Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Using data to improve public health: COVID-19 secondment

Apply for funding to work for a year with experts in the analysis and interpretation of:

  • national anonymised linked electronic health records
  • multiple population longitudinal studies.

You can apply if you have an analytical background. We will fund early to mid-career researchers and professionals from eligible organisations.

You will work with a team on one of these coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic-related public health themes:

  • long COVID
  • mental health
  • health and society
  • healthcare disruption
  • vaccination.

We will fund eight to ten secondments. We will fund your secondment at 80% of the full economic cost.

Funding will last one year, starting on 1 October 2021.

Who can apply

The scheme is open to UK-based:

  • early to mid-career researchers
  • professionals from analytical disciplines.

The eligible disciplines include but are not limited to:

  • statistics
  • data science
  • computer science
  • biomedical sciences
  • quantitative social science
  • software engineering and development.

Researchers and professionals currently working within population health research in analytical disciplines are encouraged to apply. So are individuals with strong expertise in quantitative or data science (or both) that wish to apply their skills to the themes supported by the Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study for COVID-19.

Applicants without a PhD may apply but must be able to demonstrate equivalent experience.

Candidates must have a current contract of employment extending beyond 1 November 2022 with a host organisation eligible to receive UKRI funding. These include:

  • higher education institutions
  • UKRI-approved independent research organisations or NHS bodies
  • government-funded organisations
  • MRC institutes
  • MRC units and partnership institutes
  • institutes and units funded by other research councils
  • public sector research establishments (PSREs).

Please note the following candidates are not eligible to apply:

  • current postgraduate students
  • international applicants
  • applicants from commercial organisations.

Public sector research establishments

PSREs will need to complete the appropriate eligibility form to evidence they have the capacity and capability required by UKRI.

Find out:

You must be able to step out from your current research or professional activity for one year, starting on 1 October 2021. Your salary for this period will be funded through this award.

You will be seconded to one of the Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study centres but can work remotely with attendance at occasional meetings as necessary. You should be ordinarily resident in the UK.

What we're looking for

Awards will support the development of a national cadre of interdisciplinary, big-data enabled researchers and professionals from analytical backgrounds as part of a 12-month secondment to the Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study for COVID-19 (UCL website).

You will receive on-the-job experience alongside leading expertise in analysis and interpretation of national anonymised linked electronic health records and multiple population longitudinal studies.

You will join a cross-disciplinary, cross-institutional team working on a chosen research theme or data platform and will be attached to one of the collaborating institutions where you will work alongside a designated mentor.

You will:

  • benefit from interactions with senior scientists in biomedical, statistical and social science domains
  • adopt practices to share and curate code to high-level open science standards
  • participate in preparation of policy briefings and presentations as well as research outputs.

The Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study for COVID-19 aims to inform policy on the following COVID-19 related research themes:

  • long COVID (definition, risk factors and outcomes)
  • mental health
  • health and society
  • healthcare disruption
  • vaccination.

Read more about the research teams’ activity so far (UCL website).

Examples of the types of projects that may be taken forward by successful applicants might include, but are not limited to:

  • exploration of a pre-pandemic risk factor pathway for long COVID in both population cohorts and electronic health records
  • impact of pandemic control measures on employment, health and wellbeing
  • software programming to facilitate flexible interrogation of complex electronic health record (EHR) data to monitor healthcare disruption and recovery.


A total budget of £1 million is available to support eight to ten secondments for 12 months. Awards will start on 1 October 2021.

The award will provide your full salary costs for one year, commensurate with your current salary, plus indirect costs according to UKRI standard terms and conditions. These will be funded at 80% full economic cost. Standard UKRI grant terms and conditions apply.

You should not include costs of travel, courses and data access, which will be covered by the consortium.

In line with MRC’s policy on flexible working, awards may be held on a part-time basis to reflect current or future working patterns and in such cases a suitable project would be identified. The secondment is expected to be your entire professional focus for the year, so awards cannot be held on a part-time basis and combined with other ongoing research or professional responsibilities.

You may spend up to six hours a week on other commitments such as teaching, supervising, or other funded projects as part of a full-time award.

Please note the secondment period is time-limited and awards will not be extended beyond 12 months for research reasons, extensions due to parental leave or sickness will be considered.

How to apply

Pre-registration is mandatory.

Please register your expression of interest (Survey Monkey) by 22 June 2021. Please note you will not receive an email confirmation that your expression of interest has been received. Please take a screenshot of the page for your records if required.

Please continue with your application once submitted. Note that MRC reserves the right to decline full applications on eligibility grounds where this form has not been completed and submitted by the deadline of midnight on 22 June 2021.

You must apply through the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S) before the deadline of 6 July 2021, 16:00 British summer time (BST).

To enable the creation and submission of a proposal through Je-S, the host or lead organisation is required to have registered with Je-S. A list of Je-S registered organisations can be accessed from the Je-S landing page. Please note that this does not include self-registered organisations.

If your PSRE is not currently registered, please navigate to the Je-S website and select ‘self-registration for organisations’, which will allow you to add your organisation to the Je-S database (allowing the direct submission of your proposal to MRC through Je-S).

The applicant (fellow), will then be able to create their Je-S account and link the organisation they have self-registered, for example the currently unregistered PSRE that will host the award.

When applying select:

  • council: MRC
  • document type: fellowship proposal
  • scheme: fellowships, FEC
  • call/type/mode: NCS COVID19 big data research secondment

Completing the Je-S form

The following sections must be completed in Je-S:

  • project details
  • fellow details
  • summary
  • technical summary
  • estates and indirect costs
  • sponsors and supervisors – select your current head of department or line manager
  • grant type – select CDA
  • keywords – enter COVID-19
  • attachments.

All other Je-S required sections should be marked as N/A or No, as appropriate, and saved to validate.

Please note:

  • the ‘Organisation where the fellowship will be held’ should be your current institution
  • the project title should be entered as: Using data to improve public health: COVID-19 secondment
  • the start date entered must be 1 October 2021
  • the duration must be 12 months.


In addition to completing the Je-S form, the following should be provided.

All attachments detailed below must use font Arial size 11, or non-word equivalent such as Helvetica size 11.

Attachments can be uploaded to Je-S as one of these file types:

  • PDF (preferred option for MRC)
  • Microsoft Word (.doc or .docx).

Note: MRC reserves the right to decline an application on eligibility grounds, if documents other than those detailed below are submitted.


See template.

Maximum two pages.

Upload under document type ‘CV’.

Case for support

Maximum two pages, addressing the following:

  • your motivation for applying, including how the secondment would enhance your career
  • your existing data science and quantitative skills
  • your commitment to and experience of working across disciplines
  • how your existing skills and interests would align with the work of the Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study for COVID-19 research, including your preferred theme or platform – please note a full project proposal is not required.

Letter of support from head of department

Maximum two pages.

Upload under document type ‘head of department statement’.

Must explicitly state that you are able to take a year on secondment starting on 1 October 2021 and that your current contract extends beyond 1 November 2022.

Should outline why you are a strong candidate for the scheme and how the secondment would benefit your career and local capacity building efforts.

Justification for resources

Maximum one page. Upload under document type ‘justification for resources’.

Must detail your current salary.

How we will assess your application

Full written proposals will be evaluated by a panel with broad expertise in data science and will include executive members of the Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study.

Panel assessment criteria will include the following.

Candidate track record and potential:

  • experience of working with big data, including but not limited to:
    • statistics
    • data science
    • computer science
    • biomedical sciences
    • quantitative social science
    • software engineering, development or operations
  • track record of delivering high-quality contributions to research outputs, resources, teams and systems
  • evidence of excellent communication and interpersonal skills across different audiences
  • level of literacy across data infrastructure, computer science or health research.

Strength of motivation:

  • strength of interest in applying big data approaches to health research
  • commitment to the Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing cross-disciplinary team science approach and adherence to high-level open science standards.

Added value:

  • value of the secondment in accelerating the applicant’s career development in big-data enabled health research
  • potential of the candidate to contribute to the health research landscape
  • opportunities for meaningful, quality collaborations beyond the lifetime of the award to be developed.


Applicants will be notified of the outcome of their application in the first week of August 2021.

Contact details

Get help with your proposal


Get help with the application on Je-S

Contact the Je-S helpdesk:

Additional info

The Longitudinal Health and Wellbeing National Core Study for COVID-19 research (UCL website) was one of six national core studies established in November 2020 by Sir Patrick Vallance, The Government Chief Scientific Advisor, as part of the UK’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This UKRI-funded multi-institutional national core study aims to understand the health, social and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, uniting analyses across key data platforms. This includes:

  • national, anonymised electronic health records, for example, OpenSAFELY, NHS Digital
  • longitudinal population studies, for example, national and key regional birth cohorts, Understanding Society.

The study aims to inform policy on the following COVID-19 related research themes:

  • long COVID (definition, risk factors and outcomes)
  • mental health
  • health and society
  • healthcare disruption
  • vaccination.

Full details of planned work in each of these domains, platforms and organisations can be found on the UCL website.

Supporting documents

This is the website for UKRI: our seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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