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.

We welcome the inclusion of international co-investigators on ESRC proposals.


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.


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. 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.

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.

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. 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.

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.

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.

Asessment 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

Many proposals are unsuccessful not because they lack interesting or important research ideas, but because they fail to communicate adequately how these research ideas will be explored and translated into an achievable plan of action. Many proposals devote too much space to explaining why the research is important and too little to detailing how the research will be conducted. Therefore it is vital that you have a full understanding of what is required, as well as knowing the various stages of the application process, so that you maximise your chances of gaining an award.


You can submit applications to the scheme at any time - there are no fixed closing dates. This gives us the flexibility to respond rapidly to the latest developments in the academic world and society.

We aim to announce the majority of decisions within 26 weeks of receiving the proposal although we cannot guarantee this, since it is dependent on receiving sufficient good quality peer review comments within the necessary timescale.

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