Thursday, 16 June 2011

Social Science Small Grants

Times have been tough recently for those seeking small grants in the Social Sciences. The past year has seen the BA, Nuffield and ESRC all cut their dedicated small grants schemes. But don’t despair: things aren’t as bad as they seem. Recent news from the ESRC, and a little creative thinking, means the funding horizon isn't as gloomy as it may seem:

  • ESRC Secondary Analysis: the ESRC will be offering small grants for those whose research involves analysis of existing datasets;
  • ESRC ‘Risky’ Standard Grants: the ESRC will be introducing a new mechanism to fund innovative or ambitious risk-taking projects. Funding will be in two parts: the first tranche will be for a pilot project, the second for a full scale follow up after a ‘break point.’ In effect it’s two grants, the first of which is essentially a small grant. They're ironing out the details of both of these schemes, and more information should be available over the summer.
  • ESRC Reciprocal Grants & BA Country-specific Funds: If your research involves working with colleagues abroad, have a look at the countries that the ESRC and BA have agreements with. They include Germany, France, and the Netherlands. And, if your research involves travelling abroad, think about:
  • Leverhulme Study Abroad Fellowships: provide the direct costs of working abroad. Success rates tend to be higher for these than for other types of fellowships and grants, as they are inevitably more self-selecting. Overall you can apply for up to £22,000, and eligible costs include: reasonable replacement cover whilst the Fellow is overseas; travel to and within the overseas country or countries; a maintenance grant to meet the increased expense of living overseas; and essential research costs. And, whilst thinking of Leverhulme:
  • Leverhulme Project Grants: these can be 'up to' £250k - but can be for a lot less. They cover all disciplines, including social sciences, and are looking for interesting blue skies research with has a healthy disregard for disciplinary boundaries.
  • Nuffield Project Grants: whilst they’ve explicitly cut the small grants (for less than £15k) their project grants are still available, and the starting point is a low £10k. However, your research has to fit within their specialist areas of interest, namely 'children and families,' 'law and society' and 'education'. If your research doesn't fit within these, there's still hope. As long as your research meets their overall aim of 'advancing social wellbeing', you could try their catch-all 'open door' route. Both Leverhulme and Nuffield have an outline stage, which means that you don't have to wade through torturous, extended application forms. However, they do still expect your project to be well thought through and accurately costed, so don't think that you can cut corners in the designing your research.
So there is hope. Do get in touch if you want more information on these, or help with putting together an application.

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