We invite proposals from individuals and research teams at eligible institutions to take forward an ambitious research agenda with the potential to generate significant economic or societal impact.
Our expectations are that large grants funded under this funding opportunity will:
- undertake a programme of ambitious and novel research
- show strong commitment for the career development of researchers (particularly at early-career stage)
- make significant contributions to scientific and economic or social impact
- involve potential users of research and include a clear strategy for creating impact that improves outcomes for individuals, society and the economy
- drive interdisciplinary research within and beyond the social sciences
- take advantage of international collaborative or comparative opportunities.
This funding opportunity for large grants is separate from the ESRC research centres competition which provides larger scale funding. We are planning to launch the next research centres competition in 2023.
Given the scale of the grant, it is likely that successful applications will be led by either:
- researchers with appropriate experience
- less experienced researchers with appropriate mentoring and support that enables successful project delivery.
Social science-focused projects
We welcome proposals from any area of ESRC’s social science disciplines.
We expect to fund:
- four projects from any discipline within the social sciences as part of the open element of this opportunity
- one project specifically related to ‘resilience to crises’ (referred to as the ‘highlight notice’).
Social science-focused projects (open element)
For the open element, it is an essential requirement that your primary research area is in the social sciences.
At least 50% of the proposed programme of research must fall within ESRC’s remit. Please refer to the list of research areas that fall within ESRC’s remit for further information.
‘Resilience to crises’ highlight notice
In addition to the social science-focused open element projects, this funding opportunity also includes dedicated funding for a project relating to building societal resilience to crises at regional, national, or transnational scales.
This highlight notice is co-funded by ESRC and the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and is open to interdisciplinary proposals from across the social sciences, arts and humanities. At least 50% of the proposed programme of research must fall within the combined remits of ESRC and AHRC.
ESRC and AHRC are looking to fund at least one large grant that has the capacity to help decision makers either:
- pre-empt and reduce vulnerabilities to crises
- support the sustainable management of risk
- support inclusive and sustained recoveries from crises.
Under this theme, applicants may wish to address one or more of the following:
- systems approaches to understanding fragility and how populations’ resilience to shocks, and their multiple impacts, can be strengthened
- responses to cascading risks as one event triggers a series of shocks or to compounding risks as multiple risks interact in time and space
- the varied capacities and intersecting identities that shape how communities and populations respond to crises and their consequences quickly and comprehensively
- effective decision-making and management responses to crises, including the data needed to track and measure events and the institutions and policies that are needed for inclusive, informed action
- challenges and innovations around data collection and research methods in fragile or volatile settings
- approaches to supporting the recovery of the human-environment interface and evaluating the impact of responses on sustainable development
- risks and barriers to inclusive resilience (since shocks occur within a complex system of interrelated social, political, economic, cultural, health, environmental, institutional and technological factors) or solutions to overcome them
- how immediate, reactive approaches to shocks can be combined with long-term risk-mitigation strategies to increase community and population resilience.
We invite applications that are interdisciplinary. Applications may focus on any part of the world, including projects that are comparative in approach.
For the purposes of this resilience to crises highlight notice, we are interested in crises and populations (the total inhabitants of an area) at the subnational regional, national, or transnational scale. Examples of crises include, but are not limited to:
- civil and international conflict
- financial crises
- pollution events
- ecological disturbances.
More information about the background to resilience to crises project is in the ‘additional info’ section.
Who can be included in proposals
Research proposals can include multiple applicants, for example, co-investigators. However, there must be one principal investigator who takes the lead responsibility for the conduct of the research and observance of the terms and conditions. An applicant can act either as principal investigator or co-investigator on only one proposal for this funding opportunity.
Studentships are not eligible under this funding opportunity.
ESRC attaches major importance to the position of UK social science in the international and global arena.
We positively encourage active collaborations between UK researchers and those in other countries, where this will help to ensure that UK research is at the international leading edge. Co-investigators based in overseas research organisations can therefore be included in research grant proposals.
Find out more about the inclusion of international co-investigators.
Business, third sector or government body co-investigators
Business, third sector or government body co-investigators based in the UK can also be included on research grant proposals.
Get further information on the inclusion of business, third-party or government co- investigators.
Knowledge exchange and generating impact
While some research topics are more theoretical than others, awards made under this funding opportunity will provide for excellent research with economic or societal impact.
You are expected to carefully consider how best to build links and contacts with potential beneficiaries and users of the research at the earliest possible stages of research design and development, and to work towards co-production of knowledge with research users and people with lived experience where appropriate.
In addition to knowledge exchange and impact strategies that focus on particular user groups or specific named beneficiary organisations, we also strongly encourage public engagement activities which bring together researchers and the wider public.
Consideration of, and advance planning for, knowledge exchange (KE) and strategies to maximise economic or societal impact should be central elements of proposals submitted to this funding opportunity.
You are encouraged to:
- work with your institution’s professional services to ensure that you build on existing strengths and good practice for impact and knowledge exchange
- identify and actively engage relevant users of research and stakeholders at appropriate stages
- articulate a clear understanding of the context and needs of users, and consider ways for the proposed research to meet these needs or increase understanding of them
- outline the planning and management of associated activities including timing, personnel, skills, budget, deliverables and feasibility
- include evidence of any existing engagement with relevant users.
We expect sufficient budget to be dedicated to delivering knowledge exchange activities. The resources required to undertake effective knowledge exchange will need to be accurately reflected and costed into the full proposal.
You may find it helpful to refer to ESRC guidance on including impact in your research proposal.
You can also refer to the ESRC impact tool kit which includes information on:
- developing impact strategies
- promoting knowledge exchange and public engagement
- communicating effectively with key stakeholders.
Leadership and management
We ask you to explain how you will provide leadership to a potentially diverse group of collaborators and support an inclusive research environment, and how the proposed programme of activities and its outputs will be managed.
Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion is an integral part of UKRI’s vision to deliver new knowledge and an enriched, healthier, more sustainable and resilient society and culture, and to contribute to a more prosperous economy.
Partnerships within research proposals, particularly involving research in low-income and middle-income countries, should be transparent and based on mutual respect. They should recognise different inputs, different interests and different desired outcomes. You should ensure:
- data is shared and used ethically and meets the identified needs of society
- partnerships are ethical, equitable and sustainable with meaningful, substantive and clear engagement.
Those invited to submit full proposals will be required to develop more detailed leadership and management plans.
Career development and capacity-building
We will be looking for evidence of a strong commitment to supporting the development of researchers (particularly at the early-career stage) and of plans for capacity building.
There are a range of career development opportunities and capacity-building activities that could be incorporated into the proposal. We expect these kinds of approaches to be summarised in the outline and addressed in detail in the full proposal.
Proposals should specifically enable early career researchers, particularly at the postdoctoral level, to move towards becoming independent researchers in the chosen field of the proposal. This may include:
- leading workstreams with supervision
- the development of a training and mentoring programme as a workstream within a grant, or designed in a way that can be embedded across the initiative.
We welcome innovative approaches to early career researcher development and will consider how these can be accommodated in detail at the full proposal stage.
Following the review of the PhD, part of our strategy to support doctoral training is the ambition for all ESRC-funded students to have the opportunity to undertake a three month placement in academia, policy, business or third sector organisations.
We encourage you to consider how you might identify and develop placement opportunities for ESRC-funded students across the lifecourse of the grant.
- ensure that the proposed research will be carried out to a high ethical standard
- clearly state how any potential ethical and health and safety issues have been considered and will be addressed, ensuring that all necessary ethical approval is in place and all risks are minimised before the project commences.
All proposals must comply with the ESRC framework for research ethics.
Grant details and budget
The full economic cost (fEC) of proposals should be between £1 million and £2.5 million for a period of up to five years.
ESRC will fund 80% of the fEC. Grants are expected to start by 1 October 2023.
Investigator time must be costed into the proposal and justified in the ‘justification of resources’ attachment.
Co-investigators must make a significant contribution to conducting the research.
ESRC will fund all eligible and justified costs associated with international co-investigators and UK business, civil society or government bodies at 100% fEC. However, these combined costs must not exceed 30% of the full 100% fEC cost of the grant.