Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: UK-US partnerships: ecology and evolution of infectious diseases

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and Defra invite you to work in partnership with the US to understand ecological, evolutionary, and social drivers that influence the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases of animals, humans and plants.


  • must be from a UK-based research organisation eligible for UKRI funding
  • must bring together a multidisciplinary team
  • must collaborate with a US partner
  • can also collaborate with partners from China and Israel or both

We are particularly interested in:

  • plant health
  • avian influenza
  • mycology
  • anti-fungal and anthelmintic resistance
  • resistance evolution

We will fund 80% of the full economic cost of the UK component for up to four years.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the following:

Who is eligible to apply

The collaborative projects must include a US project lead who will lead the submission through the National Science Foundation (NSF) process.

The UK project lead’s institution will be responsible for receiving and distributing UKRI funding to UK institutions.

UK researchers can collaborate for both research projects and research coordination networks (RCNs) with US, China or Israel.

RCNs aim to advance a field or create new directions in research or education by supporting groups of investigators. The networks help investigators communicate and coordinate their research, training and educational activities. They work across disciplinary, organisational, geographic and international boundaries.

Applicants for the UK component must meet the standard Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) eligibility rules and be based at one of these:

  • higher education institution
  • research council institute
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisation (IRO)
  • eligible public sector research establishment (PSRE)

Check the lists of:

To understand all eligibility rules affecting you, please read our guidance.

Your research team must be transdisciplinary.

For example:

  • biologists
  • ecologists
  • natural scientists
  • plant scientists
  • clinicians
  • veterinarians

It is strongly recommended that proposals demonstrate good integration of mathematical, computational and social scientists with life scientists interested in infectious diseases of humans, animals and plants.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI and BBSRC’s equality, diversity and inclusion action policy.

What we're looking for


UKRI and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) wish to encourage high quality, innovative research on the ecological, evolutionary, and social drivers that influence the transmission dynamics of infectious diseases.

We will fund research in:

  • animals
  • humans
  • plants

The central theme of submitted projects must be the quantitative or computational understanding of pathogen transmission dynamics.

We are keen to encourage proposals with a focus on:

  • plant health
  • avian influenza
  • mycology
  • anti-fungal and anthelmintic resistance
  • resistance evolution

Among the areas of particular interest for this funding opportunity are:

  • the role of social influences on the susceptibility of individuals or populations
  • multiway interactions between pathogenic and non-pathogenic organisms and their mutual hosts
  • the role of medical, agricultural or environmental practices on pathogen emergence and transmission
  • emergence of pathogens from non-pathogenic populations
  • host switching
  • evolutionary dynamics in an ecological context such as disease control interventions and drug resistance
  • plant health

You must read the full information on the scope of the opportunity and how to apply on the NSF website.

It is strongly encouraged that there is a good integration of mathematical, computational and a spectrum of social scientists with life scientists interested in infectious diseases of animals, human and plants, for example, including biologists, ecologists, natural scientists, plant scientists, clinicians and veterinarians.


The duration of this award is up to four years.

Funding available

There is up to £5 million available for this funding opportunity to support the UK component of the collaboration. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

What we will fund

We expect to fund four to five projects depending on quality, demand and strategic alignment.

International collaboration

Visit Trusted Research for more information on effective international collaboration.

How to apply

UKRI is running this funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

Step one: contact the UK programme officer

UK applicants should contact the main UK programme officer at BBSRC via to:

  • discuss whether their proposal fits the scope of the opportunity
  • confirm that the UK component is appropriate and falls within our remit

Step two: US principal investigator applies through NSF

Applications must be submitted through the NSF. Your US principal investigator will manage this process.

View the application preparation and submission instructions on the NSF website: NSF Proposal & Award Policies & Procedures Guide (PAPPG).

To apply

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a UKRI Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Watch research office webinars about the Funding Service.

As citations can be integral to a case for support, you should balance their inclusion and the benefit they provide against the inclusion of other parts of your answer to each question. Bear in mind that citations, associated reference lists or bibliographies, or both, contribute to, and are included in, the word count of the relevant section.


We must receive your application by 15 November 2023 at 5:00pm UK time. Please save your application via the Funding Service and create a PDF and send to and the US applicant to be included in the submission to NSF.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

You should ensure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines that may be in place.

Personal Data

We will need to collect some personal information to manage your funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

We will need to share the application and any personal information that it contains with Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) so that they can participate in the assessment process. Find out more about how Defra uses personal information at: GOV.UK: personal information charter.

We may publish the outcomes of this funding Opportunity as a news article on their web page.

If your application is successful, some personal information will be published via the UKRI Gateway to Research.

UKRI Funding Service: section guidance


Word count: 550

In plain English, provide a summary that can be used to communicate your work to an external audience.

This summary may be made publicly available on external facing websites, so please ensure it can be understood by a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the general public
  • the wider research community.
Guidance for writing a summary

Succinctly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • its context
  • its aims and objectives
  • its potential applications and benefits.


List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • researcher co-lead (RcL)
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician
  • visiting researcher

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s new grant roles.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

The UK and US components of the collaborative projects will be assessed through the NSF peer review process.

Successful projects will be awarded by Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) on behalf of UKRI and Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Find out more about the assessment process on the NSF website.

UKRI and Defra will make the final funding decision in conjunction with US funding partners.


BBSRC and National Science Foundation (NSF) aim to complete the assessment process within six months of receiving your application.


Feedback will be provided by NSF with the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI Principles of Assessment and Decision Making.

Sharing data with co-funders

We will need to share the application (including any personal information that it contains) with Defra so that they can participate in the assessment process.

For more information on how Defra uses personal information, visit GOV.UK: personal information charter.

We reserve the right to modify the assessment process as needed.

Contact details

Get help with your application

For help on costings and writing your application, contact your research office. Allow enough time for your organisation’s submission process.

Ask about this funding opportunity


We aim to respond to emails within two working days.

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

Ask about the US part of this funding opportunity

Samuel Scheiner, Program Director, Division of Environmental Biology and NSF


Phone: 001 (703) 292 7175

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email the UKRI Funding Service helpdesk on

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your UKRI Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how we handle personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info


Background on disease emergence and transmission

The last 25 years have seen a dramatic increase in our awareness of the need to understand the ecological and evolutionary drivers of disease emergence and transmission dynamics. This has been particularly evident in the recent COVID-19 global pandemic.

While knowledge has increased about specific systems and the basic principles of simple systems, understanding of complex systems and translation of those principles into ecosystem, public health, and agricultural health management tools remains challenging.

The emergence and the re-emergence of numerous infectious diseases around the world have coincided with unprecedented rates of change in the structure and diversity of the environment and human social and economic systems.

Nearly all the world’s terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems have undergone dramatic changes due to a variety of human activities.

The coincidence of broad scale environmental changes, the expansion of human social and economic networks and the emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases alludes to underlying predictable ecological and eco-evolutionary relationships.

The ability to define molecular identity and dynamics of pathogens, and apply genetic knowledge to understand evolutionary dynamics of infectious diseases, have improved and significantly contributed to our knowledge of the epidemiology and transmission patterns of diseases.

Currently, basic and applied research of infectious disease ecology and evolution are not well integrated.

The potential benefits of an integrated interdisciplinary research programme in this area include:

  • development of disease transmission theory
  • improved understanding of how diseases emerge or re-emerge
  • improved understanding of host population and ecosystem effects on disease transmission
  • increased capacity to forecast and respond to outbreaks
  • improved understanding of unintended health effects of development projects affecting terrestrial, freshwater, and coastal marine systems
  • enhanced safety of food supplies
  • improved strategies to control or prevent infectious diseases and enhance biosecurity

About this programme and funding opportunity

By bringing together interdisciplinary teams of life scientists, mathematicians and social scientists, this programme will result in the development of cross-cutting models and concepts that can aid in the prediction, prevention and response to emerging diseases. This may include:

  • generation of principles and conceptual frameworks that organise and inform the research leading to mathematical, computational and statistical models of infectious disease dynamics
  • generation of rigorously characterised and tested models that are of value to the scientific community and wider decision making
  • deepening of our understanding of complex infectious disease systems, including these drivers of transmission:
    • biological
    • environmental
    • social
  • elucidation of general ecological and evolutionary principles with applications across multiple pathogens
  • better understanding of how infectious agents:
    • emerge as pathogens
    • adapt to hosts
    • interact with other microbial communities (such as microbiomes)
    • are transmitted between hosts

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