Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Develop evidence-based recommendations for ESRC’s data policy

Apply for funding to undertake scoping work and subsequently make recommendations for ESRC’s data policy update.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding.

You will provide advice and recommendations to ESRC to support the development and implementation of an updated data policy. You will consult with stakeholders across sectors and disciplines to accurately reflect the needs of the ESRC community.

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £250,000. ESRC will fund 80% FEC.

This project will last for six months, starting no later than 1 September 2023.

Who can apply

We are seeking to appoint an individual or a team led by a principal investigator based at an eligible UK research organisation. That organisation will be responsible for submitting the grant application to UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Eligible organisations include:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • UKRI research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

The team or individual must possess a broad range of research-relevant expertise in data management, data policies and social science and should demonstrate depth and breadth of experience. A minimum of 0.4 to 0.6 full-time equivalent (collectively) must be allocated over the course of the project.

At minimum, the application must include someone of international standing and experience. If proposing as a team we welcome inclusion of early and mid-career researchers as well as academic-related staff such as those working in research governance, data protection, etc.

We encourage inclusion of UK co-investigators across different sectors (business, third sector and government body organisations) and international academic co-investigators.

To avoid any conflict of interest, individuals who are contracted on an existing ESRC-funded data service are ineligible for this funding opportunity. Please see the ‘Additional information’ section for a list of ineligible services.

What we're looking for

Research data policy

The current ESRC research data policy was revised in 2018. Since then, the data landscape has changed substantially. For example:

  • a greater focus is placed on the importance of sharing code as well as data
  • more emphasis is given to linked data sources including social media and administrative data
  • trusted research environments (TREs) are improving access to the most sensitive data

The existing data policy and associated processes to deliver this reflect a time when researchers relied mainly on using established survey data or primary data to undertake their research.

The emergence of new sources of data and methodologies for using and sharing such data require the current policy to be refreshed to ensure it remains fit-for-purpose and that:

  • researchers are adequately supported throughout the research data lifecycle in order to manage their data effectively
  • data can be shared within ethical and legal considerations, under appropriate licensing to ensure wider access and adhere to FAIR (findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable) principles
  • methods to create data resources are transparent, reproducible and can be used seamlessly by others

All data that are used for social science research are in scope for this programme of work.


Recommendations for updating the policy will need to include the means to implement it, in alignment with the ESRC data infrastructure strategy and other relevant ESRC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) strategies and policies.

ESRC is part of UKRI and as such any recommendations should link into relevant cross-UKRI and council strategy, policy and infrastructure programmes and activities, bearing in mind the need for:

  • harmonisation across UKRI and the research councils
  • consistency with UKRI data sharing principles

Project scope

We wish to appoint an individual or team to provide high-quality advice and well-developed recommendations to ESRC to support the development and implementation of an updated data policy.

A vital part of this work will be consulting widely, in a hybrid manner, with stakeholders across sectors and disciplines to accurately reflect the needs of the ESRC community and more broadly, how this sits within the wider data landscape.

The team or individual will be required to:

  1. Review existing data policies (applied by UKRI research councils and beyond) to assess:
    • best practice and identify gaps and opportunities for developing an updated ESRC data policy
    • how it would fit within the wider UKRI and UK open research policies and strategies (such as the National Data Strategy)
  2. Review a selection of data management plans. You should bear in mind the need to balance consistency with the UKRI data sharing principles (and any other key strategies) with appropriately addressing the particular needs of the social science community.
  3. Consult with a range of stakeholders to discuss and assess the current and future requirements (which may include, but are not limited to metadata provision, training and user support, data management plans, data licencing, etc.). This includes (but is not limited to):
    • current ESRC-funded data services
    • ESRC and UKRI internal stakeholders (for example, council experts, open research team, infrastructure teams)
    • users of the full breadth social science data from a range of career stages (postgraduate to senior researchers)
    • data depositors
    • data custodians
    • data producers
    • other data professionals, technologists, others as seen fit
  4. Consult with services offering access to a wide variety of data types.
  5. Consult across sectors to take on board best practice and recommendations.
  6. Establish how complexities and changes in the data landscape inform how ESRC data policies, requirements, training and guidance should be reshaped (and how these should be implemented). This includes (but is not limited to):
    • TREs
    • research code production and sharing
    • the increasing and vast array of data sources (and the associated structured and unstructured nature of them)
    • research ready data and the processing and expertise required to ready it
    • synthetic data
    • an evolving legal and ethical landscape consisting of different types of data and methods of licencing
    • diverse methodologies applied to different types of data to ensure the avoidance of bias in data and thus research outcomes
    • data principles and standards
  7. Gather a set of requirements and develop specific, realistic (practically, administratively and financially) recommendations. The recommendations will support the development of an updated data policy and its implementation for ESRC which will be fit for purpose for the next decade.
  8. Consider recommendations in terms of ease of implementation and maintenance for the social science community in line with cross-UKRI aims.
  9. Deliver a report to ESRC including a set of well-developed recommendations for an updated data policy and its implementation, supported by evidence and a rationale, not exceeding 20 pages (excluding supporting annexes). ESRC requires an initial draft report at least one month before the project end and will provide comments back to the principal investigator to inform the development of the final report.
  10. Recommendations could cover a list of additional resources that data services should deliver (for example, specific areas of guidance) to support those utilising ESRC data policies to get the best out of them. The recommendations should be transferable to a wider UKRI policy in future.

Application requirements

You should propose your own methodology for gathering and assessing the relevant evidence needed to provide recommendations for the refresh of the data policy and its implementation.

Your application is required to set out:

  • if applying as a team, a description and structure of the team, including roles and responsibilities, and how this will enable the team to deliver the aims of the funding opportunity
  • a description of how the team will work collaboratively to co-produce and deliver a programme of activities to support delivery
  • if an individual principal investigator is applying, they must explain how they have the necessary skills to undertake the work
  • a clear plan with delivery milestones and a Gantt chart in the ‘case for support’ for how the proposed team or individual will deliver the objectives of the funding opportunity

The team or individual should showcase an understanding of the importance of:

  • data principles including FAIR
  • onward code and data sharing and reuse
  • data protection and data licencing regime
  • open, safeguarded and secure data access
  • data management

The team or individual should also demonstrate an understanding of the relevant training and capacity building support currently available to social scientists at different career stages and the key stakeholders involved. Furthermore, it would be beneficial to demonstrate an awareness of the wider research data practice and policy landscape beyond social science.

This is not a research project but a synthesis or compilation of evidence and advice. Some research activity, such as research synthesis, may be proposed if they contribute to delivering the objectives of the funding opportunity.

You application should include:

  • a case for support of up to six sides of A4
  • justification of resources of up to two sides of A4
  • one-page CVs for all named applicants

Management and governance

The successful applicant, or applicants, will be required to work in partnership with ESRC to deliver a set of recommendations. ESRC will use these recommendations to develop the data policy and reserve the right to decide if and how to act on the recommendations and advice.

ESRC will retain overall responsibility for the development of the updated ESRC data policy. The team will be accountable to an ESRC director and will be expected to provide ESRC with an update on activities on a monthly basis.

The successful applicant, or applicants, will also be expected to:

  • liaise with relevant stakeholders across organisations to establish data management best practice which should be implemented in policy
  • liaise with other relevant parties related to ESRC such as:
    • ESRC Expert Advisory Group
    • Future Data Services Strategic Fellows
    • Digital Footprints Strategic Advisory Team
  • produce a series of recommendations for how the data management plan format should be updated
  • it is expected that a complete set of recommendations will be shared within a report before the end of the six-month award. Findings should be shared while the work is ongoing with draft recommendations being shared from early in the project

The principal investigator or a member of the team will be required to have regular meetings with ESRC. You will discuss progress and report back on any common issues that arise through the course of the work that cannot be resolved via the updated data policy. You should also attend other ESRC and UKRI advisory or governance groups as necessary.

The ESRC data policy update will overlap with other existing programmes of work. The team will be expected to liaise with other ESRC teams and fellows including with the Future Data Services Senior Strategic Fellow and Strategic Fellow. This will ensure their experiences are reflected within the scoping.

To avoid a conflict of interest, individuals who are contracted on an existing ESRC-funded data service are ineligible for this funding opportunity. Please see the ‘Additional information’ section for a list of services.

Your application should clearly define:

  • the roles of each proposed team member
  • their experience and suitability for receiving funding under this funding opportunity
  • how they will contribute to deliver the desired outputs

Funding available

The FEC of your project can be up to £250,000. ESRC will fund 80% FEC. It is expected that a portion of the finance will be spent on extensive consultation across sectors and disciplines.

You must allocate a minimum of 0.4 to 0.6 full-time equivalent.

The budget should include costs for travel and subsistence, including costs to cover a minimum of three trips to Swindon, travel restrictions permitting.

We strongly advise you to ensure sufficient administrative support is included to deliver the objectives of the funding opportunity.


We will award one grant to fund a team or individual for up to six months. Your start date must be no later than September 2023.

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 seven working days before the funding opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: ESRC Data Infrastructure.

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.


ESRC must receive your application by 28 April 2023 at 4pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your application 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.


Your application must include the following attachments:

  • a case for support of up to six sides of A4
  • justification of resources of up to two sides of A4
  • one-page CVs for all named applicants

How we will assess your application

Assessment criteria

Your application will be assessed against the following criteria by an assessment panel:

Essential skills and experience

You must demonstrate the following:

  • a thorough understanding of the evolving research data and policy landscape, within the UK and internationally, through an interest in data sciences or traditional social science disciplines
  • the vision and ability to understand the big picture and the impact of data management policies on social science
  • thorough understanding of the sensitivities around the use of data for research and the different approaches for managing these
  • a demonstrable understanding of the data skills training and capacity building currently available to social scientists at different career stages and the key stakeholders involved
  • experience building effective relationships at all levels between academia, government, industry, the third sector and the public
  • experience delivering programmes on time and to a high standard
  • the ability to work flexibly and in response to changing circumstances

Desirable skills and experience

You should demonstrate the following:

  • a thorough understanding of the importance of good data management and best practice around data and code reuse and sharing
  • understanding of the legal frameworks that support or constrain data access and use management, and issues around confidentiality and ethical use of data
  • understanding of data management frameworks, such as the Open Archival Information System
  • relevant experience in shaping and successfully managing an applied quantitative or qualitative data-based programme or related endeavour
  • proven experience of working with a wide range of data providers and data owners across government and industry or the third sector
  • a proven ability to tailor communications appropriately for different audiences
  • an understanding of current ESRC and UK Research and Innovation programmes and investments, including (but not limited to):

Your application will be assessed by a panel nominated by ESRC. If your application is assessed to successfully and fully demonstrate all of the assessment criteria, you will be invited to interview.

Contact details

Get help with developing your application

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

Ask about this funding opportunity


Include ‘Data Policy Grant’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

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Additional info

ESRC data services where contracted staff are ineligible for this funding opportunity:

  • Cohort and Longitudinal Studies Enhancement Resources (CLOSER)
  • Consumer Data Research Centre
  • UK Data Service
  • Urban Big Data Centre

Supporting documents

Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 339KB)

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 180KB)

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