Funding opportunity

Funding opportunity: Future data services: pilots to enhance data services for the future

Apply for funding to develop and pilot new data service delivery solutions to enable:

  • federation of data services
  • data discovery using machine learning or other AI technologies
  • increasing skills capacity for data service professionals

You must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) funding.

The total fund for this funding opportunity is £2.6 million at 80% full economic cost (FEC). The FEC of your project can be between £150,000 and £1,000,000. We will fund 80% of the FEC.

Projects can begin in April 2024 but must be completed by 31 March 2025.

Who can apply

Before applying for funding, check the Eligibility of your organisation.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new UKRI Funding Service.

For full details, visit Eligibility as an individual.

Who is eligible to apply

This funding opportunity is open to research groups and individuals. We:

  • encourage collaborative research with other UK organisations
  • encourage applications from diverse groups of researchers
  • welcome applications from individuals at any career stage, subject to ESRC eligibility criteria

Read more about this in the ESRC eligibility guidance for applicants.

Who is not eligible to apply

You may be involved in no more than two applications submitted to this funding opportunity. Only one of these can be as project lead.

International applicants

Project leads from non-UK organisations are not eligible to apply for funding for this funding opportunity.

Project co-leads based in non-UK research organisations can be included in research grant applications. Read project co-lead (international) policy guidance for details of eligible organisations and costs.

Business, third sector or government body project co-leads

Business, third sector or government body project co-leads based in the UK can also be included on research grant proposals as a project co-lead. Read including project co-leads from business, third sector or government bodies for details of eligible organisations and costs.

Resubmissions

We will not accept uninvited resubmissions of projects that have been submitted to UKRI.

Find out more about ESRC’s Resubmissions policy.

Equality, diversity and inclusion

We are committed to achieving equality of opportunity for all funding applicants. We encourage applications from a diverse range of researchers.

We support people to work in a way that suits their personal circumstances. This includes:

  • career breaks
  • support for people with caring responsibilities
  • flexible working
  • alternative working patterns

Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion at UKRI.

Remit

Contact fds@esrc.ukri.org if you are unsure whether your proposed application falls within the remit of this funding opportunity.

What we're looking for

Aim

This funding opportunity aims to launch a series of pilot solutions and approaches which address some of the current and future data service delivery challenges as identified through the Future Data Services strategic review (see Additional Information). These pilots should demonstrate how these challenges could be resolved, evaluate how effective they are, and how they could be scaled up with additional funding from April 2025 onwards.

The challenges that the pilots and approaches should address fall into the following themes:

  • federation of data services
  • data discovery using machine learning or other AI technologies
  • increasing skills capacity for data service professionals

Funding is also provided by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Digital Research Infrastructure programme. As such, pilots should be designed to answer data service challenges across the broader UKRI research infrastructure landscape, using a cross-disciplinary approach. Findings from pilots should support the UKRI Digital Research Infrastructure programme objectives.

Scope

This investment will support the ESRC Future Data Services (FDS) strategic review.

This is a funding opportunity to establish pilots to develop, test and evaluate solutions to data service challenges we have identified through our extensive consultation with data owners and providers, and researchers who use data for their research.

We have identified the thematic aspects that are described below for which further investigation is required. You are invited to submit proposals to undertake pilots which address data service challenges in one or more of these thematic areas. These pilots should produce findings and recommendations which will help us determine further funding from 2025 onwards.

The thematic aspects of the funding opportunity are:

Theme 1: Federation of data services

ESRC and UKRI invest in data service infrastructures to help researchers find and make the most of data to investigate a range of scientific phenomena. Investment in these services have evolved over time, reflecting the needs of the research and data community, including data users, owners and providers.

Although there are examples of collaboration, data services have often evolved by themselves, which means the services they provide often do not interconnect with each other. For example, researchers are often faced with similar but different processes when they interact with different data services to access different data. This creates a burden on their time and research productivity.

We invite proposals to scope out and develop pilot projects that aim to support a more effective and efficient federated data service landscape, thereby reducing the bureaucracy experienced by researchers when accessing and using data services. This could include (but is not limited to) federated:

  • data access services (including researcher accreditation)
  • user support
  • training delivery
  • data discovery journeys
  • software development
  • provision of large-scale compute within Trusted Research Environments
  • enhancing policy engagement

Theme 2: Data discovery using machine learning or other AI technologies

The use of machine learning and other AI methods to support better data discovery promises more automated, accurate, and faster approaches to curating data and making data easier to discover. Funding under this theme welcomes pilot solutions to apply this technology to transform data curation to realise the benefits this technology could bring.

Theme 3: Skills, career development and training needs for data professionals who support data service delivery

Data service professional staff support researchers and data providers in many ways. This includes (but is not limited to): sourcing data, answering queries about data, helping researchers use sensitive data in Trusted Research Environments (TREs), and providing advice about depositing data. Staff also curate data, develop and manage data pipelines, ensuring that data become ‘research ready’ and meet the research needs of the data research community. Staff based in data services all over the UK undertake similar roles.

Funding for this theme should support a clear articulation of the skills needs of data service professional staff in the future, including:

  • assessing the skill needs of these staff for the future
  • assessing the training needs of data providers to support improved data governance decision-making
  • developing a ‘curriculum’ to promote consistent and effective induction, on-going training and development for staff involved in data service delivery

Project requirements

Projects should clearly demonstrate how they contribute to at least one of the themes stated above. It is possible to fund a project that will deliver outcomes for two or more themes.

Applications should:

  • state the theme(s) of the funding opportunity addressed by the proposal
  • identify the challenge the pilot is addressing by clearly specifying the problem that needs to be solved
  • describe the methodology of the pilot
  • describe how the pilot will contribute to solving the problem
  • test the pilot, and in doing so:
    • evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of the pilot
    • recommend further work to refine and improve the pilot

When describing the methodology of the pilot, you should describe the following development workflow:

  • Research – assessment of need how the pilot will extend work undertaken by others etc.
  • Feasibility – how could this solution be scaled up and adopted widely by data services in the landscape
  • Concept – what will the pilot do
  • Design – preliminary design of the pilot
  • Production planning – plans for consulting with data service infrastructures to implement the pilot

Projects should demonstrate the following:

  • engagement across the research and data community to gather requirements to address data service challenges
  • development and execution of pilot projects that conceptualise solutions to address data service challenges across academic disciplines and sectors, that could be expanded with further funding and development
  • development of recommendations that contribute to the FDS strategic review
  • how the pilot outcomes translate into practical recommendations to support the wider UKRI Digital Research Infrastructure programme

Investment monitoring

We will set out monitoring and reporting requirements in the terms and conditions of the award. Grant holders will be required to produce an updated timeline, deliverables list and risk register at the start of the grant, for regular discussion with us.

The grant holders will be expected to provide us with a short, written update on activities quarterly, with the format to be agreed at the outset of the award. More frequent updates will be expected on important activities, risks and major project changes if they present a risk to the grant meeting its objectives. We will assign an investment manager as a lead contact for each funded investment.

Grant holders will be expected to engage with the two ESRC Future Data Services strategic fellows (until summer 2024), and with ESRC and UKRI investments including UK Data Service, Smart Data Research UK, DARE UK and others to help support the further development of these digital research infrastructures. ADR UK, Smart Data Research UK, Population Research UK, DARE UK and others to help support the further development of these digital research infrastructures.

Duration

The maximum duration of awards is 12 months.

Projects can start from April 2024 but projects which do not require 12 months can begin later. All projects must be completed by 31 March 2025.

Funding available

The full economic cost of your project can range from £150,000 to £1,000,000.

We will fund 80% of the full economic cost. Certain things can be funded as exceptions at 100% FEC as per the ESRC research funding guide.

Supporting skills and talent

We encourage you to follow the principles of the Concordat to Support the Career Development of Researchers and the Technician Commitment.

International collaboration

If your application includes international applicants, project partners or collaborators, visit UKRI’s trusted research and innovation for more information on effective international collaboration.

Find out about getting funding for international collaboration.

ESRC data infrastructure

We support a range of data infrastructure. Where relevant, we encourage applicants to consider whether the use of these resources could add value to the project. See facilities and resources for information on finding and using ESRC datasets which are available across the UK.

Where relevant, details of datasets and infrastructure to be used in your project should be given in the Facilities section.

Data requirements

We recognise the importance of data quality and provenance. Data collected or acquired by ESRC-funded research must be well-managed by the grant holder to enable their data to be exploited to the maximum potential for further research. See our research data policy for details and further information on data requirements. The requirements of the research data policy are a condition of ESRC research funding.

Where relevant, details on data management and sharing should be provided in the Data Management section. See the importance of managing and sharing data and content for inclusion in a data management plan on the UK Data Service (UKDS) website for further guidance. We expect you to provide a summary of the points provided. UKDS (email: datasharing@ukdataservice.ac.uk) will be pleased to advise you on the availability of data within the academic community and provide advice on data deposit requirements.

Impact, innovation and interdisciplinarity

We expect you to consider the potential scientific, societal and economic impacts of their research. Outputs, dissemination and impact are a key part of the criteria for most peer review and assessment processes. We also encourage applications that demonstrate innovation and interdisciplinarity (research combining approaches from more than one discipline).

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 and 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 project but considered before the start and built into a project.

Equitable partnership principles

When undertaking research and innovation activities outside the UK, you must recognise and address the possible impact of contextual, societal and cultural differences on the ethical conduct of those activities.

Researchers should also follow the principles of equitable partnerships to address inherent power imbalances when working with partners in resource-poor settings.

Applying the principles will encourage equitable access, especially in low and middle-income countries (LMICs), while maintaining incentives for innovation. You should consider the principles from the start of the research and development cycle.

Read UKRI’s guidance on research in a global setting.

Research ethics

We require that the research we support is designed and conducted in such a way that it meets ethical principles and is subject to proper professional and institutional oversight in terms of research governance. We have agreed a Framework for Research Ethics that all submitted proposals must comply with. Read further details about the Framework for Research Ethics and guidance on compliance.

How to apply

We are running this funding opportunity on the new UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) Funding Service. You cannot apply on the Joint Electronic Submissions (Je-S) system.

The project lead is responsible for completing the application process on the Funding Service, but we expect all team members and project partners to contribute to the application.

Only the lead research organisation can submit an application to UKRI.

To apply

Select ‘Start application’ near the beginning of this Funding finder page.

  1. Confirm you are the project lead.
  2. Sign in or create a Funding Service account. To create an account, select your organisation, verify your email address, and set a password. If your organisation is not listed, email support@funding-service.ukri.org
    Please allow at least 10 working days for your organisation to be added to the Funding Service.
  3. Answer questions directly in the text boxes. You can save your answers and come back to complete them or work offline and return to copy and paste your answers. If we need you to upload a document, follow the upload instructions in the Funding Service. All questions and assessment criteria are listed in the How to apply section on this Funding finder page.
  4. Allow enough time to check your application in ‘read-only’ view before sending to your research office.
  5. Send the completed application to your research office for checking. They will return it to you if it needs editing.
  6. Your research office will submit the completed and checked application to UKRI.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant:

  • use images sparingly and only to convey important information that cannot easily be put into words
  • insert each new image onto a new line
  • provide a descriptive legend for each image immediately underneath it (this counts towards your word limit)
  • files must be smaller than 5MB and in JPEG, JPG, JPE, JFI, JIF, JFIF, PNG, GIF, BMP or WEBP format

Watch our research office webinars about the new Funding Service.

For more guidance on the Funding Service, see:

Deadline

We must receive your application by 22 February 2024 by 4:00pm UK time.

You will not be able to apply after this time.

Make sure you are aware of and follow any internal institutional deadlines.

Following the submission of your application to the funding opportunity, your application cannot be changed, and applications will not be returned for amendment. If your application does not follow the guidance, it may be rejected.

Personal data

Processing personal data

ESRC, as part of UKRI, will need to collect some personal information to manage your funding service account and the registration of your funding applications.

We will handle personal data in line with UK data protection legislation and manage it securely. For more information, including how to exercise your rights, read our privacy notice.

Publication of outcomes

ESRC, as part of UKRI, will publish the outcomes of this funding opportunity at What ESRC has funded.

If your application is successful, we will publish some personal information on the UKRI Gateway to Research.

Summary

Word limit: maximum 550

In plain English, provide a summary we can use to identify the most suitable experts to assess your application.

We may make this summary publicly available on external-facing websites, so make it suitable for a variety of readers, for example:

  • opinion-formers
  • policymakers
  • the public
  • the wider research community

Guidance for writing a summary

Clearly describe your proposed work in terms of:

  • context
  • the challenge the project addresses
  • aims and objectives
  • potential applications and benefits

Core team

List the key members of your team and assign them roles from the following:

  • project lead (PL)
  • project co-lead (UK) (PcL)
  • project co-lead (international) (PcL (I))
  • specialist
  • grant manager
  • professional enabling staff
  • research and innovation associate
  • technician
  • visiting researcher

Only list one individual as project lead.

Find out more about UKRI’s core team roles in funding applications.

Application questions

Vision

Word limit: 500

What are you hoping to achieve with the proposed infrastructure?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Explain how the proposed infrastructure will:

  • be timely given current trends, context, and needs
  • address foundational infrastructure, such as how it will build or sustain the long-term foundations for social science research by the provision of services or infrastructure to support users to access and utilise data
  • have a measurable impact beyond the immediate team
  • enable high quality and important research
  • meet the strategic aims of the funder or government
  • offer training opportunities
  • enhance and complement the existing landscape
  • support innovation in research
  • be of international importance (if applicable)

The following can be included to support your response:

  • a description of how the proposed investment supports innovation, or the development of innovative practices, in data service provision

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Approach

Word limit: 2,500

How are you going to manage and deliver the proposed infrastructure?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

We expect you to show how your approach includes:

  • clear objectives for the funding period with appropriate and achievable deliverables
  • how the proposed investment will facilitate or support collaboration between data providers, data services and other members of the research data landscape
  • details of governance
  • identification of risks and appropriate mitigation
  • plans for support and maintenance of the proposed infrastructure
  • details of access and usage particularly where a culture of equipment sharing may extend use to the research community
  • training and development of staff and those who may interact with the infrastructure
  • plans for sustainability and legacy beyond the end of UKRI funding; these could include cost recovery models, securing additional funding, development or expansion after the initial period of funding

The following can be included to support your response:

  • a clear and realistic work plan and timeline with milestones and schedule of work to achieve the objectives
  • a description of the methods and resources appropriate for the objectives proposed

All applicants planning to generate data as part of their grant must complete the separate data management question.

A list of references used to support your application can be added in the references question.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Applicant and team capability to deliver

Word limit: 1,500

Why are you the right individual or team to deliver and manage the proposed infrastructure?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Evidence of how you, and if relevant your team, have:

  • the relevant experience (appropriate to career stage)
  • the right balance of skills and expertise
  • the appropriate leadership and management skills to deliver the work and your approach to develop others
  • contributed to developing a positive research environment and wider community

The word count for this section is 1,500 words, 1,000 words to be used for R4RI modules and, if necessary, a further 500 words for Additions.

Use the Résumé for Research and Innovation (R4RI) format to showcase the range of relevant skills you and, if relevant, your team (project and project co-leads, researchers, technicians, specialists, partners and so on) have and how this will help deliver the proposed work. You can include individuals’ specific achievements but only choose past contributions that best evidence their ability to deliver this work.

Complete this section using the R4RI module headings listed. Use each heading once and include a response for the whole team, see the UKRI guidance on R4RI. You should consider how to balance your answer, and emphasise where appropriate the key skills each team member brings:

  • contributions to the generation of new ideas, tools, methodologies, or knowledge
  • the development of others and maintenance of effective working relationships
  • contributions to the wider research and innovation community
  • contributions to broader research or innovation users and audiences and towards wider societal benefit
Additions

Provide any further details relevant to your application. This section is optional and can be up to 500 words. You should not use it to describe additional skills, experiences, or outputs, but you can use it to describe any factors that provide context for the rest of your R4RI (for example, details of career breaks if you wish to disclose them).

Complete this as a narrative. Do not format it like a CV.

UKRI has introduced new role types for funding opportunities being run on the new Funding Service.

For full details, see Eligibility as an individual.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)

Word limit: 500

What are the ethical or RRI implications and issues relating to the proposed work? If you do not think that the proposed work raises any ethical or RRI issues, explain why.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Demonstrate that you have identified and evaluated:

  • the relevant ethical or responsible research and innovation considerations
  • how you will manage these considerations

All proposals have to comply with the ESRC Framework for Research Ethics which includes guidance for applicants and links to related web resources.

All necessary ethical approvals must be in place before the project commences, but do not need to have been secured at the time of application.

If you are generating data as part of your project, you should complete the Data Management question and should cover ethical considerations relating to data in your response.

If you are not generating data and have not completed the Data Management question you should address any legal or ethical considerations relating to your use of data here.

Where indicated, you can also demonstrate elements of your responses in visual form if relevant. Further details are provided in the Funding Service.

Resources and cost justification

Word limit: 1,000

What will you need to deliver and manage the proposed infrastructure and how much will it cost?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Justify the application’s more costly resources, in particular:

  • project staff
  • significant travel for field work or collaboration (but not regular travel between collaborating organisations or to conferences)
  • any equipment that will cost more than £10,000
  • any consumables beyond typical requirements, or that are required in exceptional quantities
  • all facilities and infrastructure costs
  • all resources that have been costed as ‘Exceptions’

Assessors are not looking for detailed costs or a line-by-line breakdown of all project resources. Overall, they want you to demonstrate how the resources you anticipate needing for your proposed work:

  • are comprehensive, appropriate, and justified
  • represent the optimal use of resources to achieve the intended outcomes
  • maximise potential outcomes and impacts

For detailed guidance on eligible costs please see the ESRC research funding guide.

Project partners

Add details about any project partners’ contributions. If there are no project partners, you can indicate this on the Funding Service.

A project partner is a collaborating organisation who will have an integral role in the proposed research. This may include direct (cash) or indirect (in-kind) contributions such as expertise, staff time or use of facilities.

Add the following project partner details:

  • the organisation name and address (searchable via a drop-down list or enter the organisation’s details manually, as applicable)
  • the project partner contact name and email address
  • the type of contribution (direct or in-direct) and its monetary value

If a detail is entered incorrectly and you have saved the entry, remove the specific project partner record and re-add it with the correct information.

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

Project partners letters or emails of support

Word limit: 10

Upload a single PDF containing the letters or emails of support from each partner you named in the Project partner section (if applicable).

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Enter the words ‘attachment supplied’ in the text box, or if you do not have any project partners enter ‘N/A’.

Each letter or email you provide should:

  • confirm the partner’s commitment to the project
  • clearly explain the value, relevance, and possible benefits of the work to them
  • describe any additional value that they bring to the project
  • be no more than one A4 page in length

Save letters or emails of support from each partner in a single PDF no bigger than 8MB. Unless specially requested, please do not include any sensitive personal data within the attachment.

For the file name, use the unique Funding Service number the system gives you when you create an application, followed by the words ‘Project partner’.

If the attachment does not meet these requirements, the application will be rejected.

The Funding Service will provide document upload details when you apply. If you do not have any project partners, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Ensure you have prior agreement from project partners so that, if you are offered funding, they will support your project as indicated in the contributions template.

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

Do not provide letters of support from host and project co-leads’ research organisations.

Data management and sharing

Word limit: 500

How will you manage and share data collected or acquired through the proposed work?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Provide a data management plan that clearly details how you will comply with UKRI’s published data sharing policy, which includes detailed guidance notes.

Demonstrate that you have designed your proposed work so that you can appropriately manage and share data in accordance with ESRC’s Research Data Policy and ESRC Framework for Research Ethics (if applicable).

Within the ‘Data management’ section we also expect you to:

  • plan for the research through the life cycle of the award until data is accepted for archiving by the UK Data Service (UKDS) or a responsible data repository
  • demonstrate compliance with ESRC’s Research Data Policy and ESRC Framework for Research Ethics. This should include confirmation that existing datasets have been reviewed and why currently available datasets are inadequate for the proposed research
  • cover any legal and ethical considerations of collecting, releasing or storing the data, including consent, confidentiality, anonymisation, security and other ethical issues
  • include any challenges to data sharing (for example copyright or data confidentiality), with possible solutions discussed to optimise data sharing

If this does not apply to your proposed work, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

Facilities

Word limit: 250

Does your proposed work require the support and use of a facility?

What the assessors are looking for in your response

If you will need to use a facility (including access to, and use of data infrastructure), follow your proposed facility’s normal access request procedures. Ensure you have prior agreement so that if you are offered funding, they will support the use of their facility on your project. We encourage the use of secondary and linked datasets.

For each requested facility you will need to provide the:

  • name of facility, copied and pasted from the facility information list (DOCX, 35KB)
  • proposed usage or costs, or costs per unit where indicated on the facility information list
  • confirmation you have their agreement where required

If you will not need to use a facility, you will be able to indicate this in the Funding Service.

References

Word limit: 1,000

List the references you have used to support your application.

What the assessors are looking for in your response

Include all references in this section, not in the rest of the application questions.

You should not include any other information in this section.

We advise you not to include hyperlinks, as assessors are not obliged to access the information they lead to or consider it in their assessment of your application.

If linking to web resources, to maintain the information’s integrity, include persistent identifiers (such as digital object identifiers) where possible.

You must not include links to web resources to extend your application.

How we will assess your application

Assessment process

We will assess your application using the following process.

Panel

An assessment panel comprised of independent external members will review your application against the assessment criteria and rank it alongside other applications. Panel members will consist of experts spanning the breadth of the funding opportunity remit to ensure that due consideration is given to interdisciplinary applications.

There will be an opportunity to respond to the assessments prior to the panel meeting. Please note that in order to provide as much time as possible for applicants to apply, the assessment response time will be five working days.

Feedback

We will give feedback with the outcome of your application.

Principles of assessment

We support the San Francisco declaration on research assessment (DORA) and recognise the relationship between research assessment and research integrity.

Find out about the UKRI principles of assessment and decision making.

Assessment criteria

The criteria against which your application will be assessed are:

  • vision
  • approach
  • applicant and team capability to deliver
  • ethics and responsible research and innovation (RRI)
  • resources and cost justification
  • project partners (if relevant)
  • data management and sharing (if relevant)

Find details of assessment questions and criteria under the ‘Application questions’ heading in the ‘How to apply’ section.

Contact details

Get help with your application

Important note: The Helpdesk is committed to helping users of the Funding Service as effectively and as quickly as possible. In order to manage cases at peak volume times, the Helpdesk will triage and prioritise those queries with an imminent opportunity deadline or a technical issue. Enquiries raised where information is available on the Funding Finder opportunity page and should be understood early in the application process (for example, regarding eligibility or content/remit of an opportunity) will not constitute a priority case and will be addressed as soon as possible.

Contact details

For help and advice on costings and writing your proposal please contact your research office in the first instance, allowing sufficient time for your organisation’s submission process.

For questions related to this specific funding opportunity please contact fds@esrc.ukri.org

Any queries regarding the system or the submission of applications through the Funding Service should be directed to the helpdesk.

Email: support@funding-service.ukri.org
Phone: 01793 547490

Our phone lines are open:

  • Monday to Thursday 8:30am to 5:00pm
  • Friday 8:30am to 4:30pm

To help us process queries quicker, we request that users highlight the council and opportunity name in the subject title of their email query, include the application reference number, and refrain from contacting more than one mailbox at a time.

Find out more information on submitting an application.

Sensitive information

If you or a core team member need to tell us something you wish to remain confidential, email fds@esrc.ukri.org

Include in the subject line: [the funding opportunity title; sensitive information; your Funding Service application number].

Typical examples of confidential information include:

  • individual is unavailable until a certain date (for example due to parental leave)
  • declaration of interest
  • additional information about eligibility to apply that would not be appropriately shared in the ‘Applicant and team capability’ section
  • conflict of interest for UKRI to consider in reviewer or panel participant selection
  • the application is an invited resubmission

For information about how UKRI handles personal data, read UKRI’s privacy notice.

Additional info

Background

We are undertaking an exciting programme of work called Future Data Services (FDS). This strategic review of the social science data services landscape is supporting us by recommending options for funding and establishing new and improved data services to support researchers and data owners from 2024 and beyond.

Since the early 2010s when UK Data Service (UKDS) and other data service investments were established by ESRC, the data landscape has considerably changed. New legal frameworks for accessing data have been implemented; new methods for accessing and combining data have emerged and are practiced; advances in technology have continued to develop; and researchers support cross-disciplinary and cross-sector efforts to better understand our society.

During this period, the data landscape has evolved to become busier and more complex. More infrastructures now exist and provide services to data owners and researchers to serve a variety of needs. FDS will enable us to understand the range of activities that data services will need to deliver to support the research and data community in the future, benchmarking progress against the ESRC’s 2022 Data Infrastructure Strategy.

FDS is reviewing data service delivery activities in the following thematic areas:

  • Data discovery and curation
  • Data access, user support and training
  • Technology
  • People, organisation and culture
  • Ethics, legal, impact, public engagement

FDS also aligns with the objectives of the UKRI Digital Research Infrastructure programme. This is a cross-UKRI programme of work which will deliver the next generation of digital research infrastructures. This includes investment in large scale computing, secure data access, software engineering and skills capacity. FDS directly contributes to this wider UKRI programme of work and supports the delivery of ESRC’s Data Infrastructure Strategy.

Since autumn 2022, ESRC has gathered evidence and requirements from researchers, data services, and data providers, through workshops, surveys, and interviews to support the FDS review. Consequently, we have identified challenges in the data services landscape which, through funding and policy-review work, it seeks to resolve.

Webinar for potential applicants

We held a webinar on 23 January 2024.

Watch webinar recording (passcode: F$5QuQ$9)

Webinar questions and answers (PDF, 198KB)

Research disruption due to COVID-19

We recognise that the COVID-19 pandemic has caused major interruptions and disruptions across our communities. We are committed to ensuring that individual applicants and their wider team, including partners and networks, are not penalised for any disruption to their career, such as:

  • breaks and delays
  • disruptive working patterns and conditions
  • the loss of ongoing work
  • role changes that may have been caused by the pandemic

Reviewers and panel members will be advised to consider the unequal impacts that COVID-19 related disruption might have had on the capability to deliver and career development of those individuals included in the application. They will be asked to consider the capability of the applicant and their wider team to deliver the research they are proposing.

Where disruptions have occurred, you can highlight this within your application if you wish, but there is no requirement to detail the specific circumstances that caused the disruption.

Supporting links

Equality Impact Assessment (PDF, 228KB)

Updates

  • 9 February 2024
    Webinar recording link and questions and answers document added to the 'Additional info' section.

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