ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme


The Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is pleased to announce the third call for applications to its Postdoctoral Fellowship (PDF) scheme aimed at providing a career development opportunity for those in the immediately postdoctoral stage of their career, to provide the opportunity to consolidate their PhD through developing publications, their networks, and their research and professional skills.

The PDF call forms part of ESRC’s strategy to support early career researchers and will be delivered through our national network of Doctoral Training Partnerships (DTPs) and Centres for Doctoral Training (CDTs) which encompasses 73 research organisations across the UK.

The fellows must be located on an accredited DTP or CDT pathway. Through being embedded within a high-quality environment for research and training, the fellow will have the opportunity to undertake a varied programme of activities supporting their continued development for careers both within and outside of academia.

DTPs and CDTs will have their own procedures in place to peer review the proposals and make funding decisions on behalf of ESRC.

Full proposals should be submitted to the relevant DTP or CDT by 16.00 on 23 March 2020.  Fellowships must start on 1 October 2020.

Call details

The objective of this call is to provide support to those who are within 12 months of completing their PhD, to support them in consolidating their PhD, and preparing them for the next stage of their research careers. For the majority this is likely to be a research career in academia; however, those with a clearly articulated programme of activities to support their transition to a research career outside of academia (eg a researcher in public, private, or civil society organisations) will also be considered.

Fellows’ actual programmes or proposed programme of activities should reflect their prior knowledge and experience and be designed to support their longer term research career aspirations. Activities could include but are not limited to:

Fellowship holders are not expected to complete all activities on the above list, and the chosen activities should be tailored to the aims of the fellowship and relevant to the fellow’s desired career intentions. Applicants must demonstrate a realistic and practicable programme of work in their proposal; proposals considered to be unrealistic or overambitious are unlikely to be competitive.

Proposals are welcome from both single disciplines and combinations of disciplines but the fellowship activities must be based at least 50% within the social sciences.

Each DTP must allocated at least one fellowship that is aligned to the Industrial Strategy. Alignment can be demonstrated in terms of addressing the skills gaps of advanced quantitative methods or data science, or where the proposed programme activities involves collaboration with a private sector partner such as a placement or a co-designed research activity.

Duration of fellowships

The grants provide funding for up to one year full-time, or up to two years part-time[1] to give fellows time to prepare for a successful career in research either within or beyond academia. In exceptional cases, applicants can apply for a fellowship for up to 18 months; however, this must be fully justified by the programme of activities being proposed. Part-time grants are for applicants whose normal working hours are part-time and not for applicants who wish to hold the fellowship and continue other employment. Fellows must spend 100% of their working time (whether full-time or part-time) on the fellowship and cannot take any secondary paid employment during the course of the grant.

A limited amount of teaching will contribute to the professional development of the fellow and therefore grant holders can set aside up to six hours per week (pro rata) to teaching-related duties during the fellowship, including training and class preparation time.

[1] For part-time awards, the duration should be pro rated based on the fellow’s time commitment


This opportunity is open to applicants who have completed their PhD at a research organisation (RO) that is part of a DTP or CDT and must be held at an RO that is part of a DTP or CDT eligible to participate in this initiative and aligned to an accredited pathway:

Applicants are eligible for funding whether or not they are established members of the RO at which they are applying. Applicants who are not established members must be accommodated by the RO and provided with appropriate facilities to carry out the fellowship. Further details about eligibility of applicants can be found in the Research Funding Guide ( The call is not open to applicants who are established, permanent members of staff in an academic position with a research component.

Applicants are not required to have previously held an ESRC-funded studentship in order to be eligible to apply.

To be eligible applicants must:

Permanent members of staff in an academic position with a research component are not eligible for this scheme. If a candidate has previously been employed on a part-time basis, that employment can be calculated on a pro-rata basis.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions document that supports this call for further information on eligibility.

This call welcomes proposals from those returning to research following a career break. Applicants are, however, required to meet the eligibility criterion of having no more than 12 months of active postdoctoral experience.

Funding including costs and staffing

The total cost for each fellowship can include the following:

Each proposal will need to show these figures as 100% of full Economic Cost (fEC) and the ESRC will meet 80% fEC on the proposals submitted. All proposals will be subject to ESRC’s funding rules as outlined in our Research Funding Guide (

Please contact stating your chosen host institution so that you can be directed to the correct finance contact to obtain the relevant salary/indirect/estate costs.

Mentoring arrangements

All fellows are required to have a mentor based at the research organisation where the fellowship is held. The mentor should have experience and a strong interest in the applicant’s field of research but should not normally be the applicant’s PhD supervisor. We recognise that this may not always be possible, so in exceptional circumstances the PhD supervisor may be the mentor, however where this is the case, the choice should be fully justified. The mentor should have the skills and experience relevant to the aims of the fellowship.

Whilst the mentor should be able to assist the fellow in achieving the goals and activities of the fellowship, it will be important for the applicant to demonstrate how they are actively managing their own career development.

We expect the mentoring time required to be around one or two hours per week, and funding will be provided through the fellowship to enable this (under the ‘other costs’ heading).

A secondary mentor is permitted, particularly in interdisciplinary areas or where the fellow will be spending time at an overseas institution. The secondary mentor could be the PhD supervisor or if they are moving institutions, an individual from the institution where the fellow completed their PhD.

Stakeholder engagement and impact expectations

We expect fellows funded under the call to have identified the potential impacts of their research on policy and practice, and to actively consider how these can be maximised and developed. This emphasis on research impact will be reflected within the assessment process and taken into account during the review process. Costs for impact-related activities can be included within the proposal.

When completing the ‘Impact plan and user engagement’ section of the proposal, applicants may find it helpful to refer to ESRC guidance on developing an impact strategy.

How to apply

Application information can be found at the following link: How to apply


For queries related to the call, please contact


ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship – How to Apply

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ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship – FAQs

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