ISRF Grant Competitions – Frequently Asked Questions

If your question is not answered here, please contact us using the web form.

I have no academic affiliation - can I apply for an award?

The ISRF runs Independent Scholar Fellowship competitions aimed specifically at those doing academic work outside of academia. These awards are capped at £25,000, and recipients are expected to nominate a European academic institution with which they would be affiliated for the duration of their award period.

The ISRF does not intend for Independent Scholar Fellowships to be an alternative to permanent academic employment, and successful applicants will be able to show a track record of pursuing academic research outside of academia. Whilst some Independent Scholar Fellowship recipients may subsequently move back into an academic setting, the award is not intended for those between posts, or those who have just entered the post-doc career phase.

Independent Scholars are eligibly to apply for other ISRF Fellowship awards, such as the Early & Mid-Career Fellowship competitions. If doing so, two options are available:

  1. Applicants should nominate a host institution willing to host them as a Visiting Fellow, with whom no employment relationship will exist. If successful, award monies would be processed via the host institution. Such applications should not exceed £25,000.or
  2. Applicants should nominate a host institution willing to employ them on a fixed-term contract for the duration of the award. Such applicants could then, effectively, apply to be ‘bought out’ from said employment. Such applications should not exceed the budgetary limits set out for the relevant competition.

I am not from Europe - can I still apply?

There is no limitation on nationality. However, the ISRF can only consider applications from those affiliated to a European institution.

I am employed part-time - can I still apply?

Yss, the ISRF will consider applications from those employed part-time, who may seek a buy-out for that portion of their time.

I am employed on a fixed-term contract - can I still apply?

Yes, the ISRF will consider applications from those employed on fixed-term contracts, so long as the current contract covers the intended award period.

Such applicants are advised to include an explanatory note in a cover letter, which may be uploaded as an additional attachment.

Can I apply for a partial buy-out?

The intention of the ISRF Fellowships is to allow researchers dedicated time, without competing priorities, to complete a piece of research which they might otherwise be unable to pursue.

If the budget limit does not allow for a full-time, 12 month buy out, the ISRF would prefer to fund a full-time buy-out for a shorter period (i.e. 9 months at 1.0 FTE rather than 12 months at 0.75 FTE).

I am not sure that the ISRF will be interested in my proposal - what should I do?

Specific advice cannot be given to individual potential applicants.

The Academic Aims & Objectives of the ISRF, and details of previous awards, current and past fellows, and current and past projects, should offer sufficient guidance on the breadth of work the ISRF is interested in.

Broadly, the ISRF wishes to support independent-minded researchers to explore and present original research ideas which take new approaches, and suggest new solutions, to real world social problems.

The ISRF seeks to fund innovative research which breaks with existing explanatory frameworks so as to address afresh empirical problems with no currently adequate theory or investigative methodology. Innovation may also come from controversial theoretical approaches motivated by critical challenge of incumbent theories. Interdisciplinarity in the generation of new investigative initiatives may be achieved by combining, cross-fertilising, and so transforming empirical methods and theoretical insights from the social sciences. Projects ranging across the breadth of the social scientific disciplines and interdisciplinary research fields are welcome, and relevant applications from scholars working within the humanities are also encouraged.

What are the ISRF Standard Terms & Conditions?

All awards are conditional upon acceptance of our Standard Terms & Conditions – click here for a draft version.

What are the ISRF Standard Charitable Revenue and Equity-Sharing Terms?

The ISRF Standard Charitable Revenue and Equity-Sharing Terms (as referred to in the ISRF Standard Conditions of Award) are available here.

Should I include references?

Applicants may upload a list of references as an additional attachment. This will not count towards the word limit.

Should I include a short or long CV?

A short CV will be sufficient – CVs should not exceed four pages.

Am I expected to upload additional materials in support of my application?

The CV is the only required attachment. Applicants may choose to upload a Cover Letter, particularly if they do not directly meet the stated criteria. Whilst book chapters and journal articles may be submitted, this is not encouraged – there is no guarantee that these will be considered as part of your application.

Can the Letter of Support come from someone at my home institution?

Where unavoidable – if they are the only person able to comment on your status (personal academic reference) and the research proposed – this will be acceptable. However, wherever possible the Letter of Support should come from someone with whom you are not in regular working or personal contact.

Who should I name as the Institutional Approver?

This will vary for each institution – it may be a Head of School or Head of Department, or an administrative contact in the Research Office. Whomever is named will only be contacted in the event of a successful application – they may, at that stage, forward any communication on to a more relevant person.

Do I need to provide evidence of Institutional Approval?

No, by entering the details of a contact at your home institution, and subsequently submitting your application, you are deemed to have sought support for your application.

In the event that your application is successful, the ISRF will contact the named Institutional Approver to confirm that:

  • You will be granted the period and proportion of time requested in the Duration and Timing section;
  • If replacement costs are requested, you will be in receipt of your normal salary during tenure of the award and the institution will provide cover;
  • If research expenses are sought, this request has the support of the head of department/school and institution, who will confirm that these will be matched.

I have a letter confirming Institutional Approval for my application - should I include this?

Such confirmation is not required at this stage – however, you may upload such a document as an additional attachment.

How detailed should my budget be?

Your budget should be as detailed as possible. Where applicable, a breakdown of salary costs should be given, along with details of salary grade/spine point – your HR or Payroll department should be able to provide this information.

Research Expenses should be itemised. Where matched funding is required as a condition of the award (a standard ISRF requirement for Early and Mid-Career Fellowships), the budget should detail all research expenses, followed by a calculation showing that the ISRF would be funding half (50%) of these.

Are replacement salary costs covered by Fellowship awards?

For Early and Mid-Career Fellowship applications: if a replacement is employed at a lower salary level, that is the amount that should be requested. If no replacement is being employed, or if a replacement is employed at a higher salary level, the budget should cover the applicant’s salary.

The ISRF does not expect Flexible Grants for Small Groups applications to include a request for salary replacement.

Will the ISRF fund overheads/indirect costs?

The ISRF prefers not to fund overheads or indirect costs, and in many awards to date has not done so. Where these costs are unavoidable, the ISRF will consider Early and Mid-Career Fellowship applications which include them so long as they do not exceed 10% of the total funding requested. The ISRF does not expect Flexible Grants for Small Groups applications to include a request for overheads.

What are considered eligible research expenses?

Eligible research expenses will vary depending on the nature of the proposed project. They may include, but are not limited to:

  • Fieldwork, and associated travel, accommodation and subsistence.
  • Conference attendance, and associated travel, accommodation and subsistence.
  • Conference organisation costs, fees for invited speakers.
  • Interviews, and associated travel, accommodation and subsistence.
  • Transcription, translation, statistical analysis and other specialist services.
  • Dissemination costs (to be itemised).
  • Specialist equipment (where not provided by the Host Institution): not to include computers/laptops unless (in the case of the latter) necessary for fieldwork.

Can I budget for a Research Assistant?

The cost of a Research Assistant may be included where absolutely necessary – justification must be given, either in the budget or in a separate, additional attachment.

The budget for Research Expenses – including Research Assistants – will be considered by the Selection Panel in the event that your application reaches that stage of the assessment procedure. In the event that your proposal is awarded, the Selection Panel may, at their discretion, suggest revision of the Research Expenses budget.

In what format should the budget be provided?

Applicants may detail their budget in the free-format text box, or may upload a separate document, or both (summary in the former, detail in the latter).

We have no standard format for budgets.

How will I know when a competition is launched?

All ISRF initiatives are announced via our mailing list – you can subscribe here.

When is the cut-off point for ECF eligibility?

We will consider applications from those who are less than 10 years from PhD award on the day that the competition is launched.

I have submitted my PhD thesis, but my viva is after the application deadline - can I apply?

No. The Early Career Fellowship is intended for those who have already been awarded their PhD (or equivalent qualification), and are employed by a University of Institution of Higher Education or Research.

I am more than 10 years from PhD award - can I apply?

Early Career Fellowships are intended for those less than 10 years from PhD award. If you do not meet this criteria, you should consider applying for one of our Mid-Career Fellowships.

Career breaks may be taken into account – such applicants are advised to include an explanatory note in a cover letter, which may be uploaded as an additional attachment.

I have previously been awarded an ISRF Early Career Fellowship - may I apply again?

No, successful applicants may not apply again for the same award category.

I have previously applied for another category of ISRF award - may I re-apply?

Yes, unsuccessful applicants may re-apply for future competitions. Successful applicants may not re-apply for the same category of award.

Do you accept joint applications?

Yes, joint applications will be considered. There are two types of joint application that will be considered:

  1. Co-applicants: whereby one application is submitted for a single project, with a total budget of £50,000, wherein two applicants would work on the same project. In the event that the application is successful, both applicants would be awarded ISRF Fellowships. It is up to the applicants to decide how the budget will be split, and to detail this in the application – for example, a 50-50 split could see each applicant bought out for, say, six months. The total project duration should be no more than 12 months, but buy-out periods may overlap wholly or in part. The application should be submitted in the name of one of the PIs. CVs should be uploaded as one PDF file, and the project Title should begin ‘CoApp’.
  2. Co-investigators: whereby separate applications are submitted, for discrete contributions to an overall project. The budget for each application may be up to £50,000. The applications will be considered independently of each other, and neither, one or both may be awarded. Each individual project may last up to 12 months, and award periods may overlap wholly or in part. Each application should have the same Project Title, beginning ‘CoInv’.

When will I find out if my application has been successful?

We aim to inform all applicants of the competition outcome within six months of the competition launch date. In the event that the process takes longer than expected, applicants will be notified by email.

If my application is successful, how soon could my award period start?

Once successful applicants have been contacted and a proposed start date has been confirmed with the host institution, the ISRF will issue an official Award Letter incorporating the Terms & Conditions of award. This process should not be lengthy – as such, it is feasible for the award period to begin one month after award notification.

Dependent upon timely correspondence between all three parties (grantee, host institution and the ISRF).

If my application is successful, what is the latest possible start date?

Ordinarily, the ISRF expects that successful applicants will begin their project no later than 31st December of the year following notification. Specific details of the latest start date will be included in the relevant competition Further Particulars, and will be stated clearly in the competition Terms & Conditions.

How will I know when a competition is launched?

All ISRF initiatives are announced via our mailing list – you can subscribe here.

When is the cut-off point for MCF eligibility?

We will consider applications from those who are (or will be) more than 10 years from PhD award on their planned project commencement date. Please note that it is usually a condition of an ISRF award that the award period begins no later than December 31st of the calendar year following award notification (the ISRF reserves the right to vary this date for each competition).

I am less than 10 years from PhD award - can I apply?

Mid-Career Fellowships are intended for those more than 10 years from PhD award. If you do not meet this criteria, you should consider applying for one of our Early Career Fellowships.

A shorter time from PhD award may exceptionally be considered, if the candidate has other qualifications to be considered as mid-career (these might include: length of appointment to permanent post, seniority, teaching responsibilities). Such applicants are advised to include an explanatory note in a cover letter, which may be uploaded as an additional attachment.

I have previously been awarded an ISRF Mid-Career Fellowship - may I apply again?

No, successful applicants may not apply again for the same award category.

I have previously applied for another category of ISRF award - may I re-apply?

Yes, unsuccessful applicants may re-apply for future competitions. Successful applicants may not re-apply for the same category of award.

Do you accept joint applications?

Yes, joint applications will be considered. There are two types of joint application that will be considered:

  1. Co-applicants: whereby one application is submitted for a single project, with a total budget of £60,000, wherein two applicants would work on the same project. In the event that the application is successful, both applicants would be awarded ISRF Fellowships. It is up to the applicants to decide how the budget will be split, and to detail this in the application – for example, a 50-50 split could see each applicant bought out for, say, six months. The total project duration should be no more than 12 months, but buy-out periods may overlap wholly or in part. The application should be submitted in the name of one of the PIs. CVs should be uploaded as one PDF file, and the project Title should begin ‘CoApp’.
  2. Co-investigators: whereby separate applications are submitted, for discrete contributions to an overall project. The budget for each application may be up to £60,000. The applications will be considered independently of each other, and neither, one or both may be awarded. Each individual project may last up to 12 months, and award periods may overlap wholly or in part. Each application should have the same Project Title, beginning ‘CoInv’.

When will I find out if my application has been successful?

We aim to inform all applicants of the competition outcome within six months of the competition launch date. In the event that the process takes longer than expected, applicants will be notified by email.

If my application is successful, how soon could my award period start?

Once successful applicants have been contacted and a proposed start date has been confirmed with the host institution, the ISRF will issue an official Award Letter incorporating the Terms & Conditions of award. This process should not be lengthy – as such, it is feasible for the award period to begin one month after award notification.

Dependent upon timely correspondence between all three parties (grantee, host institution and the ISRF).

If my application is successful, what is the latest possible start date?

Ordinarily, the ISRF expects that successful applicants will begin their project no later than 31st December of the year following notification. Specific details of the latest start date will be included in the relevant competition Further Particulars, and will be stated clearly in the competition Terms & Conditions.

How will I know when a competition is launched?

All ISRF initiatives are announced via our mailing list – you can subscribe here.

I have previously applied for another category of ISRF award - may I re-apply?

Yes, unsuccessful applicants may re-apply for future competitions. Successful applicants may not re-apply for the same category of award.

Do you accept joint applications?

Yes, joint applications will be considered. There are two types of joint application that will be considered:

  1. Co-applicants: whereby one application is submitted for a single project, with a total budget of £60,000, wherein two applicants would work on the same project. In the event that the application is successful, both applicants would be awarded ISRF Fellowships. It is up to the applicants to decide how the budget will be split, and to detail this in the application – for example, a 50-50 split could see each applicant bought out for, say, six months. The total project duration should be no more than 12 months, but buy-out periods may overlap wholly or in part. The application should be submitted in the name of one of the PIs. CVs should be uploaded as one PDF file, and the project Title should begin ‘CoApp’.
  2. Co-investigators: whereby separate applications are submitted, for discrete contributions to an overall project. The budget for each application may be up to £60,000. The applications will be considered independently of each other, and neither, one or both may be awarded. Each individual project may last up to 12 months, and award periods may overlap wholly or in part. Each application should have the same Project Title, beginning ‘CoInv’.

I am an Independent Scholar - may I apply?

Independent Scholars may apply, and should contact Stuart Wilson for further information.

When will I find out if my application has been successful?

We aim to inform all applicants of the competition outcome within six months of the competition launch date. In the event that the process takes longer than expected, applicants will be notified by email.

If my application is successful, how soon could my award period start?

Once successful applicants have been contacted and a proposed start date has been confirmed with the host institution, the ISRF will issue an official Award Letter incorporating the Terms & Conditions of award. This process should not be lengthy – as such, it is feasible for the award period to begin one month after award notification.

Dependent upon timely correspondence between all three parties (grantee, host institution and the ISRF).

If my application is successful, what is the latest possible start date?

Ordinarily, the ISRF expects that successful applicants will begin their project no later than 31st December of the year following notification. Specific details of the latest start date will be included in the relevant competition Further Particulars, and will be stated clearly in the competition Terms & Conditions.

How will I know when a competition is launched?

All ISRF initiatives are announced via our mailing list – you can subscribe here.

How do I know if I am eligible for an Independent Scholar Fellowship?

Independent scholars will normally not hold an appointment, temporary or permanent, at an institution of higher education and research. Applications will be considered from those who hold part-time posts within academia and seek support for research carried out outside of their contracted hours. The awards are intended as providing a stipend to allow applicants full or partial relief from non-academic duties for a period of (up to) one year; applications may be made by those whose sole or principal post is a part-time equivalent. The awards are not intended to support newly qualified scholars entering the post-doctoral stage.

The ISRF does not intend for Independent Scholar Fellowships to be an alternative to permanent academic employment, and successful applicants will be able to show a track record of pursuing academic research outside of academia. Whilst some Independent Scholar Fellowship recipients may subsequently move back into an academic setting, the award is not intended for those between posts, or those who have just entered the post-doc career phase.

The ISRf cannot give specific project-related to potential applicants – however, if you have a question regarding your eligibility as an Independent Scholar, please email academic@isrf.org.

I have previously applied for another category of ISRF award - may I re-apply?

Yes, unsuccessful applicants may re-apply for future competitions. Successful applicants may not re-apply for the same category of award.

I have previously been awarded an ISRF Independent Scholar Fellowship - may I apply again?

No, successful applicants may not apply again for the same award category.

When will I find out if my application has been successful?

We aim to inform all applicants of the competition outcome within six months of the competition launch date. In the event that the process takes longer than expected, applicants will be notified by email.

If my application is successful, how soon could my award period start?

Once a host institution and mutually convenient start date has been confirmed, the ISRF will issue an official Award Letter incorporating the Terms & Conditions of award. This process should not be lengthy – as such, it is feasible for the award period to begin one month after the Award Letter has been sent.

Dependent upon timely correspondence between all three parties (grantee, host institution and the ISRF).

If my application is successful, what is the latest possible start date?

Ordinarily, the ISRF expects that successful applicants will begin their project no later than 31st December of the year following notification. Specific details of the latest start date will be included in the relevant competition Further Particulars, and will be stated clearly in the competition Terms & Conditions.

Will I pay tax on any funds I receive?

Under the advice of haysmacintyre we are advised that the payment in the amount of typically, £25,000 for independent scholar fellowships from the Independent Social Research Foundation (ISRF) can be paid gross i.e. without a deduction of tax and National Insurance Contributions via Pay As You Earn (PAYE). For the payment to qualify for this treatment the scholar/researcher should meet the following conditions:

  • The awardee cannot undertake to provide services to ISRF or the academic institution during the period of the fellowship, this includes, but is not limited to, teaching;
  • The award is intended to support the individual through their period of research, for the costs of living and other expenses incurred from their research;
  • Based on the facts upon which the award is made there is not an employment relationship in place;
  • The fellow is not carrying out a trade or professional vocation;
  • The research undertaken is independent and impartial in nature so that neither ISRF, nor the accommodating institution have control over the direction and result of the research;
  • Any final report made to the sponsor is a précis of the research undertaken, in order to demonstrate that research was undertaken.

The Fellowship is offered as a payment to allow the awardee to undertake independent research, and is intended to cover their living costs while they undertake academic research, and therefore free them from the diversions of academic teaching or other forms of income support. Where either the host institution, or ISRF profit from, or otherwise receive services in return from the awardee, payment of the award will be subject to withholding of income tax and NIC.

Prior to the award payment the awardee should declare if they have been in receipt of any previous education awards and state the basis under which the awards have been made.

How will I know when a competition is launched?

All ISRF initiatives are announced via our mailing list – you can subscribe here.

I have previously been an ISRF Fellow (Early or Mid-Career, or Independent Scholar) - may I apply?

Yes, previous ISRF Fellows may apply without prejudice for an ISRF Flexible Grants for Small Groups award.

I have previously applied for another category of ISRF award - may I re-apply?

Yes, unsuccessful applicants may re-apply for future competitions. Successful applicants may not re-apply for the same category of award.

I have previously participated in an ISRF-funded Small Group project - may I subsequently apply for an ISRF Small Group grant?

Yes, you may apply for subsequent ISRF Flexible Grants for Small Groups Competitions. Whilst it is understandable that the subject area and theme of work may be similar to the project(s) you were previously involved with, a subsequent application as Principal Applicant should be a distinct project, and should not involve substantially the same group of people.

I have previously been awarded a Small Group grant - may I apply again?

No, successful applicants may not apply again for the same award category.

I have previously been awarded a Small Group grant - may I be involved in a subsequent ISRF-funded Small Group project?

Yes, you may be involved in subsequent ISRF-funded projects – such involvement would not prejudice the selection procedure, so long as you are not the principal applicant in any such project(s).

How should I submit a joint application for a Small Group grant?

There will normally be one principal applicant but joint applications by two colleagues are acceptable. In such cases, the application should be submitted by one of the PI’s, and the other should be clearly labelled as co-PI when details of collaborators are entered in the application form. CV’s for both PI’s must be submitted.

When will I find out if my application has been successful?

We aim to inform all applicants of the competition outcome within six months of the competition launch date. In the event that the process takes longer than expected, applicants will be notified by email.

If my application is successful, how soon could my award period start?

Once successful applicants have been contacted and a proposed start date has been confirmed with the host institution, the ISRF will issue an official Award Letter incorporating the Terms & Conditions of award. This process should not be lengthy – as such, it is feasible for the award period to begin within one month of award notification.

Dependent upon timely correspondence between all three parties (grantee, host institution and the ISRF).

If my application is successful, what is the latest possible start date?

Ordinarily, the ISRF expects that successful applicants will begin their project no later than 31st December of the year following notification. Specific details of the latest start date will be included in the relevant competition Further Particulars, and will be stated clearly in the competition Terms & Conditions.

My application was successful - what happens next?

The ISRF will contact your institution, for confirmation that:

  • You will be granted the period and proportion of time requested in the Duration and Timing section;
  • If replacement costs are requested, you will be in receipt of your normal salary during tenure of the award and the institution will provide cover;
  • If research expenses are sought, this request has the support of the head of department/school and institution, who will confirm that these will be matched.

Once this has been confirmed, and a start date agreed, the ISRF will issue an Award Letter, incorporating our Standard Terms & Conditions of Award.

I was told I would hear about my application by now, but have not heard anything

All applicants – successful or otherwise – are notified of the outcome of their application once the Selection Panel has met and made formal recommendations for award.

Notifications are sent by email. Please check your spam folder if you think you might have missed our email – emails from our applications system arrive from noreply@isrf.tal.net. To reply to these emails, please use the relevant competition email address or admin@isrf.org.

In the event that the selection process takes longer than expected, applicants will be notified by email.

My application was unsuccessful - can I get feedback?

Detailed feedback may be available for those whose applications reached the longlist stage (see Assessment Procedure). External assessors are asked if they are happy for their reports to be shared, anonymously or otherwise, with applicants once awards have been made.

We ask for your understanding that, given the number of applications, it is not possible to provide detailed feedback on every application. We must also respect the wishes of those assessors who choose for their assessments to remain confidential.

My application was unsuccessful - should I consider applying again in future?

Due to the number of applications received and the generally high standard, it is inevitable that good applications will not be awarded. The ISRF encourages unsuccessful applicants to consider, where available, feedback and to re-apply with updated proposals for future competitions.