Research programme scope
The Freshwater Quality research programme, ‘Understanding changes in quality of UK freshwaters’, will address a significant gap in our understanding of how pollutants enter, transform and interact within rivers, and with the ecosystems that rivers support.
It will consider how the infiltration and movement of pollutants will be amplified or mitigated by a changing hydrological cycle induced by climate change and other catchment changes.
Through the improvement and development of tools to monitor and measure contamination, as well as collaboration and engagement with key stakeholders, it will help the development of management and mitigation strategies for improving or sustaining the quality of rivers across the UK.
The overarching programme will enable transformative research in three thematic areas:
- better understanding of how climate and catchment changes are affecting the sources and processes by which pollutants are entering, mixing, being transported through and leaving river systems
- investigating the impact of mixtures of chemical (and biological) contaminants and their exposure regimes on the quality, ecology and biodiversity of UK river ecosystems
- enabling and informing the development of better plans for adaptation, mitigation and detection of risks associated with declining river quality, now and in the future.
All projects funded under the initial Freshwater Quality programme announcement of opportunity (further details can be found in the ‘additional info’ section) should address multiple and interacting stressors as well as consider catchment-wide flows and dynamics.
These projects should be interdisciplinary, bringing together relevant experts from environmental science and other relevant disciplines and sectors in the UK that are needed to deliver the integrated cross-sectoral research required.
Projects should increase the understanding of how pollutants enter, transform, and interact within rivers, how that impacts on the quality of the ecosystems that rivers support, as well as how we can better adapt and mitigate future risks to river quality related to climate and other changes impacting the hydrological cycle.
We encourage innovative collaborations including with intervention-focused organisations or practitioners, creating a community of researchers and funding projects that span the three aims of the programme.
Collaborations should include steer from UK government, policy and regulators, to ensure that they enable sustained change and long-term benefits. Projects must work closely with relevant stakeholders during the design phase and throughout the lifespan of the project.
Funded projects must engage and collaborate with one another through the lifetime of their projects.
As Programme Champion, you will:
- act as thought leader, flag bearer, and facilitate the development of the Freshwater Quality research programme coordination and delivery strategy
- provide strategic advice to award holders and NERC regarding the broader research area of freshwater quality
- lead on the communication strategy for the programme in order to publicise the activity, outputs and impacts of the programme
- lead on managing integration between projects within the research programme, encouraging joint activities, where appropriate, under certain themes
- use your expertise and connections with a range of stakeholders (for example public, government departments, devolved administrations, regulators, businesses and industry) in the freshwater quality area to link projects up with relevant people and organisations to maximise the impact of their research individually and as a collective
- lead on and organise programme meetings and workshops to ensure that the knowledge generated by projects is shared with relevant stakeholders to help realise programme outcomes
- support the Programme Advisory Group by attending meetings and providing updates as requested on progress of the projects and programme as a whole
- proactively engage with the national and (where appropriate) international community to ensure that the UK Freshwater Quality programme has strong links and synergies with other relevant research programmes and initiatives, which might include the NERC-funded programmes
- support programme management as required by NERC, including leading on project monitoring and programme-level reporting as well as ensuring appropriate evaluation and monitoring procedures are in place for the programme
- lead on ensuring that all the programme’s commissioning and delivery risks are identified at the earliest opportunity, and that appropriate risk mitigation plans are put in place
- lead on the data management strategy for the programme.
The Programme Champion role can be carried out by an individual, or by a small group of individuals with an identified lead.
You should note that the Programme Champions will not be eligible to apply for further research grant funding from the Freshwater Quality programme, including the research grant announcement of opportunity currently open under this programme.
This work will be UK-focused and predominantly address environmental science research questions. However, projects could include research outputs that may support learning internationally and have relevance globally.
The outcomes of this research programme will:
- strengthen our understanding of the sources and behaviour of pollutants within river systems
- increase our knowledge and understanding of how pollutants are changing or accumulating within the environment and the impacts of those changes
- help to reduce the pollutants loading to river systems
- have the potential to influence policy in connection with regulations, for example local agricultural practices, waste-water organisations, industries, and domestic use
- inform improvements to the ecological status of rivers in the UK
- inform better adaptation and mitigation of risks which will improve essential ecosystems services such as cleaner air, extreme weather mitigation and links to improved human mental and physical wellbeing.
Apply for funding to take on the role of Programme Champion for the Freshwater Quality programme.
The Programme Champion will lead on supporting implementation of the programme, working closely with the Freshwater Quality grant holders, wider community and relevant stakeholders.
A grant of up to £625,000 is available of which NERC will contribute 80% of the full economic cost (fEC) for a period of up to 56 months, commencing 1 September 2022.
The funding can be used for the following:
- staff time, including buying out teaching, if applicable
- administration and project management support
- communication support, including design and printing costs for reports and website hosting
- research associates to support workshops and wider engagement
- travel, networking and venues, for example
- support for activities to integrate the different projects funded by the programme.
You should propose and justify the most appropriate support staff and associated researchers to work with the Programme Champion to deliver the requirements of the proposed work plan, demonstrating clear splits of responsibility between the Programme Champion and support staff and detail on how the team will work together.
Successful applicants will be required to support programme management as required by NERC. This includes leading on project monitoring and programme-level reporting as well as ensuring appropriate evaluation and monitoring procedures are in place for the programme.
The Programme Champion will report to the Programme Advisory Group quarterly along with the Freshwater Quality award holders.
Delivery and coordination
A Freshwater Quality Programme Advisory Group (PAG) will be set up to provide a coordination function and to ensure the effective delivery of the programme.
The PAG will be appointed by NERC and will include members who have experience in developing and delivering similar programmes, relevant academics as well as representation from a range of other stakeholders (including policy and regulators).
The PAG will, among other things:
- assess the progress of all funded projects every six months
- maximise opportunities to secure stronger outcomes from the programme’s funded projects.
Through our funding processes, we seek to make a positive contribution to society and the environment, not just through research outputs and outcomes but through the way in which research is conducted and facilities managed.
All NERC grant holders are to adopt responsible research practices as set out in the NERC responsible business statement.
Responsible research is defined as reducing harm or enhancing benefit on the environment and society through effective management of research activities and facilities. Specifically, this covers:
- the natural environment
- the local community
- equality, diversity and inclusion (EDI).
Grant holders should consider the responsible research context of their project, not the host institution as a whole, and take action to enhance their responsible research approach where practical and reasonable.