Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Ernest Rutherford Fellowship: research core science independently

Apply for funding to run an independent research project. The project must be within the remit of the STFC core science programme.

You must:

  • be an early career researcher
  • not be in a permanent academic position.

Your application must be hosted and supported by an eligible UK research organisation.

You must hold a PhD and have clear leadership potential.

We will fund your proposal at 80% of its full economic cost. Your host research organisation must agree to fund the rest.

The fellowship will last up to five years.

Who can apply

Early career researchers

Ernest Rutherford fellowships are intended for early career researchers who do not have a permanent academic position. You are not eligible if you currently hold a permanent position or the equivalent in institutions other than universities.

If you secure a permanent position prior to the offer of a fellowship, you will be ineligible to hold the fellowship.

Applicants must hold a PhD at the time of applying for a fellowship.

Eligible institutions

Fellowships may be held at any eligible UK research organisation as set out in the STFC research grants handbook.

Find out which institutions are eligible.

STFC sets a strict limit on the number of applications that each department may submit. Therefore, it is not possible for a host to support all interested applicants.

Any departments who exceed their limit will be required to withdraw the excess applications. It is therefore important that you seek assurance from your proposed host department that your application can be accommodated within its limit.

You are advised to contact your proposed host department as early as possible and certainly well ahead of the deadline for submission of applications, as departments have their own internal processes to select which candidates to support.

See the list of departments, contacts and internal deadlines (PDF, 166KB).

Fellowship applications associated with the Cockcroft Institute are made through the relevant partner institution but are counted against the Cockcroft Institute limit and should be flagged in the case for support.

Fellowship applications associated with UK Astronomy Technology Centre (UKATC) are counted against the University of Edinburgh School of Physics and Astronomy limit.


Fellowships are open to applicants of any nationality. Where applicable, you will need to comply with Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) requirements and hold a work permit prior to taking up the fellowship. Work permits are a matter for direct negotiation between the institution, the DWP and the Home Office.

All successful applicants who require a visa to work in the UK will be eligible to be considered under the Global Talent visa route. The grant of any visa is always subject to the standard Home Office general grounds for refusal of a visa.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) is able to provide additional guidance regarding the appropriate evidence required to complete the visa application process under the Global Talent visa.

Applications are welcome from candidates who intend to use the fellowship as a means of re-establishing themselves in the UK following a period overseas.

Other funding

Applicants should not be in receipt of duplicate funding for the same or similar proposal from more than one funding agency. Details of similar proposals that have been submitted to other funding agencies must be added in the ‘other support’ section of the STFC application. You must also advise STFC if a successful funding decision is made by the other funding agency.

Applicants who have applied for the UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships can also apply for an Ernest Rutherford fellowship but cannot hold two fellowships that fund their working time simultaneously.

Applicants who apply for an Ernest Rutherford fellowship can also apply for a future Stephen Hawking fellowship but cannot hold two fellowships that fund their working time simultaneously. Projects should not be duplicated and there should be substantial differences in the applications.

Career breaks

Applications are welcome from those seeking to resume a research career following a period of absence from active research of, normally, at least one year. The break may have been due, for example, to:

  • long term illness, injury or disability
  • family or caring responsibilities
  • parental leave
  • working in non-academic employment.

Years of experience

STFC no longer defines eligibility for Ernest Rutherford fellowships in terms of a minimum number of years of experience. Instead, applicants should read the competency framework (PDF, 98KB) to determine if you have the skills, knowledge and experience to apply for an Ernest Rutherford fellowship.

Full or part time

Fellowships can be held either on a full‐time or a part‐time basis by applicants wishing to combine their fellowship with caring responsibilities.

A part‐time award can be held at 50% or above of full‐time equivalent. A part‐time fellow may not hold another part‐time position in conjunction with the fellowship. The period of award for fellowships held on a part‐time basis will be extended on a pro rata basis.

What we're looking for

STFC is offering up to 10 Ernest Rutherford Fellowships which provide five years of funding to outstanding researchers at an early stage of their career.

The aim is to support future scientific leaders to establish a strong, independent research programme.

Applications must fall within the remit of the STFC core science programme. This includes:

  • astronomy
  • solar and planetary science
  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • cosmology
  • nuclear physics
  • accelerator physics.

The project must align to STFC strategic objectives and core business activities.

The role of the fellow will be to undertake their own research programme.

Successful applicants can start their fellowship anytime from 1 June 2023 to 31 March 2024.

Fellowship applications are costed on the basis of full economic cost (fEC). If a fellowship is awarded, STFC will provide funding at 80% of the fEC requested.

The host institution must agree to fund the balance of fEC for the proposal from other resources. Universities and other higher education organisations use the transparent approach to costing (TRAC) methodology to calculate fEC.

For further information about fEC, see the STFC guidance for applicants.

Read about funding available in the fellowship guidance for applicants.

How to apply

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

Applying using Je-S

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

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

When applying, select ‘new document’ then:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: fellowship proposal
  • scheme: Ernest Rutherford Fellowship
  • call/type/mode: ERF 2022.

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

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance on completing your application.  Applicants may submit only one application to STFC for an Ernest Rutherford Fellowship per year.

STFC must receive your application by 13 September 2022 at 16:00.

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 are advised to discuss and agree your starting salary with your proposed host institution, before your application is submitted.

The agreed salary should be in accordance with the institution’s standard recruitment and employment practices. The appointment level on the institution’s salary scale should be justified in the application.

The salary costs requested should include employer’s national insurance and superannuation contributions. Salary increments over the period of the fellowship should be taken into account, but not anticipated future pay awards.

STFC will award funds on the basis of the agreed salary scales at the time of announcement, with provision for future years increase on the basis of standard UKRI indexation rates. Once announced, the grant will not normally be increased to take account of different indexation rates.


Personal travel is taken to include necessary collaborative visits and fieldwork, and attendance at one conference workshop or symposium during each year of the fellowship. This excludes fieldwork and visits that form part of the work of a research group with which you may be associated.

If you are associated with an STFC research grant, you must ensure that any travel connected with the research project for which the grant was given is claimed from that source.

You should estimate in your application all personal travel and subsistence funds required during the lifetime of the fellowship. Travel and subsistence costs are expected to be around £2,000 per annum. If there are exceptional circumstances for applying for additional funding in excess of the guidance levels, justification will need to be made in your case for support.

Other costs

Applicants may request minor equipment and consumables up to a total of £5,000 for the duration of the fellowship under ‘directly incurred other costs’.

At the end of the fellowship, any resources purchased will belong to the institution. If there are exceptional reasons for applying for more than the guideline level, then justification of these costs should be included in your case for support.

STFC do not fund mentoring time and this cost should not be included in the funding costs.

Laptops may be costed where a new member of staff (for example, a fellow) who is employed purely for the grant will require this, or where a higher specification is required for the completion of specific grant related activities such as data modelling or enhanced graphics.

These costs should be applied for under ‘directly incurred other costs’.

Relocation and visas

Applicants moving to the UK from overseas to take up an award may request relocation and visa costs.

These costs should be applied for under the ‘directly incurred other costs’ heading on the proforma and are in addition to the £5,000 under ‘other costs’.

STFC will award a maximum of £1,200 if moving from Europe or £3,000 if moving from outside of Europe.

NHS surcharge payment is not an eligible cost as part of a visa application.

Publication costs

STFC will no longer provide funding in research grants for any publication costs associated with peer-reviewed journal articles and conference papers.

UKRI provides direct funding to research organisations for this purpose. Publication costs associated with research outputs other than journal articles and conference papers, such as books, monographs, critical editions and catalogues, may, however, continue to be included in grants as a ‘directly incurred other cost’.

Any request for such costs will of course need to be fully justified in the case for support.

Directly allocated costs

Estates costs include building and premises costs, basic services and utilities and appear under the ‘directly allocated costs’ heading. Estates costs are calculated by the research organisation and a single figure will appear on the application.

Directly incurred costs

Costs that are explicitly identifiable as arising from the conduct of a project are charged as the

cash value actually spent and are supported by an auditable record. Ernest Rutherford Fellowships provide funds to cover your salary, the costs of personal travel and some minor equipment costs.

These should be requested under the ‘directly incurred costs’ heading. Applicants who are returning from a career break may also apply for funds for retraining and updating their skills where this can be justified in the context of the proposed research project.

Indirect costs

Indirect costs include the costs of administration, such as personnel, finance, library and some departmental services. Like estate costs, indirect costs will be calculated by the research organisation and a single figure will be entered on the application.

Mandatory attachments

As well as your application form, you must include the following PDF attachments:

  • narrative CV template (DOCX, 69KB) (no other template will be accepted, maximum of four sides of A4)
  • list of publications by year, which should not include presentations. List only those publications that have been submitted and not in progress
  • case for support (maximum of four sides of A4)
  • data management plan (maximum of two sides of A4).

All documents must be submitted as PDF attachments and must abide by the page limits (outlined above) and the restrictions on font size, font type and margins (described in STFC requirements).

These rules will be strictly enforced. STFC will reject a proposal if any of the documents submitted breach the rules on page limits, font size, font type or margins.

Proposals that are in breach of the application rules will not be returned for amendment. The only exception would be where a breach occurred because of issues downloading the proposal into UKRI systems.

No other documents will be considered and will be removed from the application.

See ‘how we will assess your application’ for the assessment criteria and where evidence of the competencies should be referenced.

Case for support

This should be a clear and concise description including the vision, aims and context of your proposed research (maximum length of four sides of A4 including references, diagrams, timelines and illustrations).

You should not duplicate material given in your narrative CV or publication list. You should focus on the assessment criteria and the competencies associated with these criteria.

The description of your proposed fellowship research should:

  • describe the context and aims
  • indicate the approach you intend to take and the timetable for your work, highlighting the excellence, timeliness, feasibility, distinctive vision and importance of your proposal.

You should set your programme of research in the wider international context and explain why you are the right person to do the work.

A separate ‘Pathways to Impact’ statement is no longer required, but applicants must still consider how they will or might achieve impact throughout their projects and include this as part of their case for support.

Learn more about impact funding.

Applicants should note that, whilst there are no set rules against including web links in the case for support, reviewers and panel members are under no obligation to follow them so they should not be used as a way to provide critical or additional information.

Data management plan

If your proposal is for a project that would result in the production or collection of scientific data, then a data management plan should be added as an attachment.

The data management plan should explain how the data will be managed over the lifetime of the project and, where appropriate, preserved for future re-use.

This is a mandatory requirement. Therefore, if a data management plan is not relevant to your proposal then an attachment explaining this should be uploaded to pass the Je-S validation requirement.

Learn more about including data management plans.

Narrative CV

You must submit the mandatory narrative template. No other CV will be considered.

No section or text in bold in the narrative CV should be deleted. However, all text attaining to the competencies that is in italic should be deleted as they are a reminder of what you need to include under each section.

The information you provide should be evidenced based and address the relevant criteria under ‘how we will assess your application’.

In section four ‘additional Information’, you should include any periods of:

  • part-time working
  • maternity, paternity or adoption leave
  • parental leave
  • disability
  • ill-health
  • childcare or other caring responsibilities.

Please be aware that any information provided will be shared with reviewers and panel members.

Career breaks

If your application has been affected by an earlier career break or other extenuating circumstances, please indicate this so that it can be taken into account in the assessment of your application.

Applicants should make clear any substantive periods of absence from research within their application and narrative CV. Further details on the nature of the absence and how it has affected track record, productivity and career progression may be provided, if desired.

Information will be used only to make appropriate adjustments when assessing an individual’s track record, productivity and career progression.

How we will assess your application

Fellowship applications will be sent to independent reviewers for assessment.

Reviewer comments on your application will be made available to you. You will have the opportunity to respond to any factual inaccuracies.

You should address your response to the fellowship panel and not the reviewers. Your response should be in A4 format with a maximum of half a side per reviewer. As for all attachments, the response should be written as per STFC specific requirements.

Please complete and submit your response by the due date stated. This is normally five working days after receipt of the invitation.

Your application, reviewers’ comments and any response by you will be considered by the fellowship panel, operating as eight sub‐panels:

  • extragalactic
  • near universe
  • near universe solar or exoplanet
  • particle physics experiment and accelerator science
  • particle physics theory
  • particle astrophysics and cosmology
  • nuclear physics
  • accelerator physics.

The top-ranked candidates will be invited to interview. You will receive short feedback from the panel.

The highest ranked candidates from the interviews will be offered an Ernest Rutherford fellowship. If any of these candidates withdraw, fellowships will be offered to the ranked list of reserve candidates.

Assessment criteria

In considering your fellowship application, the fellowship panel will use the following criteria:

  • the excellence of the research achievements of the applicant
  • the potential of the individual to lead their research discipline
  • the capability to maximise the potential of others and the ability to be, or become, a clear communicator and disseminator of knowledge
  • the excellence, timeliness, feasibility, distinctive vision and importance of the proposed research
  • strategic value within the STFC programme.

Competency framework

The competency framework gives an additional indication of how your application can provide evidence of the level of experience and abilities expected. It also informs you of where to record the evidence in your application.

The excellence of the research achievements of the applicant

You should:

  • have a track record of ambitious, innovative and novel research in your area that demonstrates an upward trajectory
  • show substantial contributions to high quality outputs appropriate to your field, for example publications, software, hardware infrastructure, technical reports or instrumentation
  • have received external recognition of research excellence with high profile invitations to seminars or conferences to present your research
  • have received recognition through prizes and awards.

These competencies should be highlighted in your CV.

The potential of the individual to lead their research discipline

You should:

  • have clear plans to establish your own research profile that will enable you to become an intellectual independent research leader and if applicable, establish your own research team
  • demonstrate potential to lead research, for example by initiating collaborations with teams in other departments either nationally or internationally, research organisations or other disciplines
  • show a credible plan for how research outcomes will be communicated and disseminated to achieve the maximum impact within the research community, building on previous experience and track record.

These competencies should be highlighted in your CV and case for support.

You should also:

  • show evidence of independence and initiative in obtaining funding
  • show the beginnings of evidence of recognition and prominent leadership positions in the community on an international scale through mechanisms appropriate to your discipline
  • show an understanding and clear plans of how to influence your research field and awareness of ways to influence the wider research agenda (for example through experience of participation in peer review, participation in internal committees, acting as an ambassador or advocate for a research field or theme, or influencing policy or organisation roles in research workshops).

These competencies should be highlighted in your CV.

The capability to maximise the potential of others and the ability to be, or become, a clear communicator and disseminator of knowledge

You should:

  • have identified opportunities to access career development support from the host organisation or outside organisations, for example mentoring and professional training development and relevant training courses that would underpin your future career ambitions
  • show an ability to identify and maximise potential in others (for example, through the day-to-day support and development of graduate and undergraduate students or early career researchers, providing career support or by actively networking or coordinating the work of others
  • show evidence of engagement that is integral to your own research community (for example, running a journal club, hackathons) and have effective communication and interpersonal skills across the wider research community (for example presentations at conferences, workshops).

These competencies should be highlighted in your CV.

You should also show a credible plan to communicate and disseminate the impact of the research outside of the community, across different audiences, building on previous experience and track record (for example, through collaboration with private, public or third sector bodies, publications for a non-academic audience, social media or public engagement activities). This competency should be highlighted in your CV and case for support.

The excellence, timeliness, feasibility, distinctive vision and importance of the proposed research

You should:

  • have a clear and distinctive strategic vision for your own research in the context of the broad research area within which you work, including internationally
  • be able to describe how your research plans fit into an international context
  • be able to show how the planned programme of research demonstrates potential to significantly advance the field with the appropriate balance of risk versus reward
  • demonstrate that the project is feasible within the period of the fellowship, showing a rigorous approach to reach achievable goals.

These competencies should be highlighted in your case for support.

Strategic value within the STFC programme

You should show the importance and alignment of the project to the STFC programme. This competency should be highlighted in your case for support. The STFC challenges in frontier physics questions will give more information.

Career break

In assessing the effects of a career break, the panel will note the applicant’s career trajectory and potential at the beginning of the break relative to the stage of the applicant’s career. In assessing applicants, the panel will recognise that the effects on productivity of a career break or a period of flexible working may continue beyond the return to work.

Examples of areas that may be affected are:

  • presentation and publication record
  • patents filed
  • track record of securing funding, including time to obtain preliminary date
  • maintaining networks of research or innovation contact and collaborations
  • time required for training
  • the ability to take up opportunities in different geographical locations
  • the ability to take up courses, sabbaticals, visits, placements and secondments.

If your application has been affected by a career break or other extenuating circumstances, please indicate this so that it can be taken into account in the assessment of your application. This should be included in section four ‘additional information’ of the narrative CV.

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 a question about Ernest Rutherford fellowships


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Additional info

Terms and conditions

STFC fellowships are governed by the grant conditions as set out in the research grants guidance for applicants, unless otherwise stated.

Applications are accepted and awards are made on the understanding that research organisations and fellows agree to observe the terms and conditions and the scheme requirements set out in this guidance and any amendments issued during the currency of the award.

STFC intends its scheme to be flexible and reserves the right to deal as it thinks fit with applications of unusual character and to waive any rule at its absolute discretion.

For further information, applicants should refer to:

Research organisations must appoint research fellow employees for the full duration of the award and integrate the research fellow within the research activities of the host department, whilst ensuring that they are able to maintain independence and focus on their personal research programme.

Awards are made on the understanding that the fellow’s work and progress are subject to the same monitoring and appraisal procedures as those of other academic staff within the host institution, and that there are adequate facilities at the host institution for the research proposed.

See the terms and conditions guidance for Ernest Rutherford Fellowships.

Supporting documents

Narrative CV template (DOCX, 69KB)

Ernest Rutherford Fellowship competency framework (PDF, 98KB)

Department application limits 2022 (DOCX, 37KB)

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 189KB)

Reviewer guidance (PDF, 214KB)

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