researcher.  

What can we use the seed-corn funding for? 

This will be revealed in detail at the sandpit, but generally, the seed-corn funding is intended to support career development e.g. collaborations leading to future research, preparation of a grant proposal, support for data collection and workshops, or, buy out time to develop an independent research idea. Please note that this will need to be agreed with your employer, for example if any contractual changes are required. 

I have some stakeholders I’ve already been working with, can they be involved? 

If you have existing stakeholders who would like to get involved, acting as a mentor, reviewer or sponsor of a sandpit, we welcome their involvement in a sandpit. Please contact a member of the C-DICE team to discuss further. 

I have caring responsibilities; can I get help with the cost of getting cover to attend? 

Yes. C-DICE provides access to a carers fund that will enable you to apply for up to £300 for additional caring costs incurred as a result of your attendance and participation in the sandpits. 

And finally…. 

Postdocs are our future leaders and the C-DICE sandpits offer an exciting chance to rethink how researchers are supported in their development, and how they can be at the forefront of driving research and innovation towards net zero. As part of the process, C-DICE will be evaluating the sandpits, refining and developing the programmes and capitalising on the impact that is derived both in terms of the research and researcher development opportunity they present.  

The first C-DICE sandpits are open for applications, find out more, register your interest and submit your application from this link. We look forward to working with you! 

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