Centre for Doctoral Training 2020 call

UKRI recognises that the current situation may present additional challenges to those intending to apply. To help with that, the deadlines on all open funding opportunities have been extended to give applicants more time to submit their applications.

The closing date for proposals for a new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) call has been extended by two weeks to 16:00 on 6 May 2020. The assessment and programme timetable is also subject to change.

Closing date (Outline proposals): 16:00 on Wednesday 6 May 2020

Closing date (Full proposals): 16:00 on Wednesday 5 August 2020

NERC invites proposals for a new Centre for Doctoral Training (CDT) specialising in the priority area of Managing chemical risks in the environment.

Funding for eight studentships will be awarded per annum for three years of new student intake (24 studentships in total) from the start of the academic year 2021-22. An expectation of the CDT is that NERC funding will be used to leverage additional investment (either cash or in-kind support) from multiple stakeholders.

Chemicals provide substantial benefits to society but their widespread use in industry, agriculture, food systems and homes has led in some cases to pollution of land, water, air and food. This is recognised in the Government’s 25 year Environment Plan, and the commitment to publish a new Chemicals Strategy to tackle chemicals of national concern that will build on existing approaches.

Chemical use in the UK is growing and regulations are adopting precautionary approaches to identify the risks of hazardous chemicals in the environment. Traditional risk assessments, which incorporate exposure information, lack mechanistic insight, rely on in vivo exposure, and apply arbitrary assessment factors to assess chemical safety. Greater mechanistic insights and the application of a systems based approach would enable stakeholders to extrapolate from laboratory studies on single organisms to populations and/or communities in the field. In addition, such insights could help identify environmental hazards earlier in chemical development, predict potential impacts of chemical mixtures and assess interactions with other stressors on ecosystem function and ecosystem services.

NERC and our community have identified that a particular challenge to progressing the research and innovation priorities is the need for new expertise in this area. There is a strong need for training of the next generation of ecotoxicologists skilled in experimental, modelling and statistical techniques, to strengthen capacity across research and industry. 

The successful CDT must offer postgraduate training in environmental chemistry, ecotoxicology, ecology, and risk assessment. While this should be the focus, the training programme is expected to incorporate training in other relevant disciplines, such as risks to human health, where appropriate, and make use of modelling developments that enable linkage of knowledge and data across disciplines. The programme must combine fundamental scientific training on the impact of anthropogenic activities on the environment with an understanding of the regulatory, policy and business drivers that ultimately determine societal and economic impact.

How to apply

There is a two-stage application process for this call.

Outline proposals must use the form provided below and be submitted by email to researchcareers@nerc.ukri.org. The closing date for outline proposals is 16:00 on Wednesday 6 May 2020.

Outline proposal form (Word, 41KB)

Following an outline assessment panel, successful outline applications will be invited to submit a full proposal.

Full proposals using the form provided below must be submitted via the research councils' Joint electronic-Submission system (Je-S). The deadline for submission of full proposals is 16:00 on Wednesday 5 August 2020.

Full proposal form (Word, 41KB)

Please see the Announcement of Opportunity document below for full details of this call.

Announcement of Opportunity (PDF, 220KB)

Background to NERC CDTs

NERC is developing a portfolio of CDTs to complement the Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTP) scheme. CDTs support strategically targeted, directed PhD studentships aimed at addressing specific research and skills gaps identified by NERC, our partners and the wider community.

In October 2013, in recognition of the importance of focused training, NERC Council agreed additional funding for the NERC CDT portfolio to allow the establishment of at least one CDT per year.

The focus of each NERC CDT call is informed by the CDT commissioning framework. This framework is in place to ensure that decision-making concerning NERC CDT focus areas continues to be robust and evidence-based, informed by a broad range of evidence and clearly linked with the objectives of the CDT programme.

For further information about this initiative, please contact researchcareers@nerc.ukri.org.