SSH Rate

ESRC Research Grants at UK Institutions

The ESRC Research Grants (open call) invites proposals from eligible individuals and research teams for standard research projects, large-scale surveys and other infrastructure projects and for methodological developments. The call offers researchers considerable flexibility to focus on any subject area or topic providing that it falls within ESRC’s remit. Proposals can draw from the wider sciences, but the social sciences must represent more than 50 per cent of the research focus and effort.

We particularly encourage ambitious and novel research proposals addressing new concepts and techniques and those with the potential for significant scientific or societal and economic impact. We are also keen to encourage fresh ideas from new researchers and appropriate proposals are welcomed from those with limited research experience.

Our funding decisions are based on a number of criteria including quality, timeliness, potential impact and value for money.

The call is for applications ranging from £350,000 to £1 million (100 per cent full economic cost (fEC)) for a period of up to five years.

You can submit proposals to the call at any time - there are no fixed closing dates.


Proposals to the Research Grants (open call ) can be for basic, applied or strategic research. The call allows proposals for standard research projects, methodological development, or for large-scale surveys or other infrastructures (eg linguistic corpora or the classification, cataloguing and compilation of information which would be of benefit to social science researchers and a possible wider audience.) It is important that infrastructure proposals clearly demonstrate their utility to a broad community of researchers, and wider audiences as appropriate.

It is also possible to submit a proposal for two or more linked projects, provided that the relationship between them is properly explained and justified.

For a full list of acceptable ESRC research areas, or if you are unsure whether your research is suitable for ESRC funding, please see further information.

If further assistance is required please fill in our Remit Query form which is available at or contact Your enquiry will be passed to a relevant member of staff, who will contact you directly.


The call is for proposals ranging from £350,000 to £1 million (100 per cent full Economic Cost (fEC)) for a period of up to five years. Detailed information on eligible costs can be found on pages 30-35 of ESRC’s Research Funding Guide. Proposals will need to show 100 per cent of full Economic Cost of the proposed research. The ESRC will meet 80 per cent of the full economic costs on proposals submitted.


Research proposals may be submitted jointly by more than one applicant. In such cases, one person must be regarded as the principal investigator taking the lead responsibility for the conduct of the research and the observance of the terms and conditions. Correspondence regarding the research proposal a nd grant will be addressed to the principal investigator only (and in the case of any offer letter, to their Research Office). All co-investigators must make a significant contribution to the conduct of the research.

International co -investigators

ESRC attaches major importance to the position of UK social science in the international and global arena. We positively encourage active collaboration between UK researchers and those in other countries, where this will help to ensure that UK research is at the international leading edge. Co-investigators based in overseas research organisations can therefore be included in research grant proposals. Further information on the inclusion of international co-investigators is available at

Business, third sector or government body co -investigators

Business, third sector or government body co-investigators based in the UK can also be included on research grant proposals. Further information on the inclusion of co-investigators is available at

Knowledge exchange and collaboration

We are committed to knowledge exchange and encouraging collaboration between researchers and the private, public and civil society sectors. Collaborative working benefits both the researchers and the individuals/organisations involved. Through collaboration, partners learn about each other’s expertise, share knowledge and gain an appreciation of different professional cultures. Collaborative activity can therefore lead to a better understanding of the ways that academic research can add value and offer insights to key issues of concern for policy and practice.

Knowledge exchange should not be treated as an ‘add-on’ at the end of a research project, but considered before the start and built into a project.

For further information on the RCUK principles for knowledge exchange please visit:


In line with the RCUK position on Excellence with Impact (, we expect that our researchers will have considered the potential scientific, societal and economic impacts of their research.

ESRC applicants should actively consider how these impacts can be maximised and developed through the Pathways to Impact ( document in their proposal. This will form part of the peer review and assessment process.

Opportunities for making an impact may arise, and should be taken, at any stage during research lifecycle. The research project lifecycle includes the planning and research design stage, the period of funding for the project, and all activities that relate to the project up to - and including - the time when funding has ended. The research lifecycle therefore also includes knowledge exchange and impact realisation activities - including reporting and publication, and the archiving, future use, sharing, and linking of data. It is important that researchers have in place a robust strategy for maximising the likelihood of impact opportunities and their own capacity for taking advantage of these.

Excellent research without obvious or immediate societal or economic impact will not be disadvantaged in the peer review and assessment process. If you consider that your research has no obvious or immediate societal or economic impact, you should use the Pathways to Impact document to explain your reasoning. ESRC shares and endorses the RCUK statement on Research Councils' expectations of researchers (

The ESRC’s Impact Toolkit gives you detailed advice on how to achieve the maximum impact for your work. The toolkit includes information on developing an impact strategy, promoting knowledge exchange, public engagement and communicating effectively with your key stakeholders:


We are keen to support research which is ambitious (but clearly specified) and has the potential for high scientific impact and/or high user impact. We also recognise that such research may carry a higher than normal risk of failing to deliver the full range of expected research outputs.

Such research is likely to:

  • use innovative or even untested methods within the context of the particular project
  • attempt to develop or to test and apply new theory
  • be carried out by researchers without a proven track record in the area of the proposed research, although they may have a strong track record in other areas
  • be complex in terms of its management and delivery because of its size or the dispersal of the research team/fieldwork
  • investigate a potentially controversial or sensitive topic
  • involve multiple or unusual disciplinary combinations both within and beyond the social sciences
  • involve accessing or creating data, or accessing research participants or other related research material that could be highly problematic
  • challenge existing paradigms in respect of research ethics.

International collaboration

ESRC is committed to supporting research which is world class and informs prosperity, wellbeing and justice on an international scale. The Research Grants open call enables UK researchers to collaborate with the best scholars in their field across the globe through the International Co-investigators policy.

The past 50 years have seen a marked increase in global interdependencies with many of the current challenges we face having a global reach. We are keen to support cross-national comparative work and research projects with an international focus.


We welcome interdisciplinary proposals and recognise that many of the most pressing research challenges are interdisciplinary in nature, both within the social sciences and between the social sciences and other areas of research. However, we also remain committed to the support of excellent research within a single discipline. Applicants should refer to the RCUK guidance at for proposals which may span other Research Council remits. Project proposals that extend beyond the mission of a single Research Council should be submitted to the Council with the majority interest, but peer reviewers will be obtained from each of the relevant communities. The Research Councils will also co-fund those projects where a significant element of the costs reside within more than one Council’s domain.

Research ethics

As the principal funding agency for UK social science research we require that the research we support is designed and conducted in such a way that it meets certain ethical principles, and is subject to proper professional and institutional oversight in terms of research governance.

As an important source of public funds for social science research and as a body charged with encouraging, supporting, undertaking and advising on such research, the ESRC recognises that it has a special obligation towards the general public and academic community to ensure that the research which it funds is carried out to a high ethical standard.

We have agreed a Framework for Research Ethics that all submitted proposals have to comply with. Further details available about the Framework for Research Ethics and guidance on compliance (together with links to other web based resources on research ethics) may be found at

Open access

We are committed to ensuring that our research community makes the outputs from ESRC-funded research publicly available. The Research Councils UK (RCUK) open access policy came into force on 1 April 2013 and ESRC-funded researchers are expected to comply with this policy. The payment of article processing charges (APCs) and other publication charges related to ESRC -funded research are supported through RCUK open access block grants which are provided to eligible research organisations.

Eligibility of research organisations

All UK Higher Education Institutions are eligible to receive funds for research, postgraduate training and associated activities. The higher education funding councils for England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland determine whether an organisation meets the criteria to be a Higher Education Institution.

Research institutes for which the Research Councils have established a long-term involvement as major funder are also eligible to receive research funding, from any Council. See

Independent research organisations (IROs) approved by ESRC are eligible to apply for ESRC funding. The current list of eligible IROs can be down loaded here:

Eligibility of applicants

Applicants are eligible for funding whether or not they are established members of a recognised research organisation (RO) ( Applicants for research grants who are not established members of a recognised RO must be accommodated by the RO and provided with appropriate facilities to carry out the research. (These requirements also apply to all individuals named as co-investigators.) For such applicants, the RO must provide a covering statement confirming that, in the event of a grant, it will provide accommodation and facilities for the applicant such as would be provided for established members of staff. They and other staff engaged in the research are normally expected to reside within reasonable travelling distance of the RO when not engaged in fieldwork.

If the principal investigator or a co-investigator is retired, the expectation is that their involvement in a project would be covered by a contract with the RO. If there are costs associated with such time these should be regarded as a Directly Incurred Cost.

How to apply

How to submit a proposal

Applications can only be made through the Research Councils’ Joint Electronic Submission System (Je-S).

To begin writing your proposal, please select the New Document menu and search for and select ‘Research Grants (Open Call)’ using the Call Search function.

The same proposal should not be submitted for consideration by more than one Research Council. The submission of proposals to different ESRC funding calls which will result in parallel processing of the same or substantially similar proposals is also not allowed. Duplicate proposals may be submitted to other funding organisations (apart from the other research councils), subject to a clear declaration of the simultaneous submission in the relevant section of the ESRC proposal.

ESRC does not allow the resubmission of any previously unsuccessful proposals (including proposals previously submitted to another Research Council), unless they have been specifically invited to do so. All proposals will be checked, and uninvited resubmissions will not be processed but treated as an unsuccessful proposal. They will be included as failed proposals in the data that we collect on RO grant performance as part of our demand management strategy.

All submitted proposals must be substantially different to any previous proposal submission (ie a new proposal).

Research proposals cannot be accepted for the following:

  • unspecified research work
  • research already carried out
  • writing up previous research
  • literature surveys
  • conference attendance, other than within an award
  • travel for general study
  • expeditions
  • unsolicited requests to hold conferences, workshops or seminars outside of the Research Seminars competition
  • preparation of books and publications
  • primarily for the preparation and production of materials such as curriculum materials and software development.

Assessment criteria

Funding decisions for research proposals are based on four key assessment criteria:

  • Originality, potential contribution to knowledge
  • Research design and methods
  • Value for money
  • Outputs, dissemination and impact.
Up to 5 years
Europe United Kingdom
Social sciences Business and Administrative Sciences Communication Sciences Demography Economics Environmental Sciences Gender Studies Geography International Relations Law Pedagogic & Education Research Political science Psychology & Cognitive Sciences Social Anthropology Sociology
Required post-doc experience: 
between 0 and 99 years
Award granted
Up to £ 1.000.000