Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Engaging the public with environmental science: 2022

Apply for funding to develop new ways to engage the public with environmental science.

This opportunity aims to support public engagement with environmental science research.

Main applicants do not have to meet standard UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) eligibility conditions.

You must work within NERC’s remit as a main or co-applicant.

Projects must be delivered between 25 July 2022 and 28 February 2023.

The full economic cost of your project can be between £5,000 and £10,000. NERC will fund 100% of the full economic cost.

You can also apply to observe the assessment process.

Who can apply

This funding opportunity welcomes applications (as the main applicant, co-applicant, or as a collaborator) from a variety of backgrounds, including the following groups:

  • environmental science researchers, including early career researchers and PhD students
  • researchers across academic disciplines or fields outside academia
  • public engagement specialists
  • community organisations, public or public-facing groups, for example:
    • learned societies
    • environment and diversity groups
    • charity members
    • community groups
    • local authorities or commercial companies providing a public service
  • business, third sector and government bodies.

PhD students are welcome to apply as the main applicant for this grant with permission from their PhD supervisor, and their Doctoral Training Partnerships or Centres for Doctoral Training, where applicable.

Successful projects with PhD students listed as the main or co-applicant will be required to submit evidence of supervisor permissions before receiving funding. Care should also be taken that the proposed project does not negatively impact the student’s planned PhD training and workload.

Applications must include a researcher who is eligible for UKRI funding and working within NERC’s remit (but not necessarily funded by NERC) as a main or co-applicant. For example, a public engagement coordinator from the charity sector may apply for this grant as the main applicant, if one of the co-applicants is an environmental science researcher from an eligible research organisation.

You must be eligible to apply for this opportunity on behalf of your organisation. It is your responsibility to ensure that you have approval from your organisation to receive funding. The organisation representative’s signature is required on the application form.

You may only submit one application as the main applicant or co-applicant.

Organisations and any individuals listed as a collaborator may be named on more than one application, as long as they have sufficient time and resources to complete the committed effort if all applications are successful.

This opportunity also offers you the chance to observe the assessment process, where you have not had prior experience of this, and if you have not applied for funding from this opportunity. More information about this can be found in the ‘additional info’ section.

Diversity, equity and inclusion questionnaire

We are particularly interested in, and encourage receiving applications from, researchers and practitioners from a diverse range of backgrounds and experiences.

As part of this application process, there will be an optional diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) questionnaire which we are asking the main and co-applicant to complete.

Capturing this data and understanding who we are funding, will enable us to identify areas for improvement within our funding opportunities, and will allow us to plan future investments and engagements more equitably.

The DEI questionnaire document is not mandatory, so if you choose not to supply this information, this will not impact your application and chances of being funded. Please find the DEI questionnaire document in the ‘additional info’ section under the ‘supporting documents’ heading.

We will store your data securely and handle it in line with the UK data protection legislation. If you would like to know more, including how to exercise your data protection rights, please see our privacy notice.

What we're looking for

This is the second round of NERC’s annual public engagement funding opportunity, which aims to support public engagement with environmental science research.

Projects must be delivered between  25 July 2022 and 28 February 2023.

Awards can range between £5,000 to £10,000 per project. These awards are designed to allow individuals or organisations to trial public engagement projects, which could be innovative in their way of delivery, public audiences they engage or subject area focus.

Projects can be planned and delivered as a ‘proof of concept’, and, or, be a small public engagement activity or event with carefully planned outputs and intentions. All proposed projects are expected to be designed proportionately, within the stated timescales and with financial support available.

We hope that successful grant holders may go on to develop the projects further, including accessing other funding.

Types of projects

Through this funding opportunity, we aim to fund a diverse portfolio of projects which deliver or facilitate excellent public engagement with environmental science research. Aligning to the NERC public engagement with research and innovation strategy 2020 to 2025, we are aiming to increase the diversity of projects funded.

For this opportunity, we are interested in funding a portfolio of projects that:

  • have diverse delivery teams
  • engage with diverse audiences
  • address diverse topics
  • take place in a wide range of diverse locations across the UK
  • engage audiences at a local and national level
  • use a range of multidisciplinary approaches including from the social sciences, engineering and the arts
  • engage the public in diverse and innovative ways with environmental science.

Application requirements

Applications must meet a minimum of two of the following objectives, meeting a minimum of one objective from section one, then a second objective from either section one or two.

Section one

Convene public debate, with contemporary issues

Successful projects in this area will enable NERC remit science to be shared and debated with confidence, as well as enabling public audiences to relate environmental science to their daily lives and decision-making, through sharing relevant and beneficial evidence.

The convening of environmental science debates could take place on a local or national scale and may include multidisciplinary approaches.

Funded projects should provide insight into current public debates and consider the role of research within these.

Build capacity of researchers to engage with the public

Successful projects will provide environmental researchers with the skills to engage with a variety of public audiences about their research and increase its impact.

It is also important to build researchers’ capacity to deliver innovative and effective public engagement that’s instinctively built into their research.

For example, providing training and resources to develop research skills in improving the quality and reach of their public engagement, building networks and being able to evaluate their public engagement to an excellent level.

Inspire public audiences with environmental science

Successful projects will inspire audiences to enjoy, contribute, question and critically think about environmental science research.

These projects will make engagement activities accessible and seek to attract a diversity of people to contribute to environmental science or consider potential careers in environmental science.

For example, by working in partnerships to identify and support engagement that specifically identifies and targets communities and other groups of people that aren’t already inspired by environmental science, with considerations to issues of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Section two

Engage the public with environmental science where new opportunities have arisen

Successful projects will seek to make the most of new emerging public engagement opportunities, which have not previously been available.

For example, a new engagement opportunity has arisen to convene public debate around the outcomes of a research project, which was not apparent when the funding bid for the research grant was made.

Trial innovative public engagement with environmental science approaches

Successful projects will include methods that may be novel in the environmental sciences or with particular partners or public groups.

This novel method could include public groups leading the project instead of members of the academic community.

For example, using public engagement methodologies from other disciplines or sectors that are rarely used in environmental science, or new and exciting activities which may be considered ‘too risky’ or an ‘untraditional’ method of public engagement that may not receive funding from elsewhere.

Leadership activities in public engagement with environmental science

Successful projects will assist in raising the profile of public engagement within your organisation and more broadly, for instance, into the local community or identified public groups.

For example, this grant could cover staff time for leadership activities, setting up a mentoring scheme, or planning and delivering environmental science-focused public engagement training at your university, organisation or within the community.


All projects must align the delivery to contribute to the NERC responsible business statement, and more specifically, you should consider how to adopt responsible practices through your public engagement activities to reduce or enhance benefits on the environment and society.

NERC reserves the right to withhold funds for projects which are deemed to not adopt or contradict the responsible business statement and ways of working.

If selected, you will be asked to complete an equality impact assessment report (EIA) for your project, which must be completed and approved by NERC before the project commences.


NERC will require evaluation of projects and the collection of data for reporting purposes, as we are interested in sharing learning from our investments.

Funded projects will be required to contribute towards the following:

A grant meeting in person (week commencing 12 September 2022)

Before this meeting, a short evaluation survey of no more than one side of A4 will need to be completed. Please ensure if you intend to attend in person, this is costed into your project funding.

A project summary and evaluation talk, virtually (week commencing 6 February 2023)

Each project will prepare a five-minute presentation around the evaluation topics.

Final specific project evaluation (after project completion)

The guidance and template will be provided by NERC. These evaluation reports are around four pages of A4 and will require qualitative and quantitative evaluation.

We expect you to complete a proportional level of evaluation for your project, which could include further evaluation, in addition to the above requirements.

Additional leverage

We strongly welcome applicants, where possible, to secure additional leveraged funding as part of their submission from appropriate sources. Applicants must clearly state the source and amount of any existing leveraged funding (in-kind or cash) within their budgets outlined in their application form.


Application requirements include:

  • the content of applications must have a focus on a specific NERC-remit environmental science research area (please see the NERC delivery plan (PDF, 2.5MB) and NERC remit for more information). Broader public engagement activities which focus on generalised science are not acceptable
  • the public engagement activities must have a clear purpose (National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement), with intended outcomes and impacts, where researchers consider their responsibilities in line with NERC’s responsibility approach. The impact may focus upon society, culture or the environment, or any other area of impact as described by the Research Excellence Framework
  • the audience (National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement) for the engagement should be carefully considered and specified, and reasons for engagement justified using evidence
  • applicants planning to involve those outside of academia in the delivery of the projects (for example, co-design approaches) must consider their approach in building equitable, ethical partnerships and managing risks in line with best practice, such as that highlighted in the Creating Living Knowledge report. Please ensure that you are appropriately compensating any individuals or organisations that collaborate on your grant
  • this is a public engagement funding opportunity, so there must also be demonstrable benefits to members of the public as well as to research or researchers
  • engagement must focus on the UK public. If international engagement is a by-product of the core engagement, this would be deemed accepted. However, a project where all or most of the engagement was international would be unacceptable and not suitable for funding
  • applications will need to consider the potential ongoing impacts of coronavirus, including impact on supply chains, adhering to any changing government guidance, for example. Projects are required to have a coronavirus contingency plan.


Applications can include fully justified, direct costs, incurred in delivering the project. The budget and costings must be based on valid estimates.

Funding requests may include:

  • staff resources including administration and coordination, contributions to salaries (where a named individual will undertake work that would not be considered part of their normal duties as set out by their employer), sub-contracting of services, and funding that would enable public or community partners to take part-non-staff resources including the cost of materials, travel and subsistence, meetings, events, consumables, materials, equipment, and evaluation costs. Travel and subsistence costs should adhere to UKRI’s travel and subsistence policy (PDF, 162KB).
  • the costs of additional childcare, beyond that required to meet the normal contracted requirements of the job, and that cover time directly related to the project. This may be requested as a directly incurred cost. However, childcare costs associated with normal working patterns may not be sought.

What will not be funded

Funding will not be provided for:

  • directly allocated costs or indirect costs
  • estates and in-direct costs
  • fees or honoraria to people already in paid employment to deliver activities where such activities would reasonably be undertaken as part of their normal duties
  • retrospective funding, including those projects with a start date after the closing date but before the funding decisions are announced
  • infrastructure or building costs
  • expenses incurred submitting the application
  • academic courses such as master’s degrees or PhDs, and other tuition fees.

Project budgets must be designed to take into consideration the following:

  • public groups may not be charged an entrance fee to engage
  • prize money may not be given to winners in competitions.

How to apply

Application process

Applications must be emailed in a PDF format to Grace Macmillan, Public Engagement Programme Manager ( by 16:00 on 18 May 2022. Any applications received after this date and time will not be accepted. You should submit your application in plenty of time.


A webinar and question and answer session for applicants took place on 27 April 2022.

This webinar was recorded and is available to view at:

Engaging the public with environmental science webinar via Zoom (59 minutes)

What to include

We have provided a template document for applications to this funding opportunity which must be used when submitting. Please note application form margins, font type and size (Arial, font size11) must not be amended before submission. Any application received not using the application template provided and any altered application forms will be rejected at the sift stage.

Application forms must be submitted as one PDF document. The finished document must be no longer than four pages, with the section titled ‘application template’ being no longer than two pages. Any applications not in PDF format and that exceed the page limit requirements will be rejected at the sift stage.

Full details of the application content, word count and format can be found in the template document.

As mentioned in the ‘who can apply’ section of this funding opportunity, we are requesting that only the main and co-applicant answer and submit an optional DEI questionnaire. This document can be found in the ‘additional info’ section, under the heading ‘supporting documents’. If the main or co-applicant has chosen to fill in the questionnaire, then these can be submitted as separate documents in a PDF format to by 18 May 2022 at 16:00. There is no page limit for this document.

Disbursement of funds

Funds will be transferred to the successful main applicant’s organisation via a purchase order process. More information is available in the ‘additional info’ section of this funding opportunity. It is then the responsibility of that organisation to disburse funds to the costed members of the delivery team.

The 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.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

For applications to meet the eligibility criteria of Growing Roots (round two), they must adhere to the following as outlined in the funding opportunity:

  • that the main applicant or co-applicant is an eligible researcher, as set out by UKRI’s funding eligibility and is working within NERC’s remit (but not necessarily funded by NERC)
  • the funding amount requested is not below £5,000 and does not exceed the £10,000 limit
  • projects are delivered within the required period (25 July 2022 to 28 February 2023)
  • application forms have been correctly completed and submitted as one PDF document, using the template provided by NERC, and do not exceed the page limit (as detailed within the application template). Full guidance for formatting the document is available in the template.

Applications that don’t meet the above criteria will be deemed not eligible for this opportunity, will not go to the panel, and will not receive individual feedback regarding the reason for rejection.

Scope sift

Applications that are deemed eligible for funding after the initial sift will then be evaluated to check that they are within scope for this opportunity, before being sent to the panel for review.

In scope applications must meet a minimum of two of NERC’s objectives for this opportunity. Please see the ‘what we’re looking for’ section for further information.

Please note NERC will assess the fit to scope for all applications using the project scope section of the application form (200 words maximum) located on page four only.

Eligible applications go to the panel for evaluation

All applications that have passed eligibility and scope checks will be assessed by a panel. This panel will be made up of individuals with either public engagement or environmental science research experience.

Panel members may include:

  • public engagement specialists
  • environmental scientists
  • interdisciplinary specialists
  • community engagement specialists
  • responsibility, sustainability, or DEI specialists
  • early career researchers.

Panel reviews and recommends projects for funding

The panel will review all eligible and in-scope applications, and will consider the portfolio as a whole, before making recommendations to NERC on which projects should receive funding.

NERC reserves the right not to fund up to the limit allocated to the funding opportunity and to make changes to the budgetary limits of the successful grants. NERC also reserves the right to select from the projects which the panel has recommended for funding, to ensure a spread of geography, audience, engagement types and topics within the funded grants.

Assessment criteria

All applications will be assessed based on the following criteria:

  • the extent to which the project has the potential to achieve a minimum of the two selected objectives of the funding opportunity whether the project has clear plans for delivery, and that the resources requested are appropriate and reasonable for spend of public money
  • if the project is well planned, researched, and managed. This includes the need  for the public engagement activities, why the chosen approach is being taken and appropriate contingency plans (for example, coronavirus contingency plans)
  • that the project has a clear approach to monitoring, evaluation, and legacy (for example, how resources will be shared, and partnerships sustained)
  • whether the project demonstrates plans for high-quality public engagement, that has a clear, well-justified, and proportionate vision and purpose for the project, responding to a need, with clearly defined desired outcomes
  • that the project has a clear justification of who will be a beneficiary or audience of the project (for example, which public groups, professionals or researchers). This includes clear considerations of why they are working with them and how relationships will be built with their target audience
  • the extent to which the project has NERC-remit research embedded throughout that the public engagement activities with the project have a clear purpose which has considered environmental sustainability and DEI practices.

Proportionate panel feedback will be provided by NERC to both successful and unsuccessful applicants.

NERC reserves the right to contact the applicant for further information after the panel has taken place and before an application is confirmed as funded.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

Grace Macmillan, Public Engagement Programme Manager


Additional info


Public engagement is an important mechanism by which NERC achieves the approach and commitment to both sustainability and corporate responsibility set out in the NERC responsible business statement, ensuring that through our business operations, we have a positive contribution to society and the environment across all NERC investments.

This framework includes four pillars under which we prioritise our actions to make the most of opportunities to enhance our performance and to meet the needs of NERC and UKRI. These include:

Environmental sustainability

Enhancing our positive environmental impact and minimising harm. For example, public engagement can help deal with issues of diversity, equity and inclusion, and build community engagement.

Social responsibility

Engaging and supporting our community, while promoting diversity, equity and inclusion in the environmental science sector. For example, public engagement can help support behaviour change of members of the public, or influence policy and business leaders.

Responsible decision making

Acting in a transparent and fair way across our business practices, with partners that share our ethical values. For example, listening and responding to public concerns and aspirations can improve our accountability.

Responsible research

Research with integrity, carried out by a diverse and outstanding body of researchers. For example, encouraging researchers to consider their responsibility as recipients of public funding can increase the openness and accessibility of research, its impact and relevance to the society in which it sits.

Public engagement at NERC

The NERC public engagement with research and innovation strategy outlines our purpose, objectives, approach and commitment to public engagement, to increase the responsibility, relevance and impact of our work.

Our strategy is supported by a public engagement glossary, which has definitions of terms associated with public engagement as used by NERC and provided for clarity for when NERC uses a term.

Other important information

This funding opportunity adheres to the guidance within the NERC grants and fellowships handbook, except in circumstances where there are exceptions to the standard NERC funding opportunity (for example, eligibility) that have been outlined.

Information relating to applications may be shared, on a confidential basis, across UKRI councils, and with other organisations to support cross-council learning.

Payment of grants

The process to award these grants will be for:

  • a purchase order to be raised (a purchase order number will be shared with the successful main applicant)
  • the grant  to be paid by invoice process (which must include the purchase order number, site address, NERC’s address and a unique invoice number)
  • invoicing to be completed in line with the timeline provided within the announcement of funding. NERC cannot pay in advance of delivery and invoices should be provided directly to the public engagement team at the dates specified, not at the start of the project. NERC will provide the required dates to successful applicants.

Grant panel observation opportunity

You also have the opportunity to observe the assessment process if you do not have experience of this.

Those without formal grant panel experience may apply to digitally attend panel meetings as observers, as a professional development opportunity.

This opportunity is available for NERC-funded researchers, PhD students, or public engagement professionals who support NERC-funded researchers or NERC-funded projects, as part of their professional development.

You must be able and willing to attend an allocated date of panel meetings, adhere to conflict of interest and confidentiality agreements, and offer feedback about the process and your experience to inform future funding opportunities.

To be eligible for the grant panel observation opportunity, you must not be named (main applicant, co-application, collaborator, or other) on or be involved in any of the delivery on a submitted application for this main opportunity.

To apply for this opportunity, please email no later than 16:00 on 23 May 2022  with no more than 200 words outlining the following:

  • your name, job role, institution, and best contact email address
  • why you are unable to access this experience elsewhere in your job role
  • how this will benefit your professional development
  • how this will benefit research projects and public engagement projects which you work on
  • how you intend to share your learnings from the panel observation with others within your team or organisation, for example.

By emailing in your application for this opportunity, you agree with the terms outlined above. If you are unable to make the panel date, your place will be offered to another interested party.

The NERC public engagement team will review the applications. If there are more applications than spaces, NERC will invite individuals who demonstrate the most potential impact in their email statement. NERC will award places ensuring a diversity of job roles and institutions. Please note that those selected to observation panels will not attend the full sessions. Instead short sections, and panel observers will not be permitted to view the final shortlisting process.

Unsuccessful applicants for this observation opportunity will not receive individual assessment feedback as to why an observation place was not awarded. NERC will provide generic feedback as to the characteristics of successful applications.

Supporting documents

Engaging the public with environmental science 2022: application form (Word, 80KB)

Diversity, equity and inclusion questionnaire (Word, 64KB)

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