Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Understanding coverage in UK longitudinal population studies

Apply for funding to deliver a project on understanding coverage in UK longitudinal population studies.

£150,000 is available to fund one proposal. Note that this is the limit of the ESRC and MRC contribution. ESRC and MRC will cover 80% of the full economic cost (FEC) of the proposal with any exceptions paid at 100% FEC.

Your project must start after 1 September 2023, with funding to end by May 2024.

Who can apply

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

For further information please see ESRC’s research funding guide.

Check if you are eligible for research and innovation funding.

What we're looking for

As part of the PRUK programme, ESRC and MRC are commissioning an interdisciplinary project to develop a methodology for assessing, on a consistent basis, the coverage of individual longitudinal population studies (LPS).

Supporting PRUK’s vision, the project will maximise the use, innovation and benefit from the UK’s rich collection of LPS across social and economic, and biomedical science.

The project aim is to develop the means to provide consistent, reliable information for potential users to enable them to assess the suitability of each study’s data for different types of research questions across the full spectrum of social, economic and biomedical sciences.

This funding opportunity specifies the use of two of the large population cohorts, UK Biobank (UKB) and the 1970 British Cohort Study (BCS70), as case studies to be used in developing the methodology. Proposals to undertake this work are invited and will be assessed in open competition.

The budget for this project is £150,000 (80% FEC) across nine months.

Background and scope

Within the wider discussion about coverage, there is current interest in the means to assess to what extent data from existing LPS are suitable for use by biomedical and social scientists to address particular research questions.

The flagship UKB data resource, co-funded by MRC, is a key example of a large cohort that is not widely used by the social science community. Meanwhile there is recognition that ageing birth cohort studies established long ago and designed for use primarily by the social sciences, face the challenge of continuing to sustain coverage of the relevant UK population. Such as BCS70, funded primarily by ESRC.

This is why the examples of UKB and BCS70 have been selected as case studies to trial the methodology developed in this project.

The UK’s LPS are largely dependent on public funds and are intended for use for public benefit. Over the last few years, a number of reports and audits have highlighted gaps in the coverage of data collections relating to protected characteristics and vulnerable groups.

The COVID-19 pandemic and governmental and societal emphasis on inequalities, regional differences in opportunities and social justice, and UK Research and Innovation’s (UKRI) recent equality, diversity and inclusion strategy have reinforced the importance of equity and inclusion in data collections.

Recent reports have identified that future LPS should be designed, and existing studies should be improved, where possible, to ensure coverage of all parts of the population that they seek to represent. Especially members of vulnerable groups who may miss the benefits that research using LPS will bring.

There is a need for transparency about the degree of coverage of existing LPS and being able to measure this in a recognised way and provide standardised information on coverage. These are important first steps that will help secondary users of data to understand whether a study is suitable for their research or could lead to biases.

Funding opportunity aims

The aims are:

  • to test general principles, including developing and testing methods, to add greater value to existing UKRI funded LPS, through learning gained from pilot studies with two major LPS datasets
  • to enable provision of information transparently and consistently on the coverage of existing LPS data regarding their suitability for particular research questions, by the following means:
    • enabling secondary data users to better understand the coverage of data in the relevant LPS datasets, and the suitability of each for addressing particular research questions
  • identifying barriers to secondary use around understanding the suitability of a study’s data coverage for particular research questions across biomedical and social science, and determining how best to overcome these in order to support increased secondary use of LPS data by researchers, and to gain more value from decades of public investment, for research for public benefit
  • to further understanding and provide a consistent information base to support work to address, sustain and improve the coverage of UK LPS


To meet these aims, successful proposals will be expected to demonstrate how they will for each of the two LPS datasets, as case studies:

  • identify what the original basis was for the study in terms of the target population, the initial issued dataset sample, and recruitment and retention at each subsequent wave or sweep
  • identify what data is held in each dataset which would identify specific population subgroups and who is included in terms of key characteristics relevant to research uses of the data, assessing what statistical limitations exist on using the data to represent certain population sub-groups. For example, those with protected characteristics, vulnerable groups (homeless or prison etc.), social demographics, or rare genetic conditions
  • develop through testing proposals for evidence-based indicators tools to enable provision of information on a consistent basis across LPS, to help researchers across the social and biomedical sciences to understand whether a dataset is suitable to address their research question

Funding opportunity deliverables

The project will produce the following deliverables:

  • a methodology (or methodologies) developed from these two case studies, for assessing on a consistent and transparent basis the coverage of individual LPS datasets, indicating the statistical limitations on the use of each. A clear rationale for the methodologies should be provided. This should be capable of being applied to any UK LPS dataset to provide information for secondary users on a consistent and transparent basis
  • an improved understanding of the current BCS70 and UKB datasets and their potential usage beyond current user communities
  • a case study of the coverage of UKB in terms of limitations of the data, potential gaps in the coverage in the cohort, and an indication of statistical limitations this might place on future research using the data
  • a case study of the coverage of BCS70 in terms of limitations of the data, potential gaps in the coverage in the cohort, and an indication of statistical limitations this might place on future research using the data

Monitoring and reporting

Requirements regarding monitoring and reporting will be set out in the terms and conditions of the grant award between ESRC and the award recipient. It will be a condition of funding that grant holders provide an interim update on progress.

At the start of the grant, the grant holders will be required to produce an updated timeline, deliverables list and risk register for the investment, for regular discussion with ESRC.

How to apply

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

You can find advice on completing your application in:

We recommend you start your application early.

Your host organisation will also be able to provide advice and guidance.

Submitting your application

Before starting an application, you will need to log in or create an account in Je-S.

All investigators involved in the project need to be registered on Je-S.

Any investigators who do not have a Je-S account must register for one at least seven working days before the opportunity deadline.

When applying:

  1. Select ‘documents’, then ‘new document’.
  2. Select ‘call search’.
  3. To find the opportunity, search for: ESRC data infrastructure.

This will populate:

  • Council: ESRC
  • document type: Standard proposal
  • Scheme: research grant
  • Call/type/mode: ESRC data infrastructure

Once you have completed your application, make sure you ‘submit document’.

You can save completed details in Je-S at any time and return to continue your application later.


In addition to a completed proposal, your application must include the following attachments:

  • case for support (maximum six pages)
  • justification of resources (maximum two pages)
  • applicants’ CVs (maximum two pages each)
  • final or interim reports

Optional attachments:

  • letters of support from key partners or stakeholders
  • Gantt-style timeline (PDF format, one page, size A3 or A4)
  • other annexes (maximum six pages in total)


ESRC must receive your application by 19 June 2023 at 4:00pm.

You will not be able to apply after this time. Please leave enough time for your proposal to pass through your organisation’s Je-S submission route before this date.

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

How we will assess your application

ESRC reserves the right to adjust the commissioning process as the funding opportunity progresses.

Applications will be assessed by an independent expert panel who will meet to agree funding recommendations to be considered by ESRC and MRC. Proposals will be assessed on the following criteria.

Delivery criteria:

  • does the proposal include a robust vision and strategy for achieving the aims and objectives of the funding opportunity (listed in the ‘what we’re looking for’ section)?
  • are the risks to delivery and robust mitigation plans clearly identified?
  • are the methods and resources appropriate for the objectives proposed? Including, is there appropriate expertise in the delivery of the objectives?
  • does the project represent good value for money?

Management and governance criteria:

  • does the proposal include a well-considered approach and plan for delivery, including compelling but realistic goals and well-defined milestones?

Collaboration criteria:

  • does the proposal support collaboration between social and bio-medical research communities in order to answer the aims and objectives? This would include:
    • a well-defined plan for engaging and working with relevant stakeholders to ensure activities address needs and add value to the landscape

Applicant criteria:

  • the ability of the study individual or team to collectively deliver the proposal and whether the individual or team is sufficiently supported by the host organisation

Assessment procedure

All proposals submitted to this funding opportunity will be subject to standard eligibility checks. Following these checks, eligible proposals will be sent to an expert review panel, who will meet to discuss them and agree a recommendation to ESRC on funding.

Note also:

Commissioning timetable:

  • funding opportunity closes: 4:00pm 19 June 2023
  • panel meeting: July 2023
  • notification of grant award and conditions: August 2023
  • earliest award start: 1 September 2023
  • latest grant end date: 31 May 2024

Contact details

Get help with developing your proposal

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.

Ask about this funding opportunity

Funding opportunity lead: Rebecca Perring, ESRC Portfolio Manager


Secondary contact: Beccy Shipman, ESRC Head of Data Collections


Please copy into all enquiries and include ‘understanding coverage in UK longitudinal population studies’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within 10 working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

Je-S helpdesk opening times.

Additional info

Supporting documents

Je-S guidance for applicants (PDF, 322KB) (funding opportunity specific)
Equality impact assessment (PDF, 166KB)

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