Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Scoping future data services for the arts and humanities

Apply for funding to explore ways to archive arts and humanities research data.

You must be:

  • either a researcher or a research-active professional
  • resident in the UK
  • based at an eligible UK institution.

Your proposal could focus on one of the following:

  • large or complex 3D objects
  • ‘born-digital’ material and complex digital objects
  • practice research, including performance and visual arts.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £100,000. AHRC will fund:

  • 80% of the costs for staff
  • 100% of the direct costs for professional services and equipment.

Your project must start in October 2021 and be completed by 31 March 2022.

Who can apply

Standard eligibility criteria will apply to this funding opportunity for UK investigators and research organisations. Please see section two of AHRC’s research funding guide.

This means that the UK principal investigator must be both:

  • a resident in the UK
  • based at a UK institution eligible to receive funding from UKRI.

AHRC expects the principal investigator and any co-investigators to devote an average of at least four hours per week to the project.

Full details of all project partner organisations should be included in the application and be accompanied by a project partner letter of support. Potential project partners include, but are not limited to:

  • cultural institutions
  • libraries and archives
  • environmental organisations
  • business and industry
  • community organisations
  • policymakers.

Guidance on what needs to be included in a project partner letter of support is provided on page 61 of the AHRC research funding guide.

What we're looking for

Your work will be part of a programme to enhance national data services for arts and humanities, notably the Archaeology Data Service and Oxford Text Archive. These new services will form a family of linked and interoperable trusted data repositories (TDRs) for capture and analysis of arts and humanities research data.


This funding opportunity will support collaborative, research community-led scoping, development and design of future-facing national data services and repositories for the capture and analysis of arts and humanities research data. It will focus on, but not be restricted to, one of the following areas:

  • practice research, including visual and performance arts
  • large or complex 3D objects, such as architecture
  • ‘born-digital’ material, including interactive material such as social media and video games.


Projects must be collaborative and involve a group or consortium of investigators and partners that:

  • reflects the breadth of research data generated by the communities the proposed resource will support
  • evidences communities’ buy-in and support for the project, both from producers of data and from users.

Projects may include a potentially scalable pilot or prototype.

Eligible costs

Costs covered by the funding will include:

  • staff time (80% of full economic cost)
  • fixed-term or temporary contracts such as research assistance (100% of full economic cost)
  • third party professional and technical services such as consultancy (100% of directly incurred costs)
  • travel and subsistence, including international (100% of direct costs)
  • engagement events and workshops (100% of direct costs)
  • materials, equipment, software licences (100% of direct costs)
  • design costs, including for digital outputs such as platforms and websites (100% of direct costs).

Expected outputs

Anticipated outputs from each funded project should include, but not be restricted to:

  • a fully costed specification for the design, build and implementation of a national, discipline or area-specific data service, including capital and resource requirements
  • a technical specification including details of compute capability and data storage requirements
  • post-construction operational costs for the first five years, including a programme of skills and capacity building for the arts and humanities scholarly community.


Funded projects must commence no later than 18 October 2021 and complete by 31 March 2022.

How to apply

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

When applying select:

  • council: AHRC
  • document Type: Standard Proposal
  • scheme: Development Grants
  • call: Digital Research Infrastructure 09 September 2021.

Documents to upload:

  • strategic case (no more than four sides of A4, setting out current arrangements, their shortcomings and the change that the proposed investment would enable)
  • theory of change (one side A4)
  • CVs of principal and co-investigators (no more than two sides A4)
  • list of publications (key publications only, not more than two sides A4)
  • work plans in the form of a Gantt chart
  • justification of resources
  • data management plan
  • letters of support from each partner.

How we will assess your application

Eligible applications will be assessed by an AHRC-appointed assessment panel in the week starting 26 September.

Successful applicants will be informed in the week starting 4 October.

Awards are expected to start no later than 18 October 2021 and should be completed on or by 31 March 2022.

Contact details

Ask a question about this funding opportunity

Monika Dimitrova


Include ‘Clouding the issue’ in the subject line.

Additional info

Arts and humanities (AH) research data is extraordinarily rich and diverse. They include:

  • text-based data such as administrative data, interviews and surveys
  • performance and artist installations
  • ‘born-digital’ or interactive material such as social media, interactive novels and video games.

The richness and diversity of these data present opportunities for collaboration across multiple disciplines, with capacity to deliver large-scale advances in AH knowledge and stimulate innovation in areas such as research software engineering, computational modelling and elsewhere.

To unlock this potential, and as part of a wider programme of investment in AH digital research infrastructure, AHRC is committing £240,000 to support the scoping, development and early-stage design of a ‘family’ of new linked data services. These will be national resources that enable the capture, curation and analysis of non-standard forms of AH research data, including from:

  • performance and visual arts
  • collections and interactive
  • ‘born-digital’ material.

The outputs from these research community-led projects will critically inform the design and construction of a comprehensive, digital research infrastructure for the arts and humanities.

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