Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Run advanced training for early-career environmental scientists

Apply for funding to run advanced training for early career environmental scientists.

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

Training courses should focus on:

  • training needs related to NERC’s remit
  • skills gaps caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The training should be prioritised for either, or both:

  • NERC-funded PhD students
  • UK Research and Innovation (UKRI)-funded environmental scientists.

Initiatives will be funded for one year. Training must be completed by 31 March 2023.

Your project can cost up to £60,000. NERC will fund 80% of the cost.

Who can apply

Normal individual eligibility applies and is outlined in section C of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

UKRI research and fellowship grants for all schemes may be held at:

  • approved UK higher education institutions
  • approved research council institutes
  • independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments.

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

You may only be involved in one proposal submitted to this funding opportunity.

You may also include formal project partners who will have an integral role in the proposed training initiative.

Successful applicants from previous NERC Advanced Training Short Course (ATSC) funding opportunities are eligible to apply for this ATSC award and can apply to have their previously successful courses renewed.

Success in a previous NERC funding opportunity is not a guarantee that an award will be successful in this funding round. All applications will be subject to the same review process.

Doctoral training partnerships and centres for doctoral training

NERC-funded doctoral training partnerships (DTP) and centres for doctoral training (CDT) are eligible to apply for funding to support training initiatives aligned with, but in addition to, their existing DTP and CDT student training programmes.

You should not request funding to support activities already funded through the DTP or CDT awards. DTP or CDT applications must demonstrate that the proposed training is not duplicative of existing training.

Training courses delivered by NERC DTPs and CDTs must be open and advertised to attendees beyond the DTP or CDT. Places on courses must be offered according to this scheme’s priority criteria.

What we're looking for

NERC invites proposals from the whole community for ATSC awards for training initiatives within areas of training priority.

All training initiatives must fall within the NERC science remit but may also include training at the interface between these areas and other disciplines, where many major research challenges exist.

This funding opportunity is to support training courses in the following areas:

  • priority areas of identifiable training need relevant to NERC’s remit
  • skills gaps generated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Skills gaps created as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic can include both specific and transferable skills, such as mentoring, project management and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training.

You should provide justification for the training topic.

All initiatives must demonstrate both the need and demand for the training it intends to support and provide appropriate evidence. For example, identifying a training area where training is not supported by the NERC doctoral programmes (DTPs and CDTs) but where there is a recognised demand for these skills.

Find out more about the career and skills development available with NERC.

What we will not fund

Funding will not be provided through this funding opportunity to support currently funded training. Your application should complement, not duplicate existing training supported through other NERC awards.

Initiatives that do not adequately demonstrate both need and demand for their proposed training will not be considered for funding.

Training initiatives

Training initiatives may take a variety of forms, including but not exclusively:

  • short courses
  • workshops
  • field courses
  • e-learning, webinars and massive open online courses
  • summer schools.

For examples of current NERC research centre training courses, learn more about the research centre training programme.

Training initiatives may form part of an accredited continuing professional development, postgraduate certificate or diploma.

All initiatives must offer places as priority to NERC-funded PhD students or UKRI-funded environmental scientists working within academic or non-academic settings for future careers in research and other contexts. Places can also be available to those working in a sector or discipline aligned to NERC’s science remit.

Places can also be offered to current or past NERC-funded PhD students to fill training and skills gaps created by the COVID-19 pandemic.

NERC fellows (for example, independent research fellowships) and NERC-sponsored fellows (for example, NERC Daphne Jackson Trust fellows) are considered to be eligible for places. Where there is competition for course places between priority candidates, or between non-priority candidates, the award holder should offer places to applicants according to the applicant training needs and impact that receiving the training will have on them.

NERC particularly encourages initiatives that provide significant added value to other NERC priorities or investments, such as NERC’s strategic research programmes.

NERC expects all applicants to engage as appropriate with relevant non-academic stakeholders, particularly users of NERC research, when developing and delivering training.  This engagement will be considered during the assessment process.


There is a total budget of £750,000 available for the scheme and NERC intends to support approximately 10 to 15 awards.

The maximum that you can apply for to run a training initiative is £60,000 per year, although it is expected that most training initiatives will request £20,000 to £50,000 per year.

You may however request up to £100,000 per year with further justification. Funding above £60,000 per year will be awarded at the discretion of the panel.

Fieldwork courses will be more expensive than remote courses, assuming no further lockdown and travel is possible.

Failure to provide additional justification will limit the amount of funding awarded to a maximum of £60,000 per year.

Funding should be calculated on a per attendee (place on the training course) basis, Proposals may request up to £10,000 in justified direct costs per attendee, although it is expected that most initiatives will require between £1,00 and £3,000 per attendee and proposals will normally look to fund between 10 to 30 attendees. The per attendee cost will be funded at 100% of specific direct costs only.

The cost per attendee requested should include, where appropriate, support for travel and subsistence costs for attendees to attend the training.

Funding to cover staff travel, subsistence costs, venue hire, materials and consumables can be included. Funding to cover staff salary can be included in the cost per attendee calculation.

Staff salary requested can cover time spent preparing and delivering the training course. Indirect and estate costs must not be included.

You must provide a breakdown of costs for your proposed training to enable the panel to assess the costs associated with the proposed training at a per attendee level and identify costs requested under each heading. Applications that fail to provide this information will not be considered by the assessment panel and will be rejected for this funding opportunity.

The assessment panel may recommend to NERC that individual costs, or the overall cost of a proposal, be reduced prior to making an offer of an award.

These awards are cash limited and additional funding will not be made available to supplement any awards.

How to apply

Proposals must be submitted using the research councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system as follows:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: studentship proposal
  • scheme: doctoral training
  • call/type/mode: Advanced Training Short Courses Feb 22.

Regardless of the actual course date, all applicants should provide a start date of 1 July 2022 with an end date of 31 March 2023.

To use the Je-S system, the research officer must be registered as a Je-S user. Full details are available on the Je-S website.

This funding opportunity will close on Je-S at 16:00 on 4 May 2022 and it will not be possible to submit after this time. You should leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

Any proposal that is incomplete or does not meet NERC’s eligibility criteria or follow NERC’s submission rules will be office rejected and will not be considered.

On submission to the council, all non-PDF documents are converted to PDF. The use of non-standard fonts may result in errors or font conversion, which could affect the overall length of the document.

The only attachment we will accept is a case for support. No additional attachments, including letters of support, will be accepted.

Applicants should note that the assessment panel will not consider reference to external sources (for example, websites) if these are included within the text.

See the NERC grants handbook for more details.

Case for support

A case for support template (DOCX, 42KB) is available to download. This document must be completed and attached to your Je-S application as a ‘case for support’ document.

The case for support should be no longer than five A4 pages, including the applicant details and justification of resources sections.

The case for support attachment submitted through the Je-S system must be completed in single-spaced typescript of minimum font size 11 (Arial or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size to Arial 11), with margins of at least 2cm.

Arial Narrow, Calibri and Times New Roman are not allowable font types and any proposal which has used these font types within their submission will be rejected.

References and footnotes should also be at least font size 11 and in the same font type as the rest of the document. Headers and footers should not be used for references or information relating to the scientific case.

Eligibility and submission rules

You should ensure that your proposal conforms to all eligibility and submission rules, otherwise your proposal may be rejected without peer review.

More details on NERC’s submission rules can be found in the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook and in the submission rules on the NERC website.

Application headings

Each application should include information under the following headings (see the case for support template):

  • training excellence
  • training justification
  • demonstrating a commitment to DEI
  • number of places funds are requested for
  • justification for requested costs.

A summary of the proposed training should be completed on the Je-S proforma.

Please see NERC best practice principles in recruitment and training at doctoral level for recommendations that promote DEI and may be relevant to proposed training short course applications.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be assessed by a group of independent experts under three equal assessment headings:

  • training excellence
  • training justification
  • demonstrating a commitment to DEI.

The following does not present a complete list of all factors that may be discussed but those that will form the basis of discussions during assessment.

Training excellence

The key aspects of excellent training include:

  • identified, realistic training outcomes within areas of identifiable training need relevant to the NERC science remit
  • well-justified, excellent quality training content delivered in an appropriate manner to provide confidence that the training outcomes will be met
  • relevant expertise across all staff involved in the preparation and delivery of the training
  • appropriate scale to meet training delivery outcomes and impact national training needs.

Factors and evidence that might be discussed include:

  • identified training outcomes and how they map to priority areas of identifiable training needs relevant to NERC’s remit
  • a logical and deliverable training plan
  • academic and training experience of applicants to develop and deliver all proposed training
  • feedback and learning outcomes of previous or similar training courses in which the applicants were involved
  • availability of relevant infrastructure to deliver the training (for example, equipment, facilities, support and training staff)
  • accessibility and scale of proposed training, including how the proposed training will be advertised.

Training justification

The key aspects of an excellent short course include:

  • proposed training within one or more of the priority areas of identifiable training needs relevant to NERC’s remit
  • identified and well-justified national need and demand for training of this nature and its outcomes
  • clearly justified resources necessary to deliver the proposed training.

Factors and evidence that might be discussed include:

  • identified gaps in the national provision of training of this nature, such as a dearth of comparable courses delivering equivalent training outcomes
  • examples of oversubscription to previous iterations of this training or similar training courses
  • report outcomes (other than ‘NERC most wanted’) identifying the need for training in the specific skills and expertise identified as outcomes
  • data from organisations and end-users, for example, indicating a need for individuals equipped with these skills
  • information on all staff time and additional resources relevant to the development and delivery of the training, at a level where resources for delivering each training component can be discussed (not just ‘staff costs – £X’).

Demonstrating a commitment to DEI

The key aspects of an excellent short course include:

  • consideration that attendee shortlisting and recruitment is fair and transparent
  • the proposed training aiming to make the attendee experience as inclusive as possible
  • effective monitoring and reporting to foster a diverse and inclusive environment.

Factors and evidence that might be discussed include:

  • information on the use of a standardised shortlisting matrix and provision of DEI guidance for staff involved in the recruitment process
  • information on ensuring all staff receive appropriate DEI training
  • information on signposting of courses and how provisions will be made to ensure inclusion
  • consideration of course delivery to accommodate variable circumstances where possible
  • report outcomes on attendee characteristic data collected at application stage.

Applications requesting funding at the upper end of allowable amounts will not be discriminated against in favour of proposals requesting lower funding amounts, both for total amounts and for per attendee costs. All applications will be assessed solely against the criteria detailed.

All eligible applications will be reviewed by the assessment panel. External reviewing will not take place.

The assessment panel will consider existing NERC training when agreeing their funding recommendations with the intention of minimising duplication in the training supported by NERC. You must therefore demonstrate a clear need for the training proposed.

The ATSC assessment panel will consider the spread of proposal training areas for those within the funding frame when ranking proposals within the scoring range in which the funding cut-off occurs. This is to ensure that training is supported across a broad range of NERC’s priority areas.


You will be provided with feedback from the panel summarising the reasons why the proposal was successful or unsuccessful. NERC will use the recommendations of the assessment panel along with the overall funding opportunity requirements and the available budget in making the final funding decisions.

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

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Additional info

In order to sustain the flow of top talent and skills for UK science, business and government, NERC supports two types of postgraduate training.

Responsive training is where the topic is chosen by the student or supervisor, and can be drawn from any part of NERC’s remit.

Directed training ensures the provision of individuals with particular, specialist skills linked to NERC’s strategic priorities or to priority skills needs. Whilst the training topic may be chosen by the student or supervisor, it should reflect a specific training objective identified by NERC.

This scheme forms part of the directed training portfolio. Award holders for this scheme can, but will not be required to, link to other areas of NERC’s training portfolio (for example, DTPs and CDTs ).

Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment. This is not just through research outputs and outcomes but through the way in which research is conducted and facilities managed.

All NERC grant holders are to adopt responsible research practices as set-out in the NERC responsible business statement. Responsible research is defined as reducing harm or enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities. Specifically, this covers:

  • the natural environment
  • the local community
  • DEI.

Grant holders should consider responsible research context of their project, not the host institution as a whole, and take action to enhance their responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.

Reporting requirements

All successful applicants will be required to report on their training initiative. This information is requested so that engagement across priority skills areas can be determined and will be used to determine the format of future awards of this nature.

Award holders will be expected to report as follows:

  • number of applications received
  • number of places awarded to NERC PhD students and early career researchers
  • general feedback regarding the funding opportunity
  • current institution of attendees
  • high level summary of current area of applicants defined within NERC research areas
  • applicant feedback regarding the course
  • DEI demographics of course attendees
  • DEI demographics of course applicants who were not selected to attend.

NERC will distribute appropriate proformas well ahead of the deadlines for the collection of the above data.

The collated data will inform future short course funding opportunities and may also feed into the provision of training courses across NERC’s postgraduate training portfolio.

Supporting documents

Case for support template (DOCX, 42KB)

NERC responsible business statement

NERC research grants and fellowships handbook

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