Apply for funding to spend up to 18 months as an ESRC Policy Fellow, collaborating with a UK or devolved government host.
- provide research and expert advice on the host’s policy priority areas, including co-designing and delivering research projects and activities
- engage in knowledge exchange (KE) activities across government and academia
- join a cohort of fellows to build longer-term networks across research and policy
This first opportunity of a new ESRC policy fellowship scheme offers an exciting opportunity to develop your career and enhance your understanding of applying research in government contexts.
Fellows will be uniquely positioned to build connections between the policymaking and research communities, as well as to generate and share new knowledge and insights on effective policy collaboration with the wider research community and with funders of this opportunity including ESRC and the AHRC.
Addressing the challenges and opportunities facing citizens, society and the economy requires an integrated, thriving and inclusive research-policy system that can act as a catalyst for innovation, social and institutional change. Central in this is enabling researchers and policy-makers to collaborate and build relationships that are rich, deep and can be sustained.
Opportunities that help people move between research and policy communities to share and develop their knowledge and capabilities are a key mechanism to help develop this collaborative, connected system.
ESRC, in partnership with a range of government hosts and research funders, wishes to fund a cohort of policy fellows to provide research and expert advice on the host’s policy priority areas, and to support wider knowledge exchange between government and academia.
Fellowships are available with:
- Cabinet Office – on evaluation, and on national security
- Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) – on net zero
- Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) – on net zero and on waste
- Department for Transport (DfT) – on transport use, on connectivity and levelling up, and on decarbonisation
- Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) (co-funded with AHRC) – on geographic regions, on disinformation, on international trade law, on national security and on non-proliferation
- Home Office – on cyber crime and on economic crime
- Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) – on climate change policy
- Ministry of Justice (MoJ) – on experimentation and evaluation, and on evidence
- the Scottish government – on health inequalities, on social care, and on equality data
- the Welsh government – on sustainable futures, on environment and rural affairs, and on education.
Each fellowship opportunity focuses on a key policy priority area for the host, set out in detail in the attachments below. Fellowships cover a variety of topics and policy areas. These include COVID recovery, net zero, inequalities and levelling up, crime and justice, health and social care, national security and foreign policy. Some also have a specific methodological or disciplinary focus, such as evaluation and experimentation, data analysis, or behavioural science.
For full details about each fellowship available, see the documents in ‘additional information’.
These include full details on policy areas and relevant disciplines as well as eligibility and other requirements for each fellowship, including security clearance for some opportunities.
This high-profile initiative provides a route for you to bring your expertise to bear on critical policy challenges at the heart of government across the UK, as well as to generate new knowledge about effective collaboration that will shape your career as well as support wider change.
These fellowships are demanding and intellectually stimulating roles, providing an exciting opportunity to combine your specialist knowledge and research expertise with the opportunity to inform decision-makers at the heart of policymaking.
Each fellowship will last up to 18 months to cover a three-month inception phase for set up activity, followed by a 6 to 12-month placement with the host organisation, and concluding with an impact phase lasting up to three months.
Fellows will co-design projects and activities with their host and produce analysis to inform government decision-making across a range of policy priorities. The specific focus for each fellowship opportunity is set out in the attachments below.
If successful, during the inception stage of the fellowship, you will work with your host to refine the focus and priorities for your placement. Alongside these specific activities, during your placement you will also engage across the host organisation, building effective working relationships and supporting wider knowledge exchange with researchers. This will be supported through your embedded role within the host organisation, including line management support.
You will also be supported to network and collaborate with fellows in other government departments and to connect with relevant research communities, with dedicated time within the placement with the host reserved for activities that strengthen engagement between government and academia, and for engagement with the ESRC’s wider policy fellow cohort.
Fellows will also be supported for an additional period after the main placement of up to three months to complete agreed knowledge exchange, publication and impact activity.
Objectives and expectations of fellows
- scope and lead research-related activity with the host
- work closely with hosts to ensure alignment of priorities and that analysis is as robust and useful as possible in driving decisions
- provide advice and peer review to other aspects of the host’s work
- support capability building within host in your area of expertise
- strengthen engagement between government and academia through activities such as:
- connecting with related UKRI and ESRC (and AHRC for FCDO), research portfolios, acting as a pipeline for knowledge exchange between them and government hosts
- publishing outputs from analysis produced, subject to clearance processes
- knowledge exchange activities with academic institutions and other analytical and policy teams within government
- support hosts and funders of this opportunity in the evaluation of the fellowship programme and improvement of future schemes.
Benefits for fellows
As a successful fellow, your benefits will include:
- undertake cutting edge research, further scientific knowledge and potentially access new and novel data
- opportunity to inform decision-making on the most pressing policy problems of our time
- a better understanding of government analysis, operations, policymaking, data usage, and priority areas for research
- ability to build your network of policy and analytical professionals within government
- opportunity to join a cohort of academic researchers across government working to address complex policy questions
- potential to influence future policy-academia collaborations
- opportunity for publication across policy and academia, subject to clearance processes.
During your placement you will have line management and support from the host organisation, and throughout your fellowship you will also regularly engage with and receive support from ESRC.
In addition, if you are an early career researcher you will benefit from funded mentorship support from a more senior researcher in your organisation.
Fellows will also be able to access funding for additional project-specific training or mentorship requirements identified during the inception phase.
Fellowship phases and milestones
Your fellowship award will last up to 18 months and cover:
- inception phase for project set up, three months
- placement with host, between six and 12 months
- impact phase, up to three months.
The inception phase will commence between December 2021 and February 2022 (see specific fellowship for requirement). This will be used to co-produce your final fellowship scope with your host, other preliminary activity required to support this such as data access and accreditations, for induction into the cohort of policy fellows, and for security clearance.
Your expected time commitment during this period is up to 0.2 full-time equivalent (FTE). During this period, you will remain based at your home institution but will join in-person or virtual inception meetings with your host and ESRC or AHRC as required, subject to COVID-19 restrictions.
Through close collaboration with your host, you will:
- develop full project or activity proposals for your main placement
- prepare, submit applications for and receive the necessary level of security clearance. Please note that in some cases obtaining security clearance may take longer than the inception period, check specific opportunities for more detail on these requirements.
During this phase, once the final focus of the placement is agreed you will also be able to apply for up to £10,000 (full economic cost) in further funding to support additional placement-specific travel and subsistence costs, placement-specific mentorship and/or specific training requirements that were not included in your original application.
Placement with hosts
All fellows are expected to start the main placement with their host in spring 2022, once the project scope has been agreed and the opportunity requirements met (including security clearance). You can undertake this secondment full or part time (0.5 FTE minimum) for up to 12 months. Further details on time commitments and duration of the placement are included in the specific opportunity descriptions.
Line management and support will be provided by the host and each host will have their specific requirements in regards to place of work (see opportunity descriptions).
During this period, you will also be expected to take up opportunities for connection with ESRC and the wider cohort of fellows (and AHRC for FCDO fellows).
Knowledge exchange and impact
After the placement completes, you will return to your home institution, and will be supported for an additional period to maximise knowledge exchange and impact through agreed wider engagement and publication activity. You can apply for funding to cover a period of up to three months at up to 0.2 FTE maximum commitment, to undertake this activity.
Your plan for activities for this period will be further defined and agreed with your host and the ESRC (and AHRC for FCDO), during the first half of the fellowship and you will be able to apply for up to £5,000 (full economic cost) additional funding to support these activities. Further details will be shared with successful applicants.
During this period you will also be expected to take up opportunities for connection with ESRC and the wider cohort of fellows (and AHRC for FCDO fellows). After your fellowship award completes, you will join an alumni network to support ongoing opportunities for networking and knowledge exchange.
Outputs and reporting
You will be expected to produce outputs for academic and non-academic audiences based on your work as agreed during the inception phase.
Please note that in some cases published outputs will be subject to clearance by your host, but that all hosts are committed to supporting opportunities for fellows to publish as part of this fellowship.
In addition to standard ESRC reporting requirements, you may also be asked to submit additional information to support wider ESRC strategic objectives and scheme evaluation.