Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Digital Society Network Plus: exploring people’s relationships with digital technologies

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Apply for funding to develop a network to research people’s relationships with technology.

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding. Your project must be social science-led and at least 50% within ESRC’s remit.

Your network is expected to:

  • generate insights into the relationships between people and technologies by carrying out and funding research
  • build interdisciplinary capability
  • bring people together across disciplines to connect researchers exploring people’s relationship with technology.

The full economic cost of your project can be up to £4 million. We will fund 80% of the full economic cost. Your project can last up to five years.

Who can apply

The principal investigator must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding. That organisation will be responsible for submitting the grant application to UKRI.

Proposals can also include:

  • eligible international co-investigators
  • co-investigators from UK business, policy, or civil society
  • eligible public sector research establishments (PSREs).

Your proposal must be primarily social science. It must be multidisciplinary, interdisciplinary or both. We expect the successful grant to play a strategic role in bringing together stakeholders across disciplinary boundaries.

Standard ESRC eligibility rules apply. Our research funding guide contains more details on individual and institutional eligibility.

Register to hear about exciting developments in the new UKRI Funding Service on Wednesday 8 December 2021, 14:00 to 15:00 (GMT).

This webinar is aimed at research office professionals who will be supporting applicants using the new service.

If an application is made by a member of an organisation where we don’t currently have contact details with their research office, we will contact them to enable administrator access. This provides oversight of every application opened on behalf of your organisation.

Administrators will be required to submit applications to UKRI, which must be received by 16:00 (GMT) on 1 March 2022. If you anticipate researchers from your organisation applying for this Opportunity, but have not already received an invitation to open an account, email support@funding-service.ukri.org.

What we're looking for

This is not a typical funding opportunity.

The questions in the application on the new UKRI Funding Service are very specific. Your answers should focus on what you will do and how this will achieve the desired outcomes. We are looking for a team that gives us the confidence that these will be delivered.

This funding opportunity is part of the ‘Living with Technology’ strategic priority in the 2019 ESRC delivery plan. This investment is shaped by a comprehensive period of scoping around the theme of a digital society. ESRC will fund one Network Plus that is expected to start on 1 November 2022.

A Network Plus is a strategic investment that aims to bring together new research communities and identifies, prioritises and develops emerging research challenges. It provides leadership across disciplines and sectors. To build sustained engagement and collaboration on an emerging research area, it also delivers different activities, such as:

  • workshops
  • events
  • communications
  • seed funding calls.

Our vision, your vision

The Digital Society Network Plus will have a research agenda that explores people’s relationships with technology and how technologies influence people’s relationships (people as individuals and as part of broader society). It:

  • will directly find and fund research projects that cross disciplinary boundaries via a flexible fund
  • should provide leadership development opportunities for mid and early-career researchers
  • should adapt in response to changing circumstances and drivers.

By doing all this it will contribute to building the research infrastructure for future research in digital society.

The term ‘digital society’ is used as it captures changes caused by, and in parallel with, the increasing digitisation of behaviours and processes, including:

  • economic
  • social
  • political
  • cultural.

Digital refers to the technologies that are the medium for changes underway in society.

Themes

The ESRC has identified two optional themes that the Network Plus could look to support via the high-level research agenda, flexible fund, and collaborative activities:

Power and behaviour

This would:

  • explore the influence services and devices have over people and the resulting social trends
  • explore how people’s behaviour differs in digital environments and how that behaviour translates into other contexts.

The key questions here are about control and agency, both individual and collective, and the choices in living with technology in terms of:

  • access to services
  • information and opportunity
  • the implications for inclusion.

Harnessing technology

This could:

  • explore people’s interactions with technology and their understanding of it, looking at how they influence and control its impact on individual and collective experiences
  • consider the interactions and trade-offs when people use online technologies, for example: when new technologies are adopted, or when there are new applications of existing technologies into different domains or sectors
  • consider how interactions and trade-offs work at different scales and the relative relationship of these. From the individual, in relation to privacy and access to digital social media (for example: personal data given to companies and how these are used to personalise content) to the societal (for example: how biases in data are reproduced via algorithms and result in unequal outcomes).

ESRC also welcomes proposals exploring other themes, if they complement current investments without duplicating them and enable the network to address the desired outcomes listed below.

Desired outcomes

By the end of the funding period, the investment should have enabled a step-change in how social scientists investigate the interactions between people and digital technologies – increasing trans, multi and inter disciplinary capacity in the field. It should:

  • generate new insights into the relationships between people and technologies, through supporting research that maps interconnections between social, economic and cultural lives. Having identified and explored areas where changes are happening, both now and in the future, your network should explore changes in society, at macro and micro levels, drawing lessons from key disciplines, investments, and networks
  • build new interdisciplinary capability in this emerging research area, linking existing (and establishing new) transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary partnerships. In doing so, bringing together technical and social science approaches and developing conceptual, methodological, theoretical and leadership skills
  • enable a coherent and connected landscape for digital research across disciplines, by bridging existing structures, identifying needs through sustained engagement and brokering relationships
  • inform policy, practice and public understanding, through understanding stakeholder needs and enabling insights to feed into development processes for devices, services and public policy as well as co-producing research.

The Network Plus will play an important strategic role in ESRC’s growing portfolio of investments in digital lives and, more broadly, across UKRI and beyond.

The Network Plus will be expected to establish and maintain appropriate links with relevant investments, to achieve its aims of increasing collaborative working across disciplines, and connecting the research landscape.

This will include working with ESRC and our large investments into digital lives, to create shared opportunities that will enhance the collective impact of the digital research portfolio.

The successful applicant will work with ESRC to agree suitable metrics for performance against these outcomes.

Proposal requirements

Applicants should propose a plan to creatively achieve the desired outcomes, outlining the mechanisms that will be put in place and suggesting possible success measures. Fundamentally, the Network Plus is meant to connect and upskill researchers and bridge structural barriers.

The successful project should be social science-led, but drawing on expertise beyond social science, that enables collaborative approaches to the challenge of understanding people’s relationships with technologies, for example:

  • computer science
  • cultural studies
  • environmental science.

A specific set of questions and guidance has been created for applicants on the new UKRI Funding Service, each of which is repeated verbatim in the ‘how to apply’ section further down this page.

Team requirements

We do not expect any single person to have the skills and expertise required to deliver the Network Plus. Applicants are therefore required to have a team with complementary leadership skills and expertise.

The core team should be relatively small and will build, rather than be, the network. It should include genuine collaborations and not a large number of Co-Investigators with small time commitments.

The application features a question specifically about your team, which should include people at different career stages, who collectively offer:

  • core social science leadership, with an in-depth understanding of relevant disciplines, policy challenges and evidence needs
  • thematic expertise beyond the social sciences, reflecting the communities that will be engaged in the network
  • an ability to engage with diverse stakeholders, including non-academics
  • an ability to articulate a clear vision for engagement with communities working in this area and new partners from within the appropriate disciplines or elsewhere
  • an ability to deliver complex projects to time, considering the variety of activities and outputs
  • specialist expertise (academic or non-academic) to support the desired outcomes, which may include sector representatives, programme management expertise, a communications function, and knowledge mobilisation expertise.

Professional and career development is encouraged. Members of the team should have time to engage in relevant opportunities and be aware of the expectations set out in the documents you can link to from:

Proposals should include the outline of a career development programme (including research, leadership and management skills) shaped to the stage of each researcher’s career. Career development should be supported via the flexible fund, with activities weighted to early and mid-career researchers.

Annual reporting framework and governance

The Network Plus will produce a monitoring and evaluation framework that will track the outputs, outcomes and impacts of the investment and ensure value for money. Post-award, within the first three months, the successful applicants will work with ESRC to develop a logic model that will form the basis of the annual reporting framework.

The Network Plus will be responsible for the formation of suitable advisory structures.

Equality, diversity and inclusion framework and responsible innovation

Promoting equality, diversity and inclusion is an integral part of our vision to deliver new knowledge and an enriched, healthier, sustainable, and resilient society and culture, and to contribute to a prosperous economy.

Responsible innovation is also an integral part of our vision and we expect applicants to consider the benefits and potential impacts from their activities, by ensuring they have read the ESRC EIA.

Funding programme requirements

The Network Plus will be funded at 80% full economic cost (fEC) in line with ESRC’s standard funding policies.

We suggest that at least 40% of the available budget should be allocated to the flexible fund. Proposals must define and justify their objectives for the flexible fund and outline how it will be operationalised and governed. This should ensure that funds genuinely enable new work (instead of going towards existing activities) whilst giving due consideration to ensuring diversity and capacity-building. Flexible funds should be awarded at 80% fEC and costs should be included as ‘Other Directly Incurred’.

ESRC should be consulted throughout the award to ensure good practice is followed in the assessment and allocation of flexible funds. Projects are expected to engage with the wider programme of activity and to report their progress and outcomes to the grant holder.

Proposals should include detail of the advisory group, including academic and non-academic members, that will support the research and oversee the development of the key activities.

Proposals should also address how activities will be managed and detail project management resources and administrative support, and how leadership will provide adequate operational capabilities and resources to meet the demands of the planned activities.

Associated studentships, formerly known as grant-linked studentships, are permitted for this opportunity. They must add value to the proposed research outlined in the proposal, whilst providing a clear opportunity for a distinct and independent course of enquiry for the student. Please refer to the the ESRC postgraduate funding guide on page 42 and the ESRC research funding guide on page 8 for more information.

How to apply

This is a new ESRC funding opportunity that is being run as a single pilot application on the new UKRI Funding Service.

We urge you to read the ‘additional information’ and the documents you’ll find in the ‘links to supplementary information section’, before you apply.

What follows is a copy of the sections and questions you will need to complete and answer on the UKRI Funding Service. You cannot apply for this opportunity on the Je-S system.

Applicants will need to take the following steps to apply:

  1. select the ‘Start application’ button at the start of this page
  2. this will open the ‘Sign in’ page of UKRI’s Funding Service. If you do not already have an account, you’ll be able to create one. It is a two minute process requiring you to verify your email address and set a password
  3. start answering the questions detailed in this section of ‘How to apply’. You can save your work and come back to it later. You can also work ‘offline’, copying and pasting into the text boxes provided for your answers
  4. once complete, use the service to send your application to your research office for review. They will check it and return it to you if it needs editing.
  5. once happy, your research office will submit it to UKRI for assessment. Only they can do this.

Make sure you get any necessary approval from your organisation in advance and give your research office plenty of time before the closing date.

For this particular opportunity we are not inviting you to provide nominated reviewers. Sufficient and appropriate reviewers will be sourced to fairly assess each application.

Details and summary

Summary

Provide a summary that can be emailed to potential reviewers inviting them to assess your application. Use simple language so a lay person could also understand your approach to running the network plus over the next five years. Briefly describe the scope including:

  • your vision, objectives, areas of focus
  • why it’s important
  • why it will succeed.

Guidance for writing a summary is outlined below.

Briefly tell us:

  • what’s unique about you and your thinking
  • what you will deliver
  • how you will do it
  • who is involved

Word count: 250.

In the applicants section you will be asked to list the key members of your team and assign them roles.

Case for support: vision

Your question: what is your network setting out to achieve?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain your vision and its importance. Tell us why is it timely and how it will contribute to you delivering the desired outcomes we have outlined earlier. Demonstrate how your Digital Society Network Plus vision fits into the wider context or current research. Sketch out what will be positively different because of your network and your approach to achieving its vision.

Word count: 800.

Case for support: research agenda

Your question: clearly state the research agenda, including any themes and specific methods.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Articulate a high-level research agenda exploring people’s relationship with technology that will sit above, but is flexible to, opportunities that emerge from Network Plus activities. Detail the research agenda that will guide the network’s activities and any themes that will be explored.

These could relate to the two proposed themes of ‘power and behaviour’ and ‘harnessing technology’. For research being done by the network, clearly describe your proposed research design and methods and how you will:

  • generate new insights into the relationships between people and technologies through supporting research that maps interconnections between social, economic and cultural lives. The network should look into changes underway in society, at macro and micro levels. It should draw lessons from key disciplines, investments and other networks, having identified and explored areas where changes are happening, both now and in the future
  • build new interdisciplinary capability in this emerging research area, linking existing, and establishing new, transdisciplinary, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary partnerships. Show how you will bring together technical and social science approaches and develop conceptual, methodological, theoretical and leadership skills for this emerging area.

Care should be taken to explain any innovation in the methodology or methods, or how different methodologies or methods may be combined. Reference any existing work on which the main research will draw, with references. Any relevant policy or practical background should also be included.

You may wish to upload a document that helps demonstrate this visually.

Word count: 2,000.

Case for support: strategy

Your question: what is your strategy for achieving your vision?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Tell us about the key people or groups beyond your team that need to be involved and how you will get them involved? Paint a picture of the kind of activities you will deliver, how, and who those activities will be for. Describe how you will prioritise activities, people, groups and research themes.

Demonstrate how you will connect people and the research landscape to support new and widespread collaboration as well as taking advantage of opportunities as they emerge.

Provide an insight into the processes you will put into place to:

  • enable a coherent and connected landscape for digital research across disciplines, by bridging existing structures, identifying needs through sustained engagement and brokering relationships
  • inform policy, practice and public understanding, through understanding stakeholder needs and enabling insights to feed into development processes for devices, services and public policy as well as co-producing research.

Where possible include details of any potential links to international collaboration.

Tell us how you will build new research capability and leadership capacity. Bringing people with diverse and different thematic and methodological expertise together is a key requirement. This includes people in your team delivering the network, as well as researchers that are ‘in’ the network or who participate in its activities.

We want to know what these people will learn and specifically, how you will:

  • bring together diverse expertise within projects, conceptually, methodologically and theoretically
  • support and enable learning
  • help people to collaborate, and get better at, collaborating in the future
  • develop and promote the use of combined social science and technical methods, for example: computational and digital
  • create concepts and use them to explore themes.

Nurturing and developing talent of researchers at all career stages is also a key requirement for a successful application. How will you identify and support opportunities for the development of leadership skills and research capabilities?

Word count: 2,500.

Case for support: supporting organisations

Question:  provide details of key partners and other supporting organisations who will be essential to the successful conduct of the research.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

We will not be requesting letters of support through this opportunity. Instead, in the text box below, please provide details of supporting organisations by creating a table using the following headings:

  • partner or support provider’s named individual
  • partner or support provider’s named individual’s position
  • partner or support provider’s registered organisation office address or web link
  • clear statement of support (data access, cash, in kind)
  • date support was agreed.

In each table the statement needs to provide assurance to reviewers that the support has been agreed and will be forthcoming if the proposal is funded. Please note, all partners are expected to have been involved in development or creation of the proposed Network Plus.

For audit purposes, UKRI expects formal collaboration agreements to be put in place if an award is made.

Case for support: your team, the network and its management

Question: referring to yourself and the other individuals named in the applicants’ section (including any partners or users) list each member of your core team’s role and why their experience and expertise is key to your proposal’s success.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Detail your expertise and that of your team. Specifically, why they are the right people to help you build and manage the network and deliver its aims, describing for example:

  • what specific relevant experience they have
  • what they will contribute
  • how their skill sets are complementary
  • how they will contribute to the generation of new ideas, hypotheses, processes and managing research programmes
  • how they will help you establish teams and collaborations
  • how they will work with the wider research community and interested groups and people.

We are particularly seeking to understand how you will recruit new partnerships and team members, as new opportunities arise and results indicating directional approaches occur. Specifically, how will you ensure that the network is managed effectively?

For example, and making reference to any partners or user involvement:

  • what is the management structure of the team, including both named and non-named applicants?
  • what kind of professional service staff roles, for example, network Manager, knowledge exchange manager, administrators and communications experts. Will you recruit?
  • how will you distribute responsibilities?

There is no need to duplicate information here that you will include in the justification of resources section. This section should describe the functioning of the team to meet the project aims.

You may wish to upload a document that helps demonstrate this visually.

Word count: 1,500.

Case for support: governance and management of the flexible fund

Question: provide some detail about what kind of governance structure your network will have particularly in respect of the flexible fund.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Specifically, tell us how you will manage and coordinate:

  • the flexible funding so it is distributed fairly, efficiently and with probity
  • the network’s activities so they are conducted ethically, are aligned and add value to each other
  • the outputs, outcomes and impacts arising from the network’s activities to maximise their value.

You may wish to upload a document that helps demonstrate this visually.

Word count: 1,000.

Custom section topic: culture, communications and other commitments

Question: how will you develop the brand and communication strategy and embed EDI?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Show us a vision for a brand and your ideas for amplifying it. You must demonstrate your understanding of how to create a strategy using digital and other forms of communication is key.

We also want to understand:

  • about the kind of culture you are looking to foster, with a fair focus on EDI. Feel free to reference, for comparison, examples from other arenas where you think this is done well
  • how you will develop stakeholder engagement and knowledge mobilisation strategy
  • what are the institutional commitment(s) and practical contributions to hosting and sustaining the network plus?

Word count: 750.

Data collection or acquisition

Your question: does your proposed research involve the collection or acquisition of new data?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you are not collecting or acquiring new data, just write ‘No’ in the text box, mark this section as complete and continue to the next section.

Otherwise, referring to guidance to completing the collection or acquisition of data section (PDF, 33KB), provide a data management plan in the text box below, that considers the network and projects funded via the flexible fund.

Unless you state to the contrary here, it will be assumed that you (as the principal applicant) are willing for your contact details to be shared with the affiliated data support service (UK Data Service) working with the research council.

Word count: 2,000 words.

fECs and your justification of those resources

Question: complete the template contained within ‘what the assessors are looking for in your response’ to provide full economic costings for your proposal and then justify them below.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

You will be asked to download a template, complete it then shown how to upload it.
Your total staff costs must include all employee-related costs such as national insurance and superannuation.

You must also make sure each named or identifiable (from post name) individual included on this form is aware that:

  • you have shared their personal information with UKRI
  • UKRI will process their personal information as set out in UKRI’s Privacy Notice.

Quotes for equipment, or externally sourced surveys, exceeding £10,000 are not necessary for this application.

However, appropriate processes must be used to ensure requested costs are accurate, inclusive of VAT and, where appropriate, import duty. Successful applicants must be able to show UKRI evidence of adherence to procurement rules (such as quotes) if audited.

Using the text box below, explain why the resources requested are appropriate, taking into account the nature and complexity of the research proposal. It should not be simply a list of the resources required, as this will already be given in the ‘costs’ section.

Where you do not provide explanation for an activity that requires justification, it will be cut from any grant made.

Do not duplicate information that you have included in the team section above. Your answer here should describe how your project offers value for money.

Proposals that include co-investigators from third sector organisations, and are deemed not to engage in economic activity, must provide evidence of this status within the justification of resources statement.

Estates, indirect and infrastructure technician costs do not need to be justified within the justification of resources.

Word count: 1,000 words .

Ethical issues

Question: please explain what, if any, ethical considerations and/or approvals have been, or will be, obtained if your proposal is funded?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Please explain what, if any, ethical issues you believe are relevant to the proposed research project, and which ethical approvals have been obtained, or will be sought if the project is funded?

If you believe that an ethics review is not necessary, instead please explain why you believe that is the case.

Word count: 150.

Support, previous and related proposals

Your question: Is other support or previous and related proposals relevant to this application?

If other support or previous and related proposals are not relevant, just write ‘no’ in the text box, mark this section as complete and continue to the next section.

Otherwise, provide:

  • details of any other support sought, or received, from any other source for this or other research in the same field in the past three years
  • enter the ESRC reference numbers of any support sought or received from ESRC in the past five years.

Word count: 150.

How we will assess your application

For this particular opportunity we are not inviting you to provide nominated reviewers. Sufficient and appropriate reviewers will be sourced to fairly assess each application.

Proposals will be assessed using the standard ESRC expert reviewer scoring system against the following assessment criteria:

Research excellence and scientific impact

This includes:

  • how the Network Plus will generate new knowledge and lead to new insights
  • clearly described and justified research methods and research design
  • clearly described and justified data management and access plans that identify the risks to, and mitigations for, accessing, managing and sharing data, if data management is part of your proposal.

Fit to the scope of the opportunity

This includes:

  • fit to this opportunity’s desired outcomes, as outlined in the ‘what we are looking for’ section above
  • ability to provide leadership and a clear vision
  • ability to work collaboratively across disciplines and diverse stakeholder groups, including approaches to stakeholder engagement
  • appropriateness of management and governance arrangements for the grant, including plans for a monitoring and evaluation framework (with annual reporting of outcomes and impact to ESRC)
  • appropriateness of management and governance and the processes for competitively allocating the flexible fund (details should be provided in the management plan)
  • strong career development programme shaped to suit the stage of the researchers’ careers and providing increased opportunities for professional development of established investigators
  • embedding equality, diversity and inclusion
  • development of the brand and communication strategy, stakeholder engagement and knowledge mobilisation strategy
  • strong institutional commitment and practical contributions to hosting and sustaining an ESRC investment of this scale.

Outcomes, impact and engagement

This includes whether:

  • the proposal sets out clear, measurable, and achievable outcomes that demonstrate evidence of the research’s planned impact, and which goes beyond a list of outputs
  • the project has practical outcomes, a policy impact or both
  • there is evidence of well thought-through and realistic plans for engagement and knowledge exchange, that maximise opportunities for academic, societal, economic and user impact
  • there is a clear commitment to work constructively and proactively with other grant holders where relevant

Value for money

This includes whether:

  • the funds requested are essential for the work
  • the importance and scientific potential justify funding on the scale requested
  • there’s a clear allocation of duties and responsibilities if your proposal has more than one person
  • the proposal represents good value for money.

Assessment process

Proposals are reviewed by experts with relevant disciplinary expertise.

Reviewers are invited to assess each proposal based on their individual merit. If a proposal meets the standard ESRC minimum quality threshold, the principal investigator is given the opportunity to respond to the reviewers’ comments.

Proposals will then be assessed by a specially-convened expert panel, taking into consideration the scores and comments of the reviewers. The panel includes academic and non-academic experts.

The panel will evaluate proposals on their individual merit with a view to providing a comparative assessment of all the proposals.

The applicants with the best proposals will then be invited to attend an interview. Following this process, the panel will make a final funding recommendation to the ESRC.

Contact details

For difficulties with creating an account, signing in, or any other queries relating to the UKRI Funding Service or guidance on this opportunity

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org

Additional info

Background

In our 2019 delivery plan (page 16) ESRC committed to living with technology as a priority. That is, investing in social science research to understand the implications of advances in science and technology for the way people live and work together.

Following this, we undertook significant scoping work to understand the needs and opportunities, looking across UKRI and the research community to better understand the landscape.

The identified priorities include:

  • bridging existing research and extending capacity to push an agenda forward
  • funding for interdisciplinary socio-behavioural research
  • supporting skills training and expanding capacity for cross-disciplinary work
  • supporting the use of computational and digital social science methods
  • research on new problems, addressing concerns about mobilities, equalities and change.

We then looked at what could be done in the near term, identifying the following opportunities for targeted investment:

  • coordination and networking to connect the UK landscape (and international)
  • improving skills capacity
  • research for new problems
  • creating opportunities for multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary collaboration.

Thematic scope

Digital technologies mediate our relationships and experiences. People are reliant on digital services and devices to consume, communicate, be informed, and be entertained. There is a complex interplay between people’s social, economic, political, and cultural lives.

Changes in the way people use digital technologies have knock-on effects in other areas of our lives. For example, how applications like Instagram, TikTok and Snapchat have:

  • enabled people to communicate via images and videos
  • enabled people to make money from marketing products as part of their ‘lifestyle’
  • influenced consumer behaviours.

This includes when new technologies are adopted, and when existing technologies are applied in new ways, such as:

  • internet of things
  • AI-enabled technologies
  • sensors
  • augmented reality
  • autonomous vehicles proliferating into the home environment.

In this context, there is a need for the research community to engage in research to explore people’s relationship with digital technologies. This can help to identify, understand, and explain the changes that have resulted from the proliferation of digital services and devices into our lives, and suggest changes that may occur in the future.

In doing so, researchers can inform policy, practice and the public, via co-production, by highlighting areas that require interventions. This will in turn ensure that society is better equipped to harness the power of technology to improve economic and social lives.

Previous UKRI investments

This call sits in the context of UKRI’s history of investment that directly and indirectly supports this agenda. This includes:

  • ESRC’s Digital Social Research Programme
  • the Digital Economy Programme
  • the Creative Industries Programme
  • ESRC’s Digital Futures at Work Research Centre.

This investment will build upon the existing landscape and create a step change.

In addition, ESRC has recently announced funding for the Centre for Sociodigital Futures, which examines socio-digital futures in the making across five domains of life:

  • caring
  • consuming
  • learning
  • moving
  • organising

It also examines these key technical fields:

  • AI
  • AR, VR, XR
  • high performance networks
  • robotics.

Lessons learned from other Network Plus activities

UKRI has invested in several Network Pluses. The following lessons learned should be taken into consideration:

  • a clear, well-defined topic for the network is needed to focus plans and activities. The portfolio of grants needs to be regularly reviewed
  • sufficient administrative and host university support for the network is vital to support activities such as the flexible fund, communications, and engagement
  • different scales of funding are appropriate for different research topics or disciplines supported via the flexible fund
  • different assessment processes may be required relative to the value of projects funded via the flexible fund
  • expectation and arrangements for full economic costing of network activities need to be clear across all parties
  • advertising of events needs to be included in the budget
  • long-term plans for the legacy and sustainability of the network need to be considered early on.

Konfer collaboration platform

ESRC is keen to encourage networking and support new collaborations to explore people’s relationships with digital technologies. We are promoting the use of a collaboration platform, Konfer.

If you are interested in finding collaborators to develop a proposal with, you may wish to use the Konfer platform, where you can search for and connect to experts in a broad range of disciplines across all universities in the UK. ESRC will not be actively managing this process.

Access Konfer.

Additional info about Konfer

Konfer is free-to-use and has been developed by the National Centre for Businesses and University in partnership with UKRI. It uses AI-powered smart matching technology to connect researchers and innovation partners.

Learn more about search, discovery and collaboration using Konfer.

Supporting documents

Equality impact assessment (PDF, 140KB)

Guidance to completing the collection or acquisition of data section (PDF, 33KB)

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