Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) is pleased to announce an open competition for the creation of an International Public Policy Observatory to support public policy decision-makers in developing effective strategies for responding to and recovering from the social, economic and public health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. ESRC intends to fund the Observatory for an initial period of two years to enable a rapid response to current urgent evidence need and to generate evidence about the effectiveness of this new model to inform further investment decisions.


The International Public Policy Observatory (IPPO) will provide research and evidence to inform public policy decision-makers in developing effective strategies for responding to and recovering from the social, economic and public health impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic. It will work through collaboration and co-production with policy actors, researchers and centres of excellence in the UK and internationally, the ESRC and other funders. IPPO will increase understanding of the range and effectiveness of interventions and public policy responses to the pandemic. To achieve this, it will:

  • collate, analyse and synthesise evidence on the range and potential effectiveness of policies being implemented, including and especially beyond the UK, providing access to and insights into this evidence in ways which respond directly to the needs of policy actors; this will require providing insights into the potential transferability to the UK context of other countries’ interventions
  • facilitate new connections and enable rapid direct access to national and international expertise for policy actors
  • over time support commissioning of new research to feed into policy decisions and future funding strategy where key gaps in evidence or quality are identified

The range of policy areas to be covered in its work will include: education; mental health and wellbeing; care homes and adult social care; housing, communities and cohesion; addressing disproportionate impacts on BAME groups; vulnerable individuals and communities; and living online. Given the dynamic and wide-ranging nature of the policy need, the Observatory will need to deploy an iterative, phased and demand-led approach to prioritising within and across these public policy areas through close collaboration with key policy stakeholders and ESRC. For all policy areas, the Observatory will need to address tackling inequalities and harnessing behavioural change, where there is evidence that can be exploited on these themes.

Funding and eligibility

The ESRC will be investing up to £2 million at 100% full economic cost (fEC) in one award through this call. The fEC value refers to the total cost of the project, and is not the actual contribution paid by the ESRC. The ESRC’s contribution for UK applicants for most cost headings is 80% of fEC. These will not include the costs for any research commissioned in association with the Observatory, which will be supported through a separate fund.

All proposals to this call must be led by a researcher at an eligible UK Research Organisation (RO); see the UKRI website for a list of eligible organisations. All proposals to this call will need to be submitted through the Research Councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. The deadline for submissions is no later than 16.00 15 September 2020. Proposals will be assessed by a panel of academic and policy experts and shortlisted applicants will be interviewed w/c 5 October 2020. The interview date will be confirmed to all applicants when the call closes. The successful applicant will be required to submit a full proposal formally through the Research Councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system in October 2020.


  • Pre-call issued – 14 July 2020
  • Call and guidance issued – 27 July 2020
  • Closing date for proposals – 15 Sept 2020
  • Shortlisting outcomes communicated – by 2 Oct 2020
  • Interviews to take place – w/c 5 Oct 2020 (date TBC by call close)
  • Decisions to applicants – w/c 12 Oct 2020
  • Start date – no later than 23 October 2020 

Call Documents

IPPO Call Specification (PDF, 172Kb)
JeS guidance (PDF, 139Kb)
IPPO Business Plan Template (Word, 46Kb)

Additional Guidance

ESRC Research Funding Guide
Equality Impact Assessment - to follow