Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Research core science independently: Ernest Rutherford Fellowship

Apply for funding to run an independent research project. The project must be within the remit of the STFC core science programme.

You must be an early career researcher. Your application must be hosted and supported by an eligible UK research organisation.

You must hold a PhD and have clear leadership potential.

We will fund your proposal at 80% of its full economic cost. Your host research organisation must agree to fund the rest.

The fellowship will last up to five years.

Who can apply

STFC sets a strict limit on the number of applications that each department may submit. Therefore, it is not possible for a host to support all interested applicants.

Any departments who exceed their limit will be required to withdraw the excess applications. It is therefore important that you seek assurance from your proposed host department that your application can be accommodated within its limit. You are advised to contact your proposed host department as early as possible and certainly well ahead of the deadline for submission of applications as departments have their own internal processes to select which candidates to support.

See the list of departments, contacts and internal deadlines (PDF, 96KB).

Early career researchers

Ernest Rutherford fellowships are intended for early career researchers who do not have a permanent academic position. You are not eligible if you currently hold a permanent position or the equivalent in institutions other than universities.

If you secure a permanent position prior to the offer of a fellowship you will be ineligible to hold the fellowship.

Applicants must hold a PhD at the time of applying for a fellowship.


Fellowships are open to applicants of any nationality. Where applicable, you will need to comply with Department for Work and Pensions requirements and hold a work permit prior to taking up the fellowship. Work permits are a matter for direct negotiation between the institution, the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office.

All successful applicants who require a visa to work in the UK will be eligible to be considered under the Global Talent visa route. UKRI is able to provide additional guidance regarding the appropriate evidence required to complete the visa application process under the Global Talent visa.

Eligible institutions

Fellowships may be held at any eligible UK research organisation as set out in the STFC research grants handbook.

Find out which institutions are eligible.

Other funding

Applicants should not be in receipt of duplicate funding for the same or similar proposal from more than one funding agency. Details of similar proposals that have been submitted to other funding agencies must be added in the ‘other support’ section of the STFC application and you must advise STFC if a successful funding decision is made by the other funding agency.

Applicants who have applied for the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Future Leaders Fellowships can also apply for an Ernest Rutherford fellowship but cannot hold two fellowships that fund their working time simultaneously.

Applicants who have a live application for the UKRI Stephen Hawking fellowships cannot apply for an Ernest Rutherford fellowship.

Career breaks

Applications are welcome from those seeking to resume a research career following a period of absence from active research of, normally, at least one year. The break may have been due, for example, to:

  • long term illness, injury or disability
  • family or caring responsibilities
  • parental leave
  • working in non-academic employment.

Years of experience

STFC no longer defines eligibility for Ernest Rutherford fellowships in terms of a minimum number of years of experience. Instead, applicants should read the competency profile in the guidance for applicants to determine if you have the skills, knowledge and experience to apply for an Ernest Rutherford fellowship.

Full or part time

Fellowships can be held either on a full‐time or a part‐time basis by applicants wishing to combine their fellowship with caring responsibilities.

A part‐time award can be held at 50% or above of full‐time equivalent. A part‐time fellow may not hold another part‐time position in conjunction with the fellowship. The period of award for fellowships held on a part‐time basis will be extended on a pro rata basis.

What we're looking for

Applications must fall within the remit of the STFC core science programme. This includes:

  • astronomy
  • solar and planetary science
  • particle physics
  • particle astrophysics
  • cosmology
  • nuclear physics
  • accelerator science.

The project must align to STFC strategic objectives and core business activities.

The role of the fellow will be to undertake their own research programme.

Successful applicants can start their fellowship anytime from 1 June 2022 to 31 March 2023.

Fellowship applications are costed on the basis of full economic cost (fEC). If a fellowship is awarded, STFC will provide funding at 80% of the fEC requested. The host institution must agree to fund the balance of fEC for the proposal from other resources. Universities and other higher education organisations use the Transparent Approach to Costing (TRAC) methodology to calculate fEC. For further information about fEC, see the STFC research grants handbook.

Read about funding available in the fellowship guidance for applicants (PDF, 208KB).

How to apply

All applications must be submitted through the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S). You must ensure your application is submitted to your host institution well before the deadline as some institutions have a submitter pool which may delay your application being submitted to council.

Before you apply you must read the fellowship guidance for applicants (PDF, 208KB).

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

When applying select ‘New document’ then:

  • council: STFC
  • document type: fellowship proposal
  • scheme: Ernest Rutherford Fellowship
  • call name: ERF 2021.

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

Mandatory attachments

As well as your application form you must include the following PDF attachments:

See the full details about preparing your documents in the fellowship guidance for applicants (PDF, 208KB).

The guidance gives information on what is required in the case for support and the narrative CV as well as page lengths for each document.

Career breaks

If your application has been affected by an earlier career break or other extenuating circumstances, please indicate this so that it can be taken into account in the assessment of your application.

Applicants should make clear any substantive periods if absence from research within their application and narrative CV. Further details on the nature of the absence and how it has affected track record, productivity and career progression may be provided, if desired. Information will be used only to make appropriate adjustments when assessing an individual’s track record, productivity and career progression.

How we will assess your application

Fellowship applications will be sent to independent reviewers for assessment.

Reviewer comments on your application will be made available to you and you will have the opportunity to respond to any factual inaccuracies. You should address your response to the fellowship panel and not the reviewers. Your response should be in A4 format with a maximum of half a side per reviewer. As for all attachments, the response should be written as per STFC specific requirements. Please complete and submit your response by the due date stated. This is normally five working days after receipt of the invitation.

Your application, reviewers’ comments and any response by you will be considered by the fellowship panel, operating as seven sub‐panels:

  • extragalactic
  • near universe
  • near universe solar or exoplanet
  • particle physics experiment and accelerator science
  • particle physics theory
  • particle astrophysics and cosmology
  • nuclear physics.

The top-ranked candidates will be invited to interview. You will receive short feedback from the panel.

The highest ranked candidates from the interviews will be offered an Ernest Rutherford fellowship. If any of these candidates withdraw, fellowships will be offered to the ranked list of reserve candidates.

Assessment criteria

In considering your fellowship application, the fellowship panel will use the following criteria:

  • the excellence of the research achievements of the applicant
  • the potential of the individual to lead their research discipline
  • the capability to maximise the potential of others and the ability to be, or become, a clear communicator and disseminator of knowledge
  • the excellence, timeliness, feasibility, distinctive vision and importance of the proposed research
  • strategic value within the STFC programme.

The competency framework gives an additional indication of how your application can provide evidence of the level of experience and abilities expected.

See the competency framework in the fellowship guidance for applicants (PDF, 208KB).

Career break

In assessing the effects of a career break, the panel will note the applicant’s career trajectory and potential at the beginning of the break relative to the stage of the applicant’s career. In assessing applicants, the panel will recognise that the effects on productivity of a career break or a period of flexible working may continue beyond the return to work.

Examples of areas that may be affected are:

  • presentation and publication record
  • patents filed
  • track record of securing funding, including time to obtain preliminary date
  • maintaining networks of research or innovation contact and collaborations
  • time required for training
  • the ability to take up opportunities in different geographical locations
  • the ability to take up courses, sabbaticals, visits, placements and secondments.

Contact details

Ask a question about Ernest Rutherford fellowships


Get help with Je-S

If you experience difficulties using Je-S or have questions regarding its use, please contact the Je-S helpdesk.


Additional info

Supporting documents

Terms and conditions

STFC fellowships 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 fellows agree to observe the terms and conditions and the scheme requirements set out in this document and any amendments issued during the currency of the award. STFC intends its scheme to be flexible and reserves the right to deal as it thinks fit with applications of unusual character and to waive any rule at its absolute discretion.

For further information applicants should refer to:

Research organisations must appoint research fellow employees for the full duration of the award and integrate the research fellow within the research activities of the host department, whilst ensuring that he or she is able to maintain independence and focus on their personal research programme.

Awards are made on the understanding that the fellow’s work and progress are subject to the same monitoring and appraisal procedures as those of other academic staff within the host institution, and that there are adequate facilities at the host institution for the research proposed.

See more conditions and features in the fellowship guidance for applicants (PDF, 208KB).

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