Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Work with US-based researchers on environmental science: NERC-NSF lead agency

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This funding opportunity allows UK and US-based researchers to submit a collaborative application to either NSF or NERC under existing funding programmes. Applications will go through a single review process.

Collaborative work is governed by a lead agency agreement between NERC and NSF and must adhere to the remits of both NERC and NSF GEO or BIO-DEB schemes.

The UK-based applicant must be:

  • based at a UK research organisation eligible for NERC funding
  • employed at lecturer (or equivalent) level or above

If successful, UK-based researchers will be supported by NERC. The US-based researchers will be supported by NSF.

NERC will fund UK applicants at:

  • 100% of the full economic cost for equipment
  • 80% of the full economic cost for other costs

Who can apply

UK-based applicants

Regardless of which agency leads the application, the UK-based applicants must meet the NERC and UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) eligibility criteria.

Learn about individual researchers’ eligibility in NERC’s guidance for applicants.

Eligible UK research organisations include:

  • higher education institutions
  • research council institutes
  • recognised independent research organisations
  • public sector research establishments

Learn more about eligible organisations.

US-based applicants

US-based applicants will be funded by NSF if successful and therefore must be eligible for funding from the relevant NSF solicitations, as their costs will not be covered by NERC.

What we're looking for


Collaborative research applications may be submitted in any disciplinary or interdisciplinary subject but the majority must fall within the remit of both agencies:

  • NERC
  • NSF GEO (Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, Earth Sciences, Ocean Sciences, and Polar Programs) or BIO-DEB (Ecosystem Science, Evolutionary Processes, Population and Community Ecology, and Systematics and Biodiversity Science)

Check that your proposal fits with NERC remit and the relevant NSF GEO core programme scope or NSF BIO-DEB core cluster.

Funding available

NERC will fund UK applicants at 80% of the full economic cost for:

  • directly incurred costs, such as:
    • staff payroll
    • travel and subsistence
    • consumables
  • directly allocated costs, such as:
    • investigators’ salaries
    • estates costs
    • shared resources
  • indirect costs, such as:
    • research organisation administration

Equipment is funded at 100% of the full economic cost.

For NERC-led applications, the combined budget for NSF and NERC funding must be within the relevant limits of the targeted funding scheme for full applications. The NSF BIO-DEB contribution is limited to $500,000; while there is no set cap for the NSF GEO contribution, they reserve the right to limit the US component of any application. Your UK budget must be 50% or more of your total combined budget for it to qualify as NERC-led.

For NSF-led applications, the UK applicant may request up to £300,000 (100% full economic cost). NERC ‘ship time’ is prohibited on NSF-led applications, and any ‘marine equipment pool’ requirements, NERC facilities or Antarctic logistics must be included within the £300,000 limit.

How to apply

Your collaborative team will need to decide whether NERC or NSF will be the lead agency. You should base this decision on where you plan to carry out the majority of research, or which agency is expected to provide the majority of the funding.

Where advice is required about the lead agency or fit of the application to applicable funding schemes, you should email the relevant contact at the proposed lead funding agency to discuss the research project.

This funding opportunity does not represent a separate research funding scheme. Full applications must be submitted under existing programmes at the relevant lead agency. Namely, these existing programmes are:

  • NERC’s ‘pushing the frontiers’ and ‘large grants outlines’ funding schemes
  • NSF’s GEO and BIO-DEB core solicitations, specifically those in the:
    • GEO Divisions of Atmospheric and Geospace Sciences, Earth Sciences, Ocean Sciences, and Polar Programs
    • DEB core clusters of Ecosystem Science, Evolutionary Processes, Population and Community Ecology, and Systematics and Biodiversity Science

Expression of interest

This funding opportunity requires the submission of an expression of interest before the submission of an application to the relevant scheme within the selected lead agency.

The expression of interest should include:

  • the research teams (project lead, project co-leads and named researchers) that are involved in both the UK and US
  • a brief summary of the proposed research, including:
    • the main objectives
    • the methodologies to be used
    • the outputs, impact and beneficiaries
  • any NERC research facilities required
  • estimates of total funding to be requested from both the NSF and NERC, following the financial rules for each agency (including all research-related and institutional administrative costs for the US budget request)

The lead agency will share the expression of interest with the non-lead agency to check for eligibility and to confirm support for the application.

If the expression of interest meets both agencies’ requirements, then you will be invited to submit a full application to the relevant funding scheme. Otherwise, you will be notified your expression of interest has been rejected.

NERC and NSF aim to respond to all expression of interest submissions within one month.

NERC-led expression of interest

If your application is for NERC as the lead agency, the UK-based project lead will need to submit an expression of interest form. You must do this by the deadline included within the specific funding opportunity to which you are applying.

The deadline for submitting the form is typically two months before the funding scheme closing date to which you are applying. If you do not meet this deadline then your application will not be taken forward.

If the outcome of your expression of interest is not available within the given timeframe, the UK-based project lead may be invited to submit the full application. However, if the expression of interest is then declined your application will be withdrawn.

NSF-led expression of interest

If your application is for NSF as the lead agency, then your US-based project lead needs to submit an expression of interest to either or as appropriate.

Full application

Full applications must be submitted within one year of receiving expression of interest approval after which time a new expression on interest will be required.

NERC-led full application

If your expression of interest is approved your UK-based project lead will be invited to submit the full application.

You must comply with the application preparation requirements for the appropriate scheme. Applications should be submitted through the UKRI Funding Service in line with the relevant funding finder entry.

Please be aware of the following in your application on the Funding Service:

  • you must include NERC-NSFGEO or NERC-NSFDEB (as appropriate) at the beginning of your title
  • you should include NSFGEO or NSFDEB in the text box in the section ‘NERC international partnership joint funding’
  • you should not include your US team in your ‘Core team’, but rather you should include them as project partners and include the in-kind contribution as that being requested of NSF
  • you should include the US-based team and activities within the sections on ‘Vision’, ‘Approach’ and ‘Applicant and team capability to deliver’

The total combined budgets for both NSF and NERC contributions must be within the funding limit for the applicable funding opportunity.

Funding being requested from NSF should be entered on the separate NSF budget form (Word, 33KB). The completed NSF budget form together with the relevant justification of resources should be uploaded as a single PDF within the relevant section in the Funding Service.

NSF-led full application

If your expression of interest is approved your US-based project lead will be invited to submit the full application.

You must comply with the application preparation requirements outlined in NSF’s application and award policies and procedures guide.

The application must be submitted through NSF’s FastLane system,, or to the appropriate programme. UK personnel should be listed as ‘unfunded collaborators’ and follow NSF guidance on required documents.

Funding being requested from NERC should be entered in a separate NERC budget form (Word, 28KB) and clearly differentiated and justified in the application. Additionally, any planned use of NERC facilities must be applied for as per the standard guidance and any required forms included as part of the application to NSF. Failure to do so may result in NERC not supporting your access to the requested facilities.

How we will assess your application

Expression of interest

Your expression of interest will be office assessed by both NERC and NSF based on standard criteria of eligibility, remit and budget.

Full application

Your application to NERC as the lead agency will follow the same assessment process as the other applications received for that funding opportunity.

You should refer to the assessment process within the funding opportunity of the scheme to which you are applying for the current process.

Applications to NSF as the lead agency will undergo NSF’s merit review process.

The lead agency will inform the lead applicant of your collaborative research team whether the application has been successful or not.

Successful applications

The lead agency will inform the non-lead agency after they have completed their assessment process.

If the application was successful, then the non-lead agency will contact their principal investigator with instructions for uploading their application to their own grants system to administer the funding. This is an administrative process and the applications will not undergo further assessment.

If you are the non-lead principal investigator, please wait for your national funding agency to contact you. Do not contact them first, as the two agencies need to communicate before your application can progress.

Contact details

Get help with developing your application

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

Ask about this funding opportunity

NERC enquiries


NSF enquiries or as appropriate.

Additional info

Demand management

For UK-based applicants, a full application submission through NERC as the lead agency to schemes that include demand management will count towards any individual’s limit on application submissions. For UK-based applicants, a submission through NSF as the lead agency will count towards the following NERC ‘pushing the frontiers’ funding opportunity deadline as a project co-lead.

Associated studentships

If applying as a NERC-led application to ‘Pushing the Frontiers’, you cannot request associated studentships from NERC. Your application cannot be dependent on any associated studentships.

Data management

All NSF and NERC requirements for data management are applicable to awards funded by the respective agencies.


In addition to meeting the normal resubmission rules for both agencies, if you wish to resubmit a previously unsuccessful lead agency agreement application you must submit a new expression of interest first. This applies in all cases regardless of whether your expression of interest was previously accepted.

Any resubmission that does not submit a new expression of interest will be rejected.

Involvement in an application submitted to the lead agency will also count as a submission to the non-lead agency for purposes of resubmission monitoring. Both agencies reserve the right to reject an expression of interest that does not meet their resubmission criteria.

Grant conditions

You will be expected to comply with the grant conditions and reporting requirements of the agencies you receive funding from.

When extensions are granted, each funding agency will directly advise the relevant principal investigator of the proper procedure for processing these. Due to UKRI constraints, extensions over 12 months will only be considered in exceptional circumstances.

Requests for changes to awards pertaining to the scope of research or significant changes or delays to the research will be communicated to counterpart funding agencies.

Announcements and acknowledgements

In accordance with NSF and NERC standard procedures, awards are announced publicly.

You will also be required to acknowledge both NSF and NERC in any reports or publications arising from the grant.

What we will do with your information

Data is shared between UKRI and NSF to enable the secure and efficient processing of expressions of interest and full applications for this funding opportunity.

Data shared includes expressions of interest, application attachments, anonymised peer reviews and panel comments. Data will be shared by email and a secure extranet where appropriate.

UKRI and NSF are committed to maintaining data confidentiality and privacy. We intend to fully abide by applicable laws and policies concerning the sharing of data in our collaborative activities. All personal data provided will be processed by both parties in accordance with current data protection legislation.

Further information on how we process personal data can be found in the UKRI privacy notice.

Supporting documents

NSF budget form (Word, 33KB)

NERC budget form (Word, 28KB)

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