Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Astronomy observation and theory small awards 2023

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Apply for funding to support theory, including modelling, simulation and related software development, observation, experiment and new technology research, relevant to all aspects of astronomy and astrophysics beyond the solar system.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

This funding covers up to 3 years of research activity starting from 1 April 2024.

The Small Award scheme replaces the Astronomy Consolidated or Consortium grants scheme. The Large Awards scheme will run in 2024.

For solar physics and planetary science, see the related solar and planetary opportunity.

Who can apply

Applicants may submit up to 2 applications to the Small Award round (across both funding opportunities), only 1 of which can be as the principal investigator, subject to the 2023 eligibility for principal investigators.

Applicants must adhere to the full-time equivalent limits set out in the guidelines.

Applicants are eligible to apply as a principal investigator to the Small Award scheme in 2023 if they satisfy 1 of the following criteria:

  • the applicant applied to the 2020 consolidated or consortium grant round and would be due to submit in 2023
  • the applicant requested a slippage to their submission year and is due to apply in 2023
  • the applicant applied to the 2022 round and has been invited to resubmit their project to the 2023 round
  • the applicant is a newly appointed academic member of staff who has joined a department between consolidated or consortium submissions
  • the applicant was unable to apply with their group’s last consolidated or consortium submission (for example, due to extenuating circumstances such as maternity leave, parental leave, caring leave, etc.)

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for funding. All applicants must meet the general investigator eligibility criteria which can be found in the research grants handbook.

If you would like to apply to the 2023 round under the new applicant criteria or you were unable to apply with your group’s last submission please contact the STFC astronomy awards team (kim.burchell@stfc.ukri.org and chloe.woodcock@stfc.ukri.org) ahead of submission to inform them of your intent to apply and ensure you are eligible.

Co-investigator eligibility is open to all applicants, providing the principal investigator is eligible to apply as per the conditions above.

Applications to the Small Award scheme are welcome from both single research organisations or multiple research organisation consortiums.

Applicants should refer to the Astronomy Grants Panel guidance for applicants before applying.

What we're looking for

This funding covers up to 3 years of research activity starting from 1 April 2024.

Applications to the Small Award scheme may contain a single project (requests for multi-project small awards will be rejected) which must follow the following resource guidance:

  • 3 years maximum, all awards must start on 1 April 2024
  • maximum of 1 full time equivalent (FTE) of postdoctoral research assistant (PDRA) effort (the panel recognises that technical or lab-based projects may require fractions of the time of specialist PDRAs, but this should not exceed the overall envelope of 1 FTE of PDRA effort per project)
  • maximum 0.20 FTE of applicant time, with the principal investigator expected to request a minimum of 0.10 FTE to lead and manage the project
  • there may also occasionally be projects which involve only investigator time or investigator plus technician time

This funding opportunity is part of the STFC and will be assessed by the Astronomy Grants Panel (AGP). The AGP offers 2 funding opportunities for Small Award applications. The same deadline applies to both funding opportunities.

Areas of research

This funding opportunity covers applications for astronomy observation and astronomy theory. We welcome applications for funding to support theory, including modelling, simulation and related software development, observation, experiment and new technology research, relevant to all aspects of astronomy and astrophysics beyond the solar system.

This includes:

  • stellar physics, including star formation and extra-solar planetary systems (studies of the Sun as part of a programme of stellar physics may fit here)
  • studies of transient phenomena
  • the interstellar medium and galactic astronomy
  • extra-galactic astronomy and cosmology
  • the astrophysical aspects of particle astrophysics, where particle astrophysics includes dark matter, the origin of cosmic rays and gravity
  • blue skies technology or instrumentation development applicable to the above areas (technology readiness levels (TRL) 1 to 4)
  • laboratory astrophysics, including software development, relevant to the above programmes

If your application is in 1 of the following research areas we strongly advise you contact the STFC astronomy awards team to check the remit ahead of submitting:

Technology development

The AGP will consider funding astronomy and space science applications at TRLs 1 to 4 or their equivalent.

Find out about eligibility of TRL.

Modest upgrades to existing equipment, related to the delivery of science within the course of the project requested, may be considered. The UK Space Agency (UKSA) will consider space mission-related applications at TRL 5 and above.

Gravitational wave research

The AGP will consider funding support for some aspects of gravitational wave research. STFC is considering the peer review route for gravitational wave exploitation science and will provide specific guidance with respect to this in the near future. Applicants should contact the STFC astronomy awards team for urgent advice as required.

Space weather and the impact of the Sun on terrestrial systems

STFC will support non-Earth-orientated solar-terrestrial physics research for example, fundamental space plasma physics not related to the Earth. STFC will also fund space-based facilities (spacecraft, instruments and operations) for solar terrestrial physics and their associated primary exploitation.

Natural Environment Research Council is responsible for funding solar terrestrial physics where the primary goal is to understand the Earth’s environment from the deep interior to the upper atmosphere (including, mesosphere, thermosphere and ionosphere).

Mars exploration and sample return

Studies related to the UKSA’s programme of aurora science (Mars exploration and sample return) should be addressed to the UKSA (spaceexploration@ukspaceagency.gov.uk) in the first instance, as separate funding may be available.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

You can find advice on completing your application in:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

All investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S.

Any investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one at least 7 working days before the opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: ‘Astronomy Observation and Theory Small Awards 2023’.

This will populate:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: Standard Proposal
  • scheme: Standard
  • call/type/mode: Astronomy Observation and Theory Small Awards 2023

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.

Deadline

STFC must receive your application by 8 March 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Attachments

All pages (including references) must be in an appropriate font type and size; please refer to the Je-S guidance for more information. Our preferred font type and size is Arial Standard point 11.

Applicants should classify attachments correctly using the options available in Je-S and submit as a PDF. Failure to do so will result in the application being rejected.

Any links to material outside of the application will be disregarded.

Please see the guidelines PDF for information on the requesting staff posts, the costs you can request and the required attachments (and associated page limits).

Your application must also include the following attachments:

Additional information

Additional information may be included as part of the application if considered essential for the panel’s assessment.

Additional information includes:

Do not submit

CVs are not required and should not be submitted.

How we will assess your application

STFC is committed to the UK Research and Innovation principles of peer review throughout our assessment and decision-making processes.

The Astronomy Grants Panel (AGP) Small Award assessment criteria are as follows (please be advised the first 4 categories have the higher weightings in the assessment process):

  • importance of the proposed research
  • international competitiveness of the project, and of the team given career stage
  • feasibility of the proposed work, including resource justification
  • project management
  • strategic value to STFC and UK Space Agency (UKSA)
  • potential impact from the proposed research

We will invite 2 to 3 UK and international experts to review your application. You will then be given the opportunity to respond to comments.

Applicant response to reviewer comments

Applicants will be given the opportunity to see and respond to reviewer comments via Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. The page limit for a response is a maximum of half a page per review received. Applicants are strongly advised to be clear and concise in their responses.

The responses should be returned via Je-S within 10 working days of receipt. If an applicant exceeds the page limits the response will be rejected.

Peer review meetings

The AGP is a peer review assessment panel. It will consider the documents provided in the application, as well as the reviewer comments and any principal investigator responses to reviewer comments, in its assessment of your application.

The AGP comprises 4 sub-panels of experts covering the following 4 broad science areas within astronomy:

  • AGP: astronomy observation
  • AGP: astronomy theory
  • AGP: solar studies and space-based solar terrestrial physics
  • AGP: planetary studies

In addition, a technology sub-panel provides expertise on the AGP to appropriately tension technology and exploitation or theory projects.

Find out about the AGP panel membership.

The AGP is committed to support the recommendations and principles set out by the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment. We do not use journal-based metrics, such as journal impact factors, as a surrogate measure of the quality of individual research articles when assessing proposals.

Post-meetings and communicating outcomes

The AGP Chair will report to STFC Science Board and to the UKSA on the recommended outcome for the round. The final funding line will be determined by the STFC budget holder at which point applicants will be informed of the outcome with appropriate feedback. We aim to communicate outcomes and provide feedback by November.

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Kim Burchell, Head of Astronomy Awards

Email: kim.burchell@stfc.ukri.org

Chloe Woodcock, Senior Programme Manager, Astronomy Awards

Email: chloe.woodcock@stfc.ukri.org

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

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