Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Study the West Antarctic Ice Sheet’s response to a two degree increase

Apply for funding to enhance understanding of how the West Antarctic Ice Sheet will respond to a two degree increase in global temperature.

Acquired data will be used to test climate and ice sheet models.

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

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £3 million. NERC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Projects will be funded for three years and must start between 1 and 10 January 2024.

Who can apply

Normal individual eligibility applies, as described in section C of the NERC research grants and fellowships handbook.

NERC research and fellowship grants can be held at any of the following:

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

Find full details of approved:

Applicants may be involved in no more than two proposals submitted to this funding opportunity, and only once as principal investigator.

NERC values equality, diversity and inclusion across all its funding programmes, and actively encourages proposals from diverse groups of researchers.

What we're looking for

About the programme

The Sensitivity of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to a warming of two degree Celsius (SWAIS 2C) programme is led by New Zealand. It aims to improve understanding of the sensitivity of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet to a two degree Celsius increase in global temperature.

Sediment cores will be retrieved from below the Ross Ice Shelf and will be used to determine how the ice sheet behaved in the past. This understanding will be employed to test climate and ice sheet models used to project future response to increasing temperatures. Sediment cores will be retrieved from two sites over two Antarctic field seasons (one per season).  Further detail is included in the SWAIS 2C prospectus (PDF, 6.2MB).

Research team

NERC has secured six places for UK researchers to gain access to the sediment cores and to contribute towards delivery of the aims of the programme. These researchers will form part of the SWAIS 2C science team. After each field season the science team will take part in a core workshop in New Zealand to describe and sample the cores.

Membership of the SWAIS 2C science team is based on national contribution.

In addition to New Zealand and the UK, countries that have confirmed their participation in the SWAIS 2C programme are:

  • USA
  • Germany
  • South Korea
  • Australia
  • Italy.

Additional countries are considering contributing to the programme.

As part of this funding opportunity, we are looking for UK researchers to provide  specific expertise to SWAIS 2C in the following areas:

  • isotope geochemical provenance analyses
  • ice sheet modelling
  • cosmogenic nuclide analyses
  • sedimentary facies analyses of sub-ice shelf sequences
  • integration of sedimentary records with pre-existing ice core records.


Your proposal must identify a team of six researchers with a range of expertise from the list above. You must include a science plan that outlines how you will contribute towards delivery of the SWAIS 2C programme.

Team members may be tenured academics or postdoctoral researchers. Postdoctoral researchers who are working directly under a PI or Co-I on the same element of the proposed research will not be included in the team count (of six) but it cannot be guaranteed that both will be able to attend sampling workshops. If it is proposed that the postdoctoral researcher will work on something even slightly different to the PI or Co-Is they will count toward the members of the team.

You can suggest research or request samples from either, or both, of the two planned drill seasons.

The first SWAIS 2C field season has had to be postponed by one year. Therefore, projects should now start between 1 and 10 January 2024. Maximum funding limits remain the same. Starting is contingent on confirmation that the first field season will proceed.

Science plans

Science plans must include:

  • which SWAIS 2C hypotheses you will address: see the SWAIS 2C prospectus (PDF, 6.2MB)
  • your specific scientific objectives
  • the methods you will use to meet your objectives
  • the sampling requirements.

Sampling requirements

Your sampling requirements should indicate:

  • the size of the core sample you need for the analyses you are proposing
  • the approximate sample spacing
  • the total number of samples anticipated
  • whether samples require any special handling or treatment.

Travel expenses

You must include costs for attending the core workshops in your proposal budget.

How to apply


A webinar will take place on 23 March 2022 at 16:00. At the event, the SWAIS 2C principal investigators, Richard Levy and Molly Patterson, will introduce the programme.

If you are interested in attending the webinar, please email:

It is not a requirement to attend this webinar if you are planning to apply to this funding opportunity.

You should discuss your plans with the SWAIS 2C lead investigators, Richard Levy and Molly Paterson, before submitting your proposal, to ensure compatibility with the rest of the programme plan.

Please read the SWAIS 2C prospectus (PDF, 6.2MB) for further information.


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

When applying, select:

  • council: NERC
  • document type: standard
  • scheme: directed
  • call: SWAIS 2C MAY21.

This funding opportunity will close at 16:00 on 26 May 2022. It will not be possible to apply after this time.

You should leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before the closing date.

Your proposal will be office rejected and will not be considered if it:

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

Exceptionally, this does not apply to:

  • letters of support
  • quotes for services, facilities or equipment.

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

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

Additionally, where non-standard fonts are present (and even if the converted PDF document may look unaffected in the Je-S system), some information may be removed when it is imported into the research councils’ grants system.

We therefore recommend that where a document contains any non-standard fonts (for example, scientific notation or diagrams), the document should be converted to PDF before it is attached to the proposal.

References and footnotes should be in the same font type as the rest of the document, with a minimum font size of 11.

Headers and footers should not be used for references or information relating to the scientific case. Applicants referring to websites should note that referees may choose not to check hyperlinks.

Applicants should ensure that their proposal conforms to all eligibility and submission rules, or their proposal may be rejected without peer review.

More details on NERC’s submission rules can be found in the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook and the NERC guidance for applicants.

What to include

Proposals must include the following documents:

Case for support

The case for support should comprise of:

  • details of your previous track record and relevance of expertise for all team members (up to three sides of A4)
  • a description of your science plan and sampling requirement (up to three sides of A4).

Outline data management plan

Write up to one side of A4.

Justification of resources

This should be a narrative description of why you require the resources requested.

It should include a justification for all items of equipment costing between £10,000 and the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) equipment threshold of £138,000 (£115,000 excluding VAT).

Write up to one side of A4 in total, to cover all research organisations involved.


CVs are required for all named research staff. Write up to two sides of A4 for each CV.

Facility form

This should be used to apply for high performance computing (HPC) when use of ARCHER2 will exceed 500kCU in any one year for the whole project.

NERC services and facilities

Proposals should include formal requests and access costs for NERC services and facilities (for example, HPC or isotope analyses), where relevant.

No additional funding is available to cover NERC services and facilities. Therefore, all costs associated with the use of NERC services and facilities must be included within:

  •  the funding limit of proposals
  •  the other directly incurred costs of proposals.

Prior to submitting a proposal, applicants wishing to use a NERC service or facility must seek agreement from the facility that they can provide the service required.

Applicants wishing to use NERC facilities will need to submit a mandatory ‘technical assessment’ with their proposal.

This is required for aircraft but not for NERC marine facilities or HPC. It should be a quote for the work that the facility will provide.

View a full list of the facilities requiring a technical assessment, and further information on NERC services and facilities.

How we will assess your application

Proposals will be evaluated by an assessment panel consisting of independent experts and relevant members of the NERC Peer Review College, where possible.

Assessment criteria

We will use the following assessment criteria to evaluate proposals.

Research excellence will be based on:

  • team expertise
  • methodological applicability and innovativeness
  • consideration given to diversity, equality and inclusion in membership of the team.

Fit to call

Assessment will be based on:

  • fit to the requirements detailed for this funding opportunity
  • fit to the wider SWAIS 2C programme.

Contact details

Ask about this funding opportunity


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