Major AHRC Funding Success for Northumbria

Northumbria University recently received notification of four successful AHRC Fellowships awarded in the last round of the competition, worth over £233,000 in total. This is a major achievement particularly given that there were only 73 awarded nationally. Here’s more on the story from the Comms team:

The fellowships form the largest ever award package for Northumbria University from the AHRC and will fund up to three years worth of research.

The fellowships have been awarded to Dr Tony Williams, Professor Michael Green, Dr Joe Hardwick and Professor Cheryl Buckley.

Prof. Michael Green, Professor in Creative Writing, has been awarded £76,428 for his practice-led research project: Ghosting Through: Ficto-Critical Translation as a Means of Resisting the Appropriations of History and Place.

The award will feed his ongoing research into creative writing methodology which will culminate in both scholarly output and the completion of his latest novel. He explained: “Ghosting Through is a combination of experimental fictional techniques, archival research, and investigations into relevant areas of cultural theory.

“In it, both author and the research process become part of the story they are trying to tell, making the novel something of a ghost story combined with the techniques of detective fiction.

“Essentially the research aims to study the ways in which the analysis of archival material is played off against ever-shifting retellings of stories. The novel will also explore the complex ways in which a specific place constructs its past through story-telling.

“The research is rooted in a case study on the haunting of a public house in a small Northumberland village, and a witch trial associated with the ghost. The project frames the haunting and the history informing it within a self-reflective account of the process of recreating historical events and contemporary constructions of place.”

Professor Cheryl Buckley has received funding worth £74,504 to resource her research into Fashioning Everyday Lives in 20th century America and Britain. Her project will look at how the 20th century citizens of London and New York drew on fashion in their everyday lives to create personal and social identities. Routinely fusing designer fashions and famous brands with mundane and existing items drawn from the wardrobe, their engagement with fashion existed over time, not just when they were young.

Prof. Buckely explained: “It is in the other city spaces – interstitial and peripheral to the city’s traditional fashion centres- that fashion in everyday lives can be observed. Part of this research is to question the generational, market -driven myth of fashion, as it considers, for example, getting married, dressing for the church or grocery shopping, going to the races or the soccer game, or heading for work. It is concerned with how fashionable clothes were retained and worn, re-made, and re-configured, as people drew items from their wardrobes and closets in a routine, everyday manner.

Funding worth £37,896 has been granted to Dr Joe Hardwick’s study into the expansion of the Anglican Church across the globe and its influence and the subsequent shaping of an ethnic or national identity of the Colonial Church.

Focusing on the period between 1790 and 1860, the study analyses the communities and individuals who supported the expansion of the settler church, the organisations who staffed and funded it, and the networks linking the colonial Church with the Church in England and also Ireland and Scotland

Dr Hardwick said: “A key aim of the project is to establish the pivotal role played by the Church in shaping imperial networks, imperial identity and diaspora, the project will demonstrate the significance of the Church for scholars working in a range of fields, including imperial, religious, migration and diaspora history.”

Dr Tony Williams’ research project entitled:  The writer walking the dog: creative writing practice and everyday has received funding worth £44,184.

The practice-led study explores how the writer’s daily chore of walking the dog contributes to writerly and social identity; shapes what is written – and how; and impedes, supports and shapes the techniques and rhythms of the working day. It is a reflective project which offers a study of the writer’s own creative practice, based on daily writing and reflection on a series of walks.

Dr Williams explains: “The aim of the project is not simply to reflect on the writer’s own daily life and writing practice, but to provide a case study and a model for how other writers can think about their work in relation to the rhythms and routines of their daily lives. In this way it opens up an undeveloped area of enquiry into creative practice. In particular, by considering walking as both a socio-cultural practice in its own right and as a contributory practice to creative endeavour, it indicates ways in which writers and artists might negotiate the competing imperatives of daily and creative life and the different ways they might be seen by themselves and others.”

Speaking about the awards, Don MacRaild, Associate Dean (Research & Innovation) School of Arts and Social Sciences said: “This concentration of Research Council funding is unprecedented for the School and is an achievement on a national scale.

“Only a small handful of Universities were awarded four or more AHRC Fellowships last year. To receive four awards from only 73 Fellowships awarded is an impressive and significant achievement, placing Northumbria’s arts and humanities research at the forefront nationally and internationally.”


Mid-Career Social Science Fellowships

Social science researchers who are ten years or more past their PhD award may be interested in a recent announcement by the Independent Social Research Foundation, which is inviting applications for its mid-career fellowships, worth up to £60,000.

These support original interdisciplinary research across the range of social sciences. The award will enable mid-career scholars to pursue their research full time, normally for one year. Projects ranging across the social scientific disciplines are welcomed, as well as relevant applications from scholars working in the humanities.

Applicants should normally hold a salaried position at a higher education institution, and be 10 years or more from the year of their PhD award.  Scholars from within Europe are eligible to apply.  Grants of up to £60,000 are available and may be used to buy out the costs of replacing all teaching and administration in the applicant’s home institution, as well as reasonable support for research expenses on a matched-funding basis.

The closing date is 4pm on 21st June.

Further details can be found at


EPSRC Updates: Research Portfolio, Fellowships, National Importance

EPSRC yesterday released an announcement with a bonanza of updates covering: Shaping Capability; Fellowships; National Importance and Peer Review; and changes to the Panel process.

Shaping Capability

You may recall that last month EPSRC released funding decisions for the second tranche of research areas in their Shaping Capability review. They have now completed reviewing all areas within their remit.

The “scores on the doors” are: 82 areas see funding maintained; 17 go up; 13 go down. Among those areas seeing an increase are: Software engineering; synthetic biology; energy efficiency and quantum optics. Among those going down are: Mobile computing; transportation; sustainable land management. The full list with detailed decisions available on the EPSRC website.

However, in reality “maintain” is actually “reduce” according to EPSRC Chief Executive David Delpy quoted in Research Professional [login required]:

Our budget is going down—with inflation…it’s 15-18 per cent over the period. If those ‘grow’ areas are ones we really want to grow in real terms, then it does mean that you have to reduce others by an even greater extent.


Priority areas for fellowships have been updated and you can find the full list with the latest updates on their website. This is split into postdoctoral, early career and established fellowships and there are different priorities for each career stage.

National Importance and Peer Review

A commitment to “research excellence” as the primary criterion by which all applications are judged at peer review stage. National importance is seen as a “major secondary criterion”. Recall that National Importance is designed to solicit a longer term view (10-50 years) of how the research proposed will contribute to UK research, societal challenges and economic success.

Panel Changes

Four recommendations to change panel meetings have recently been implemented, relating to the national importance criterion and how research proposals fit into the wider EPSRC portfolio context. Applicants will now be expected to comment within their application on how their proposed research complements other research already funded by EPSRC. They’ve made this slightly easier by including a PDF list of all funded projects in each of the 113 research areas.


FP7 People Update: Calls, Plans and Success Stories

The EC’s Framework Programme 7 People theme (sometimes called Marie Curie Actions) can be used to fund researchers from anywhere in the world to come to the UK for a period of 1-2 years to carry out a research project in any discipline, from humanities to the physical sciences. Calls for fellowships are made once per year and the deadlines are usually in early-mid August.

There has been a number of recent announcements on the People programme from both UKRO and the EC, including forthcoming calls for 2012, a heads-up on plans for the People Programme in 2013, and a call by the Research Executive Agency for Success Stories from previous Marie Curie Actions.

Calls for 2012

Calls for the three different types of Marie Curie Fellowships are expected to open in mid-March according to the EC’s Participant Portal, but if you know a potential fellow you should be making contact now and starting to prepare the application. The People Work Programme for 2012, which details all the calls and priorities within the People theme, is already out and the deadlines are expected to be 16th August 2012 for Intra-European Fellowships, Incoming International Fellowships and International Outgoing Fellowships.

Members of staff at Northumbria University should contact us if you would like to discuss any of these calls further, or if you’d like help and advice with a bid.

Plans for 2013 People Programme

UKRO has made available some early indications of plans for the People programme in 2013 for UK subscribers to their service. You will need to register for an UKRO account if you have not already done so. This is free to Northumbria University staff and is well worth the five minutes it takes to set up. Anyone interested in EU funding is advised to take a look at stories like this because they can contain vital early intelligence about upcoming priorities and themes within different FP7 research programmes.

REA Wants Marie Curie Success Stories

The Research Executive Agency (REA) has issued a call for success stories which have emerged from funded Marie Curie Actions. Newsworthy stories will be published by the REA for maximum publicity which could be good news for you as well if your story is featured. UKRO has asked anyone who thinks they have a potential success story to email them ( so that they can pass it on to the REA.


Newton International Fellowships: 2012 Round Open

Are you an early-career researcher based outside of the UK? Is your research in the natural, physical, social sciences or humanities? Do you want funding to undertake research at a UK-based institution for two years?

The 2012 round of the Newton International Fellowships opened at the end of January and the deadline for applications is 16th April 2012.

The scheme is a collaboration between the British Academy and Royal Society and has been running since 2008. Fellowships provide a grant of £24,000 per annum for subsistence, plus £8,000/annum for research expenses and a one-off £2,000 relocation allowance. In addition successful fellows may be eligible to receive follow-up funding for up to 10 years after the award to support ongoing networking and collaboration with UK researchers. The awards are not funded on a FEC basis, but they do provide a fixed contribution to overheads for the host institution amounting to 50% of the total value of the award.

The scheme aims to ensure that the very best researchers internationally have an opportunity to carry out a research project hosted by a UK institution. In the longer term, the priority is to facilitate access to international networks of excellence for UK-based researchers in the relevant disciplines.

Full details on eligibility and how to apply are available in the guidance notes. Since the last round there have been two changes to the scheme which emphasise the importance of working with researchers outside the UK: all applicants must be working and based outside the UK when applying; and applicants who completed their PhD at a UK university will normally not be eligible to return to that same university.

Northumbria University staff can contact Research & Business Services at an early stage to discuss potential candidates and for advice and support with an application.


AHRC Study Tour 2012 – Peer Review and Fellowships

This is the third part of a series on the AHRC 2012 Study Tour.

Dr Sue Carver gave a short overview and update on the AHRC’s peer review process. A bit of background first: The AHRC Peer Review College (PRC) was established in 2004 with 460 members, and now has over 1,300 across five different groupings: academic, knowledge exchange, international, strategic, and technical. Peer reviewers from these groupings are sometimes used for different elements of a single application or for applications to different calls, for example, where a bid includes a technical appendix. The AHRC has a service level agreement of sorts with each reviewer to ensure that they get no more than 8 proposals per year to review.

Membership of the PRC is valuable both for institutions (used in internal peer review processes) and individuals (esteem and improving knowledge of writing bids). There is clearly a high degree of awareness among many research-active staff: a recent AHRC call for membership of the PRC drew in over 300 applications for membership, despite the fact that the call was targeted towards particular themes and research areas.

In terms of the process for funding applications at AHRC, the PRC is a central part of the picture:

  • Application submitted via Je-S
  • Checked in AHRC for eligibility
  • 3 peer reviewers are selected from PRC, plus 1 technical reviewer where necessary
  • Reviews are completed, returned and checked for quality
  • Applications are sifted in AHRC: if not 2 fundable grades then it is rejected
  • Applicant notified and given opportunity to respond to reviews
  • Application, reviews and PI response are forwarded to panel
  • Panel meets and makes decisions on academic ranking of applications
  • AHRC funds as far as they can down this list until funding runs out

Four key points were made in the update:

  1. A new grading scale (from 1-6) came into use from 1st December 2011. This means that grading is now harmonised across all research councils;
  2. From 1st April 2012, resubmission to AHRC will be by invitation only. Again this brings AHRC into line with other research councils, such as the ESRC. This policy is also an important part of their demand management strategy;
  3. In response to a question on the place impact in peer review, we were told that this comes in as a secondary criterion during ranking of proposals. Where two proposals are equivalent in scientific excellence then the one with the higher quality Pathways to Impact statement will be ranked higher;
  4. Where the AHRC has invited applications through highlight notices, a decision will be taken internally in AHRC as to whether to fund additional highlighted projects which may be ranked lower in the scale.

Katherine Warren, AHRC’s Strategy and Development Manager, focused on the recent major changes to the Fellowships scheme.

The most significant change is that AHRC is moving away from funding Fellowships which support “completion” to supporting visionary individuals with the potential to set research agendas. Often the research supported will be at an earlier stage of development. In addition:

  • Fellowships will adhere to the “longer and larger” maxim: 6 months minimum, 18 months maximum (or 24 months maximum for the early career route);
  • There will be fewer and more prestigious awards. Katherine made the point that the AHRC will “only fund the best”. They see this as one way to increase impact from the awards they make;
  • Fellowships will be used to sustain undersupported subject areas and to bolster AHRC’s strategic priorities.

In the early career fellowships route, part of the focus will be on helping the fellow to develop their people management skills. In this regard it will be more like the ESRC’s Future Research Leaders scheme. But the HEI must also be willing to demonstrate its support of the potential candidate: there must be an existing contract in place and further commitment (such as sabbaticals, internal funding, and training for leadership) should be evidenced in the Head of Department’s supporting statement.

Katherine emphasised the importance of internal selection of candidates including linkage and alignment of a candidate’s programme of research to institutional research strategies and aims. The steer was very much to get institutions thinking: “who are our top few people?”. However, the AHRC have stopped short of putting limits on numbers of applications though, much like the ESRC’s position on Future Research Leaders, they have indicated that they will keep this policy under review.


FP7 People: Fellowships Results Published!

UKRO reports that the preliminary results for the Framework Programme 7 People Programme Individual Fellowships have been published by the Commission. The full lists for all three types of fellowships (incoming, outgoing and intra-european) are available on the FP7 Participant Portal, under Additional documents for each call:

FP7 People: 2011 Individual Fellowships Preliminary Results

The preliminary results assign one of five categories to each submitted project. Category A proposals are on the main funding list and prospective fellows will already have been contacted by the Commission to begin negotiations. Category B proposals are on the reserve list and applicants need to wait until the first round of negotiations with category A projects has concluded to know whether there is sufficient budget for them to go ahead. This can happen for example when a category A applicant withdraws. Categories C, D and E have been rejected for various reasons, either because of funding constraints or where the proposal was below the quality threshold or not evaluated. You’ll need to know the proposal acronym or proposal number in order to check where your project appears on the list.

Individual fellowships from the People Programme – also called Marie Curie Actions – enable researchers based in Europe to spend 1 – 2 years carrying out a research project in another EU member state (intra-european fellowships), or outside of Europe (outgoing fellowships). The international incoming fellowships fund researchers based outside of Europe to come into a European research institution. The fellowships are attractive both because they offer a relatively high reimbursement for fellows and because they are “bottom up” in the sense that the applicant and host institution jointly decide the topic and plan the research programme.

Northumbria University staff should contact Teresa Kirby, European Strategy Manager to find out more about Individual Fellowships and for assistance with any proposals.