Engaged environmental science: public engagement with environmental science research to move from environmental diagnosis to environmental cure
We are looking to fund three exemplar projects that demonstrate excellence in engaged environmental science research.
The maximum cost of your project can be up to £800,000. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost, with exceptions.
The funded projects will exemplify what an excellent engaged research project that could be funded through NERC discovery or strategic science would look like. Projects will deliver environmental science research outputs and outcomes through the employment of excellent engaged research methodologies and approaches alongside other research and innovation methodologies to deliver quality environmental science outcomes and impacts. Put simply, we wish to see high quality environmental science delivered by including public engagement methodologies, and for the successful teams to show how public engagement enhanced the research, sharing learning with others. It is our ambition that this investment will deliver high-quality engaged research applications that could be eligible across our grant funding opportunities, in line with our strategic ambitions, and afterwards be used to inspire wider uptake of an engaged research model.
Engaged research is conducted with, by and for members of the public and public intermediaries, over any or all stages of a research process, from co-creating research objectives and plans; to collaborating on research delivery to sharing outcomes of research.
Projects will deliver high quality environmental science research that must respond to both:
- scientific needs within NERC remit, and
- needs of public and community groups
- plan, deliver and evaluate engaged environmental science research and innovation that delivers both high quality environmental scientific research outputs and outcomes and high-quality public engagement, to address a significant environmental science question. Alongside robust environmental science plans for delivery, the engaged elements of the proposed project will:
- demonstrate the benefit of engaged research as an effective environmental science research methodology
- generate positive change in society, economy, environment and other types of outcomes and impacts
- exemplify responsible research, for example through listening, collaborating with and responding to members of the public to ensure the research conducted is relevant to different groups of people
- create or develop relevant, sustainable, and equitable research partnerships and research strategies between members of the public or public intermediaries and research and researchers:
- all applications shortlisted at outline stage will be provided with a partnership bursary to facilitate co-creation of the full application with partners. Full information about the bursary can be found Partnership and application co-creation bursary details section.
- please see the section above on “defining the public and public intermediaries” for further guidance on who these partnerships could be built with, for example this could include: specific groups in specific places engaging in research on a specific place-based environmental science research challenge, or; nationally dispersed groups with a stake in a particular environmental challenge, for example a health condition affected by the environment; and many more.
- foster engaged research leadership in the environmental science community and civil society. Research Leadership Team members will champion and raise the profile of engaged research methodologies as part of a scientific team’s toolkit for delivering impactful, quality research and build the profile and capacity to engage relevant members of the public and public intermediaries
This may be before, during or at the end of the research and include:
- championing engaged research methodologies through research leadership with national and international peers in the relevant scientific disciplinary context. For example: sharing learning, experience and outputs of engaged research at high profile environmental science conferences and other networking and professional development fora; bringing awareness of the contribution of engaged research methodologies to research outputs into published articles; other advocacy and leadership with the environmental science community
- through team professional development. For example coaching and mentoring others in their engaged research practice; encouraging early career researchers in delivering engaged research; supporting professional development and skill sharing in the investigator team, including non-academic partners
- supporting leadership and capacity building in civil society based on what communities are interested in
- other support for inspiring and encouraging uptake of engaged research methodologies in the environmental science research community and civil society, including learning from successful models in other research disciplines
Partnership and application co-creation bursary details
All applications successfully shortlisted at outline stage will be provided with a partnership bursary to:
- create or develop relevant, sustainable, and equitable research partnerships and research strategies between members of the public or public intermediaries and research and researchers
- test the feasibility of the partnership
- facilitate co-creation and submission of the full research application with partners
The total fund amount of £300,000 will be split between applicants successfully shortlisted at the outline stage – we anticipate shortlisting between 6 and 12 applications. This opportunity is funded outside of full economic costing rules.
Partnerships can be new or existing. Applications should clearly evidence the mutual benefit to both research and public partners. Public partners should be chosen with clear, evidence-based justification including of the mutual benefit of participation and how this partnership will generate excellent environmental science within the chosen research area.
At the outline application stage, the quality of the proposed partnership and research ideas that address the funding opportunity’s themes are more important than having whole research teams fully identified at the outset. Therefore, applicants may submit applications that do not have all collaborations in place upon submission, provided they demonstrate how they will address this in preparation for the full application stage.
NERC public engagement team will contact applicants successfully shortlisted at the outline stage to detail the process for receiving the bursary.
Examples of appropriate activities for the partnership bursary include:
- paying for the participation of community partners: including the funding of expenses, time, caring responsibilities, training to build the capacity to take a confident and active role in the research activities; setting up and facilitation of meetings (to encourage listening and dialogue) and so on
- ensuring that principles and good practice of partnership working are adopted including through building relationships, trust and shared understanding, outlining mutually agreed ways of working, finding shared language and communication and establishing team dynamics
- evidence gathering, strategic reviews and research needs/impacts assessments
- planning and hosting meetings to build collaborations, develop research questions and hypotheses, and co-write full applications
- building appropriate research strategies, methodologies plans and applications
- Identifying and engaging with the appropriate decision makers and beneficiaries
- developing the Research Leadership Team and project management procedures
- developing communication strategies, evaluation and impact plans
Partnership bursaries can fund direct costs incurred which may include, for example:
- staff resources (including administration and coordination, contributions to salaries). Applicants should consider how to support a healthy working culture when calculating time on the project
- sub-contracting of services, or enabling public or community partners to take part, if public engagement is not considered part of formal workload planning, time for their involvement can be included
- non-staff resources including cost of materials, travel and subsistence, meetings and events, consumables, materials and equipment, and evaluation costs
- the funding of expenses, an honorarium for time, childcare and other costs to allow for participation of those outside of academia such, as public communities, and training to build the capacity of these groups to take a confident and active role in the partnership and research activities
Partnership bursaries cannot fund:
- estates and indirect costs
- activity outside the period from 1 November 2023 to 30 April 2024
- infrastructure or building costs
- academic courses such as Master’s degrees or PhDs, and other tuition fees
Partnership bursary funds will be transferred to the successful principal investigator’s research organisation, which is:
- responsible for the dispersion of funds to others
- responsible for the conduct and administration of the grant
- accountable for the effective use of public funds, and must therefore ensure that all grant monies are subject to proper financial management processes
- responsible for ensuring that expenditure on collaborations is subject to robust controls to ensure value for money and propriety
- ensuring that all costs are fully vouched and maintained for possible inspection and checks by, or on behalf of, UKRI
- responsible for completing an expenditure statement and returning any unused funds to NERC
- the definitions which NERC uses as part of this funding opportunity are included in the Related content section
- applicants must explain the evidence and rationale behind their choices in public engagement, including the members of the public and public intermediaries they are partnering with, the purpose of the engagements, where in the research cycle they are engaging, the engagement methods used and so on. Plans must also reflect the capacities and capabilities of the whole Research Leadership Team
- public engagement processes used as part of engaged research could include combinations of the following, when they are meaningful and beneficial to all parties: citizen research (including citizen science), collaboration, collaborative research (including co-design, co-creation, co-production), consultation (including citizens jury / panel), encounter, enquiry service, event, exhibition, exhibit, formal and informal learning, network, performance, workshop, writing and so on
- out of scope approaches include:
- any one-way engagement methodologies (these can be a small part of a wider research project, but cannot be the sole focus of the engaged research):
- research on the public as ‘subjects’ (for example participant recruitment, social science research about public engagement); citizen science approaches where data is captured by members of the public but does not bring significant mutual benefit to both research and public
- science communication
- partnerships solely between academics or academic institutions
- public engagement with science in general (not research)
- tokenistic engagement (engagement without mutual benefit to all parties)
- this opportunity will inform NERC’s approach to supporting public engagement, and successful applicants must contribute to meetings and collate and share knowledge and learnings about their public engagement practice with NERC and others
- applicants must plan to evaluate the research project collectively, for example through co-creating and editing a live theory of change with vision and outcomes, evaluating the engagement of the leadership team
Research Leadership Team
Applications must create a Research Leadership Team founded on equitable partnerships with members, in particular with members of the public and public intermediaries, including through:
- ensuring equity across all the project members with clear and roles and relationships, lines of responsibility and accountability, ways of working and safeguarding practices. applications must be prepared and submitted by the Principal Investigator, but should be co-created with input from all the team and represent the proposed work of the entire group
- listening, collaborating and responding to needs, challenges and opportunities (with ability to adapt in-line with complex and uncertain situations), reciprocal learning
- planning in all costs associated with inclusion of the Research Leadership Team are fully justified and planning sufficient time for engagement and partnership activities
- considering potential issues of intellectual property. Any entitlements should be set out in a formal collaboration agreement, as per UKRI FEC grants: standard terms and conditions of grant, RGC 12
- creating a clear governance and management plan including information about how this is appropriate to the project, which must be included in the application for the main research project
The duration of:
- the partnership bursary is six months between November 2023 and April 2024
- the full award is up to four years and projects must start by 1 October 2024
The maximum cost of the main research project can be up to £800,000. The total fund for the main research project is £2.4 million. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost with the following exceptions:
For example, to request the maximum of £800,000 for the main research project, this could be calculated by adding £279,070 (30% of £930,233 at 100% FEC) and £520,930 (70% of £930,233 at 80% FEC).
What we will fund
We will fund:
What we will not fund
We will not fund:
- PhD studentships
- shiptime and marine equipment
You must adhere to the NERC data policy.
We will pay the data centre directly for archival and curation services. You will need to fund the costs of preparation of data for archiving by your research team from the grant budget. Outline data management plans are not required at the application stage but will be requested for those projects that are to be funded.
Services and facilities
You can apply to use a service or facility in your funding application.
You should discuss your application with the service or facility at least two months before the funding opportunity’s closing date to:
- discuss the proposed work in detail
- receive confirmation that they can provide the services required within the timeframe of the funding
The facility will provide a technical assessment that includes the calculated cost of providing the service. NERC services and facilities must be costed within the limits of the funding.
You should not submit the technical assessment with the application, but you must confirm you have received it.
For more information, go to the ‘additional info’ section, and the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.
Read the full list of NERC facilities that require a technical assessment.
High performance computing, SME and the large research facilities at Harwell have their own policies for access and costing.
Supporting skills and talent
We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.
If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit Trusted Research for more information on effective international collaboration.
Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment. This is not just through research outputs and outcomes but through the way in which research is conducted and facilities 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 or 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
You should consider the responsible research context of your project, not the host institution as a whole. You should take action to enhance your responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.
Research disruption due to COVID-19
We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:
- 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 that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. 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, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.