We are looking to fund a dedicated CDT+ in Behavioural Research. This is part of a total £18 million ESRC investment over the next four to six years to create a new National Capability for Behavioural Research, which will be led by a ‘hub’ (see ‘additional info’ section for more details).
Aims of the CDT+
The CDT+ is expected to build a critical mass of interdisciplinary researchers with the knowledge and skills to transform our understanding of human behaviour and inform policy and practice by:
- developing the next generation of PhD graduates with skills in applying a diverse range of research methods and producing research that addresses the needs of policymakers, business, and civil society
- offering a fellowships programme that accelerates the development of a cohort of early career researchers (ECRs) able to pursue a career in applied behavioural research both within and outside of academia
- designing a flexible programme of training and development activities that enables the participation of researchers in government and other sectors for mutual benefit and supports the uptake of behavioural research findings and methods in local and national decision making.
We take a broad definition of what ‘behavioural research’ encompasses which goes beyond individualistic approaches to behaviour change. Our definition includes research to answer fundamental questions about how and why people, organisations and groups behave in the way they do within wider societal and economic contexts.
We expect a broad range of disciplinary perspectives, within the social sciences and beyond, to be involved in the investment. Outputs from the investment should be targeted towards addressing major societal and economic challenges.
CDT+ vision, quality of research environment, and the team
The CDT+ must support innovative training that will ensure graduates, ECRs and broader audiences, have the skills they need to work across disciplinary and sector boundaries (for example, government, academic, and industry, and within and across social sciences).
The CDT+ must be led by research leaders in the field who can demonstrate that students and ECRs will be based within a high quality and supportive research environment.
The team must have experience of interdisciplinary working and delivering high quality student-centred postgraduate training.
The team should bring fresh perspectives to behavioural research and demonstrate an in-depth understanding of the variety of disciplines and methodological approaches that can contribute to our understanding of behaviour. For example, this could include disciplines from the social, economic, life, physical and mathematical sciences, and approaches such as:
- data science and artificial intelligence
- human-centred design
- evaluation methods
- systems approaches
- social practice.
We currently support two CDTs and based on experience, at a minimum, research organisations need to provide the following resourcing to support the delivery of doctoral training:
- a professorial level CDT+ director post (more than 20% full-time equivalent (FTE) for single institution CDTs, more than 30% FTE for consortia institution CDT+)
- a deputy director
- an identified training lead
- an experienced senior level CDT+ manager and a CDT+ administrator (with administrators or points of contact based at each partner institution for consortia CDT+ proposals)
- management board commitment and support for finance and knowledge exchange
- other support that will depend on the individual institutional configuration.
Applicants will need to explain the suitability of the director and the senior management team. We expect that the director will remain in place for the duration of the CDT+. If they step down, ESRC will be required to approve their replacement. Applicants should describe their approach to succession planning.
Applicants should consider what additional resources will be required to support to the broader aims of the CDT+ beyond doctoral training. Costs associated with the development and delivery of training beyond studentships can be included as part of this application. See ‘funding’ section below for further information.
Partnership and engagement, specifically collaboration with non-academic partners
The success and scale of this CDT+ is dependent on the active support and participation of a wide range of key stakeholders. The broader aims of this CDT+ reflect the need to support the uptake of behavioural research methods and findings in local and national decision making.
ESRC has engaged closely with government stakeholders in developing this funding opportunity and to support their ongoing engagement and enhance the impact of the CDT+, we require applications to include a post that will be embedded within the Government Skills and Curriculum Unit (GSCU) in the Cabinet Office.
The aim of this post is intended to help catalyse the development of the CDT+, the exchange of knowledge and people between the research community and government, and to demonstrate how behavioural research insights can be used in practice for government capability work. We expect the post holder’s role to likely include:
- mapping capability needs in government, developing a curriculum, and working with the CDT+ to develop its training offer for government. Training programmes may range from masterclasses to more formal courses such as accredited master’s modules or degrees. This could also include training to support level seven apprenticeships
- work to ensure the capability-building model and relationships between academia and government in behavioural science are sustainable
- working with government partners to set up academic fellowship placements, joint PhD studentships, and PhD placements. Fellowship placements would enable knowledge and skills transfer through on-the-job collaborative working, while studentship placements would provide a talent pipeline into government
- applying insights from behavioural research to the design and delivery of training and other capability building programmes, to maximise existing opportunities and to influence decision-making about capability in government.
The post holder will be hosted by GSCU but employed at one of the CDT+ partner research organisations, which must be a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding. The successful team are expected to work with ESRC and GSCU in recruiting for this role, and ESRC and GSCU will support the development of a job description for this post.
Applicants should explain how this role will complement the skills and experience of the CDT+ Director and wider team to meet the aims of this post.
The post should be budgeted to last up to five years and costed into the application at a sufficient level to work independently and demonstrate leadership across large and complex environments.
ESRC has included additional funding in the advertised budget to support this post. Up to £750,000 (100% full economic cost) is ringfenced to support this post and ESRC will contribute 80% of these costs. GSCU staff are unable to provide letters of support to any bids.
ESRC has also engaged with stakeholders in the commercial sector who have indicated an appetite to support and benefit from the training programme of the CDT+.
An expectation is that ESRC funding will be used to leverage additional investment (either cash or in-kind support) from further multiple stakeholders. The CDT+ must work closely with government and other key stakeholders to develop their programme of activity and have a strategy in place to secure co-funding from external partners.
The CDT+ must outline how they will engage and collaborate with key stakeholders to ensure the training provided is of mutual benefit. The training should address the key skills needed to improve our understanding of behavioural research and increase uptake of behavioural research methods and findings in local and national decision making.
Training and development activities
There is increasing demand for a broader training offer across a variety of sectors. Emerging findings from ESRC’s engagement activities suggest that:
- social scientists across a range of sectors have a strong interest in behaviour-relevant topics, but do not always have access to or understanding of the relevant expertise required
- there is a need to develop the skills set of existing social scientists particularly around quantitative analysis, data management and mixed method approaches
- researchers do not always have the skills or networks to work effectively with government, or other stakeholders, to apply behavioural research to relevant policy contexts, or communicate actionable recommendations
- government policymakers and analysts can be unfamiliar with the breadth of behavioural research approaches and methods (including relevant available data) within academia, and how to access it at pace.
Interventions need to address a broad spectrum of capacity needs for a wide range of audiences. Therefore, the CDT+ will comprise of three core components:
- a doctoral programme
- ECR fellowship scheme
- a programme of additional training and development opportunities.
It is intended the CDT+ training programme will be designed flexibly to support the participation of researchers in government, and social researchers from other sectors, in the training offer where there is mutual benefit. This could be through participation in:
- particular modules.
In recognition of the additional components required of this CDT+, funding is available to help support the delivery, coordination (including between the CDT+ and other parties if fully justified), and management of activities beyond the doctoral training programme.
This includes the development of placement opportunities, fellowships, training and development beyond academia, and the management and administration costs associated with these additional activities.
Costs associated with the management and administration of the studentships cannot be claimed. Please note, whilst costs can be claimed for the development of a broader training offer beyond academia, funding for the participation in level 7, apprenticeships programmes or standalone master’s courses cannot be claimed and must be on a cost-recovery basis. See the ‘funding’ section below for further details.
The CDT+ will be expected to establish a doctoral programme that will produce a new generation of PhD graduates that:
- can apply a diverse range of research methods, producing research that addresses the needs of policymakers, business, and civil society
- have strong capabilities across a conceptually broad range of fields relevant to the understanding of human behaviour, including but not limited to, having strong foundations in methodological innovation and an understanding data relevant to the field
- have the skills to work fluently and confidently across disciplinary and sector boundaries.
Applicants must set out the importance of the substantive area of enquiry, the key skills they are seeking to develop, and the types of projects students will be undertaking.
The CDT+ should justify the training platforms they will provide. They should explain how they will enable delivery of the most effective training in behavioural research to build a critical mass of interdisciplinary researchers, enhancing our national capability to transform our understanding of human behaviour.
The CDT+ should support innovation in both the content and delivery of training to ensure a flexible and leading-edge training offer, applying a range of relevant research methods and approaches such as data science, human-centred design, and experimental methods.
Training must also be designed to improve the capability of researchers to develop a broader understanding of, and skills to utilise, existing novel data and data infrastructure, including the importance of administrative data and the types of questions it could help answer.
Therefore, we expect ESRC proposals to consider how they can build upon, support and integrate with existing research and innovation infrastructures, including leveraging ESRC’s data and data infrastructure investments to realise the potential of data to transform our understanding of human behaviour.
The ESRC postgraduate training and development guidelines 2022 detail how the CDT+ will be expected to meet our expectations for core conceptual, general and specialist research training, including ‘Research in Practice’. The guidelines also set out our expectations with respect to:
- collaborative studentships
- development needs analysis
- supervisory practice
- equality, diversity and inclusion.
Details of our expectations regarding methods training can also be found in the guidelines. In this we detail the minimum level of skills and competencies in the application of research methods that students are expected to develop.
Proposals must outline a coherent training programme through which students will both undertake individual research projects and receive cohort-level training in cross-cutting skills. Within the case for support the CDT+ should indicate how the key elements of ‘core’ training will continue to be integrated throughout an individual programme of study.
The allocation of studentships will be devolved to the CDT+. To ensure an applicant’s potential is the primary criterion, we expect the studentships to be allocated through a fair and transparent open competition, not based on internal quotas.
Given our ambition for all the CDT+ graduates to have the confidence to work across sectoral boundaries, there is a requirement that all students will undertake a research in practice placement at a non-academic organisation as an embedded part of their studentship, unless their past experience is such that an academic placement may be more appropriate.
Stakeholder engagement to date has shown strong appetite for placements in government and the business sector and there is an interest in co-funding collaborative studentships recognising the longer-term commitment this requires.
The post holder embedded in GSCU should lead discussions with government departments on co-funding opportunities. But ESRC can also broker connections between the successful team and interested host partners or government departments that have already expressed an interest in placements and collaborative studentships.
The CDT+ should offer careers advice and support suitable for doctoral students to inform their choice of training and placement opportunities. The CDT+ should indicate how they will provide this support ensuring it is relevant to both academic and non-academic career trajectories.
The CDT+ will be expected to support a minimum of 10 studentships per year for three cohorts (starting in October 2024). ESRC will provide funding for eight of those awards and as this area is of considerable interest to business, public and civil society sectors, we expect at least two students per cohort must be supported by non-academic partner(s).
We recognise that in-kind contributions may also be provided in addition to the cash contribution.
Applicants will need to provide evidence of the sources for additional funding for the additional two (or more) studentships. The student would work collaboratively with the partner organisation during their PhD, undertaking research that directly supports the partner organisation.
Collaborative studentships must also include a placement as part of the opportunity.
In their bid, the CDT+ should indicate their commitment to meeting this target and how they will achieve it.
For further information on the terms and conditions of our doctoral funding, please see our postgraduate funding guide.
Early career researchers
To accelerate the development of a critical mass of researchers in the field, the CDT+ is expected to offer a fellowship programme. The fellowship scheme will be intended to support and encourage ECRs to develop the knowledge and skills required to pursue a career in behavioural research.
The fellowships should provide ECRs with the opportunity to undertake a varied programme of activities supporting their continued development for careers both within and outside of academia, including encouraging fellows to participate in supervisory teams as part of their development programmes, and undertaking placements.
Fellows will be expected to specify a programme of work, rather than individual research projects, and how this will develop the skills and knowledge they need to pursue a career in behavioural research and to work across disciplinary and sectoral boundaries.
The CDT+ has the flexibility to develop the specific fellowship offer in a way that they think best meets the needs of ECRs and the aim of the overarching CDT+. This would include the length of funding available, the fellow’s time commitment, and the balance between activities such as new research and other development activities.
The CDT+ must outline the following:
- how many fellowships they will support, fellowship length and balance between substantive new research and other development activities
- the process for administering the scheme (application, potential sift stage, peer review, assessment and allocation) as a fair and transparent open competition for which excellence is the primary criterion
- demand management of applications
- advertisement and promotion of the scheme, with awareness of equality and diversity issues
- careers advice and support suitable for this career stage and how support will be provided for different research career trajectories
- how the fellows would be treated as a cohort with other fellows at the research organisation and across partners (for example, induction events)
- exit strategy from this career stage: the CDT+ should be clear that the fellowship can be used for different things and not automatically be for progression to academia.
Fellows should also have access to wider training opportunities across the CDT+, which will support the participation of researchers in government and other sectors where there is mutual benefit.
There is evidence of need for ECRs with expertise in behavioural research across government and business. Therefore, the CDT+ should explore the potential for co-funded fellowships where the fellow will develop a programme of work in partnership with co-funder. For example, fellows would work collaboratively with the partner organisations during the fellowship, undertaking research that directly supports the partner organisation.
The partner organisation would contribute up to 50% to the cost of the fellowship. We recognise that in-kind contributions may also be provided in addition to the cash contribution. Applicants will need to provide evidence of the sources for additional funding for the additional fellowships.
Fellowships should be costed on the basis of the full economic cost and ESRC will contribute 80% of these costs. To ensure the fellows are recognised as ESRC award holders, the fellowships will be paid through separate awards on receipt of a nomination form. Justification of costs for the fellowships should be provided in a justification of resources attachment.
For further information on the terms and conditions of our research funding, please see our research funding guide.
Additional activities beyond academia
As described above, it is intended that the CDT+ training programme will be designed flexibly to support the participation of researchers in government and social researchers in other sectors where there is mutual benefit. This could be through participation in:
- particular modules.
Applicants will be expected to work collaboratively with government and other key stakeholders to develop their training programme. It is important that when aspects of the training programme are accessed by wider stakeholders that this is done on a sustainable basis, either through cash or in-kind contributions.
Depending on the level of interest from funding partners there would be the potential to develop a master’s programme which the funder’s staff could participate in (on a paid basis) as part of their professional development. This could also include training to support level 7 apprenticeships.
Proposals should set out:
- plans for scoping a flexible programme of activities for mutual benefit across various stakeholders
- how different audiences and stakeholders will be targeted and justify any prioritisation strategies
- how this fits with the wider CDT+ strategy and broader investment to develop a national capability in behavioural research
- approach to developing a sustainable cost recovery strategy for government (and beyond) participation in the CDT+ training offer, especially for the development and inclusion of apprenticeship or masters level courses.
The funding for the studentship element will be provided on the basis of the ESRC notional cost of a studentship. We cannot be precise about the total value at this point as this will depend on the stipend and fee rates relevant to each academic year, and whether the research organisations within the CDT are eligible for London weighting or not.
For the purpose of submitting an application, applicants are advised to allocate around £2.66 million of the funding for the studentship costs.
ESRC will provide funding for eight studentships per annum for three cohorts starting from October 2024. The CDT+ must support two (or more) studentships funded by non-academic sources over the same period. Applicants will need to detail their strategy for securing this funding as part of their application.
Funding will be provided on the basis of each studentship being four years in duration (inclusive of a three-month placement), but the actual funding allocated to individual students should reflect any prior training as identified through a development needs analysis.
UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) sets minimum stipend levels annually. The latest rate (for academic year 2022 to 2023) is £17,668. Calculated per student per year.
UKRI sets minimum fees levels annually. The latest rate (for academic year 2022 to 2023) is £4,596. Calculated per student per year.
Research training support grant calculation
£940 per student per year.
Overseas fieldwork calculation
£450 per student per year.
Student and cohort development calculation
£3,330 per student which includes £1,000 to support the development of placement activities. Please see the postgraduate funding guide for examples of other activities that can be supported by this funding.
London allowance calculation
£2,000 per student per year for those studying at a London institution.
The costs provided for studentships are fixed and do not require any further justification.
Further information on the terms and conditions of this funding, including how training grants are administered, can be found in our postgraduate funding guide.
We are keen to support researchers to develop the capability to operate in a global context. Therefore, we will continue to provide support for overseas fieldwork for doctoral students and provide extensions to allow time for difficult language training. We will also provide funding for overseas institutional visits of up to three months to undertake specialist research training and to develop collaborative links.
The normal flexibility of UKRI training grants will apply.
Once the studentship element has been calculated, we anticipate that up to £3.75 million (100% full economic cost) will be available to support the remaining activities including the development of placement opportunities, fellowships, training beyond academia, and the management and administration costs associated with these additional activities.
This does not include the post to be embedded within GSCU. Up to £750,000 (100% full economic cost) is ringfenced to support the post hosted by GSCU and ESRC will contribute 80% of these costs. This post should be budgeted to last up to five years.
Costs associated with the management and administration of the studentships cannot be claimed.
The breakdown and justification of non-studentship costs must be provided in a justification of resources attachment. Costs associated with non-studentship costs can be included from October 2023 for up to four years.
For fellowships supported through the CDT+, ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost and these awards will be paid through a fellowship award itself on receipt of a nomination form. Applicants must state how many fellows they intend to support and the scale of the fellowships.
Funding is available to support the fellow’s salary costs and research costs. The following costs are eligible to be included under the fellowship scheme:
- the fellow’s salary costs
- indirect costs
- estate costs
- research and other costs such as equipment and other items needed to carry out the project
- costs related to maximising impact
- travel and subsistence.
In addition to fellowship costs, and in recognition of the additional components required of this CDT+, costs can be requested to support the delivery, coordination (including between the CDT+ and other parties if fully justified), and management staff costs to allow the successful CDT+ to establish structures and processes to develop opportunities and processes. Funding can be used to fund:
- staff time
- development of materials and a sustainable cost recovery strategy
- delivery infrastructure for placements opportunities.
We also expect the CDT+ to continue to be highly innovative and pump prime the development of new training materials in order to fill any gaps in provision relating to behavioural research.
Funding can be requested through the doctoral training grant to support the development of these resources. These materials must be made freely available across both the ESRC Doctoral Training Network and the wider community.
Applicants must provide a breakdown and justification of all non-studentship costs including the proportion of funding allocated to fellowships and other activities.
Please note, applicants are expected to justify how the wider training offer beyond studentships and fellowships will be accessed by wider stakeholders on a sustainable basis, either through cash or in-kind contributions. Therefore, participation costs for master’s-level programmes or training to support level 7 apprenticeships are not eligible.
Equality, diversity and inclusion
ESRC is committed to increasing the diversity of our student and research community and ensuring that we provide an inclusive and supportive environment for all.
Applicants must set out their strategy for equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI) to support participation of individuals from all backgrounds, as well as details of the support systems in place to protect and promote physical and mental health and wellbeing.
The strategy must consider EDI broadly, recognising the full range of protected characteristics and socio-economic backgrounds. It should include the embedding of EDI principles at all levels and in all aspects of research and training practice in the CDT+, including the selection and management of doctoral candidates and other cohorts.
As part of their holistic strategy, the CDT+ should set out their approach to how they will make entry requirements for students more inclusive with greater focus on assessing potential.
UKRI does support the use of positive action measures to encourage and support the participation of under-represented groups where there is clear evidence of under-representation and that it constitutes a proportionate response.
All partners must have procedures in place that allow them to capture EDI data on all applicants, for each stage of the recruitment process, from the outset of the CDT+.
We want to collect socio-economic data based on the measures set out by the Social Mobility Commission and this will be built into the annual reporting template issued to the CDT+.
Costs to support the development of internal systems to collect EDI and socio-economic data of studentships and fellowships could be sought from the flexibility within the training grant. If relevant, the CDT+ should work with any ESRC-funded Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) to maximise the value for money in developing these systems.
Applicants must describe their strategy and actions in a dedicated EDI plan, as a two-page annex to the case for support (annex two) submitted as part of the proposal.
Delivery and governance
Applicants will need to describe how the CDT+ will be managed, what support will be provided by the research organisations and to describe the governance arrangements. These arrangements should enable effective decision-making and engagement with all relevant stakeholders (including students, fellows, the leadership team for the Behavioural Research Hub and wider stakeholders) to deliver their objectives.
A governance structure must be in place, and applicants should propose how this could link to an ESRC-appointed Programme Board, to provide robust oversight of the partnership and monitor progress against deliverables.
To embed connections, the successful team will also be required to work with ESRC to ensure representation from relevant UKRI investments on its advisory structures. We expect the CDT+ to contribute to institutional strategies for social science and as such governance arrangements should be embedded within, and report to, relevant institutional structures.
The CDT+ must ensure ESRC receives value for money in the delivery of training.
Clear communication plans must be in place to disseminate information across all partners in the CDT+ and full formal partnership agreements would need to be in place from October 2023. This should include a clear complaints and appeals process for the CDT+.
The CDT+ is intended to complement and enhance the impact of existing research and capacity building infrastructure, and we encourage applicants to consider how they will learn from and engage with existing ESRC investments.
There are concurrent, but distinct, opportunities for an interdisciplinary Leadership team to establish a National Capability in Behavioural Research and ESRC DTPs. Applicants are required to co-ordinate and work with DTPs and other investments if relevant to share good practice.
The CDT+ must commit to working in partnership with the leadership team for the behavioural research ‘hub’ to ensure the overarching aims of the national capability are realised.
Proposals should describe how applicants will be responsive to changes and adapt to shifting priorities and how this will be implemented and managed by the CDT+ and across partners.
This should include how the CDT+ will structure its training to ensure it is both responsive to the needs of the disciplines whilst facilitating opportunities for interdisciplinary engagement and ensure students and fellows benefit from being part of a cohort beyond their immediate department.
Applicants must describe their approach to the delivery and governance of the CDT+, as a two-page annex to the case for support (annex three), outlining:
- a clear case for the structure and size of the CDT+, and, where applicable, the added value each partner brings to the delivery of training, the students and fellows’ experience
- a commitment to working in partnership with the leadership team for the behavioural research ‘hub’ to ensure the overarching aims of the national capability are realised
- a strategy for working with government and other sectors
- clear communication plans to disseminate information across all partners in the CDT+
- how the CDT+ forms part of their institutional strategies, and will link into and access wider institutional resources to achieve its goals, such as, other research council doctoral training provision, careers services and knowledge exchange facilities
- how the CDT+ will develop other collaborations over the funding period and secure additional funding for longevity and potential scalability of this investment
- how the CDT+ will complement and enhance the impact of existing research and capacity building infrastructure and ESRC investments
- approach to being responsive to changes and adapting to shifting priorities.
Letters of support are required from each participating research organisation.
Management and reporting
The monitoring of progress towards the goals and evidence of impact is also important. The CDT+ will be expected to describe:
- what success looks like for doctoral candidates, early career fellows and wider audiences or stakeholders
- how the CDT+ will deliver this
- what evidence the CDT+ will capture to measure progress and show impact towards its goals, and the process of capturing the data.
The director will be required to attend and participate in the annual management meetings with ESRC and bi-annual DTP and CDT director meetings. The CDT+ will also be required to submit annual reports to the ESRC.