Friday, 15 January 2010

International Collaboration and the Research Councils

I'm sometimes asked what applicants can apply for from the Research Councils in relation to overseas collaboration. It's quite a murky, confused picture, but generally it's only the MRC and the ESRC that allow co-investigators to be based overseas, and the ESRC limits the budgetary contribution to be 30% overall. But here's the picture in full:


  • Overall, RCUK state that ‘research has always been an international endeavour and international collaboration is an important aspect of the work of each Research Council. UK researchers already have an excellent record of working across borders. The UK is committed to remaining a leading nation in the fields of research and innovation. The UK produces 9 per cent of the world's research papers, with those papers receiving 12 per cent of global research citations, demonstrating the high relative impact of UK research. Moreover, 13 per cent of the world's most highly cited papers are from the UK. In a world of increasing global competitiveness, this strength in research and innovation is a major part of the foundation on which our future economic prosperity and quality of life rests. Almost half of all PhD students and around 40 per cent of all researchers in the UK are non-UK citizens.’ (taken from this webpage). RCUK’s International Strategy is available here (pdf).

  • AHRC: You can’t include the costs of an overseas collaborators time, unless they are listed as a ‘consultant’. You can apply for their travel and subsistence costs that are a necessary part of their collaboration. There is no limit to the percentage of the budget that can go to the overseas collaborator. The AHRC’s International Strategy is available here.

  • BBSRC: Do not fund overseas collaborations. However, applicants can ‘subcontract’ part of their research abroad, but overseas subcontractor will not have any IP rights. Their international strategy is here (pdf), and their International Research page is here.

  • EPSRC: An office move has meant their phones are down. However, from their website they look like they are along the lines of the AHRC, as follows: ‘ you can include the costs of collaboration, for example, travel and subsistence for research staff to work in a partner's laboratory overseas, as well as the usual UK-based costs like staff, equipment, UK travel and subsistence, and consumables. You can also use funding flexibly, for example, to fill postdoctoral researcher and project student places with candidates from a partner's laboratory.’ As I said below, 13% of their grant funding goes on overseas collaboration.

  • ESRC: applications can include international co-investigators, but overseas costs are limited to 30% of overall budget. Internationalisation (and international impact) is now part of their Strategic Plan 2009-14 . They have a dedicated webpage and more info on international links here.

  • MRC: You can include the cost of overseas co-investigators – more detail here. No prescribed limit, but PIs need to talk to the Programme Manager before including these costs.

  • NERC: Not surprisingly given the nature of their work, NERC seem to take international collaboration very seriously – as their International Plan (pdf) makes clear. However, applicants can only apply for the direct costs of collaborations – along the lines of EPSRC and AHRC.

  • STFC: You can include costs of overseas co-investigators, but only if they are at the handful of STFC-approved institutions. These tend to be observatories or CERN.

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