ESRC Postdoctoral Fellowship – How to Apply

All applicants must submit full proposals on the provided SCDTP PDF Application Form 2023 along with required attachments by 16.00 on 23 March 2023 to the DTP or CDT to which they are applying.


When considering where to apply, potential applicants should carefully consider which DTP would offer the best fit for their area of research and career aspirations and should limit their application to those.  Applicants should make the DTP aware if they have applied to another DTP.

Each DTP will peer review the proposals and make funding decisions on behalf of ESRC. Successful applicants will be required to submit their proposal through the Research Council’s Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system (

Assessment criteria

Proposals will be assessed on the following criteria:

  1. Quality of work programme

Is the programme of work clearly defined and specified objectives achievable and realistic within the time allocated?

Are the proposed activities clearly justified in terms of supporting longer term career aspirations? 

  1. Value for money

Are costs clearly and adequately justified?

  1. Impact and outputs

Is the planned output during the fellowship appropriate and attainable?  Are there adequate plans to share the results and engage with academic and non-academic audiences? 

  1. Consideration of ethical issues

Does the proposal show sufficient awareness of any ethical issues that may be raised by the proposed fellowship, including the impact plans and user engagement, and how these might be addressed?

Mandatory attachments

In addition to an application pro forma, the following eight attachments are mandatory and must be included with each proposal in a minimum of font size 11:

  1. Case for support (maximum six sides of A4)

This should be structured to include the following headings:

  • Abstract/ summary of progress

Applicants should provide either a summary or abstract of their in-progress or completed thesis. This should be no more than one page and should include its main claims to originality and excellence, methodology used and significant findings.

  • Impacts of your research

It is vital that the economic and social impact of all projects funded by the ESRC is maximised. This section should describe the impacts your research has had or that you expect it to have. Explain what steps you will take to provide opportunities for users to benefit from your research and to ensure that your research has maximum societal impact. Impacts include the impact of completed research and any planned further limited research, the dissemination of its results and the building up of a publication track record, the development of the research field and the behaviour or understanding of users and policy-makers. We are also interested in the impact the applicant’s training to date has had on their skills development and on their prospects for a successful academic career.

  • Research-related achievements

This section requires a well-structured summary of ‘where you are now’ in your training and personal development. This will help reviewers decide whether an applicant is at a stage in their career development where a fellowship will have an important and lasting impact on their ability to work as a professional researcher.

  • Planned programme of activities

This section should detail your planned programme of activities and the key milestones for these activities. Please note that the programme of activities should be tailored to support your longer term career aspirations, whether you are aiming for a career in academia or a research career in the broader economy.

If you are applying to hold your fellowship part-time alongside existing permanent part-time employment (provided this was also the case for your PhD studies), then this should be clearly stated and explained.

The focus of the programme of activities is for fellows to consolidate their PhD. Fellows should not undertake major new research during a grant. However, limited additional research (up to 25% of the programme of work) directly linked to the PhD can be undertaken. In this case, the time commitment for new research should be clearly shown in the Work Plan (see below).

The fellowship does not have to be directly building on the work of the PhD; however, it does need to follow on or be related to it.

The programme of activities should provide the fellows with time to maximise the impact of their PhD, which could include communicating the research findings arising from their doctoral work, building international networks to develop impact and further research, collaborating with users, learning the skills of writing for publication, and further improving their research and related skills.

We recognise that during the grant period a limited amount of teaching could be beneficial to the professional development of the fellow. Grant holders will therefore be permitted to put aside a maximum of six hours per week (pro rata) to teaching including preparation time.

  1. Justification of resources (maximum two sides of A4)

This statement should be used to break down and justify the resources required to undertake the research project.

  • Explain why the indicated resources are needed, taking account of the nature and complexity of the programme of work being proposed. Note that it is not sufficient merely to list what is required.
  • Estates and indirect costs do not need to be justified.
  • Break down resources into the following directly incurred fund headings:
    • Staff (salary costs of fellow)
    • Travel and subsistence
    • Other costs (to include mentoring costs, conference attendance, training, fieldwork, impact-related costs, networking)
  • Travel and subsistence and other costs under the directly incurred fund heading must not exceed £10,000.

For a breakdown of staff (salary), estates and indirect costs, please contact

  1. CV (maximum two sides of A4)

 The CV must show the date the PhD viva voce was passed, or the scheduled date for the viva voce, brief details of education to date, any awards received for work or training, previous employment history, and any conference papers or publications.

  1. Head of Department statement (maximum one side of A4)

The head of department at the host RO must complete a statement confirming the RO’s support for the proposal. Host ROs must demonstrate their strong support for the proposal guaranteeing as a minimum that the named mentor will be available and that appropriate support facilities, including office space and appropriate computing facilities, will be made available to the fellow during the period of the grant. In addition, the host RO will be expected to show they have a commitment to the support and promotion of early career researchers and lecturers.

The head of department statement should:

  • confirm that the applicant will be accepted into the department as a member of staff for the purpose of undertaking the proposed programme of work
  • explain how the proposed programme of work will fit in with the department’s wider research programme
  • confirm that the applicant will have access to the same training and development opportunities open to permanent members of academic staff at the institution
  • confirm that the applicant’s work and progress will be subject to the same monitoring and appraisal as those of other academic staff within the host RO.
  1. Mentor statement and summary CV (maximum two sides of A4)

A combined mentor statement and CV must be included as an attachment to the proposal. Where there is more than one mentor, the statement should be completed by the primary mentor but must detail the contribution to be made by all mentors. Brief CVs of not more than one side of A4 should be included for each of the other mentors.

Fellows will be required to have a mentor throughout the period of the grant and they should be identified at the time of applying. The mentor should ideally have research experience in the same field as the applicant but should not, wherever possible, be the PhD supervisor. The mentor will need to be a senior colleague within the host RO. The reviewers will emphasise the role of the mentor seriously and will look for strong evidence of support. Thus the mentor statement should demonstrate that the mentor:

  • has considered the individual applicant’s needs carefully and tailored their programme of support to their individual needs
  • will ensure the fellow is kept properly active and focussed throughout the year
  • will also keep the fellow’s long-term career prospects clearly in mind.

The mentor statement must address all of the above points and not just be a general reference or personal statement from the mentor.

  1. Referee statement (maximum two sides of A4)

The applicant must provide one referee statement to contribute to the assessment process. The referee may be the PhD supervisor, however if the supervisor is the proposed mentor, the referee statement should be from a second academic.

  1. Workplan (maximum two sides of A4)

A  workplan should be included. It should summarise and complement, rather than duplicate, the detailed description of the proposed programme of activities included in your case for support by providing a high level timetable and summary.
Workplans must include a breakdown of activities and the proportion of time that will be allocated to them. Where limited new research is being conducted, the workplan should clearly show that all activity related to the new research does not exceed 25% of the total fellowship time.

Additional attachments

Attachments under the following three headings must also be included where necessary. This will be  dependent on the nature of activities being undertaken in the proposal (minimum of font size 11):

  1. Data management plan (maximum of three sides of A4)

It is a requirement of the ESRC Research Data Policy that all applicants planning to generate any new dataset as part of their grant must include a Data Management Plan. The Data Management Plan should be used as an opportunity to describe how the data, ie primary input into research and first-order results of that research, are going to be managed – starting from planning for research and through the life-cycle of the grant until data is accepted for archiving by the UK Data Service.

The ESRC recognises the importance of research data quality and provenance. Research data generated by ESRC-funded research must be well-managed by the grant holder during the grant period to enable their data to be exploited to the maximum potential for further research.

  1. List of publications

The list of publications should contain the bibliography for references cited in the proposal. The applicant’s own publications should be included with their CV.

  1. Other attachments

If you are intending to visit an overseas institution within the period of the fellowship, a letter of support from the institution must be provided, supporting the visit in principle. Letters must be on headed paper and should not exceed a maximum of one side of A4.

Where the programme of activities involves direct engagement with a project partner, a letter from the project partner should be included confirming their contribution to the project. Letters must be on headed paper and should not exceed a maximum of one side of A4 per partner.

No other additional attachments will be accepted, and your proposal may be returned or rejected if you include attachments that are not permitted under this call or if any of the mandatory attachments are missing.

Commissioning timetable

  • Call announced – 1 November 2022
  • Closing date for proposals – 23 March 2023
  • Decisions confirmed to applicants – 26 June 2023
  • Successful proposals submitted in Je-S – between June and end-July 2023
  • Fellowships commence – 1 October 2023


For queries related to the call, please contact

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