Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Future Data Services: Senior Strategic Fellowship 2022

Apply for funding to work as a Future Data Services Senior Strategic Fellow.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI funding.

You will provide scientific and technical leadership for the Future Data Services programme. This will include:

  • leading a strategic review of the data services landscape
  • developing options for future long-term investments in social science data services infrastructure.

The full economic cost of the fellowship can be up to £262,500. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

The fellowship will last 24 months and will start in May 2022.

Who can apply

This fellowship is open to experienced researchers with a track record in using quantitative or qualitative data and research methods.

You must have:

  • a strong familiarity with social science data services infrastructure in the UK and the data landscape in general
  • a proven track record of engaging with a wide variety of stakeholders at different levels of seniority
  • a proven track record of bringing together communities with different interests and requirements.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UKRI funding.

Further essential and desirable criteria for this fellowship are set out in the section ‘How we will assess your application’.

What we're looking for

ESRC wishes to appoint a Future Data Services Senior Strategic Fellow to provide high-quality, systematic and sustained strategic advice.

As a Senior Strategic Fellow, you will have extensive experience of carrying out research using data and associated methods in the social sciences, humanities or a related field. You will support ESRC with undertaking its strategic review of future data services infrastructure.

You will:

  • provide senior-level strategic advice and technical expertise to lead the assurance and implementation of the Future Data Services programme’s workstreams
  • lead the development of an options appraisal for the design, implementation and funding of future data services
  • provide leadership for the development of bids for enhanced funding for future data services, for example, via the UKRI Digital Research Infrastructure Committee
  • provide leadership for developing the ESRC UKRI business case for ESRC’s next phase of investment in data services
  • enable ESRC to develop and critically appraise a series of data service options to meet the requirements of our research and data owner communities for the rest of the decade
  • provide scientific leadership and strategic direction regarding the commissioning and coordination of future data services investments, and optimising their potential impact
  • act as a public champion for ESRC’s ambitions for the data services landscape.

The fellowship also provides a unique opportunity to publish high-quality research outputs, working in close collaboration with partners across the Future Data Services programme.

Management and governance

Within two months of commencing the fellowship, the Senior Strategic Fellow will be required to agree with ESRC a timetable for the activities and outputs to be delivered.

These could include:

  • a plan to develop and draw up the scientific and strategic case for investment in data services by ESRC beyond 2024
  • development and implementation of a stakeholder engagement plan for the Future Data Services programme.

The Senior Strategic Fellow will be required to work closely with:

  • the Future Data Services Strategic Fellow
  • the ESRC Deputy Director of Data Strategy and Infrastructure
  • the ESRC Head of Data Services.

The ESRC Head of Data Services will retain overall responsibility for the governance of the Future Data Services programme.

The Head of Data Services and the ESRC Deputy Director of Data Strategy will work with the Senior Strategic Fellow to agree objectives. The Head of Data Services will be responsible for working with the Senior Strategic Fellow to monitor progress in achieving these objectives.

The Senior Strategic Fellow will be accountable to an ESRC director, and will be expected to provide an update on activities on a quarterly basis. In addition, the Senior Strategic Fellow will be required to attend ESRC and UKRI advisory or governance groups.

As the Future Data Services programme will overlap with the DigitalFootprints initiative, the Senior Strategic Fellow will be expected to work with the DigitalFootprints Senior Strategic Fellow.

The Senior Strategic Fellow will also be expected to work closely with the Future Data Services Strategic Fellow. Applicants may apply to work with a specific candidate for this role, naming them in their ‘case for support’ (see the Je-S guidance for applicants). All applicants should set out how they will work with the person appointed to this role.

To avoid a conflict of interest, the fellow should not already be a principal investigator or co-principal investigator on an existing UKRI data services infrastructure investment. See the recently published data research infrastructure landscape review (PDF, 984KB) for examples of these investments.


The Senior Strategic Fellow will be appointed on a part-time basis (maximum 0.4 full-time equivalent).

The fellowship will be funded for 24 months and will start in May 2022.

The full economic cost of the fellowship can be up to £262,500. ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost. Your host institution will fund the remaining 20%.

Within your total cost (total value at 100% FEC), you may include a combined budget of £5,000 to cover the following items:

  • administrative support
  • travel and subsistence.

You should budget for a minimum of four trips to Swindon, travel restrictions permitting.

How to apply

Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system

You must apply using the Je-S system. To be able to do this, your organisation must be registered for Je-S.

UK higher education institutions and some other independent UK research organisations (including public sector research establishments) are already recognised institutions on Je-S. Find out about eligible research institutes.

Je-S accounts for applicants

All applicants must hold a fellowship ‘applicant’ Je-S account. If you already have a Je-S account, you can ask the Je-S helpdesk to upgrade it to a fellowship account.

Please refer to the Je-S help text for help with setting up a new account.

Creating your proposal

To create your proposal:

  1. Log into Je-S.
  2. From the home screen, select ‘documents’, then select ‘new document’.
  3. On the ‘add new document’ screen, select ‘call search’ (highlighted at the top of the screen). When prompted, type in the funding opportunity title (Future Data Services: Senior Strategic Fellowship 2022) and select it from the list created. The remaining three selection fields will be automatically populated.
  4. Select the ‘create document’ button.

Please ensure that your proposal is created and submitted against the correct funding opportunity.

We will not accept proposals that are not submitted using this process.

Completing your proposal

The initial Je-S ‘document instructions’ page will give you general guidance on the navigation of the site, including icon descriptions.

The left-hand column ‘document menu’ lists all the sections associated with this funding opportunity. It clearly identifies which ones are mandatory. This is shown by a red cross that turns to a green tick when completed.

You may return to edit saved documents at any time.

Please note that the details below are not exhaustive step-by-step guidance. We recommend that you refer to the Je-S help text for additional information.

Project details

From the drop-down lists, select your organisation and department. This will be the research organisation where your fellowship will be held.

‘Your reference’ should be supplied by your research organisation (consult your research office). If your research office does not have a system for referencing grant proposals, you may use a suitable reference of your own choice.

Use ‘your reference’ to help distinguish easily between proposals in your ‘current documents’ list. The reference is a unique identifier for the proposal.

Enter the project title: ‘Future Data Services: Senior Strategic Fellowship’.

For ‘proposal call’, select ‘Future Data Services: Senior Strategic Fellowship 2022’. Please note that this option will only be available once the funding opportunity is live. It may already have been pre-populated into the form.

Your start date should not be before 1 May 2022. Your fellowship should have a proposed duration of no more than 24 months.

Once you have completed and saved this initial section, check the submission path (via the ‘document actions’ tab) to see if the proposal has to be signed off by submitters and approvers. If it does, please make sure they will be available to process the document on the day you intend to submit it to ESRC.

Organisation internal submission structure

We recommend that you forward your proposal to your organisation’s submitter pool in good time before the funding opportunity deadline, to allow sufficient time for the approval and final submission process.

The proposal must be submitted to ESRC through the Je-S system by your institution’s nominated contacts. Once you have completed and submitted the proposal, a notification is sent to your organisation’s ‘submitter’ to action. The ‘submitter’ is the person in that organisation authorised to approve the proposal and carry out the final stage of submission.

You will receive an email confirming that the proposal has been submitted to the submitter pool. This means that the proposal is still with the organisation and has not yet been submitted to ESRC.

The final submission process is the responsibility of your host institution, and we cannot accept responsibility for any delay which may occur at this stage. We strongly advise you to check that you receive an email confirmation from the Je-S system confirming that your proposal has been submitted to UKRI.

Use of your personal information

UKRI captures and processes personal information in line with current data protection legislation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and any amendments by the UK Data Protection Bill or relevant acts of parliament.

COVID-19 guidance for applicants

Accounting for the unknown impacts of COVID-19

UKRI acknowledges that it is a challenge for applicants to determine the future impacts of COVID-19 while the pandemic continues to evolve. Applications should be based on the information available at the point of submission and, if applicable, the known application-specific impacts of COVID-19 should be accounted for.

Where known impacts have occurred, these should be highlighted in the application, including the assumptions and information available at the point of submission. There is no need to include contingency plans for the potential impacts of COVID-19.

Requests for travel, both domestically and internationally, can be included in accordance with the relevant scheme guidelines, noting the above advice.

Reviewers will receive instructions to assume that changes that arise from the COVID-19 pandemic, post-submission, will be resolved and complications related to COVID-19 should not affect their scores. Where an application is successful, any changes in circumstances that affect the proposal will be managed as a post-award issue.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed against the following criteria by an assessment panel:

Essential skills and experience

You must demonstrate the following:

  • a thorough understanding of the data services landscape, both within the UK and internationally, through an interest in data sciences or traditional social science disciplines
  • vision and the ability to understand the big picture and broader strategic concerns
  • the ability to map how various components of the data services landscape can fit together
  • thorough understanding of the sensitivities around the use of data for research and the different approaches for managing these
  • an excellent track record of building effective relationships at all levels (but especially senior levels) between academia, government, industry, the third sector and the public
  • a proven track record of implementing programmes on time and to a high standard
  • a proven track record of critically appraising options for investment consideration
  • the ability to work flexibly and in response to changing circumstances.

Desirable skills and experience

You should demonstrate the following:

  • a thorough understanding of the importance of acquiring and curating data and providing data access
  • understanding of the legal frameworks that support access to data, and issues around confidentiality and ethical use of data
  • understanding of data management frameworks, such as the Open Archival Information System
  • relevant experience in shaping and successfully leading an applied quantitative or qualitative data-based research programme or related research endeavours
  • proven experience of working with a wide range of data providers and data owners across government and industry or the third sector
  • a proven ability to tailor communications appropriately for different audiences.

If your application is assessed to successfully and fully demonstrate all of the assessment criteria, you will be invited to interview.

Contact details

Ask a question about this opportunity

For further queries please email:

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.

Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info


A webinar for applicants and research organisations was held on 15 February 2022.

Watch a recording of the webinar on Zoom (passcode: #eH5kJ2S)

Webinar presentation slides (PDF, 939KB)

Background and scope

ESRC currently commits around one third of its annual World Class Laboratories capital budget (approximately £12 million) to data services. These include:

  • the UK Data Service
  • the CLOSER hub
  • the Census Longitudinal Studies Research Support Units.

Many of our other investments also provide support to data users.

The majority of our grants for these investments will end in September 2024. The Future Data Services programme will enable ESRC to decide how best to strategically invest in data services beyond 2024.

The programme is focusing on user requirements in five key areas:

  • data discovery, including curation, long-term preservation and metadata systems management
  • data access, user support (including training and capacity building) and technology (including requirements for trusted research environments)
  • high-performance computing and software delivery to support social science research with data
  • people (training, career management and progression to support capacity building in data services infrastructure)
  • ethics, legal and public engagement and acceptance.

During 2022 and 2023, engagement activities will collect evidence about how data services should be funded and constructed to take account of stakeholders’ changing needs in these areas. We will develop a set of options for appraisal, leading to a new funding opportunity to be issued in late 2023.

One of the key responsibilities for the Future Data Services Senior Strategic Fellow will be to support the development of a scientific and strategic business case to enable ESRC to decide how to invest in data services infrastructure beyond 2024.

Supporting documents

Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 206KB)

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 209KB)

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