Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Population Research UK coordination hub

Apply to be the coordinating Hub team to lead, coordinate and manage Population Research UK (PRUK).

The team is expected to consist of:

  • one or two directors
  • technical lead
  • senior project manager
  • communications manager

The team must be based at UK research organisations eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

The full economic cost of this grant is £10.8 million of which UKRI will pay 80% so your project can be up to £9 million split equally over five years. This includes ringfenced funding of £1.875 million for the hub, £5.25 million for the spokes (to be disbursed and managed by the hub), and £1.875 million for a collaboration and innovation fund.

Who can apply

We are seeking to appoint a team for this grant. The team must identify a principal investigator based at an eligible UK research organisation who along with their organisation will be responsible for submitting the grant application to UKRI.

We anticipate that some teams may choose to apply with more than one director or co-directors. In this case, the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system currently requires one nominated principal investigator. Please add one of your co-principal investigators as the principal investigator and the other as a co-investigator.

In the case for support, please note which co-principal investigator will be acting as a co-principal investigator in Je-S. ESRC will then treat that person as a co-principal investigator throughout the application process.

Clarification: as per our updated grant conditions and guidance, staff carrying out a principal or co-investigator role are eligible to attract indirect and estate costs regardless of their job title and academic status.

Eligible organisations include:

  • UK higher education institutions
  • UKRI research council institutes
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

Any team members can be academic or professional support staff and should have interdisciplinary expertise spanning the social and biomedical sciences.

We encourage inclusion of co-investigators across different sectors (business, third sector and government body organisations) and international academic co-investigators.

For further information please see ESRC’s research funding guide. Due to the joint nature of this funding opportunity please also ensure your proposal meets MRC guidance as well.

What we're looking for

Aims of PRUK

PRUK is a new national resource funded by the UKRI Infrastructure Fund and is designed to maximise the use of, and benefits from, UK longitudinal population studies across social, economic and biomedical science. It is aligned with strategies at a UK government, UKRI and council level.

UK longitudinal population studies (LPS) are a national asset based on the generous donation of detailed longitudinal data by participants over decades. PRUK will maximise the potential of this data by bringing together and developing the infrastructure, processes and people that will enable LPS data to be efficiently enhanced, accessed and analysed.

PRUK is expected to:

  • help remove barriers to the use of data across multiple LPS resources, where data may have been collected in different formats
  • broaden insights from LPS data through data linkage (between studies and to routine and other data), and capitalise on cutting-edge approaches in data capture, data storage and processing technologies and analytics
  • work with studies to develop practices and standards that ensure UK LPS infrastructures are interoperable with each other in the future and with other international LPS data-sharing initiatives
  • work with existing infrastructures to help increase policy relevance and impact through engagement of policymaker stakeholders
  • respond to the public voice on complex data-sharing issues and seek to maintain public confidence in using their biomedical, health and socioeconomic data for research

In this way, PRUK will be able to facilitate greater research understanding of determinants of health and wellbeing such as biological, behavioural, social, economic and environmental factors.

PRUK will also facilitate greater research understanding of the complex interplay between the above, which will guide improvements in health and societal wellbeing, and inform economic, health and social policy.

The scope of PRUK will include all significant UK LPS, encompassing longitudinal population studies, panel studies and biobanks.

PRUK activities will prioritise resources currently or previously funded by ESRC and MRC in the first instance.

Current status of PRUK

Following the publication of the PRUK prospectus, ESRC and MRC have been developing the PRUK model and have sought approval from the existing PRUK oversight group. PRUK will comprise a ‘hub and spokes’ model with the hub managing the spokes and all parts working cooperatively towards achieving the overall vision.

ESRC and MRC have already commissioned several separate foundation activities, the outcomes of which will help successful the hub team in developing delivery plans.

Hub and spoke model: hub

ESRC and MRC seek to appoint a team to provide leadership, coordination and management of PRUK. Together, members of this team will form the coordinating hub for PRUK.

The team is expected to consist of:

  • one or two directors
  • technical lead
  • senior project manager
  • communications manager

The directors and team could be based at one or more institutions and must have interdisciplinary expertise spanning the social and biomedical sciences. The team can include two directors, either as co-directors or as director and deputy director, or one director covering both disciplines.

You must justify how the proposed leadership model provides the optimal management structure and interdisciplinary combination of expertise to lead and deliver this infrastructure resource. This includes justification of how any cross-site working within the hub team will be effective and how the hub team will interact with the spokes of PRUK.

It is preferred that all these roles are named on a grant application but it is mandatory that the directors and technical lead be named individuals.

This award will provide funding for the hub team (up to £1.875 million split equally over five years).

The hub is required to lead and deliver a separate funding opportunity for the spokes (or functions), of PRUK later in 2023. The total funding available for the spokes will be £5.25 million, this funding will be awarded to the hub for onward distribution and management.

The hub directors will also be responsible for the management and disbursement of a collaboration and innovation fund of £1.875 million.

The overarching role of the directors and hub team will be to:

  • coordinate the design and delivery of the spokes (approximately five). This process should start with a series of community co-production workshops, followed by an open competition led by the hub conducted in line with UKRI funding principles
  • foster community-building, pluralism and inclusion across all involved communities
  • facilitate and incentivise collaboration across the spokes and wider community to share learning and information
  • ensure effective coordination and collaboration between PRUK and other parts of the research data infrastructure landscape, and alignment with the ESRC data infrastructure strategy
  • coordinate PRUK programme level communication and public engagement activities
  • manage the governance processes of PRUK and lead on programme level reporting and assurance, including reporting to the funders
  • provide financial management of the spoke awards and the collaboration and innovation fund

Required hub team roles

Specific details on the requirements for the hub team are outlined in the following headings.

Directors

The directors will be outstanding collaborators and have a strong strategic vision and proven track records of delivery of population research or related resources. They will be responsible for shaping the delivery of PRUK, building on existing infrastructures and the high-level ambitions set out in the PRUK prospectus and other scoping work.

In combination, the directors must have interdisciplinary expertise across the social and biomedical sciences and an understanding of how to meet diverse interdisciplinary research needs for LPS data.

The directors will have the ability and experience to develop and lead an internationally renowned resource, which will coordinate and deliver the infrastructure, services, processes and people that enable LPS data to be efficiently enhanced, accessed and used for research.

Responsibilities include:

  • guiding the development and delivery of PRUK, working with key stakeholders and collaborators to ensure PRUK meets its strategic objectives
  • accountability to ESRC and MRC for ensuring effective coordination and overall delivery of PRUK
  • building and maintaining trust with all stakeholders, particularly LPS teams, study participants, other relevant infrastructure or service providers and the research community and cultivating interdisciplinary collaboration
  • advocating for PRUK and the value of longitudinal research across a wide range of stakeholders, both within and beyond the UK, and developing PRUK’s global brand
  • ensuring balance and inclusion of social science and biomedical communities equally and drawing on each community’s abilities to support and bolster each other
  • collaboration and coordination with relevant data infrastructures including avoiding duplication
  • effective management of budgets, risks and issues, reporting and raising as required to the high-level group which oversees the PRUK project
  • line management of the hub team and leadership of the PRUK functional spokes to ensure effective networking and collaboration
  • lead commissioning of the functional spokes, obtain approval from the oversight group and coordinate delivery
  • administer the collaboration and innovation fund, present proposals to the oversight board for approval, and ensure effective delivery
  • report to the oversight board and funders as described below

The roles will be part-time, with an expected combined minimum of 0.4 full time equivalent (FTE). For example, if there are two directors, each director could be 0.2 FTE each, or 0.1 and 0.3 FTE.

Technical lead

The technical lead will work on the technical strategy and policy aspects of the delivery of PRUK. Working closely with the hub team, spoke leaders and other infrastructures, they will establish technical requirements and identify options for the implementation of future-proofed sustainable federated digital research infrastructures to maximise the use of the UK’s LPS for research for public benefit.

The technical lead will initiate a series of open and collaborative workstreams to implement relevant coordinated services and will oversee and monitor their delivery.

Responsibilities include:

  • identifying the technical strategy including the required policies and standards for PRUK and its constituent functional spokes, building on current expertise, infrastructures, policy, learning, and recommendations, to maximise the efficient use of UK LPS data for public benefit research
  • establishing a range of design and delivery options for future-proofed sustainable inter-operable digital research infrastructures to implement the priority functions of PRUK, including efficient secure data access and linkage, and improved and expanded metadata discoverability. These will be co-developed with users, current infrastructures, the public including LPS participants, technology providers and data custodians, taking account of UKRI policy
  • supporting a programme of stakeholder listening and engagement activities that contribute to design and delivery confidence and buy-in among stakeholders for the proposed approach
  • establishing working groups to provide leadership to pilot implementations of the federated services
  • developing a detailed technical delivery plan for future phases of the programme

The technical lead is expected to be 0.4 FTE or above.

Senior project manager

The senior project manager will be responsible for driving and monitoring the delivery of PRUK hub and spoke activities to ensure that the objectives are clearly defined and achieved within the agreed time, cost and quality constraints.

The senior project manager will have a key role in project governance and working with stakeholders to ensure the agreed project outputs are delivered to enable benefits to be realised.

Responsibilities include:

  • day to day management and coordination of hub and spoke activities. This includes drafting the project plan and controls, designing project structure and selecting and applying appropriate delivery methodologies
  • supporting budget management, forecasting and reporting
  • scheduling or managing resources to deliver the project
  • ensuring benefits are identified, understood, measured, tracked and owned, in alignment with the monitoring and evaluation plan
  • identifying and monitoring project risks and issues, developing mitigating actions and escalate as appropriate
  • providing key reports and supporting effective governance and decision making
  • supporting or setting appropriate project assurance
  • providing highlight reports to ESRC and MRC that provide an update on progress against achieving milestones and meeting agreed deliverables

The senior project manager is expected to be 0.5 FTE or above.

Communications manager

The communications manager will have oversight and strategic responsibility for the full range of PRUK’s communications activities, including digital (web, social media and audiovisual), publications, events and media relations, as well as a key role in delivering public engagement on behalf of the resource.

This role will also focus on engaging and communicating with PRUK’s key stakeholders. The communications manager will work closely with colleagues across PRUK, facilitating internal communication and ensuring external outputs are coordinated, on-brand and on-message.

Responsibilities include:

  • developing and maintaining specific internal and external communications and stakeholder engagement strategies for PRUK and coordinating activities across the federated spoke model
  • mapping and management of PRUK’s stakeholders, identifying key influencers and engaging productively to further strategic objectives, including securing meetings, drafting briefings, letters and presentations and responding to government consultations
  • manage communication with the public around the benefit of PRUK including responding to questions from the public and other interested parties
  • developing and delivering a programme of public engagement work to help ensure public support for PRUK
  • working closely with spoke teams and where needed, LPS study teams, to support and coordinate the development (where applicable) and delivery of their communications plans, raising awareness of opportunities such as funding and training opportunities, managing knowledge exchange events and seminars
  • organising and running PRUK events, including stakeholder roundtables and conference sessions, and representing PRUK via networking at external events
  • working with colleagues to develop and deliver a standalone PRUK website and subsequent day to day management, including updating content, drafting and uploading news stories and blogs
  • drafting press releases and comment pieces, identifying media opportunities and building productive relationships with key journalists

The communications manager is expected to be 0.4 FTE or above.

Associated funding

Hub and spoke model: spokes

The spokes will have funding of up to £5.25 million split equally over five years.

The spokes will be outcome-focused and will be based on the recommended activities of the PRUK prospectus, which are:

  • data discovery
  • data access
  • data linkage
  • training and capacity building
  • coordination and advocacy

In addition to the prospectus, and additional community engagement on priorities, the hub team will draw upon additional scoping work relevant to PRUK. This includes recommendations from the initial foundation projects already commissioned, currently the state of the data audit and ESRC’s future data services programme, and in due course the LPS data management training and the coverage of LPS projects.

As above, the hub will be responsible for:

  • coordinating the design and delivery of the spokes (and seeking associated approval)
  • managing community building workshops and maintaining the community
  • managing the funding opportunity for spokes (both leaders and activities)
  • ensuring delivery of impactful activities within and across spokes
  • financial and governance oversight of spokes including reporting

Collaboration and innovation fund

The directors will manage a ‘collaboration and innovation fund’ of £1.875 million split equally over five years to promote and incentivise collaboration across PRUK and to support the development of emerging areas of need.

This could be used to fund activities led by the hub, spokes, or commissioned externally, and the directors’ proposed uses for the fund will be put to the PRUK oversight group for approval.

Directors will not be eligible to lead a PRUK spoke, however they could be included as co-investigators.

Monitoring and reporting

Requirements regarding monitoring and reporting will be set out in the terms and conditions of the grant award between ESRC, MRC and the award recipient and will include reporting via the directors to the oversight board for PRUK.

The oversight board is appointed and operated by ESRC and MRC. It is expected that the grant holders will be invited to attend part of its meetings and submit papers to the board to enable it to have oversight of the investment where necessary.

More frequent updates will be expected on important activities, risks and changes if they present a risk to the grant meeting its objectives. UKRI will assign an investment manager as a lead contact for the grant.

At the start of the grant, the grant holders will be required to produce an updated timeline, deliverables list and risk register for the investment, for regular discussion with ESRC and MRC.

The technical lead, senior project manager and communications manager roles will report to the directors. The directors will report to the high-level group overseeing PRUK.

There will be a series of gateway points in which the hub team will need to seek approval from the PRUK oversight group, ESRC and MRC. This includes the development of a spokes delivery plan, proposals for use of the collaboration and innovation fund and a midterm review which will determine the progress of the project against milestones.

Monitoring will be undertaken to ensure that ongoing and planned PRUK activities serve both the social science and biomedical communities in a cohesive, collaborative way.

Duration

This is a five-year award expected to start on or after the 1 October 2023 and at the latest on 1 December 2023.

Funding available

A total of £9 million (80% of full economic cost) is available for the five-year award.

Funding

The award for the hub element will cover salaries of the hub team, funding for the responsibilities described above (such as running workshops, networking and website costs), travel and subsistence, overheads and estates.

Funding for the spokes and collaboration and innovation fund will be provided in parallel to the hub and spend will be subject to agreement and oversight processes from ESRC and MRC.

While the funding for the spokes and the collaboration and innovation fund is provided as part of the same award, it is ringfenced. The funding will be provided to the hub for onward distribution and management, they must be used for the purposes described above, utilising the existing scoping work published in the prospectus, and as set out in the award terms and conditions.

We will not fund duplicative functions or activities already supported now or in the past by UKRI or other funders.

How to apply

Supporting consortia development

In order to facilitate the development of connections and prospective collaborations beyond existing groups we will be utilising Slack. On this communications platform you will be able to, via chat, meet others who are interested in the funding opportunity.

It will be available for the duration of the funding opportunity and be deleted when the funding opportunity closes. Questions about the funding opportunity should still be sent via email.

In order to join this platform please contact pruk@ukri.org and you will be added. To join you will be expected to acknowledge that you will appear named on the platform and abide by a code of conduct.

Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system

You must apply using Je-S.

You can find advice on completing your application in:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

All investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S.

Any investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one at least seven working days before the opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: ESRC data infrastructure.

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

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

Deadline

ESRC must receive your application by 10 July 2023 at 4:00pm UK time.

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

Attachments

Your application must also include the following attachments:

  • a case for support of up to eight pages of A4 including a vision statement for the delivery of PRUK
  • justification of resources of up to two sides of A4
  • one-page CVs for all named applicants

The case for support must provide justification for the suggested hub team composition, particularly where the team is spread across multiple institutions, and justification for the chosen leadership model (co-directors, director and deputy or one director), outlining how the team will provide the required skills and expertise to lead this national resource.

The case for support must also demonstrate the interdisciplinary nature of this programme and how the hub team will work with the social sciences and biomedical communities to be a cohesive PRUK community.

How we will assess your application

Assessment criteria

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

The team must demonstrate the following in addition to the roles specified:

  • a thorough understanding of the evolving longitudinal population studies (LPS) landscape and existing data infrastructure investments, within the UK and internationally, through an interest in biomedical and social science LPS
  • the vision and ability to understand the big picture and the impact of LPS data for biomedical and social science research and policy makers
  • understanding of data management and diverse community needs for discovery, access and linkage
  • thorough understanding of the sensitivities around the use of data for research and the different approaches across disciplines for managing these
  • a demonstrable understanding of the requirements of the LPS community including those pertaining to data, skills, training and capacity building
  • experience building effective relationships at all levels between academia, government, and the public across disciplines, and advocating for PRUK
  • experience of delivering programmes on time and to a high standard
  • the ability to manage the delivery of large scale, multifunction projects successfully and flexibly across a complicated cross-disciplinary landscape

Your application will be assessed by a panel nominated by ESRC and MRC. If your application is assessed to successfully and fully demonstrate all of the assessment criteria, you will be invited to interview.

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 about this funding opportunity

Population Research UK Team

Email: pruk@ukri.org

Include ‘PRUK coordinating hub call’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S

Email

jeshelp@je-s.ukri.org

Telephone

01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times.

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK. Let us know if you have feedback.