Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Secondary Data Analysis Initiative

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This grant supports research that exploits existing data resources for social and economic research, created by the 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 call.

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 must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S). To be able to do this your host organisation must be registered for Je-S, and you must hold a Je-S account. If you are unsure about this you should contact your research organisation’s research office for further guidance.

Proposals will need to show 100% of the full economic cost of the proposed research, with ESRC covering 80% of the costs.

When applying select ‘New document’, then:

  • council: ESRC
  • document type: standard proposal
  • scheme: research grants
  • call/type/mode: SDAI open call.

Mandatory attachments with the application include:

  • case for support
  • justification of resources
  • CV(s)
  • list of publications.

You can apply at any time, but should consider the timing against other applications from your research organisation, as large volumes of applications for one assessment round will reduce the success rates. Grant assessment panels meet in March, July and November of each year.

To begin writing your proposal, please select the New Document menu and search for and select ‘SDAI open call’ using the Call Search function. Please read the ESRC Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 296KB) for assistance in filling in the application.

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

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