Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: DigitalFootprints: Senior Strategic Fellowship 2022

Apply for funding to work as a DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow.

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

You will:

  • offer high-quality, systematic and sustained strategic advice to the DigitalFootprints programme
  • support the business case for longer term investment in the programme.

You will also broker the relationships necessary for the successful implementation of the programme.

The full economic cost of the fellowship can be up to £532,500. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

The fellowship will last 24 months and will start in May 2022.

Who can apply

This fellowship is open to researchers who have a thorough understanding of the digital footprint data (DFD) landscape through expertise in social science research that harnesses digital data and methods.

You must also have:

  • relevant experience in shaping and successfully leading a research programme or related research endeavours
  • an excellent track record of building effective relationships at senior levels between academia, government, industry and the third sector.

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

Further essential criteria for this fellowship are set out in the section ‘How we will assess your application’.

What we're looking for

ESRC wishes to appoint a DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow to offer high-quality, systematic and sustained strategic advice to the DigitalFootprints programme.

As the DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow, you will support the business case for longer term investment in the DigitalFootprints initiative, and broker the relationships necessary for its successful implementation.

You will provide strategic direction for the commissioning, coordination and optimisation of current and future DFD investments. You will:

  • provide scientific leadership to the DigitalFootprints prototype coordinating hub, convening, building and developing a thriving interdisciplinary DFD community
  • help to scope and develop commissioning opportunities for the accelerator programme (a rolling programme of investment over 24 months totalling £2.5 million)
  • act as a ‘thought leader’ and champion for ESRC’s DFD ambitions, considering how ESRC and UKRI more broadly can support researchers in using DFD in the future
  • shape potential long-term investments, including the development of related programmes of work within and beyond ESRC (for example, capacity building, training provision and research)
  • provide scientific, strategic and technical advice, in combination with ESRC and UKRI advisory groups, to develop a potential longer term DigitalFootprints infrastructure.

The work to develop this longer term infrastructure will involve:

  • identifying and leading engagement with potential research users, data service practitioners and policymakers
  • identifying new opportunities for investments
  • building enduring connections with key stakeholders, including within academia, government, industry and the third sector
  • if recommended for funding, developing and drafting key parts of the longer term DigitalFootprints business case, in particular the strategic case
  • ensuring that ESRC plans for DigitalFootprints meet the current and future requirements of the UKRI data landscape (and beyond), as set out in relevant published strategies and objectives such as the UKRI digital research infrastructure strategy and the national data strategy
  • contributing to synthesis, reviews and any other activities that will add value to the DigitalFootprints programme and business case
  • identifying broad requirements for data services that will support future delivery of the DigitalFootprints network
  • liaising with the Future Data Services Strategic Fellow and the Future Data Services Senior Strategic Fellow to ensure any requirements are fed into the separate Future Data Services programme.

The fellowship also provides a unique opportunity to publish high-quality research outputs, working in close collaboration with partners across the programme.

Management and governance

Within two months of commencing the fellowship, the DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow will be required to agree with ESRC a timetable for the activities and outputs to be delivered.

These could include:

  • a plan for activities to support coordination and collaboration across the DigitalFootprints prototype
  • development and implementation of a stakeholder engagement plan for DigitalFootprints
  • a plan for developing and delivering the strategic case for the DigitalFootprints business base

The DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow will be required to work closely with:

  • the ESRC Deputy Director of Data Strategy and Infrastructure
  • the ESRC Head of Data Services
  • the ESRC DigitalFootprints Senior Policy Manager.

These role holders will retain overall responsibility for the governance of the DigitalFootprints prototype, as well as development and delivery of the case for longer term funding for DigitalFootprints.

The Senior Strategic Fellow will be accountable to an ESRC director, and will be expected to provide an update on activities on a quarterly basis.

The Senior Strategic Fellow will be required to attend DigitalFootprints prototype governing boards as an observer and representative of the DigitalFootprints prototype. They should also attend other ESRC and UKRI advisory or governance groups as necessary.

As the DigitalFootprints initiative will overlap with the Future Data Services programme, the Senior Strategic Fellow will also be expected to work with the Future Data Services Senior Strategic Fellow and the Future Data Services Strategic Fellow.

If the fellow wishes to apply alongside a postdoctoral researcher, they should include a clear plan in their ‘case for support’ for how the proposed team will work together to deliver the requirements of the fellowship.

To avoid a conflict of interest, the fellow should not already be a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on an existing UKRI data services infrastructure investment. See the recently published data research infrastructure landscape review (PDF, 984KB) for examples of these investments.

Funding

The DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow will be appointed on a part-time basis (minimum 0.4 full-time equivalent to maximum 0.8 full-time equivalent).

The fellowship will be funded for 24 months and will start in May 2022.

The full economic cost of the fellowship can be up to £532,500. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost. Your host institution will fund the remaining 20%.

The fellow may apply alongside a postdoctoral researcher, and can therefore include any associated costs. Together, the DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow and the postdoctoral researcher should be allocated funding at a minimum of 0.6 full-time equivalent.

Within your total cost (total value at 100% FEC), you may include a combined budget of £10,000 to cover the following items:

  • administrative support
  • travel and subsistence.

You should budget for a minimum of four trips to Swindon, travel restrictions permitting.

How to apply

Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system

You must apply using the Je-S system. To be able to do this, your organisation must be registered for Je-S.

UK higher education institutions and some other independent UK research organisations (including public sector research establishments) are already recognised institutions on Je-S. Find out about eligible research institutes.

Je-S accounts for applicants

All applicants must hold a fellowship ‘applicant’ Je-S account. If you already have a Je-S account, you can ask the Je-S helpdesk to upgrade it to a fellowship account.

Please refer to the Je-S help text for help with setting up a new account.

Creating your proposal

To create your proposal:

  1. Log into Je-S.
  2. From the home screen, select ‘documents’, then select ‘new document’.
  3. On the ‘add new document’ screen, select ‘call search’ (highlighted at the top of the screen). When prompted, type in the funding opportunity title (DigitalFootprints: Senior Strategic Fellowship) and select it from the list created. The remaining three selection fields will be automatically populated.
  4. Select the ‘create document’ button.

Please ensure that your proposal is created and submitted against the correct funding opportunity.

We will not accept proposals that are not submitted using this process.

Completing your proposal

The initial Je-S ‘document instructions’ page will give you general guidance on the navigation of the site, including icon descriptions.

The left-hand column ‘document menu’ lists all the sections associated with this funding opportunity. It clearly identifies which ones are mandatory. This is shown by a red cross that turns to a green tick when completed.

You may return to edit saved documents at any time.

Please note that the details below are not exhaustive step-by-step guidance. We recommend that you refer to the Je-S help text for additional information.

Project details

From the drop-down lists, select your organisation and department. This will be the research organisation where your fellowship will be held.

‘Your reference’ should be supplied by your research organisation (consult your research office). If your research office does not have a system for referencing grant proposals, you may use a suitable reference of your own choice.

Use ‘your reference’ to help distinguish easily between proposals in your ‘current documents’ list. The reference is a unique identifier for the proposal.

Enter the project title: ‘DigitalFootprints: Senior Strategic Fellowship’.

For ‘proposal call’, select ‘DigitalFootprints: Senior Strategic Fellowship’. Please note that this option will only be available once the funding opportunity is live. It may already have been pre-populated into the form.

Your start date should not be before 1 May 2022. Your fellowship should have a proposed duration of no more than 24 months.

Once you have completed and saved this initial section, check the submission path (via the ‘document actions’ tab) to see if the proposal has to be signed off by submitters and approvers. If it does, please make sure they will be available to process the document on the day you intend to submit it to ESRC.

Organisation internal submission structure

We recommend that you forward your proposal to your organisation’s submitter pool in good time before the funding opportunity deadline, to allow sufficient time for the approval and final submission process.

The proposal must be submitted to ESRC through the Je-S system by your institution’s nominated contacts. Once you have completed and submitted the proposal, a notification is sent to your organisation’s ‘submitter’ to action. The ‘submitter’ is the person in that organisation authorised to approve the proposal and carry out the final stage of submission.

You will receive an email confirming that the proposal has been submitted to the submitter pool. This means that the proposal is still with the organisation and has not yet been submitted to ESRC.

The final submission process is the responsibility of your host institution, and we cannot accept responsibility for any delay which may occur at this stage. We strongly advise you to check that you receive an email confirmation from the Je-S system confirming that your proposal has been submitted to UKRI.

Use of your personal information

UKRI captures and processes personal information in line with current data protection legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and any amendments by the UK Data Protection Bill or relevant acts of parliament.

COVID-19 guidance for applicants

Accounting for the unknown impacts of COVID-19

UKRI acknowledges that it is a challenge for applicants to determine the future impacts of COVID-19 while the pandemic continues to evolve. Applications should be based on the information available at the point of submission and, if applicable, the known application-specific impacts of COVID-19 should be accounted for.

Where known impacts have occurred, these should be highlighted in the application, including the assumptions and information available at the point of submission. There is no need to include contingency plans for the potential impacts of COVID-19.

Requests for travel, both domestically and internationally, can be included in accordance with the relevant scheme guidelines, noting the above advice.

Reviewers will receive instructions to assume that changes that arise from the COVID-19 pandemic, post-submission, will be resolved and complications related to COVID-19 should not affect their scores. Where an application is successful, any changes in circumstances that affect the proposal will be managed as a post-award issue.

How we will assess your application

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 DFD landscape, both within the UK and internationally, through expertise in social science research that harnesses digital data and methods
  • relevant experience in shaping and successfully leading a research programme or related research endeavours
  • vision and the ability to understand the big picture
  • the ability to map how various components of the data services landscape can fit together
  • an excellent track record of building effective relationships at senior levels between academia, government, industry and the third sector
  • thorough understanding of the sensitivities around the use of DFD for research and the different approaches for managing these
  • 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
  • proven experience of leading and implementing programmes on time and to a high standard.

If your application is assessed to successfully and fully demonstrate all of the assessment criteria, you will be invited to interview.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity

For further queries please email: fds.df.fellowships@esrc.ukri.org

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.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Webinar

A webinar for applicants and research organisations was held on 17 February 2022.

Watch a recording of the webinar on Zoom (passcode: ^8FBSu?v)

Webinar presentation slides (PDF, 911KB)

Background and scope

In 2014, ESRC invested in data services infrastructure to support researchers accessing and using ‘big data’ in their research.

This included establishing the Consumer Data Research Centre and the Urban Big Data Centre. We also made investments in a number of smaller pilot initiatives that sought to demonstrate the power of big data sources for policy and practice.

Our investment has demonstrated that such data is more important than ever and is critical for social science. However, significant challenges remain.

Short term vision: DigitalFootprints prototype

ESRC is establishing a DigitalFootprints prototype to coordinate, convene, build, develop and support a thriving interdisciplinary community. The prototype will allow this community to create, access and use DFD.

The prototype will support a programme of innovative and original research, using DFD to answer social science research questions of relevance to current government policy, business and the needs of the third sector.

The initial investment in the prototype, from May 2022, will fund:

  • DFD services that meet national priorities and needs, including developing the next generation of researchers and data-focused digital research infrastructures
  • an accelerator programme to enable responsive and rapid research into important societal questions using DFD
  • a coordinating hub that will provide scientific leadership, support coordination and add value to the DigitalFootprints prototype, with a view to enhancing the programme’s scientific, policy, practice and societal contributions.

We envisage that the investment will help inform the development of a larger programme to support the longer term use of DFD.

The DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow will assist the work of the coordinating hub, working alongside ESRC. They will be supported by an administrative assistant funded through the fellowship.

Longer term vision

We expect the DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow to play a major role in shaping the scale and scope of a potential longer term DigitalFootprints investment.

The fellow will also provide strategic advice on the development of related programmes of work within and beyond ESRC. This could include:

  • providing input and advice on ESRC’s review of the PhD in social sciences and data skills for research
  • providing advice and guidance on related research programmes, such as ESRC’s Digital Society Network Plus scheme.

Subject to funding, ESRC will transition the prototype into a larger, more comprehensive DigitalFootprints network. This will leverage and magnify the strengths of DFD and the social sciences to address pressing research and policy questions raised by a post-COVID society facing challenge and opportunity.

DigitalFootprints will not only increase the speed, efficiency and scope of scientific research, but its collaborative approach will also support businesses, innovation, job creation and increased productivity.

As such, DigitalFootprints presents a fantastic opportunity for UKRI to play a critical role in implementing key national strategies such as the government’s national data strategy.

DigitalFootprints will aim to achieve value for money while simultaneously enabling researchers to push the boundaries of what can be achieved with DFD.

Against a backdrop of increasing public scrutiny, DigitalFootprints will embed active and meaningful citizen-centred involvement and engagement across the digital services landscape.

Critically, it will ensure that research using DFD is ethical, enhances privacy, and answers questions of importance for public benefit.

We envisage that this longer term DigitalFootprints investment will include a larger strategic hub. This will coordinate, convene, develop and support a thriving interdisciplinary community.

The hub will design and deliver a unified network of digital research infrastructures that support sustainable and appropriate access to DFD. It will lead cross-cutting, data-focused infrastructure programmes that:

  • create long term partnerships with data owners
  • deliver findable, accessible, interoperable and reusable DFD
  • address major theoretical and methodological challenges associated with DFD
  • support researchers with the ethical and legal challenges of accessing and using DFD
  • focus on areas of national and international interest.

Supporting documents

Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 220KB)

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 209KB)

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