The Economic and Social Research Council is pleased to invite proposals for methods development grants to support the social science community to work collaboratively across sectors and disciplines to address common methodological challenges. Proposals must aim to achieve at least one of the following:

  • Develop new methods
  • Apply existing methods in a novel way
  • Develop our understanding of a methodological challenge and scope the new research activity required to address it. 

The aim of the call is to support the social sciences to respond effectively to the methodological challenges arising in a changing, highly interdisciplinary research and funding environment. In particular, these grants are designed to facilitate the development of partnerships to work across organisational and disciplinary boundaries. Through this call we expect to enable the exploratory and incremental steps needed to develop a methodological challenge or idea enabling a fuller methodological innovation proposal to be prepared where needed. We welcome proposals for projects requiring seed funding to develop new partnerships, and activities may include proof of concept work; small research projects; seminar series; and strategic networks.

Grants must be a maximum of 18 months in duration and applicants can apply for up to £200,000 (100% fEC) of which ESRC will pay 80%. A total budget of £2m is available for this call (100 per cent fEC, with ESRC’s contribution £1.6m) and we expect to fund approximately 15 - 20 development grants.

We are working in partnership with Administrative Data Research UK (ADR UK) who are interested in supporting proposals that address a methodological challenge related to their core mission. This call includes a strategic steer which sits alongside the open element of the call and an additional £440k (100% fEC) is available to support grants under this strategic steer. Please note: projects funded under this strategic steer must end by 31 March 2022.

This call is part of a broader suite of ESRC-funded activities and is intended to address a specific need whilst complementing other funding opportunities available through our responsive mode and other strategic calls. It is also our intention to run a further call in late 2021/early 2022 to fund substantive methodological research projects. This later call may offer a pathway for the further development of ideas and concepts explored by projects funded under this call.

Application process

Intention to submit

*CORONAVIRUS UPDATE* (updated 06 April 2020)
To mitigate the impact of the Coronavirus on the research community, the submission deadline for full applications has now been extended to 16:00 on 11 June 2020. Please see the amended commissioning timetable below. 

Researchers interested in applying to this call are asked to complete the Intention to Submit form no later than 16:00 on 26 March 2020.

Please note that the Intention to Submit is NOT for any assessment purpose; ESRC will use the information to assist with planning and panel arrangements only. Applicants should not await a response from ESRC and are advised to continue with the development of their full proposals.

Full proposals

Full proposals must be submitted via the Joint Electronic Submission System (Je-S) by 16:00 on 11 June 2020.

Call documents

Key dates (amended 6 April 2020)

  • Call announced – 17 February 2020
  • Deadline for Intention to Submit form – 16:00 on 26 March 2020
  • Closing date for proposals – 16:00 on 11 June 2020
  • Panel assessment – September 2020
  • Decision to applicants – October 2020
  • Projects start – 1 January 2021 – 1 March 2021

Key contacts

Email: MethodsDevelopment@esrc.ukri.org