How does AWF select research projects for funding?

Description

Animal welfare is a critical aspect of responsible pet ownership, livestock management and wildlife conservation. To deepen knowledge and advance understanding of animal welfare, the Animal Welfare Foundation (AWF) is committed to supporting research that addresses key animal welfare issues and generates evidence-based solutions that will be relevant to the veterinary and animal welfare professions. But how do we decide which research projects to fund? Let's take a closer look at the process.

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AWF's research funding is guided by its mission to put animal welfare at the heart of veterinary practice via evidence-based research, education and conscientious debate. Each year, through our research calls, we invite researchers to submit proposals on specific topics relevant to animal welfare, under a 3-year umbrella theme. Our current theme is ‘Breeding for better welfare’ and the research call for 2022 focused on "Meeting demand without compromising animal welfare". This specific research call was for research identifying the welfare implications associated with breeding for demand, as well as breeding practices that are successful at maintaining good welfare whilst meeting demand in any animal species.

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Once the research proposals are submitted – we initially only ask for an overview of the project – we go through a selection process, involving expert review and evaluation, to determine which projects will receive funding.

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AWF's research funding decisions are based on scientific expertise, relevance to animal welfare, and potential for impact. Projects that align with AWF's strategic priorities and have the potential to drive positive, long-lasting change in animal welfare practices as well as generate discussions around key animal welfare topics are given priority. AWF also encourages collaborative research that involves partnerships between academia, industry, and other stakeholders to ensure that research findings are relevant and applicable to real-world situations.

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Research projects selection process:

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  • Initial proposal review. AWF's grants committee, composed of leading experts in animal welfare, veterinary science and related field professionals, reviews all submitted proposals for eligibility and adherence to the research call's scope and requirements – is it about animal welfare? Will it be useful for the veterinary profession? Will it inform further studies? Proposals that do not meet the criteria are eliminated at this stage.
  • Full application submission. Researchers whose projects have been selected during the initial proposal review are invited to submit a full application for funding, detailing their research project. You can have a look at the application form for 2022 projects here: http://www.animalwelfarefoundation.org.uk/research-call-2022/
  • Grants Committee evaluation. Based on their expertise and knowledge, AWF's grants committee evaluates the research proposals and makes recommendations for funding. The projects are scored based on their scientific aspect, methodology, feasibility of the proposed research plan, and potential impact of the research. In addition to the scientific evaluation, the budget and the timeline are also taken into consideration – is the proposed research practical, achievable, and likely to yield meaningful results within a reasonable time frame?
  • Final approval. The recommended applications are then presented to AWF's Board of Trustees for final approval. The Board considers the scientific merit, relevance to AWF's mission, and the available budget in making their final decision.
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AWF is committed to transparency and accountability in its research funding process; once the projects are selected for funding, we ask researchers to provide regular updates on the progress and outcomes of the research. We also budget for the publication of the final research paper to be in open access - this helps to ensure that the research funded by AWF is accessible and disseminated widely, contributing to the advancement of knowledge and best practices in animal welfare.