The Economic and Social Research Council is piloting a new scheme to distribute funding quickly when unforeseen research opportunities arise, such as the 2011 riots.
“Urgency grants” worth up to £200,000 will be available where there is a “strong case for immediate research” into rare, unfolding events because the relevant data can only be collected there and then.
Examples cited by the ESRC include natural disasters, the riots that broke out across the UK in 2011, or the discovery of the last surviving speaker of a language with “rare socio-linguistic characteristics”.
The grants will run for up to two years and fund access to data or facilities, allowing researchers to carry out data collection and essential initial analysis. However, neither studentships nor equipment will be funded.
Project outlines must be submitted within four weeks of the beginning of the event in question. If they are approved, full proposals must be submitted within a further four weeks and research must begin within one month of grant acceptance.
Applicants will be required to set out “a clear strategy for taking the work forward once the urgent phase is completed”.
The ESRC does not have a set budget for the scheme and expects to fund only one to three projects each year.
“The expectation is that this will not initiate a large response as…the urgency of the research will be as a response to [a] rare or unforeseen event that gives rise to a unique opportunity to undertake valuable social science research,” the ESRC’s explanatory information says.
“Topical issues and events would not usually be expected to require urgent research except, for example, on occasions that the data could only be collected there and then.”
A spokeswoman for the ESRC said it would report to Research Councils UK on the success of the scheme in about a year.
A decision on whether to continue the scheme will be taken at around the same time.