Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: UKRI Metascience research grants

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The Metascience Grants Programme funds cutting-edge research into more effective ways of conducting and supporting Research and Development (R&D). All projects must have the potential to inform science policy, R&D funding practices, or practice within research-performing organisations.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) funding.

The full economic cost (FEC) of your project can be up to £300,000 over a period of six to 24 months. UKRI will fund 80% of the FEC.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

  • This funding opportunity is open to research groups and individuals. We:
    • encourage collaborative research with other UK and international organisations
    • encourage applications from diverse groups of researchers
    • welcome applications from those who have not previously held Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) grants
    • welcome applications from individuals at any career stage, subject to ESRC eligibility criteria
  • Read more about this in the ESRC eligibility guidance for applicants.

International applicants

Project leads from non-UK organisations are not eligible to apply for funding for this opportunity.

Project co-leads based in non-UK research organisations can be included in research grant applications.

At least one project co-lead based in a non-UK research organisation must be included in the application to access the ring-fenced funding available for international activities and international partner organisations. See ‘What we are looking for’ section for more details on the funding available. Read project co-lead (international) policy guidance – UKRI for details of eligible organisations and costs.

Business, third sector or government body project co-leads

Business, third sector or government body project co-leads based in the UK can also be included on research grant proposals as a Project co-lead. Read Including project co-leads from business, third sector or government bodies – UKRI for details of eligible organisations and costs.

Resubmissions

We will not accept uninvited resubmissions of projects that have been submitted to UKRI

Find out more about ESRC’s Resubmissions policy – UKRI

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.

What we're looking for

Aim

This funding opportunity aims to accelerate the generation of evidence on more effective ways of conducting and supporting R&D. All projects should have the potential to inform science policy, R&D funding practices, or practice within research-performing organisations.

Scope

This funding opportunity, jointly funded by UKRI and Open Philanthropy, will support innovative and ambitious metascience research projects that use scientific methods to deepen our understanding of how different incentives, institutional structures, and funding practices within the R&D system influence scientific research outputs and career outcomes. This funding opportunity will support empirical research that is focused on generating actionable insights for decision makers, including those in government, funding bodies, and research organisations.

Metascience is a rapidly expanding research field, both in the UK and globally, and this funding opportunity is designed to encourage international collaborative projects that accelerate the growth of the field (see ‘Funding Available’ below). Metascience draws on a wide range of disciplinary expertise to understand how research is funded and conducted and how these practices can be enhanced or improved (see ‘Additional Information’ section).

UKRI and Open Philanthropy welcome proposals in the following areas:

  • talent and professional development, including the effectiveness of interventions in training and skills, talent retention, stimulating entrepreneurship, or employer assessment methods in research contexts
  • allocation of research funding, including the impacts of different methods of peer review and different modes of funding (for example, fellowships, research grants) on the distribution of research funds and scientific and career outcomes
  • modes of R&D delivery, including the efficacy of different institutional structures and sub-structures for conducting R&D
  • research integrity, including issues of reproducibility and the impact of interventions such as preregistration, open data, and reproducible code
  • improving the impact and dissemination of research outputs, including the role of technology transfer offices, different publication practices, conferences, and knowledge dissemination platforms
  • understanding impact, including improving the nuance with which we can define and measure the impact of research projects and programmes
  • understanding the impacts of AI on the research and innovation ecosystem, including the funding and delivery of R&D

You can propose innovative research proposals outside of these topic areas but must clearly set out how they are addressing the overall aim and scope of this funding opportunity.

The funders encourage projects involving collaborations between researchers and organisations interested in modifying their practices based on the outcomes of the proposed research.

Data access requests

Please note that the Metascience Unit will be undertaking a separate initiative looking at how more UKRI data can be made available to external researchers for metascientific analyses. Applicants seeking to conduct data analysis are encouraged to use data in the public domain, for instance, UKRI’s Gateway to Research and ONS’s Business enterprise research and development, UK: 2022; and are welcome to use proprietary data they have access to, for instance via a university or research services partner. However, projects requesting further UKRI data access are not in scope for this funding opportunity.

For more information on the background of this funding opportunity, go to the Additional information section.

Expected outputs of the funding opportunity

The expected outputs of projects funded are:

  • a policy briefing, in a format co-developed by the grant holders and the Metascience Unit, that translates research findings into practical insights that decision makers can use
  • research publications
  • new collaborations and partnerships between the UK research base and stakeholders, in the UK and overseas

In addition, we would welcome further outputs that support policy and practice and the growth of the metascience research community, such as new open access infrastructure or datasets.

We expect successful grant holders to participate in cohort events as we look to build the UK metascience community.

Duration

The duration of this award is between six months and 24 months.

Projects must start by 31 January 2025.

Funding available

You can apply for up to £300,000 at 100% full economic cost (FEC). This consists of up to £200,000 at 100% FEC for UK costs. Additional funding of £100,000 at 100% FEC is available to cover costs of any international collaborative activities or international partner organisations. At least one international project co-lead must be included in the application to access this additional funding. Both UK costs (of up to £200,000 at 100% FEC) and international costs (of up to £100,000 at 100% FEC) must be set out in the same application. UKRI will fund 80% of the FEC.

Individuals from an established business, civil society or government body based in the UK will be eligible to be listed as a co-lead. The co-lead(s) can receive 100% of justified costs. Costs cannot be claimed by government bodies. Please refer to the UK co-leads in business, civil society and government policy for more guidance.

Any academic researcher (PhD or equivalent) from an established international research organisation of comparable standing to an UKRI-eligible UK research organisation will be eligible to be listed as an international co-lead under this scheme. UKRI will fund 100% of justified costs for international co-leads.

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit UKRI’s trusted research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.

Find out about getting funding for international collaboration.

Up to £5 million is available for this funding opportunity.

Grant recipients will be brought together as a cohort to share learning and strengthen connections. Successful applicants will be expected to engage in a series of grant holder workshops and events to showcase findings. Projects should budget sufficient travel and subsistence costs to attend at least two all-day events based in the UK.

Mobility: UK and international

As research is an increasingly international endeavour, we are keen to support grant holders  in developing links with leading researchers in their field both in the UK and internationally.

We encourage research visits to one or more internationally leading research organisations   – either in the UK or abroad – for the purposes of research collaboration, training, and/or access to data or other resources not available at the applicant’s host organisation.

We encourage research applications that use and develop international comparative methods. The opportunities provided for mobility should support this.

Where a long-term overseas visit is planned, you are required to name a second mentor at the overseas host organisation. They must also articulate how the research team will be managed effectively whilst they are overseas. However, the majority of the grant holder’s time should be in the UK at their host research organisation.

We also recognise that long-term mobility may be difficult or impossible for researchers with disabilities or caring responsibilities. You will therefore not be disadvantaged for not including a mobility element. In those instances, you may wish to consider alternative mechanisms for enhancing collaboration through your grant, such as hosting short visits from collaborators, or using information technology to develop and sustain collaborations.

Data requirements

Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is administering this funding opportunity on behalf of UKRI. ESRC recognises the importance of data quality and provenance. Data generated, collected or acquired by ESRC-funded research must be well-managed by the grant holder to enable their data to be exploited to the maximum potential for further research.  See our research data policy for details and further information on data requirements. The requirements of the research data policy are a condition of ESRC research funding.

Where relevant, details on data management and sharing should be provided in the Data Management section. See the importance of managing and sharing data and content for inclusion in a data management plan on the UK Data Service (UKDS) website for further guidance. We expect you to provide a summary of the points provided. The UKDS (datasharing@ukdataservice.ac.uk) will be pleased to advise you on the availability of data within the academic community and provide advice on data deposit requirements.

Research ethics

ESRC requires that the research we support is designed and conducted in such a way that it meets ethical principles and is subject to proper professional and institutional oversight in terms of research governance. We have agreed a Framework for Research Ethics that all submitted proposals must comply with. Read further details about the Framework for Research Ethics and guidance on compliance.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UKRI Funding Service so please ensure that your organisation is registered. 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.

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 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 support@funding-service.ukri.org.
    Please allow at least 10 working days for your organisation to be added to the Funding Service.
  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.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant.

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words
  • insert each new image onto a new line
  • provide a descriptive legend for each image immediately underneath it (this counts towards your word limit)
  • files must be smaller than 5MB and in JPEG, JPG, JPE, JFI, JIF, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP or WEBP format

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:

References

Applications should be self-contained, and hyperlinks should only be used to provide links directly to reference information. To ensure the information’s integrity is maintained, where possible, persistent identifiers such as digital object identifiers should be used. Assessors are not required to access links to carry out assessment or recommend a funding decision. Applicants should use their discretion when including references and prioritise those most pertinent to the application.

References should be included in the appropriate question section of the application and be easily identifiable by the assessors e.g. (Smith, Research Paper, 2019)

You must not include links to web resources to extend your application.

Deadline

ESRC must receive your application by 4.00pm UK time on 16 July 2024.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Following the submission of your application to the funding opportunity, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow the guidance, it may be rejected.

Personal data

Processing personal data

ESRC, as part of UKRI, 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.

ESRC, as part of UKRI, will need to share the application and any personal information that it contains with Open Philanthropy so that they can participate in the assessment process. Your application may also be shared with a select number of external advisors to Open Philanthropy.

Publication of outcomes

ESRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at What ESRC has funded.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.

Summary

Word limit: 550

In plain English, provide a summary we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, therefore do not include any confidential or sensitive information. Make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • context
  • the topic the project addresses
  • aims and objectives
  • potential applications and benefits

Core team

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

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

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s core team roles in funding applications.

Application questions

Vision

Word limit: 500

What are you hoping to achieve with your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how your proposed work:

  • is of excellent quality and importance within or beyond the field(s) or area(s)
  • has the potential to advance current understanding, or generate new knowledge, thinking or discovery within or beyond the field or area
  • is timely given current trends, context, and needs
  • impacts world-leading research, society, the economy, or the environment
  • has the potential to inform science policy, R&D funding practices, or practice within research-performing organisations.

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the UKRI Funding Service.

References may be included within this section.

Approach

Word limit: 2500

How are you going to deliver your proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how you have designed your approach so that it:

  • is effective and appropriate to achieve your objectives
  • is feasible, and comprehensively identifies any risks to delivery and how they will be managed
  • uses a clearly written and transparent methodology (if applicable)
  • summarises the previous work and describes how this will be built upon and progressed (if applicable)
  • will maximise translation of outputs into outcomes and impacts
  • describes how your, and if applicable your team’s, research environment (in terms of the place and relevance to the project) will contribute to the success of the work

If applying for funding for international collaborative activities and international partner organisations, explain how you will use international collaboration to meet the aims of this funding call. This should include how the proposed international activities will both enhance the impact of UK-based activities and accelerate the development of the metascience research community.

All applicants planning to generate data as part of their grant must complete the separate Data management question.

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the UKRI Funding Service.

References may be included within this section.

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word limit: 1,650

Why are you the right individual or team to successfully deliver the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage) to deliver the proposed work
  • the right balance of skills and expertise to cover the proposed work
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing a positive research environment and wider community

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the UKRI Funding Service.

The word count for this section is 1,650 words, 1,150 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and, if relevant, your team (project and project co-leads, researchers, technicians, specialists, partners and so on) have and how this will help deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed. Use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit
Additions

Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences, or outputs, but you can use it to describe any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

References may be included within this section.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, see Eligibility as an individual.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word limit: 500

What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

  • the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations
  • how you will manage these considerations

All proposals have to comply with the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics which includes guidance for applicants and links to related web resources.

All necessary ethical approvals must be in place before the project commences, but do not need to have been secured at the time of application.

If you are generating data as part of your project, you should complete the Data Management question and should cover ethical considerations relating to data in your response.

If you are not generating data and have not completed the Data Management question you should address any legal or ethical considerations relating to your use of data here.

Additional sub-questions (to be answered only if appropriate) relating to research involving:

  • human participants

You may demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the UKRI Funding Service.

Resources and cost justification

Word limit: 1000

What will you need to deliver your proposed work and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Justify the application’s more costly resources, in particular:

  • project staff
  • significant travel for field work or collaboration (but not regular travel between collaborating organisations or to conferences)
  • any equipment that will cost more than £10,000
  • any consumables beyond typical requirements, or that are required in exceptional quantities
  • all facilities and infrastructure costs
  • all resources that have been costed as ‘Exceptions’

Assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all project resources. Overall, they want you to demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

• are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
• represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
• maximise potential outcomes and impacts

For detailed guidance on eligible costs please see the ESRC Research Funding Guide.

Project partners

Add details about any project partners’ contributions. If there are no project partners, you can indicate this on the UKRI Funding Service.

A project partner is a collaborating organisation who will have an integral role in the proposed research. This may include direct (cash) or indirect (in-kind) contributions such as expertise, staff time or use of facilities.

Add the following project partner details:

  • The organisation name and address (searchable via a drop-down list or enter the organisation’s details manually, as applicable)
  • The project partner contact name and email address
  • The type of contribution (direct or in-direct) and its monetary value

If a detail is entered incorrectly and you have saved the entry, remove the specific project partner record and re-add it with the correct information.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Project partners letters or emails of support

Upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the Project Partner section. These should be uploaded in English or Welsh only.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box, or if you do not have any project partners enter N/A. Each letter or email you provide should:

  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance, and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project
  • the page limit is 1 side A4 per partner

The UKRI Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply. If you do not have any project partners, you will be able to indicate this in the UKRI Funding Service.

Ensure you have prior agreement from project partners so that, if you are offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the project partners’ section.

For audit purposes, UKRI requires formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Data Management and sharing

Word limit: 500

How will you manage and share data collected or acquired through the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a data management plan that clearly details how you will comply with UKRI’s published data sharing policy, which includes detailed guidance notes.

Demonstrate that you have designed your proposed work so that you can appropriately manage and share data in accordance with ESRC’s Research Data Policy and ESRC Framework for Research Ethics (if applicable)

Within the ‘Data Management’ section we also expect you to:

  • plan for the research through the life cycle of the award until data is accepted for archiving by the UK Data Service (UKDS) or a responsible data repository.
  • demonstrate compliance with ESRC’s Research Data Policy and ESRC Framework for Research Ethics (this should include confirmation that existing datasets have been reviewed and why currently available datasets are inadequate for the proposed research)
  • cover any legal and ethical considerations of collecting, releasing or storing the data, including consent, confidentiality, anonymisation, security and other ethical issues.
  • include any challenges to data sharing (e.g., copyright or data confidentiality), with possible solutions discussed to optimise data sharing.

If this does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Facilities

Word limit: 250

Does your proposed work require the support and use of a facility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you will need to use a facility (including access to, and use of data infrastructure), follow your proposed facility’s normal access request procedures. Ensure you have prior agreement so that if you are offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on your project. ESRC encourages the use of secondary and linked datasets.

For each requested facility you will need to provide the:

  • name of facility, copied and pasted from the facility information list (DOCX, 35KB)
  • proposed usage or costs, or costs per unit where indicated on the facility information list
  • confirmation you have their agreement where required

If you will not need to use a facility, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Panel

We will invite an expert panel to assess the quality of your application against the requirements of this funding, as outlined in the funding opportunity text. The panel will rank it alongside other applications after which the panel will make a funding recommendation.

Portfolio approach

There is no limit to the number of applications that a single research organisation can submit. However, subject to a satisfactory quality threshold being met, decisions will be made using a portfolio approach, to ensure an appropriate geographic and thematic coverage. The funders will make the final funding decisions.

Timescale

We aim to complete the assessment process in October 2024.

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 Open Philanthropy so that they can participate in the assessment process. Your application may also be shared with a select number of external advisors to Open Philanthropy.

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

Assessment areas

The assessment areas we will use are:

  • Vision
  • Approach
  • Applicant and team capability to deliver
  • Resources and cost justification
  • Ethics and Responsible Research and Innovation (RRI)

Find details of assessment questions and criteria under the ‘Application questions’ heading in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Contact details

Get help with your application

If you have a question and the answers aren’t provided on this page 

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline and/or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact Details

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact metascience@ukri.org

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through The Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

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

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

Find information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email metascience@ukri.org

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your 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 UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice

Additional info

Background and Funders

Investing in research, development, and innovation is vital to UK and international economic growth and prosperity. However, it is not just the quantity of that investment that matters but also the quality. How research is funded and practiced is critical to accelerating scientific breakthroughs and innovations, nurturing talent, and shaping research culture.

In November 2023, the Department for Science, Innovation & Technology (DSIT) announced a metascience programme in the Government’s response to the independent review of the UK’s Research, Development and Innovation Organisational Landscape (PDF, 2MB). The programme is being delivered by a joint DSIT-UKRI Metascience Unit.

This funding opportunity is part of a range of activities delivered by the unit to generate evidence on more effective approaches to delivering and supporting R&D using a range methods, including randomised evaluations, natural experiments, and data science.

This funding opportunity is delivered in partnership with Open Philanthropy. Open Philanthropy is a philanthropic funder which aims to use its resources to help others as effectively as it can. The organisation makes grants across a number of areas, including research on economic growth and scientific innovation.

Our Vision

Metascience is a growing community aiming to improve science policy and practice at the level of governments, funders, and research-performing institutions, and among the individuals and teams within them. Metascience typically examines the institutional structures, practices, and incentives explaining how researchers spend their time and the speed, direction, nature, and impact of their scientific outputs.

Within the burgeoning metascience community, there are two characteristic groups:

Researchers using rigorous social scientific methods (for example, experiments and qualitative, or quantitative, data analysis) to study the social practice of science itself.

This diverse group features contributors from a range of disciplinary backgrounds, including economics, sociology, cognitive science, innovation studies, business and management sciences, science of science, scientometrics and information sciences, history of science, anthropology, as well as major contributors who would nominally consider themselves researchers in other areas (for example, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields) but have stepped out from their usual area of study to consider the system they work within.

A community of practice united by an interest in designing, implementing, and evaluating innovative modes of science funding and delivery.

This could include scientific researchers (for example, working in STEM fields), and staff within research funders, research performing institutions, consultancies, and private enterprises.

The Metascience Unit and Open Philanthropy’s shared thesis is that these two groups acting together and in collaboration can improve our scientific ecosystem by understanding what works in research funding, policy, and practice. Through collaboration, academic enquiry can generate and evaluate hypotheses to be put in practice by research funders and science practitioners, and in turn, this can fuel new lines of academic enquiry. This feedback loop leads ultimately to a scientific ecosystem that improves itself over time.

In this funding opportunity, we are looking to fund the former group, but with a strong predilection towards the needs of the latter group (and, when possible, supporting research that is already being conducted in collaboration between the groups). We seek empirical and applied research activity leading to insights aligned with the priorities of the UK Government and UKRI that are translated into practical advice for decision makers. Which aspect of the scientific endeavour is studied is open to you, so long as it is an important part of the conduct of science and the research has the potential to directly inform policy and practice.

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

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