Pre-call announcement

In June 2016 ESRC is planning to announce a call for strategic networks as part of its contribution to the new Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). GCRF is a £1.5 billion fund to support cutting-edge research which addresses the challenges faced by developing countries. The fund will address global challenges through disciplinary and interdisciplinary research and will strengthen capability for research and innovation within both UK and developing countries, providing an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need.

The aims of the ESRC’s GCRF Strategic Networks will be to:

  • develop interdisciplinary relationships within and beyond the social sciences around key global research challenges
  • build strong collaborations with UK and international non-academic stakeholders in the identification of these challenges
  • co-produce substantive and innovative research agendas in readiness for future GCRF calls 
  • provide input to inform the future direction of GCRF funding 

Strategic networks will provide an important foundational element to future GCRF research. Thematically, networks will be encouraged to focus on the five core areas ESRC has initially identified as its GCRF contribution:

  • Building effective institutions in conflict-affected and fragile states
  • Migration, mobility and development
  • Dynamics of inequalities
  • Innovation and inclusive economic growth
  • Shocks, security, risks and resilience

However, it is important to stress this list will not be restrictive: strategic networks will also be able to explore other areas where social science working in conjunction with other disciplines can make a substantial contribution to achieving the aims of GCRF, for example in relation to mental health and wellbeing, urbanisation, education or digital technology for development. All proposals will have to make a clear case for how they comply with Official Development Assistance (ODA) guidelines.

Interdisciplinarity and innovation are key elements in GCRF and will be central to successful proposals to this call. Networks will be required to:

  • involve researchers from more than one academic discipline. This includes actively encouraging proposals which include disciplines from beyond the social sciences
  • involve researchers from developing countries 
  • involve non-academic UK and/or overseas stakeholders from the public, private or third sectors, as these are considered a central to the development and delivery of meaningful future research agendas

Networks involving partnership between different research organisations and involving early career researchers will be strongly encouraged. Networks may be new or build appropriately on established relationships where this is relevant to addressing the core concerns of GCRF. Networks may engage in a range of activities, including events, workshops, exchanges or other activities, which build capacity and support knowledge exchange, as well as synthesis and scoping work to survey existing research and identify policy needs. No primary research will be eligible under this call.

ESRC GCRF Strategic Networks proposals will be invited with a full economic cost (fEC) value between £75,000 and £150,000 and for a duration of 12 to 18 months. Proposals will be funded on a non-fEC basis (at 100 per cent fEC) and staff costs will be eligible under this call. Proposals to this call must be led by a researcher at an eligible UK organisation and will need to be submitted through the Research Councils’ Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S). Detailed guidance on how to apply and the assessment criteria will be provided with the call for proposals at the beginning of June 2016.

All strategic networks will be required to commence by 1 January 2017. We expect to fund around 20-25 networks, depending on quality of the proposals received, with the total budget of £3 million allocated to this call. 

Provisional timetable

  • Call for proposals open - mid-June 2016
  • Deadline for submitting proposals - early August 2016
  • Commissioning Panel meeting - mid-October 2016
  • Decision to applicants - November 2016
  • Successful networks to commence - by 1 January 2017