School of Social and Political Science

ESRC New Investigator grants

Content

The ESRC's New Investigator grant aims to support early-career researchers (ECRs) in their transition to becoming an independent researcher and this end goal must be convincing in the project proposal. The ESRC aims to fund up to 30-35 grants a year. Grants will usually be between 1.5 to 3 year’s duration, dependent on the project lead’s FTE on the project, and have an overall limit of £300,000 (funded at 80% FEC).

The call is open to high-quality candidates with a significant amount of post-doctoral research experience but who are still at an early stage in their research career. The scheme allows awardees to gain experience of research leadership and management and to formulate their plans for their research careers. Interdisciplinary projects are welcomed as are projects with strong potential impact outside academia. Proposals from both single and combinations of disciplines are allowed but fellowship activities must be based at least 51% within the social sciences. Applicants who technically meet the eligibility criteria but hold a professorship are not eligible to apply as there is an expectation that they have already obtained these research and management skills.

For more information on the scheme, please visit the ESRC website.

Points to note

The New Investigator Grant is for ECRs with a significant amount of post-doctoral research experience, who have an established publication track record, and who are looking to step forward to lead and manage a research project. In acknowledgement of this, the School of Social and Political Science (SPS) requires candidates to have at least 2 peer-reviewed academic publications which are deemed of high quality, and in which they had a leading role. If you would like further guidance on whether your CV and publication track record is suitable for this scheme, please speak to your mentor in the first instance and/or your subject area Research Convener.

SPS requires a mentor (SPS core staff) for all ECR fellowships. In order to apply, you must first identify, contact and have an agreed mentor for your proposed project application. Your chosen mentor should have research interests which intersect with your own. Profiles for all SPS academic staff can be found on the on School webpages by clicking on ‘People’ in each of Subject Areas: Subject Areas | School of Social and Political Science (ed.ac.uk). The project must have Head of Subject Area approval, and your mentor can help to obtain this before submitting your application to the School.

This is an open scheme with no funder deadline.

Applications which are unsuccessful following assessment, including applications previously submitted to other UKRI councils, cannot be resubmitted to other Research Council funding opportunities unless they have been considerably changed or you have been explicitly invited by the funder to do so.

Criteria for success includes assessment of: originality and potential contribution to knowledge; research design and methods; value for money; outputs, dissemination and impact; the applicant and their skill development programme. The latter criterion is a particular requirement of this scheme and comprehensive attention should be given to this consideration in project design.

Application process

The ESRC expects to see only a limited number of proposals from a single research organisation, and these must be of the very best quality. Therefore, all applications from SPS are subject to a 4-stage internal review process before final submission on the funder portal. This process is designed to strengthen proposals so that they can be competitive in accordance with the funder’s criteria. 

If you plan to apply for this scheme and would like to receive initial comments or discuss your project in more detail, please feel free to submit a 1-page summary of your application alongside your 2-page abbreviated CV at any time to ssps.research@ed.ac.uk

Stage 1. Initial School Panel Concept Review (2 weeks). Upcoming deadlines for the School panel rounds in 2024 are Thursday 25 April, Thursday 29 August and Thursday 28 November. 

For the Stage 1 round, candidates are expected to:

  • Identify a mentor (SPS core staff).
  • Have Head of Subject Area approval (your mentor can help arrange this).
  • Notify the SPS Research Office (RO) as soon as possible of intention to submit.
  • Send, by email to ssps.research@ed.ac.uk: 
  1. a project overview (max. 2 pages A4); 
  2. a statement of Eligibility and Career Development plan (max. 1 page of A4); 
  3. an abbreviated CV (max. 2 Pages); and,
  4. a summary mentor statement (max. 1 page). 

All documents must have single line spacing, margins of at least 2cm and be typed using Arial 11pt, or another ‘sans serif’ font with an equivalent size to Arial 11pt.

Applicants receive the School panel's decision as to whether they may progress their applications to the next Stage, usually within 2 weeks. All applicants receive feedback. Applicants who are progressing will then work with their mentors and the SPS RO in developing a full proposal.

Stage 2. Draft application and initial budget School Panel Review (6-8 months)

We recommend that applicants aim to develop a draft application and initial budget for the Stage 2 School Panel Review within 6-8 months of having the go-ahead to develop a full proposal. However, this is an open call, so the development time may be longer. Applicants will liaise regularly with the School RO during this period for guidance on developing the application and an initial budget. 

Ahead of submitting for the Stage 2 School RO Review applicants must:

  • Have opened an application form on UKRI’s Funding Service for the ESRC New Investigator Grant so that they can become familiar with the format;
  • Have had preliminary discussions on the Knowledge Exchange and Impact (KEI) aspects of their projects with the SPS KEI Manager;
  • Have identified to 2 SSPS colleagues, who are permanent members of academic staff, as peer reviewers for their application.

We also recommend that applicants at this stage make themselves familiar with:

For the Stage 2 review, applicants will need to submit a draft application based on ESRC’s application format. This can either be a pdf of the application form from The Funding Service, or an offline Word document covering all the sections below:

  • Project Summary (max. 550 words)
  • Core Team
  • Vision (max. 500 words)
  • Approach (max. 2,500 words)
  • Applicant and team capability to deliver (max. 1,500 words)
  • Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI) (max. 500 words)
  • Genetic and biological risk (max. 700 words)
  • Research involving the use of animals (max. 10 words)
  • Conducting research with animals overseas (max. 700 words)
  • Research involving human tissues or biological samples (max. 700 words)
  • Draft Resources and cost justification (max. 1,000 words)
  • Eligibility to apply for opportunity (max. 500 words)
  • Research environment and support statement (max. 500 words)
  • Submit a summary mentor statement (2 pages) 
  • If applicable, a draft of the project partner contributions sheet (template provided by ESRC). Letters of support will be needed for the Stage 3 review.
  • Data Management Plan (max. 500 words)
  • Facilities (max. 250 words)
  • References (max. 1,000 words)

All documents must have single line spacing, margins of at least 2cm and be typed using Arial 11pt, or another ‘sans serif’ font with an equivalent size to Arial 11pt.

Applicants will usually receive feedback within 2-3 weeks to support further development of the proposal. 

Stage 3. Full Stage Application School RO Review (8-10 months)

We recommend that applicants aim to develop a draft application and initial budget for the Stage 3 School RO Review within 8-10 months of having the go-ahead to develop a full proposal. However, this is an open call, so the development time may be longer, as candidates need to ensure that their application is as competitive as possible in accordance with the funder’s key criteria. Applicants will liaise with the SPS RO to decide on suitable dates for submission at this stage of the process.

Ahead of the Stage 3 School RO Review applicants must:

  • Have inputted their draft proposal in the ESRC New Investigator Grant application form on UKRI’s Funding Service;
  • Ensure any partner letters of support are ready and included in the application;
  • Have obtained formal review comments on the KEI aspects of the project from the SPS KEI Manager;
  • Have submitted an ethical review form and received confirmation of an ethical opinion for project Design Stage from the SPS Research Ethics Committee;
  • Have agreement on a workable Data Management Plan from the Data Officer;
  • Have requested and received peer review of their application by 2 SPS colleagues who are permanent members of academic staff;
  • Provide a pdf copy of their full application from the UKRI’s Funding Service application portal to the SPS RO.

Applicants will usually receive feedback within 2 weeks.

Stage 4. Final Application - College level review (10-12 months)

Once the applicant has addressed any feedback given in the Stage 3 Review, then they should be ready to submit their application for the College level review. 

School RO support is essential for the applicant to proceed to College level review and there may be further minor recommendations at this final stage. Applicants will need to provide a statement of how they have addressed all the feedback from various reviews as this needs to be submitted to College as well as a final statement of support from the School.

Submission for the College Review can take place at any time, decisions will be notified within 10 working days wherever possible and any delays to this timeline will be communicated in advance. Note that at the College level review a decision will be made on whether the application can be submitted as is, with revisions, or not recommended for submission.

Further information on the College level review is available here: ESRC New Investigator Scheme Round Two (sharepoint.com).