Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Public Engagement Reaction Awards

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Quick-response funds, of up to £10,000, for timely projects on:

  • unexpected or important recent discoveries
  • significantly heightened awareness of the social, cultural, or economic impacts
  • responding to changing national curricula or government policy

related to STFC science, technology or facilities, duration up to six months.

We’d particularly like to fund projects that engage the target audience of the STFC Wonder initiative.

You must be based at an organisation in the UK to be eligible for this funding.

The funding scheme falls outside of the full economic cost (FEC) framework, we will pay up to £10,000 of your project cost, that is 100% FEC.

Who can apply

STFC reaction awards are open to almost anyone based in the UK, both academic and non-academic organisations are encouraged to apply. Eligible organisations include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • researchers
  • technicians
  • STFC scientists and engineers
  • STFC facility users
  • charities
  • schools
  • museums
  • libraries
  • community groups
  • science communicators
  • amateur astronomy groups

The ‘principal applicant’ must be eligible to apply on behalf of the organisation that would hold the award.

Your application must include a researcher, in an STFC-funded area. The aim of this is to ensure that the appropriate advice on the science content has been received. The researcher does not necessarily have to play an active role in the public engagement activities or currently receive funding from STFC.

Organisation eligibility

Organisations that apply must produce an annual financial report and accounts. These must have been either prepared or submitted by a qualified account who is a member of a recognised professional accountancy body, including:

  • Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA)
  • Association of International Accountants (AIA)
  • Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA)
  • Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy (CIPFA)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW)
  • Institute of Chartered Accountants of Scotland (ICAS)
  • Chartered Accountants Ireland (CAI)

If this does not describe your organisation, you must work in partnership with an organisation that can receive the funding on your behalf.

Previous applicants

You may apply for a reaction award for any new project, or to resubmit a previous application that can demonstrate it has addressed feedback received during the review process.

Applicants seeking funding for the direct continuation of a programme previously funded by STFC should apply for a legacy award.

If you have any questions about eligibility, please contact the STFC public engagement team

What we're looking for

Applications should be time critical and relate to things that could not have been foreseen in a way that would enable application to the STFC Sparks or Nucleus public engagement (PE) funding schemes. Eligible examples:

  • public engagement activities around specific emerging science findings or mission developments such as the James Webb Space Telescope or it’s MIRI instrument
  • engagement projects responding to substantial change in operational contexts requiring immediate response such as the national curriculum changes in Wales.

Ineligible examples:

  • activities that are primarily science communication
  • participation in conferences or events at short notice
  • publication costs

We’d particularly like to fund projects that engage:

  • eight to 14-year-olds, and their families, in socio-economically deprived areas in line with our Wonder Initiative
  • groups considered to have low science capital

We are looking to support time critical projects that do one or more of the following:

  • deliver high-quality public engagement activities in the areas supported by STFC
  • introduce STFC science and technology to new audiences
  • highlight the achievements of STFC science and technology
  • demonstrate the value to the UK of science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • work with our public engagement and communication teams

The activities may be online, in-person or via a combination of delivery modes.

Programmes must focus on areas within the remit of STFC:

  • astronomy
  • solar and planetary science
  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • cosmology
  • nuclear physics
  • accelerator science
  • STFC facilities, but only where prominent in the project

You must explain how your project aligns with our public engagement strategy.

Funding available

Up to £10,000 is available to cover the full cost of projects lasting up to six months. Funding can be used for a variety of things including:

  • contributions to salary; this includes for staff in higher education institutions where the work would not be considered part of normal duties
  • materials – you are encouraged to source environmentally responsible resources
  • travel and subsistence
  • for applications from, or for, schools, ‘requests for supply or teacher cover’ and ‘transport costs’ are also eligible

Reaction awards do not come under the FEC framework. This means £10,000 is the limit of funding. Any award we make will be the maximum amount payable and will include any VAT payable.

We encourage you to make responsible ecological choices in any travel and consumables required to deliver projects and recognise this may be reflected in submitted budgets.


There is no capital budget for reaction awards. Items of equipment costing less than £10,000 should be requested under the ‘other costs’ heading. You must show that any requests for equipment are essential for the project.

Project partners

STFC Public Engagement Awards are often partnerships between the grant holders (who apply for and receive financial support from STFC) and ‘project partners’.

These partnerships are not a requirement of STFC support but will strengthen a case for funding when they are deemed well planned and important for delivery of an impactful programme.

Well-constructed partnerships strengthen proposals by providing:

  • complementary skills and knowledge
  • additional staff time
  • additional cash or ‘in-kind’ support

If an organisation wishes to receive funds from STFC, it must be a listed applicant on the grant application.

If an organisation will not receive funds from STFC but will have an integral role in the proposed programme, that organisation is a ‘project partner’.

You should create these partnerships with ‘project partners’ before submitting an application for funding. Include details of the partnership in the application.

STFC national laboratories and employees as ‘project partners’

We employ hundreds of scientific and technical staff, alongside our own team of public engagement professionals, at our laboratories across the UK.

You are welcome to ask to include STFC as project partners on public engagement applications, if relevant, and subject to the guidance above.

If you consider STFC involvement to be important in making your proposal a success, you must contact STFC staff at least four weeks in advance of submitting an application.

To discuss the ability of STFC to participate in your proposal, get in touch with the public engagement contacts listed in the ‘Contact details’ section.

We reserve the right to choose not to participate in proposals at our own discretion. Please note that applications involving STFC as a project partner are treated no differently to other applications in the peer review and funding decision process.

Contributions to larger programmes

If you are requesting a reaction award as a contribution to a larger programme, you should make this clear in your proposal. You should also make clear where additional funding for the programme is coming from.

Whenever possible, you should have secured this additional funding before seeking a contribution from STFC. If this is not possible, you must provide details of when further funding will be secured.

STFC reserves the right to reject an application that does not have convincing plans for securing all required funding, or to temporarily withhold funding for successful applications until proof of the required additional funding has been secured.

What the scheme will not fund

The following costs are ineligible for support through reaction awards:

  • projects where the target audiences are not primarily within the UK
  • fees or honoraria to people already in paid employment to visit or give talks at schools, societies and so on, where such activities would reasonably be undertaken as part of their normal duties
  • costs for hardware or equipment over the individual value of £10,000
  • infrastructure funding or costs for building construction and maintenance
  • projects where it is clear that the whole project would go ahead irrespective of STFC support
  • retrospective funding, including those projects with a start date after the closing date but before the funding decisions are announced
  • awards will not be funded for the sole purpose of authorship and publication of books and novels
  • contingency funds

For applications from, or for, schools, please note that requests for the following are ineligible:

  • programmes of formal education
  • school trips to European Council for Nuclear Research (CERN) and trips to other laboratories, observatories and science venues, unless they are intrinsic to a wider public engagement project

How to apply

You must apply through the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

If your organisation is not already registered, you can ‘self-register’. This will allow you to make an application without going through the full registration process.

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

You will need to complete the Je-S form and attach a ‘case for support’ of no more than three pages in PDF format outlined below.

You should also attach letters of support (maximum two pages) from any partners making a contribution to your project.

You can find advice on completing your application in the Je-S handbook.

There is no deadline for this funding scheme, it is always open.

If you are successful in getting funding, we will contact you to help you with the full registration process for Je-S. Full registration can take four weeks.

Case for support

Maximum of three sides of A4. The case for support must include the following sections.

Track record

A short overview of your track record in public engagement with science and technology. This track record should focus on areas relevant to the application.


The rationale for the reaction award, briefly describing the:

  • timeliness of the project
  • overall aims
  • anticipated outcomes
  • how activities will contribute to meeting the stated aims of the STFC public engagement strategy

Engagement activity plan

A brief plan for engagement activities you intend to undertake during the reaction award.

You should provide details of your plans to deliver these activities, including:

  • how you will effectively engage your target audiences
  • how the activities link to STFC science, technology or facilities
  • identification of potential risks and appropriate mitigation strategies

Any reference to COVID-19 residual issues should be included here.

It is recognised that different projects will have different sizes of audiences. Projects with smaller audience numbers will be considered to be fundable if they are regarded as having high impact on the targeted audience or audiences. This may be particularly true for projects proposing to work with Wonder audiences.

Evaluation plan

An outline of the evaluation approach showing details of how the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of the reaction award will be captured and evaluated. You are strongly advised to refer to the STFC public engagement evaluation framework.

Projects working with Wonder audiences will also be encouraged to use a dedicated evaluation toolkit, which will be shared with successful applicants.

Public Engagement Reaction Awards holders are expected to regularly update the record of their grant using the research council reporting tool, Researchfish, in line with the STFC public engagement evaluation framework. Details of this can be found in the Additional information section.

Dissemination plan

Sharing the learning from our public engagement grants portfolio is important to STFC. We therefore require you to write a dissemination plan, proportionate to the scale of activity, detailing how resources, learning outcomes, outputs and so on, will be made available to relevant audiences.

Justification of resources

A high-level justification of the resources requested which should:

  • allow reviewers to make an informed judgement on whether the resources requested are appropriate for the proposed programme
  • explain why the resources requested are appropriate for the programme proposed, taking account of the nature and complexity of the proposal

Please note that this should not be simply a list of the resources required as this is already given in the Je-S form.

All items requested in the Je-S form must be justified.

Any proposals from research organisations requesting items that would ordinarily be found in a department, for example non-specialist computers, should include justification both for:

  • why they are required for the project
  • why they cannot be provided from the research organisation’s own resources, including funding from indirect costs from grants

Highlighting alignment to the Wonder initiative

You can choose to propose public engagement that works with the target audience of the STFC Wonder initiative. If so, you should use your ‘case for support’ and ‘project partner letters of support’ to highlight how your proposal aligns with the Wonder initiative.

Project partner letters of support

‘Project partner letters of support’ should follow the format set out in the STFC guidance for applicants.

Letters of support can be up to two sides of A4 in length. A letter must be dated clearly, within six months of the submission date of the application.

Letters of support are submitted electronically alongside the grant application, via the Je-S system. The Je-S system will only allow you to submit three letters of support. If you have more than three letters of support, you can upload these as a combined PDF document or contact the STFC public engagement team.

What to include

This letter is read alongside the proposal’s ‘case for support’ and is considered as part of the peer review process.

A well-written letter of support will confirm the organisation’s commitment to the proposed project by articulating:

  • the benefits of the collaboration
  • its relevance to the partner
  • the potential impacts of the programme in the eyes of the partner

The letter of support should also:

  • identify the period of support
  • detail the range of ‘in-kind’ and financial contributions offered by the partner

To provide assurance that the project partner has authorised the proposed contribution or commitment, the letter should be signed by a named contact, stating the capacity in which they are providing the sign-off.

Letters of support must show meaningful contribution to the proposed public engagement programme. Letters featuring supportive language but offering no contributions to the project are of little-to-no value and should not be included.

Should you state in your proposal that the involvement of a party or organisation is important to increase the chances of success of their proposed programme, these organisations must be included as either applicants or project partners.

Applications received without these collaborations in place by the point of submission will not be supported.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be reviewed by an independent panel with expertise in the communication of science and technology and knowledge of STFC-funded research and facilities.

It will be assessed on:

  • the rationale for the project
  • the clarity and appropriateness of the engagement activity plan
  • how effective the proposed use of resources is and how well these have been justified
  • track record in public engagement
  • the evaluation plan
  • planning for dissemination of the resources, outcomes, outputs, and so on, to relevant audiences
  • alignment to the Wonder initiative. There is no detriment to non-Wonder applications that will not be subject to this scoring criteria

We will decide on your application based on the recommendations of the panel.

Reaction awards will be processed as quickly as possible, but successful applicants should plan to receive notification of funding approximately one month after the application submission (depending on your Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) registration status, see ‘How to apply’).

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

STFC public engagement team


Telephone: 07598 404139

Ask about STFC being involved as a project partner

Sophy Palmer, Public Engagement Manager, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory


Phill Day, Public Engagement Manager, Daresbury Laboratory


Abi Ashton, Public Engagement Manager, UK Astronomy Technology Centre


Get help with applying through Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S)


Telephone: 01793 444164

Opening times:

Je-S helpdesk opening times

Additional info

Scheme flexibility

We intend this scheme to be flexible and reserve the right to deal, as we think fit, with applications of unusual character and to waive any rule at our absolute discretion.

Scheme conditions

STFC Public Engagement Reaction Awards are governed by the grant conditions as set out in the research grants handbook, unless otherwise stated. Applications are accepted and awards are made on the understanding that research organisations and grant holders agree to observe the terms and conditions and the scheme requirements set out in this document and any amendments issued.

Reporting and liaison with STFC

Public Engagement Reaction Awards holders are expected to regularly update the record of their grant using the research council reporting tool, Researchfish, in line with the STFC public engagement evaluation framework.

There are additional questions for STFC public engagement grant holders. This enables us to easily extract data regarding the impact of the work of our reaction award holders whenever required, and serves as a database of impacts: outputs, outcomes and reach, for a grant holder’s own reference.

To assist with their Researchfish return, Public Engagement Reaction Awards holders are also required, throughout their award, to collect data relevant to their activities in the STFC public engagement metrics spreadsheet, and send it to the public engagement team once a year

Guidance on how to fill in the public engagement questions on Researchfish, and the metric spreadsheet, are available on the STFC website.

Publication, resources and acknowledgement of support

Publications and other forms of media communication, including media appearances, press releases and conferences, must acknowledge the support received from STFC, quoting the grant reference number if appropriate.

Resources produced as a result of any grants should acknowledge STFC as the funding source using the standard format agreed by funders and publishers and detailed in the additional information accompanying this grant.

In order to ensure appropriate coordination and opportunities to increase the impact of engagement, external media activity produced as a result of this award must be signed off by the STFC media team before the activity takes place or is published.

This includes press releases, online videos and media briefings. Award holders are responsible for giving STFC sufficient notice in advance of activities such that we can advise on content or build the activities of grant holders into our own communications and engagement programmes.

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