How to apply
For complete information on the application procedure read the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook. The following is a brief introduction.
Applicants to a standard, large or knowledge exchange grant call may submit up to one proposal as the Principal or as a Co-Investigator, and one further proposal as a non-lead Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator. Involvement of a UK investigator in a submission to NSF (under the NSF-NERC Lead Agency agreement) counts as a submission as non-lead PI/Co-I to the July NERC standard grant round.
Large grant proposals will only be accepted if an outline proposal has previously been submitted and invited to proceed to the full proposal stage.
Unless we specify otherwise, all grant applications must be submitted using the research councils' Joint electronic-Submission system (Je-S) - external link. To use this system, the applicant's research organisation must be Je-S registered.
Applicants must ensure that their proposal is received by NERC by 16:00 on the relevant closing date. The Je-S system will close at 16:00 and proposals will not submit to NERC after that time. They should leave enough time for their proposal to pass through their organisation's Je-S submission route before 16:00 on the relevant closing date. Any proposal that is incomplete or does not meet the eligibility criteria of NERC, will be rejected and will not be considered.
For some of our schemes we allow the award to be joint between several research organisations. Each component, greater than £65,000 100% FEC, may be submitted separately with a named Principal Investigator but the project title, objectives, summary, academic beneficiaries and impact summary should be common to all component proposal forms.
All attachments submitted through the Je-S system must be completed in single-spaced typescript in Arial 11 or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size, with margins of at least 2cm. All text including references and footnotes should be in Arial 11 or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size. Arial narrow and Calibri are not allowable font types. Text in embedded diagrams or pictures or numerical formulae can be smaller, as long as it is legible. Text in tables and figure labels not within embedded diagrams or pictures should be at least 11 point. The correct attachment type should be used in Je-S as that determines whether attachments are visible to reviewers and/or moderating panel members. Letters of support must be on headed paper and signed/dated. Attachments must not exceed the page limits specified for the attachment type and scheme, regardless of the number of component research organisations.
Requests for capital equipment: Please note that the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) threshold limit has now been removed and replaced with the RCUK equipment Threshold of £138,000 (£115,000 ex VAT). More information on these changes to requests for equipment (PDF) - external link is available.
Researchers can now create or connect their ORCID identifier - external link (ORCID iD) in the research councils' grants system (Je-S) by logging in to their personal information page. This is an important first step towards improving the flow of research information across the higher education sector. ORCID offers a platform for researchers to capture their scholarly activities throughout their careers even if they change name, publish under different variations of their name, move institutions, or switch fields. This helps them get exposure and recognition for their work. Increasingly it will be a tool to link and re-use research information unambiguously across multiple systems whether that's for funders, publishers or their university
For all proposals for NERC grants (research grants and fellowships), the Principal Investigator must submit the relevant Je-S form, together with a Case for Support. The maximum length of the Case for Support depends on the scheme type. It must be completed in single-spaced typescript of minimum font size 11 point (Arial or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size to Arial font size 11) with margins of at least 2cm. References must also be font size 11 point. Applicants should avoid the use of colour graphs or pictures, which will not be reproduced in colour in any hard copies used during assessment. Any proposal in which the Case for Support does not comply with these specifications will be rejected. The number of pages should be checked once the document has been converted to PDF format, before attaching in Je-S.
The Case for Support should have two parts:
Part 1 - Previous track record
- A summary of results and conclusions of recent relevant work in the technological/scientific area that is covered by the research proposal. Include reference to both NERC and non-NERC funded work. Details of any relevant past collaborations.
- Specific expertise available for the research at the host organisation and that of any associated organisations and project partners.
- An indication of how previous work has achieved significant academic or socio-economic impact.
Part 2 - A description of the proposed research
- Underlying rationale, scientific and technological issues to be addressed.
- Specific objectives of the project including their potential relevance to UK and international research work in the field, relevance to the NERC Strategy and anticipated achievements and outputs, including datasets.
- Methodology and approach.
- Risks and mitigation strategies.
- Programme and/or plan of research, evidence of access to required facilities, data, collections.
- Management of the project and resources, identifying the training and career development opportunities for personnel working on the project.
The Outline Data Management Plan should: identify data sets likely to be made available to NERC environmental data centres for archiving and reuse at the end of the grant (further guidance is available on NERC Data Management Plans). Up to one page of A4 should be used for this purpose. Costs associated with management of the data once it has been passed to the data centres will be funded separately from the grant and should not be included in the grant proposal. Any costs associated with preparation of the data by the Investigator's team should be included on the grant proposal.
The Case for Support and Outline Data Management Plan for successful proposals will be made available to the NERC data centres and where appropriate, used by them to draft, in collaboration with the Principal Investigator, a full Data Management Plan (DMP). This full DMP should be mutually agreed between the data centre and the Principal Investigator within three to six months of the start date of the grant.
The Justification of Resources (JoR) should be submitted as a separate attachment in the Je-S system. It should include justification for all Directly Incurred Costs, Investigator effort, use of pool staff resources and any access to shared facilities and equipment being sought. Up to two pages of A4 are allowed for this purpose. No justification for Directly Allocated Estates and Indirect Costs is required. If resources are not fully justified, they will be subject to reduction.
An example of a well-written Justification of Resources is provided below. Our thanks to the authors of this text for providing their permission to publish it as a good practice guide.
Guidance on what should be included is also available in the Je-S Helpdesk - external link - (see under the 'Standard Proposals Case for Support and Attachments' section). This has been agreed by all research councils. The JoR should also include full justification of all sea-time and facility costs requested on proposals. For HPC no cost estimates are required, but an estimate of the use of ARCHER in Million Allocation Units (MAUs) should be included and an application must be attached when use of ARCHER exceeds 100MAU (in any one year).
NERC also requires all grant proposals to include a Pathways to Impact attachment, which should focus on engagement with users (industry, business, government, charities or the general public). This should not exceed two sides of A4. Any costs associated with socio-economic impact activities must be included in the appropriate section of the Je-S form. Academic impact activities, such as conferences, should not be included in the Pathways to Impact.
The Pathways to Impact should consider:
- Who could potentially benefit from the proposed research over different timescales?
- How might the potential beneficiaries benefit?
- What will be done during and after the project to increase the likelihood of the research reaching the identified beneficiaries and maximise the likelihood of the identified benefits being achieved?
Points a. and b. should be described in the Impact Summary section of the proposal and point c. should be detailed in the Pathways to Impact attachment. In both cases these refer to economic and societal impacts only.
Find out more about Pathways to Impact.
Applicants should ensure that their proposal follows all the submission requirements detailed in the NERC research grant and fellowships handbook. Any proposal which does not follow these rules will be rejected. NERC will not return any proposals for amendment.
The points below detail common errors which will lead to a proposal being rejected.
The requirement for grant proposals to be completed in font size 11 is designed to ensure that all documents are accessible and easy to read. We enforce this policy to ensure all applicants have the same amount of space in which to make their case. If applicants cannot use Arial font and are unsure whether the font type they plan to use will meet NERC guidelines then they should contact the NERC grants team at firstname.lastname@example.org before submitting their proposal. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that font size and margins remain the same when documents are converted to a pdf.
Reasons for rejection
- Font size below the minimum permitted; all text including references should be in Arial 11 or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size. Please note that Arial narrow and Calibri are not allowable font types as they are smaller and any proposal which has used either of these font types within their submission will be rejected.
- Document length exceeds the two pages permitted.
Note: Only CVs for the PI, any Co-Is and named researchers will be sent out for peer review. Other submitted CVs eg from project partners should not be attached and will not be made available to reviewers or panel members.
Case for Support
- Document length exceeds the number of pages permitted (eg two pages for track record and eight pages for description of proposed research for standard grants).
- Font size below the minimum permitted; all text including references and footnotes should be in Arial 11 or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size. Please note that Arial narrow and Calibri are not allowable font types and any proposal which has used either of these font types within their submission will be rejected. Text in embedded diagrams or pictures or numerical formulae can be smaller, as long as it is legible. Text in tables and figure labels not within embedded diagrams or pictures should be at least 11 point.
- Page limits and font size for all other attachments with specified page limits should be adhered to (eg Pathways to Impact - two sides, Outline data Management plan - one side, Justification of Resources) or the proposal will be rejected.
- With the exception of letters of support and services/facilities/equipment quotes all attachments should be in Arial 11 or other sans serif typeface of equivalent size. Please note that Arial narrow and Calibri are not allowable font types and any proposal which has used either of these font types within their submission will be rejected.
Note on CVs, Case for Support and other attachments: changing documents to PDF for Je-S can result in format changes. Please convert to PDF before attaching to the Je-S form and check the format remains within guidelines before submitting. It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure that font size and margins remain the same when documents are converted to a pdf.
Investigators and Staff
- A PI or Co-I named on more than the maximum permitted number of proposals. The decision on which proposal(s) to reject will be made by NERC.
Note: Involvement of a UK investigator in a proposal submission to NSF under the NERC/NSF Lead Agency Agreement, counts as a submission as co-I to the next NERC standard grant round.
- A PI or Co-I who is ineligible or who is based at an ineligible organisation.
- Researcher(s) (including Researcher Co-Is) not employed at the same organisation as a PI or Co-I.
- The lead PI for the New Investigator call is ineligible as a new investigator (for example, too experienced).
Note: such proposals will be rejected, not transferred to the Standard Grant call.
- Proposal exceeds the maximum for the round when all components are added together (£800,000 at 100% FEC for Standard grant rounds, except where permission to exceed the maximum has been received from NERC).
Note: This isn't validated by Je-S so applicants should check costings across all components before submission.
- Applying as part of a proposal with international partners recognised by NERC (eg FAPESP (Brazil) or NSF (USA)) without either submitting the required additional documents, or without contacting the lead agency in advance, where required.
- Submitting to the wrong call (for example lead proposals submitting to the New Investigator Call, but components submitting to the Standard Call).
Note: This isn't validated by Je-S so applicants should check that all submitted components have selected the correct call in Je-S.
- Requesting facility use where permission to use the facility has expired (not applicable to all facilities and permission length varies between facilities).
- An organisation submitting more proposals than permitted under Demand Management guidelines. Proposals submitted over and above the permitted number will be rejected based on a last submitted, first rejected approach.
- Proposal falls out of NERC's remit.
- The proposal is a resubmission of a similar proposal less than nine months from the original submission date.
The research councils' Policy & Guidelines on the Governance of Good Research Conduct - external link outlines the expectation that applicants for research council funding are expected to observe the highest standards of integrity, honesty and professionalism and to embed good practice in every aspect of their work.
Please refer to the guidance below on declaration of interests. Applicants should refer to this guidance before submitting proposals and declare any relevant interests in a covering letter as part of their submission.