Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Advise on the commissioning of NERC’s environmental data service

Apply for funding to provide independent expertise for the commissioning of the NERC Environmental Data Service (EDS).

You must be:

  • a UK resident
  • based at a UK institution eligible for UKRI funding.

You must not have a connection to:

  • the EDS
  • the associated environmental data centres
  • any NERC research centre.

The full economic cost of your project will be £75,000. We will fund 100% of the full economic cost.

Your project must start by 2 February 2022 and finish by 2 August 2022.

Who can apply

To be eligible to apply you must be a resident in the UK. You must also be employed by, or have a formal affiliation to:

  • a university
  • an independent research organisation (IRO)
  • a public sector research establishment (PSRE) that is eligible to receive UKRI funding.

Please see the NERC research grants and fellowship handbook for further information.

Postdoctoral research assistants (PDRAs) cannot act as the lead proposer but can be named as a recognised researcher if they have helped develop the proposal.

NERC values equality, diversity and inclusion across all its funding programmes, and actively encourages proposals from diverse groups of researchers.

Applicants may apply as individuals or as a team. They must be willing to commit a combined 0.4 to 0.6 full-time equivalent to the activity from 2 February 2022 to
2 August 2022.

Applicants must demonstrate:

  • professional expertise and knowledge of data and digital research infrastructure, preferably in relation to environmental science
  • skills in stakeholder engagement.

Experience in federated data repositories and cloud computing is beneficial but not mandatory.

Who cannot apply

Due to the nature of the exercise, those employed by or closely linked with the NERC EDS and NERC research and data centres will be considered to have a conflict of interest and are not eligible to apply.

What we're looking for

NERC’s EDS is the focal point for NERC’s scientific data and information holdings. It consists of a network of environmental data centres focused on different environmental domains. The EDS is responsible for maintaining, curating and making available environmental data to all users. This includes NERC researchers and others from:

  • science
  • commerce
  • government
  • education communities
  • the general public.

In mid-2022 the NERC Digital Infrastructure and Data team will begin the recommissioning of the EDS following its initial term. This commissioning will seek to:

  • increase the integration of the network of environmental data centres that comprise the EDS
  • ensure it is suitable for facilitating the growing use of environmental data in a wide variety of applications.

The EDS commissioning fellow is requested to support the team by exploring the opportunities for commissioning and providing independent expertise and advice. This will particularly regard the most suitable and flexible architecture to enable NERC’s data assets to be exploited through new and emerging digital technologies, and the feasibility and cost of options.

The fellow will also be responsible for engaging stakeholders, both within UKRI and externally, to establish:

  • the barriers or advantages
  • the arguments for and against different approaches
  • what best practice exists that could be adopted in this new and exciting opportunity for recommissioning.

Successful individuals or teams will be expected to:

  • meet with the NERC head office Digital Infrastructure and Data team at least every two weeks to share progress and ensure alignment with NERC and UKRI
  • host a series of roundtables with relevant stakeholders across UKRI and externally
  • engage with UKRI policy and engagement fellows in digital research infrastructure
  • engage with cross council digital technology, infrastructure and data groups and initiatives
  • complete a mapping exercise to identify best practices which can be applied to the EDS moving forward.
  • submit a final report summarising evaluation of commissioning options and recommendations by the close of the grant.

Funding available

The full economic cost of this project is £75,000 and this will be funded at 100% full economic cost. The activity must start by 2 February 2022 and finish by 2 August 2022.

How to apply

Applications should be emailed as a single PDF to

To apply, please send:

  • principal investigator, co-investigator and named researcher names, email addresses and organisations
  • proposal summary (maximum of 500 words)
  • case for support (maximum of three pages) covering:
    • proposed activity, outcomes and outputs
    • feasibility of delivery
    • capability of individual or team to deliver
  • a CV per applicant or team member (maximum one page per team member)
  • a high level justification of resources (maximum of 500 words).

Details of eligible costs are given in the NERC research grants handbook. All costs should be in pounds sterling (£ or GBP).

All documents should:

  • be completed in single-spaced typescript
  • be of minimum font size 11 point Arial font or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size to Arial 11
  • have margins of at least 2cm.

Please note that Arial narrow and Calibri are not allowable font types as they are smaller and any proposal which has used either of these font types within their submission will be rejected.

More details on NERC’s submission rules can be found in the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook and in the submission rules on the NERC website.

NERC appreciates that the timeline for this opportunity is very tight. Due to the timescales of the recommissioning process this is not something that can be changed. Opportunity dates have been expanded as far as possible and in response to the limited time for the opportunity, NERC has substantially reduced the length of application required.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be assessed by an internal assessment panel in early January 2022 comprising trained NERC and UKRI staff.

NERC will use the recommendations of the panel, along with the overall opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions.

The funding decision will be announced in mid-January 2022 and projects must be able to begin by 2 February 2022. We will endeavour to provide brief feedback for each submitted proposal.

Assessment criteria

Panel members will base their assessment and single score (one to five, where one is low and five is high) on the following criteria:

  • proposed activity, outcomes and outputs
  • capability of the individual or team to deliver
  • demonstrable knowledge and skills around data, data use and digital infrastructure
  • familiarity with a wide variety of data sources, including environmental data
  • stakeholder engagement.


UKRI recognises that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities and are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their careers. This includes:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic.

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts of the impact that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the track record and career development of those individuals included in the proposal. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, applicants can highlight this within their application, if they wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity


Additional info

Responsible research policy

Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment, not just through research outputs and outcomes but through the way that research is conducted and facilities are managed.

All NERC grant holders are to adopt responsible research practices as set-out in the NERC responsible business statement.

Responsible research is defined as reducing harm and enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities. Specifically, this covers:

  • the natural environment
  • the local community
  • equality, diversity and inclusion.

Grant holders should consider the responsible research context of their project, not the host institution as a whole, and take action to enhance their responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.

Disbursement of funds

Successful projects will be funded via a one-off payment up to a maximum of £75,000. Lead institutions must invoice NERC for the cost of the project by 16 February 2022 to ensure payment. Lead institutions will be responsible for distributing the finance to other organisations involved as necessary.

Funds will be transferred to the successful principal investigator’s research organisation in the first instance. It is then the responsibility of that organisation to disburse funds to the costed members of the partnership team.

The UK research organisation awarded the grant is responsible for the conduct and administration of the grant. It is accountable for the effective use of public funds and must therefore ensure that all grant monies are subject to proper financial management processes.

It is the research organisation’s responsibility to ensure that expenditure on collaborations is subject to robust controls. This is to ensure value for money and propriety and that all costs should be fully vouched and maintained for possible inspection and checks by, or on behalf of, UKRI.

Supporting documents

NERC research grants and fellowship handbook

NERC Environmental Data Service

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