Tuesday, 14 August 2018

Funding opportunities for Archaeology ECRs in the UK

Following a discussion elsewhere on the interwebs, I thought it might be useful to create a list of postdoc funding opportunities in the UK, distinguishing between those which are open to UK, EU and international applicants. All of these fund various aspects of archaeology, though some are more geared towards science than others so you will need to make sure your topic fits the remit.

Having been a reviewer for several postdoc applications, I should emphasise that all of these are extremely competitive, and the best thing you can do to increase your chance of success is to have a plan for building your CV during your PhD, beyond the 'minimum' requirements. For all of these awards the criteria center on supporting individuals who show ability to become independent researchers, and that means you have to provide evidence that you are heading in that direction.

So what sort of evidence are reviewers looking for? This includes most obviously, making sure that you have published something from your PhD. The number and type of publications will vary depending on your specialist area, but making sure that you compare favorably to your peers is crucial. At least one output needs to be first author. Collaborative papers are great as they show teamwork etc, but you also need to demonstrate you can lead on publications.

Secondly - evidence of securing funding and/or prizes, awards etc. This does not have to be a huge grant, but anything that shows you have the ability to seek out and obtain funds for your research will give you an edge. If you have PhD funding then this counts - PhD studentships are competitive awards. External awards are great, but you can also include internal money that you got for travelling to conferences etc. Any non-monetary awards or prizes are also good, as they show that your colleagues already think highly of you.

Thirdly - anything that shows you are engaged with your research community as an independent researcher. Many reviewers may focus on 'traditional' evidence including organisation of conferences, reviewing for journals, organizing seminar series in your department etc. I also look for broader evidence such as running outreach activities, social media activity (make sure that you include evidence of engagement i.e. numbers of blog visitors etc).

Obviously, all of this is in addition to having a great research idea, and being able to convince other people that it's a great idea, achievable within the time frame of the fellowship. Discussing that would be a whole blog post in itself! Having a good mentor, not necessarily your PhD supervisor, will really help here - someone with experience of your research area and a track record of getting funding and/or supervising postdocs, will be invaluable in helping you present your ideas in a positive way.

As well as the schemes below, which are based around the applicant's own research idea, keep an eye out on jobs.ac.uk for postdoctoral positions which are part of other people's funded research projects.


Fellowships available to international applicants

Royal Society University Research Fellowship

This one used to be UK/EU only but has recently been opened to applicants of all nationalities. Subjects - any area of natural sciences, so an archaeological project would need a very strong emphasis on natural sciences. Funding for 5 (+3) years.

Newton International Fellowships

Funding for 2 years. This one is for anyone who doesn't hold UK citizenship. Covers natural and social sciences and humanities.

NERC Independent Research Fellowship

NERC is the UK Natural Environment research Council. Any nationality. Needs to be at least 50% NERC remit subject. NERC funds archaeological science, but quite heavy on the science rather than just routine scientific analyses. Funding for 5 years, including a hefty allowance for research costs (needs to be clearly justified in application).

UKRI Future Leaders Fellowships

The idea of these is to attract and retain research leaders in the UK. Funding for 4 years (+3). This is a new scheme and there are several rounds so you need to keep and eye on all the deadlines.

Marie-Sklodowska Curie Individual Fellowships

An EU based scheme, you can apply from anywhere within or outside of Europe, with the requirement being that you move from one country to another, and are hosted by an EU institution. The UK is currently still able to host fellows, though it's unclear if this will continue after Brexit. The application is quite long and the website a bit of a maze. I would highly recommend working with an experienced supervisor to help you navigate the process. The supervisor plays a central role, and will submit the application on your behalf. There is an emphasis on training and gaining new skills, so have a think about what new methodology will help you develop your research, and find a supervisor/university who is well known for that methodology. Very generous funding for 2 years (or 3 if you go from EU to outside Europe). Any subject area - check the different panels carefully as you will need to select which one you submit to.

Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Humanities and Social Sciences

Funding for up to 3 years, 2 stage application process. The Wellcome Trust fund medical and health related research, but they do fund historical and archaeological projects which have a health related component.

Fulbright Scholar Awards

I am not as familiar with this scheme, but it looks like it is open to US citizens in any subject area to come to the UK. It looks like there are a lot of aspects to it, including extracurricular and community activities, rather than just a research project.


Fellowships available to UK applicants 

AHRC Leadership Fellowship

AHRC is the UK Arts and Humanities research council. Any subject within the AHRC remit - this can also include archaeological science, but more 'routine' analyses as opposed to NERC 'cutting edge' new methods. Needs to have more of a focus on the archaeology than the science. The applicant must have been employed by the research organisation for at least 1 year before submitting an application, and need at least 2 years' postdoc experience.

British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship

Funding for 3 years. 2 stage application process. Must be within 3 years of receiving PhD, and either a UK/EU national or completed PhD in the UK. Subjects within humanities and social sciences.

Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship

50% funding for 3 years (50% match funded by the host university - most places will only support a few of these and run an internal competition so you will need to get in touch with prospective hosts early). Must have a degree from a UK institution or have held a position in the UK prior to applying. There are also requirements to have moved institutions so check details carefully. Any subject area - they seem to like 'quirky' interdisciplinary type topics that do not quite fit with other funder remits.


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