RO Peeps: Brenda Massey

The RO Peeps page lists the research office profiles of friends of The Research Whisperer. It showcases the talent and myriad trajectories that make us who we are.


Brenda Massey (Unitec, NZ)

Name & Twitter handle: Brenda Massey / @FundingChickie

Position title: Grants and Funding Advisor

University: Unitec Institute of Technology

Location: Auckland, New Zealand

Highest qualification?  Bachelor of Arts

How did you get into this role, and how long have you been a research administrator/developer? I’ve been at Unitec since March 2010. I don’t have a background in research or academia, but I do have experience running funding schemes and part of my role at Unitec is to manage our internal research funding round and our postgraduate scholarships scheme.

We’re a small research office so even though my job title is ‘grants and funding’, I pitch in to help our ethics, research and postgraduate committees, as required. I’ve organised a number of events such as book launches, professorial addresses and our 2011 Research Symposium and inaugural 3 Minute Thesis Competition.

The Dean of Research was looking for someone willing to get stuck in and create their own niche within the office and the institution and that’s just the type of challenge I was after.

What other kinds of jobs have you had?  Prior to joining Unitec I ran a local government community grants scheme, so I have a background in community development and support. I developed funding guidelines and processes, assessed funding applications and made recommendations for grants to senior management and local government politicians. That experience has definitely helped me put myself in funders’ shoes now that I’m assisting Unitec staff to apply for external grants. I’ve also had roles in pensions administration, accident compensation claims entitlement and legal aid case management.

What’s the most satisfying part of your job?  It’s such a buzz when a grant application that I’ve assisted to prepare has been successful, irrespective of whether it’s a small amount of money or a large amount of money that’s been granted. It’s validation, not just that the proposal has been pitched correctly, but that an organisation external to your institution agrees that the project is important enough to resource.

What’s the thing you’d most like to change about your job?  I love working with staff and students to develop their grant applications, but once they have their funding my contact with them can become fairly sporadic, and might be via email or phone rather than face-to-face. I would relish the chance to be involved in some of the projects that are funded as a team member, rather than as a facilitator.

Favourite hobby-horse?  I’m still passionate about community development. I was recently pleased to be part of a team that put together a successful proposal for funding that will see Unitec staff provide academic guidance on a research project conducted by a local community group. Unitec’s involvement will increase the group’s capacity, and the capacity of other groups that they will go on to work with.

Dream job?  I would love to be on a panel that makes decisions on funding applications!

Best advice to researchers?  I’m a big advocate of the importance of ‘critical friends’ in the grant writing process. 

Unitec’s Professor Linton Winder recently advised his staff as follows:

“Try and persuade colleagues outside your area, preferably with panel expertise, to read and seriously critique your grant [application]. Many will not want to offend and will tell you the application is “wonderful”. This may make you feel better in the short-term, but if they pick out a flaw that the panel would have, that will make you feel better in the long-term”.

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