Postdoctoral Research Funding Opportunities: any parallel projects?


Antiquities, fossils, wildlife, culture, and heritage crime post PhD?

Tis the season for funding adverts and a few postdoctoral schemes hit my inbox today. Any readers nearing the end of their PhD or in their early career post-PhD stage, take note, one of these could be for you. As a recipient of an early career postdoctoral fellowship, I can attest that it is an excellent way to launch an academic career. They are competitive as all get out, yes, but a good project, hosted by the right institution and placed within the right team context has a good chance for funding. Indeed, if your research aligns with my current and upcoming research, we might be able to work together on this.

First, for those of you not in the UK, it is worth explaining how these fellowships sit within the grand scheme of things. Here in the UK there are (sorta) four standard academic post-PhD pathways:

  1. Postdoc/Research Assistant: you are hired in to work on someone else’s research project. You might have some autonomy, but you are being paid by someone else’s grant, often to do a set work package on that grant. These are fixed term positions.
  2. Postdoctoral Fellowship: you apply for and get your own research funding to do a set project for a set number of years. This project may be in conjunction with other researchers, but ultimately you got the money and you do your work. This project is all you. Often there is very little if any teaching involved. Considerably more prestigious than Research Assistant, thought of as stepping stone to being a high flyer. These tend to be Early Career so you need to be within X years of getting your PhD (usually 3 to 7 but each scheme is different).
  3. Lectureship (Temporary): A fixed term teaching or research and teaching position, perhaps a maternity cover or a research buy out. Often thought of as a job for a recent PhD as a way to get into the game, there’s very little job security here, though longer temporary positions often morph into permanent ones.
  4. Lectureship (Permanent): Rare to get straight out of PhD, though it isn’t impossible, these are your ‘real jobs’ so to speak, protected positions that are kinda as close to the UK gets to tenure. They might be research+teaching, just teaching, or even just research depending. This is the job people tend to end up with after a Postdoctoral Fellowship if the fellowship went well.

So we’re talking about number 2 today: applying for your own research funding to do your own project for a number of years in your early career period while hosted by a University. Often these fellowships require a faculty mentor or host and often it is very important that the proposed project aligns with the hosts interests and research so that the early career researcher can argue that they’re getting a leg up and in to the field. Thus it is strategically smart to pair up with someone in your field that already has research funding and propose a project that is different but builds. That way you can create a narrative of added value for both the postdoctoral project and the host’s project, and argue for mutually assured success. I point this out because I’ve got a big project launching in 2020 and if you have a parallel project idea, we might just match.

Now for the Fellowships from today. Do keep in mind there are quite a few other schemes like these and you should be all over all of them if you’ve got a competitive profile and idea.

Newton International Fellowships

For non-UK citizen early career researchers who don’t live in the UK to come to a UK institution for a 2 year project. Your project must be clearly defined and “mutually-beneficial” to the host researcher (which could possibly be me, depending). What does it pay? “Funding consists of £24,000 per annum for subsistence costs, and up to £8,000 per annum research expenses, as well as a one-off payment of up to £2,000 for relocation expenses.” So not a fortune, but liveable. Applications due 27 March. NOTE: there may be earlier internal deadlines at your host institution.

UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowships

For top early career researchers, particularly those who want to use the project to transition from being an ECR to an established researcher. This one is big money, big prestige. Initial funding is for 4 years, with a potential extension to 3 more years. I believe the pay is on the high lecturer pay scale. Full applications due on 30 May, but there is a series of earlier deadlines, both at UKRI and within the Uni you’d be applying through so get those on your calendar now.

Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship

This is the postdoctoral fellowship I was awarded back in 2012. They like interesting and innovative thinking. The proposal is one of the shortest out there, which is good or bad depending on how you think. They fund 3 years at lecturer pay, plus an additional several thousand pounds a year for research expenses. Everyone I know who has had a Leverhulme ended up with a permanent position and much success after it. You need a host/mentor person to apply. Application deadline is 28 February but there will be an internal deadline at the institution you are applying to so you need to find that out.