Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Secondary Data Analysis Initiative

This grant supports research that exploits existing data resources for social and economic research, created by ESRC and other agencies, for comparative analysis. It also aims to develop research capacity and skills in using large and complex secondary data.

Grants can be for up to £300,000 for a period of up to 24 months. Funding is based on the full economic costs of the research, with ESRC providing 80% of the cost and the research organisation covering the balance.

Proposals can draw from the wider sciences, but the social sciences must represent more than 50% of the research focus and effort.

Additional primary (first-time) data collection will not be funded under this funding opportunity.

We will not be accepting applications for this funding opportunity between 31 October 2022 and mid-2023. For more information, see the ‘how to apply’ section.

In 2023 UK Research and Innovation will introduce a new grants system, the Funding Service, to replace the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. This will impact how you apply to responsive mode opportunities. Find out more about the transition timeline and our pathway for change.

Who can apply

You can apply for funding if:

  • you are an established member of an approved research organisation or have an agreement with a recognised organisation to work there and have access to appropriate research facilities for the duration of the grant
  • you wish to develop your skills in using secondary data, regardless of the stage of your career
  • you are an early career researcher who wants to gain experience as a principal investigator or co-investigator.

If you are an early career researcher applying as a principal or co-investigator, you must also:

  • have submitted your PhD or have equivalent experience by the start date of the grant
  • be able to articulate why you should be considered an early career researcher and how the award of a SDAI grant will have a demonstrable impact on your trajectory to becoming an independent researcher
  • not be a current or former principal investigator on ESRC or other UKRI grants.

For more information on eligibility please read our specification for this funding opportunity (PDF, 264KB).

What we're looking for

ESRC funds research within the social sciences, including:

  • area and development studies
  • demography
  • economic and social history
  • economics
  • education
  • environmental planning
  • human geography
  • linguistics
  • management and business studies
  • political science and international relations
  • psychology
  • science and technology studies
  • social anthropology
  • social policy
  • social statistics, computing and methods
  • social work
  • socio-legal studies
  • sociology

For SDAI grants we wish to support:

  • projects that seek to use secondary data from one or more existing UK or international data resource(s)
  • projects that include the use of at least one ESRC-funded data resource – please note this is a preference, not a requirement
  • the inclusion of researchers at different career stages who wish to develop their skills in using secondary data, but also encourages applications from early career researchers as principal investigators or co-investigators
  • collaboration with partners outside academia to increase impact on policy and practice. Business, third sector or government bodies based in the UK can also be included as co-investigators
  • proposals that include new datasets created through data linkage – this requires a data management and sharing plan showing how the data will be stored and shared

We positively encourage active collaboration between UK researchers and those in other countries. Co-investigators based in research organisations outside the UK can therefore be included in the proposal.

For more information please read our specification for this funding opportunity (PDF, 264KB).

How to apply

You can no longer apply for this funding opportunity through Je-S. Please visit ESRC responsive mode: secondary data analysis round one for details of how to apply via the UKRI Funding Service.

How we will assess your application

Your application will be assessed on the basis of six core criteria:

  • originality, innovation and potential contribution to knowledge
  • research design and methods
  • potential for capacity-building
  • project management and research partnerships
  • outputs, dissemination and potential for impact on theory, policy and practice
  • value for money.

The proposal will be sent to a minimum of three reviewers primarily drawn from ESRC’s peer review college. We may include reviewers from outside the college if college members lack necessary knowledge and expertise for a particular application, and ask for comments from non-academic research users, such as businesses or charities.

We encourage you to nominate two academic and two non-academic or user reviewers to respond to peer review comments. The proposal, reviewers’ comments and your response will be considered by a grant assessment panel that will agree a prioritised list of proposals that it recommends for funding. The list will then be considered by ESRC’s Grants delivery group, who makes the final funding decisions.

Contact details

For further queries please email For help with the Je-S application please email

Additional info

Supporting documents

Call specification (PDF, 182KB)

Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 287KB)

ESRC research funding guide

About the temporary closure of this opportunity

We will be pausing this funding opportunity from 31 October 2022 until mid-2023, when it reopens.

The coronavirus pandemic imposed massive changes on research data collection as studies adapted rapidly to the restrictions on in-person, face-to-face data collection. In a forthcoming research methods funding opportunity, ESRC will be seeking proposals to help:

  • understand the impact of these mode changes on data quality and data collection methods
  • inform future data infrastructure strategy, to advance the science in this field more generally and to safeguard the future availability of data for analysis of social phenomena.

We anticipate this will attract a number of proposals undertaking secondary analysis of existing data. To enhance the budget for the research methods funding opportunity, and to enable us to support a greater number of innovative projects in this important strategic area, we will be incorporating part of the Secondary Data Analysis Initiative (SDAI) budget into the research methods funding opportunity to support proposals using secondary data analysis.

Grant assessment panels (GAPs) A, B and C will continue to operate as normal. The SDAI GAP will support open funding proposals when the funding opportunity reopens in 2023. ESRC research grants and new investigator grants funding opportunities will not be affected.

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