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Citizen Science Exploration Grant

UKRI Public Engagement
Call status: Open
Application window: 01 October 2019, 00:00 – 12 November 2019, 16:00


Citizen science is an important way in which diverse groups of people can participate in research and innovation, whether through collecting data1, analysing data2 or helping researchers and innovators to develop better questions3. At UKRI, we are now making a long-term commitment to citizen science in our public engagement vision.

Citizen science can potentially add value to almost any project. Yet embedding citizen science methods into the routine way that science is done requires a capacity building approach, where projects that are unfamiliar with citizen science are supported to assess their capacity and need for citizen science. Therefore, UKRI is offering the opportunity to apply for up to £20,000 (100% fEC) to allow researchers to develop pilot projects to build citizen science capacity into their work.

The programme

Up to 20 successful applicants will be awarded up to £20,000 (100% fEC) each to conduct explorative work that will help groups to develop opportunities for building citizen science methodologies into their research. These projects must be conducted between 16 December 2019 and 30 April 2020. This could form the basis of future projects which may be supported through other funding sources, including through a proposed follow-up phase of UKRI funding from 2020-2023.

Potential successful projects (but not limited to) might include:

  • Exploring options for crowdsourced data collection4
  • Small pilots to test whether working with volunteers to analyse existing datasets can add value to the project5
  • Open/inclusive innovation – exploring options for companies and researchers to involve those who will benefit from the research in the development and testing of products
  • Collaboration with communities to test approaches to co-designing research questions
  • Digital innovation pilots in citizen science, with a focus on testing or extending the functionality of existing tools
  • Exploring innovative approaches that focus on removing the barriers to public participation in research such as overcoming the challenges of volunteer management

To develop such projects, successful applicants will be expected to undertake activities such as capacity building work, small proof of concept pilots, and/or collaborative workshops to explore project ideas, data sources or volunteer opportunities.


The length of the project should be appropriate for the project goals, but must be started and completed within the timeframe of 16 December 2019 - 30 April 2020, as a condition of funding. The latest permissible start date is 14 February 2020 to allow for payment of grants. Extensions can only be permitted in exceptional circumstances.

Lead applicants must be an active UKRI grant holder and from an eligible organisation (a list is provided here). Active grants are classified as any UKRI grants that are ongoing between the date of application and 16 December 2019. This includes funding received from Innovate UK, Research England and any of the seven research councils. Non-UKRI grant holders may participate in this grant if they are partnering with a lead applicant who is an active UKRI grant holder. If the applicant operates within a competitive market (i.e. businesses), the awarding of this grant must be compliant with De Minimis aid (Word, 25KB).

Active UKRI grants holders include:

  • Individuals who are lead applicant, PI or Co-I on a UKRI grant, based in the UK
  • Individuals who are UKRI fellowship or studentship holders

The citizen science exploration proposal does not need to be directly related to the active UKRI grant of the lead applicant, but applicants should be undertaking research that is related to one of UKRI’s key strategic areas of research and innovation6. Proposed collaborations with existing established citizen science projects and practitioners are also strongly encouraged. However, it is not the intention of the call to give follow-on funding to existing citizen science projects.

How to apply

This call will be open to applicants from 01 October 2019, 00:00 – 12 November 2019, 16:00. Guidance for applicants can be found here (PDF, 318KB).


Proposals will be assessed via a one stage review process, based on the written proposal that will be reviewed by an assessment panel. The panel will be comprised of members with relevant expertise, from both the internal UKRI Public Engagement team and external academic experts; ensuring a balance of different perspectives, expertise and affiliations, with diversity in mind.

Proposals will be assessed on the following criteria:

  1. Articulation of vision for achieving the programme outcomes
  2. Composition and appropriateness of proposed project team to be developed in exploratory stage of the project
  3. Quality and appropriateness of proposed approach for delivering outcomes for this programme including:
    1. A demonstrable commitment to exploring the potential of the appropriate citizen science methods for your project
    2. A demonstrable commitment to building the appropriate partnerships to deliver your project
    3. A clear connection to one of UKRI’s key strategic areas, or areas of the Strategic Priority Fund remit
    4. Innovative approaches to using citizen science methods
  4. Where appropriate, quality of plans to deliver pilot citizen science activities that will inform further development of your project
  5. Excellence and feasibility of the proposed project
  6. Appropriateness of project costing, with the expectation that a proportion of the grant is allocated to capacity building and funding of experts’ time.



UKRI public engagement

1 For example, the Big Garden Birdwatch is the world’s largest wildlife survey which has been running for 40 years; The Open Air Laboratories network, which has involved more than 1 million participants across the UK.

2 The Diamond Science Scribbler: Virus Factory project enlisted the help of volunteers to train algorithms to identify virus particles.

3 In the ALS Lithium Study, researchers asked PatientsLikeMe to create an RCT sample for them. In another example, through the Scleroderma Education Project, patients were able to push scientists to ask better questions about a rare major autoimmune disease, scleroderma.

4 For example, air and noise pollution, or reporting of data on wellbeing or mental health.

5 For example, Planet Hunters, where volunteers use a platform to analyse satellite data for new planets

6 UKRI themes and programmes.