Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Scoping law and social justice research priorities

Apply for funding to identify potential research priorities in law and social justice. Your report will inform the future AHRC approach to the law and legal studies disciplines.

You must be eligible for AHRC funding.

Your project must focus on:

  • governance
  • citizenship and representation
  • transitional justice
  • cultures of exclusion.

AHRC will fund 100% of your project’s full economic cost.

This funding can be used to:

  • support staff time
  • provide postdoctoral research assistant support
  • fund scoping and engagement activities.

You cannot include estate or indirect costs.

Who can apply

Standard eligibility criteria apply to this opportunity as set out in the AHRC research funding guide.

We recognise that a range of expertise may be needed to address the broad area of ‘law and social justice’ and the sub-themes we highlight below.

There is no limit to the number of staff who can be included within the funding available for this project, but applicants will need to carefully consider and justify the balance of expertise within the project team. We would encourage applications that involve early-career researchers and have clear plans to support their development

We would welcome applications that bring in knowledge and expertise from outside of academia through the use of collaborating organisations and project partners.

Applicants must be able to start on 1 November 2021.

International co-investigators are permitted for this funding opportunity, in line with standard eligibility criteria.

AHRC is committed to supporting the research community, offering a range of flexible options which allow applicants to design a programme of work that fits their research goals, career and personal circumstances. This includes:

  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • parental leave.

With this in mind, we welcome applications from academics who job share, have a part-time contract or need flexible working arrangements.

What we're looking for

AHRC is seeking to commission a scoping project to help inform our future priorities within the area of ‘law and social justice’, and to help shape future AHRC priorities. The project will produce a report that will be used in conjunction with other activities undertaken by AHRC to help shape our future approach to supporting the law and legal studies disciplines.

The prevailing aims for the scoping project are that it:

  • investigates and details the agreed research areas
  • builds clear links between these and AHRC and UKRI priorities
  • develops partnerships across the research area
  • builds the evidence base to help inform AHRC’s future work, and identifies options for next steps.

The scoping project will focus on the area of ‘law and social justice’ and will consider the following interconnected subthemes:

  • governance
  • citizenship and representation
  • transitional justice
  • cultures of exclusion.

In addition, the scoping project will need to consider issues that cut across all these subthemes such as any skills deficits or capacity building needed. Guidance of what might be included under each of these subthemes is provided below. Applicants must address all 4 subthemes but can bring in additional subthemes they believe add value.

Report requirements

The scoping project will produce a comprehensive report for AHRC which will set out the area and subthemes in detail. The exact requirements of the report will be agreed with AHRC staff at the start of the project but will include, for example:

An outline of the area and what it covers

This includes aspects such as:

  • key research questions and priorities
  • methodologies and approaches
  • geographical scope
  • potential outputs and outcomes
  • potential beneficiaries.

It should also consider the overlap and relationship between the different subthemes.

Approach and methodology used

This includes aspects such as:

  • what scoping work was undertaken
  • what impact this had on the findings.

Urgency and current landscape

This includes aspects such as:

  • what work is being and has been completed and what is needed?
  • how urgent or timely is it?
  • is the field ready to respond to future needs?

AHRC, UKRI, and wider priorities

This includes aspects such as:

  • how does the area of ‘law and social justice’ map onto the current priorities of AHRC, UKRI, and any other key stakeholders, for example:
    • government
    • industry
    • other funders
    • charities
    • non-governmental organisations (NGOs)
    • international bodies
  • how could research in this area help AHRC and UKRI meet our priorities?
    what evidence gaps need to be addressed to support identified priorities?

Key individuals and organisations

This includes aspects such as:

  • who are the key research figures, teams, and organisations working in this area and
  • what work are they doing?
  • who are the other key stakeholders and how are they being engaged?
  • are policymakers being engaged appropriately?
  • who is not being engaged but should be?
  • what barriers are reducing or preventing engagement from particular groups?

What support does research in this area need?

This includes aspects such as:

  • what support is currently available?
  • what are the existing barriers to accessing research funding?
  • what are the possible mechanisms which might best support research in this area?
  • are there any skills deficits or capacity building needed?
  • what role could the research councils play?

Activities that can be included

Applicants are free to outline the activities they feel will best enable them to meet the aims of the funding opportunity, particularly the production of a comprehensive report for AHRC. This could include, for example:

  • literature and landscape reviews
  • interviews and focus groups
  • events such as workshops
  • networking and partnership building activities.

A clear justification will need to be provided for the proposed activities and the balance between them in reference to the aims of the scoping project.

Applicants should also give clear consideration to the possible ongoing impact of COVID-19 and clearly factor this into their plans.


Law and social justice is a broad area that encompasses a number of different points of focus. Drawing on initial work undertaken by AHRC staff in collaboration with members of the research community we have identified the following 4 subthemes as a focus for this commissioned scoping project.

We recognise that these subthemes are broad and interconnected. The descriptions provided are meant only to offer some guidance and are not restrictive. Applicants are encouraged to interpret them as such and to bring in additional aspects they believe are important for scoping these subthemes, as well as additional subthemes which add value and will help address AHRC’s priorities.


Political, economic, social, and cultural change is having major impacts on existing systems of governance at all levels of society from the subnational to the national and international.

For example, this could include questions around the devolution of rights and power within states as well questions of post-colonial redistributions of power across the globe. It might also encompass questions around changing approaches to and use of regulation, constitutionalism, and accepted norms of practice, particularly where the written and unwritten overlap and intersect.

Citizenship and representation

This area could include questions such as:

  • how is the nature of citizenship and representation changing?
  • what issues do marginalised communities face with regards to citizenship and representation?
  • what does the loss of citizenship mean in the modern context?
  • how does citizenship intersect with issues of social exclusion, rights, and representation?

Transitional justice

Transitional justice is an international and increasingly interdisciplinary field of practice. It seeks to understand past conflict and to identify routes to democratic accountability by exploring how the rule of law intersects with fundamental concepts such as memory, truth, trust, and social cohesion.

This could include lawyers and socio-legal scholars working together with colleagues in the arts to explore creative means of broadening and diversifying the remit of transitional justice and ensuring that its impact on public policy and broader society is maximised.

Cultures of exclusion

In the context of shrinking public justice and a democratic deficit, what role does law play in democratic habits? Does law have a democratic enhancing capacity? Is access to justice being reduced? If so, what effects does this have, and do these vary by area?

Cross-cutting issues

We are aware, particularly given the interconnected nature of the subthemes, there are likely to be issues that cut across one or more of these subthemes.

For example, the lack of a particular skill set or methodological knowledge within the field, or the lack of engagement with a particular type of stakeholder may affect multiple areas across the field of research.

We are not prescribing what cross-cutting issues applicants must consider and we recognise that the work of scoping this area may reveal what they are. Nevertheless, applicants are asked to consider and highlight any known issues relevant to their application and to outline how they will approach these and any other emerging cross-cutting issues as part of the scoping work.

How to apply

Applications must be made through the online application form.

Applicants will need to complete the form and upload a single PDF that includes the following required documentation:

  • case for support (6 sides of A4 limit)
  • indicative budget (2 sides of A4 limit)
  • short CV for all named researchers (2 sides of A4 limit)
  • publication list for all named researchers (1 side of A4 limit)
  • institutional letter of support (2 sides of A4 limit)
  • data management plan (2 sides A4 of limit)
  • project partner letter of support (if relevant, 2-sides A4 limit)
  • international co-investigator Head of Department statement (if relevant, 2-sides A4 limit).

Unless otherwise stated below, all documentation should follow the standard guidance provided in the AHRC research funding guide.

Please note that ‘project partner letter of support’ and ‘international co-investigator Head of Department statement’ are only required if your application involves a project partner or international co-investigator respectively.

The application form asks for the following:

  • title
  • name
  • organisation
  • contact email
  • case for support
  • indicative budget
  • EDI characteristics (this is optional and not part of the assessment. We will use this information to help AHRC address the needs of our research communities and ensure we are meeting our commitments to equality, diversity, and inclusion).

Case for support (6 sides A4 limit)

The case for support should clearly set out the following:

  • how the project meets the requirements of this funding opportunity
  • how you would approach each of the subthemes, including an initial outline of:
    • what you would look to include or focus on
    • what existing cross-cutting issues you would focus on
    • how you see these mapping onto AHRC priorities.
  • the scoping work proposed, including a clear explanation of the methodologies to be used and why and how these would enable you to meet the requirements of the report to AHRC listed above. You should also offer an explanation of how you would ensure delivery of the report to AHRC within the timescales set out in this opportunity
  • how the proposed project team would meet the needs of the project and ensure it could be completed in time. Where relevant, this should include reference to the roles of collaborating organisations and project partners.

You do not need to use specific headings but please make sure your case for support is clearly structured.

Indicative budget (2 sides A4 limit)

The indicative budget should provide headline figures and justification for key aspects of the proposed work including, but not limited to:

  • salary costs for principal investigator, any co-investigators, any postdoctoral research assistants, and any other support staff.
  • scoping activities
  • engagement and coordination activities.

Justification does not need to be provided for the level of a person’s salary but rather for the amount of time they will dedicate to the project.

Funding will be provided following standard full economic costing guidance, with the following exceptions:

  • AHRC will pay all costs at 100%
  • estates and indirect costs cannot be claimed.

CV (2 sides A4 limit)

A short CV of no more than 2 sides A4 should be provided for each named researcher in line with the standard AHRC guidance.

Publications list (1 side A4 limit)

A list of relevant publications must be provided for each named researcher in line with the standard AHRC guidance.

Institutional letter of support (2 sides A4 limit)

A letter of support must be provided from the institution of each named researcher (investigators and postdoctoral research assistants) confirming their support for the application.

The letter should be of no more than 2 sides of A4, or equivalent, on headed paper or by email in exceptional circumstances. The letter should be written when the proposal is being prepared and should be targeted specifically to the project. Where multiple named researchers are based at the same institution, a single letter of support can be provided but must reference all of the named researchers at that institution.

If necessary, this letter should also confirm any contractual obligations as set out in the eligibility criteria of the AHRC research funding guide.

Data management plan (2 sides A4 limit)

A data management plan of no more than 2 side A4 must be provided in line with the standard AHRC guidance.

Project partner letters of support (2 sides A4 limit)

Each project partner must provide a letter of support, of no more than 2 sides of A4 in line with standard AHRC guidance.

Submission of successful project through Je-S

The successful applicant will be required to submit project details, including a detailed budget, through our Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S).

AHRC will provide further instructions to the successful applicant.

How we will assess your application

Applications will be assessed by a panel of independent experts drawn from our research communities. There will be no ‘principal investigator response’ stage.

Panellists will be asked to assess each application against the criteria listed below and to assign it a grade. The panel as a whole will agree the final grade for each application.

We do not anticipate funding more than 1 application. In line with our standard policy, it is unlikely that AHRC will be able to provide detailed feedback to unsuccessful applicants.

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • quality of the application, including clarity and appropriateness of scoping methodologies set out.
  • strength and balance of the research team, including:
    • research track record
    • ability to successfully manage the project
    • areas of research expertise
    • career development opportunities
  • understanding of the requirements of the funding opportunity, particularly the plans for the required report and managing delivery of this on time.
  • strong understanding and experience of the subthemes highlighted and any additional areas highlighted by applicants.
  • value for money.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity

Enquiries should be marked for the attention of David Ward.


Additional info

AHRC’s current priorities are set out in detail in the AHRC vision.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to reference this when developing applications.

Supporting documents

AHRC research funding guide

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