Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Pre-announcement: establish a Centre for Doctoral Training Plus in Behavioural Research

Apply for funding to establish a Centre for Doctoral Training Plus in Behavioural Research (CDT+).

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding.

The centre will:

  • enhance national capability with researchers transforming our understanding of human behaviour
  • comprise a doctoral training programme and an early career fellowships programme
  • work closely with government and other key stakeholders.

The full economic cost of your centre can be up to £5.5 million. For fellowships supported through the CDT+, ESRC will fund 80% of the full economic cost.

Funding will be available for three cohorts of students, supporting at least eight students per year between 2024 to 2025 and 2026 to 2027. The centre will be expected to gain co-funding to support a minimum of an additional two students per annum.

This is a pre-announcement and the information may change.

The funding opportunity will open in September 2022. More information will be available on this page by then.

Who can apply

You must be based at an institution that is eligible for ESRC funding and has the infrastructure in place to deliver doctoral training.

We will be expecting a single application to be submitted on behalf of the Centre for Doctoral Training Plus in Behavioural Research (CDT+).

The CDT+ must be led by a principal investigator or director based at an eligible UK research organisation.

There is not a limit on the number of research organisations that can be involved in consortia arrangements, but you must ensure that there are a number of students based at each research organisation and that the students are managed and supported to interact together as a cohort.

We strongly encourage partners across different sectors (including business, third sector and government organisations) and internationally. Partner organisations would be expected to contribute resources to the delivery of training and provide access for studentships. You must demonstrate the added value of any partner organisation’s inclusion in the CDT+.

What we're looking for

ESRC will be inviting applications to establish a dedicated Centre for Doctoral Training Plus in Behavioural Research (CDT+).

This opportunity is part of a wider £15 million initial investment to develop a national capability for behavioural research over the next four to six years.

The overarching aim of the national capability is to harness, connect, and extend the UK’s existing capacity and capability to research fundamental questions about how and why people, organisations and groups behave in the way they do to inform policy and practice.

We take a broad definition of what ‘behavioural research’ encompasses, which goes beyond individualistic approaches to behaviour change. We require a range of disciplinary perspectives to be involved in the investment. We expect understandings of behaviour to be situated within wider societal and economic contexts, and want outputs from the investment to be targeted towards addressing major societal challenges.

National capability objectives

The key objectives of the national capability, as a whole, are to:

  • facilitate evidence-based decision making through timely, high impact and independent research on human behaviour that meets the needs of policymakers, industry and civil society
  • enhance national capability by building a critical mass of researchers with the knowledge and research skills to transform our understanding of human behaviour. This includes applying a range of relevant research methods and approaches such as data science, human-centred design and experimental methods. This objective will be achieved in part by this CDT+.

Hub and spoke model

A ‘hub and spoke’ model will be used for this initiative, with an interdisciplinary leadership team responsible for the core management and running of a central research and coordination ‘hub’ (see ‘additional information’). This will be complemented by a series of ‘spokes’ (centres of excellence) that will be established to deliver key aspects of the programme.

The hub and spokes will be expected to work together to achieve the overarching ambition of the national capability. From the outset, this will include a spoke for capacity and capability building, delivered through this CDT+, that provides academic capacity building, in addition to other relevant training for non-academic audiences. Further spokes will be added over time.

The CDT+ is therefore expected to support innovative interdisciplinary training that ensures graduates have the skills they need to work confidently and fluently across disciplinary and sector boundaries (for example, government, academic, and industry). As part of their training, all doctoral students will be expected to undertake placements with non-academic organisations.

The centre will be expected to meet the minimum requirements for doctoral training in the social sciences as set out in the ESRC postgraduate training and development guidelines 2022.

In addition to the doctoral programme, the centre is expected to offer a fellowships programme to support and encourage early career researchers to develop the knowledge and skills required to pursue a career in behavioural research.

The centre’s training programme should also be designed flexibly to support the participation of researchers in government and other sectors where there is mutual benefit. This could be through participation in masterclasses, workshops and particular modules.

We expect the centre to work closely with government and other key stakeholders, including business, in developing their programme of activity and to have a strategy in place to secure co-funding from external partners.

Specific requirements will be made available once the full opportunity is launched and until that time, details are subject to change.

How to apply

You must apply using the Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system.

Your host organisation must be registered for Je-S, and you must hold a Je-S account. For more information you should please contact your research organisation’s research office for further guidance.

More information on how to apply using Je-S will be provided when the full opportunity is launched in September 2022.

How we will assess your application

Eligible proposals will be assessed by a minimum of three independent reviewers.

Once the minimum number of peer review comments required have been received, reviewer assessments will be sent to the applicant for comment.

Proposals, along with the reviewer comments, grades and the applicants’ responses, will then be assessed by a specially convened expert commissioning panel in summer 2023. This will then be followed by Centre for Doctoral Training Plus in Behavioural Research (CDT+) director interviews with shortlisted applicants.

Contact details

Ask about this pre-announcement

PGT framework team


Include ‘CDT+ in Behavioural Research’ in the subject line.

We aim to respond within five working days.

Get help with applying through Je-S



01793 444164

Opening times

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Additional info

The Centre for Doctoral Training Plus in Behavioural Research (CDT+) is the first ‘spoke’ that will be commissioned as part of a wider £15 million investment by ESRC. The aim is to develop a national capability for behavioural research through a hub and spoke model.

The hub and spokes will be expected to work together to achieve the overarching ambition of the national capability.

There is a separate pre-announcement for an interdisciplinary leadership team to establish a Behavioural Research ‘Hub’.

This is the integrated website of the seven research councils, Research England and Innovate UK.
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