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Enhancing Research Culture: Open Call 2023-24

The Research England Enhancing Research Culture Fund 2023-24 is open for applications from 19 May 2023.

We are seeking proposals for projects that address research culture challenges or enhance existing practice. Projects can be undertaken by researchers, academic, technical, or professional services colleagues, or teams comprised of diverse profiles. By investing in innovative solutions to shared challenges, we will inspire genuine, lasting organisational change. 

Proposals are invited for projects in the region of £10k - £50k (including directly incurred costs). Funds must be spent and goods receipted by 31 July 2024. This call has a total budget of £312k. 

The deadline for applications is Friday 30 June 2023 at 17:00. The application form can be found at the bottom of this web page.

Previous projects

For inspiration and to learn more about current Enhancing Research Culture projects, you may like to read about the 13 successful projects from the 2022-23 Open Call, and the related For Staff piece. The projects were selected in January 2023 and will conclude in July 2023.

Aims of the scheme 

Proposals are welcomed for projects that promote a more supportive, inclusive, and collaborative research environment. Projects should boost both: 

  • the institutional and local research culture and  
  • colleagues’ own career development and profile 

Projects may involve (but not be restricted to) preliminary/preparatory work or collaborative activity, data collection and analysis, and engagement and dissemination activity.

Engagement with research culture activities can take many forms and involve many internal and external different collaborators. We welcome applications from all those involved in contributing to a better research culture.

Projects may span one or more of our four strategic objectives: 

  1. Valuing diverse forms of research activity.
  2. Embedding EDI principles in research practices
  3. Enabling open research practices
  4. Mutually supporting and developing research teams

Our statement on Research Culture provides our definition, aspirations, and commitments to achieving positive change at the University of Leeds. Information can also be found via the research culture webpages, and in the review of the 2022 Research Culture Awards and its accompanying video. 

There is no explicit restriction on the size of projects, but all outcomes must be delivered by 31 July 2024, and the project scale should reflect this. 


The Enhancing Research Culture (ERC) fund is open to individuals, research groups, institutes, Schools, Services, and Faculties at the University of Leeds. As long as you are on a paid contract with the University and your contract runs until the end of the spending period (31 July 2024) then you are eligible to apply. 

We are keen to support a range of projects from people in a wide variety of roles, however we strongly encourage applications from the following:   

  • Early Career Researchers (self-defined) 
  • Colleagues representing diversity in all forms 
  • Teams with a broad range of experience and skills (e.g. academic, research, professional service and technical) 

We would also like to encourage more applications from Faculties that weren’t as well represented in our previous call, including the Faculty of Biological Sciences and the Faculty of Social Sciences.

Although PhD students are not eligible to apply to be project leads, they can certainly apply as part of a team project and can apply as part of a joint application. 

If you are a previous recipient of Enhancing Research Culture funding, you may apply to for the current round of funding to continue a previous project.

Eligible costs

To understand how spending will work, please review our Online Resource for Awardees of Internal Funding. 

All ERC awards can only cover direct costs associated with the award (i.e. do not cover Full Economic Costs), which may include the following:  

  • Principal- and Co-Investigator time may be costed to recognise the contribution of staff  currently employed by the University of Leeds, up to a maximum of 0.1 FTE as workload relief payable to their School or Service.  
  • Salaries are also eligible for the remuneration of staff on a fixed-term basis for the duration of the project to meet the skills requirement of the role, providing recruitment can be achieved in an appropriate timescale for the implementation of the project. Please consider the Fairer Futures for All commitment when considering staffing.  All staffing costs should be justified in your application and separated from other costs in your finance table. 
  • The time of other collaborators is also an eligible cost (up to 0.1 FTE). If teams plan to work with external providers, they should be costed as consultants via direct costs only. There may be some exceptions, so please get in touch with us if you are unsure. Please note, when working with external collaborators you must follow due diligence requirements detailed in the University's guidance on Trusted Research.
  • Reasonable travel, accommodation and subsistence costs - in accordance with the University expenses policy.   
  • Equipment - consumables directly related to the project. 
  • Other – such as registration costs at events, production of professional materials, room bookings, catering etc.  

The following costs are not eligible 

  • Estates and indirect costs  
  • Building and refurbishment costs  
  • Patent filing or similar costs associated directly to registering intellectual property rights  
  • Infrastructure and Capital Expenditure, i.e. no single items of equipment above the £10k threshold are permitted.  
  • PhD student time is not applicable (unless students are bought out of their PhD projects). 

 If you have a query on eligible costs, we advise you to check with your faculty finance office before submitting your application. 

NB. All projects must be complete by 31July 2024, and due to strict spending rules from the funder. All associated costs must be ‘goods receipted’ by this date.  

Applicants should provide costings with their proposal (in consultation with Faculty Finance offices) and justification for the budget provided on the application form.  

Assessment criteria and review process

Applicants should describe the work they plan to undertake, show how this aligns with one or more of the four RC Strategic objectives, and define the budget required for specific activities and components of the work plan.    

How will proposals be reviewed? 

For this call, we have adopted a partially randomised approach to funding allocation. This means that we will use a lottery system to make funding decisions for proposals considered equal on core quality criteria. 

Successful applications will need to pass an initial quality threshold determined via a traditional but light-touch peer review process. The threshold and criteria below are designed to eliminate proposals which are out of scope, unclear, unfeasible, without impact, and/or poor value for money. Peer reviewers (from a panel of research culture governance group members) will confirm that applications are fundable when assessed on six binary criteria: 

  1. Does the proposal persuasively articulate the research culture problem or challenge that it aims to address? (required) 
  2. Are its aims clear and achievable within the given timescale? (required) 
  3. Is the methodology appropriate? 
  4. Are the likely impacts of the project identified, and are the outcomes measurable? 
  5. Are the roles and responsibilities of all team members and any partners clearly defined? 
  6. Are the costs requested appropriate? 

NB: projects that were funded as pilot projects in the previous open call (Dec 2022) will be funded providing they meet the initial quality criteria. They will not be randomised.

Reviewer teams will comprise two reviewers plus a moderator from the research culture team to adjudicate disagreements. Applications that receive a yes from each reviewer team on all six criteria will pass the quality threshold and will then be entered into the random allocation process. Those that come at the top of the randomised list down to the total funding limit will be recommended for funding. If there are remaining funds after this first stage of randomised allocation, proposals that received one ‘no’ response from the reviewer team on criteria 3-6 will be randomised and those at the top of the list will be offered funding. This process will be repeated for proposals that received two ‘no’ responses. Proposals receiving a ‘no’ on more than two criteria, or on criteria 1 and 2 at any stage are deemed to fail the quality threshold. 

The research culture team will then manually review the gender, race, disability, and career stage diversity among project teams to verify that the randomised allocation process has not generated any preferential biases. 

We will then transparently present the outcome of the process to the whole reviewer panel. Their reflections on the process will be collated as part of a case study evaluating the impacts of this approach compared to the traditional peer review process used in our previous call. 

Applicants will then be notified of the reviewing outcomes. Unsuccessful applicants will receive feedback indicating whether their proposals were randomly eliminated or if they had specific weaknesses in their proposal. 

Why are we using partial randomised allocation? 

In line with similar trials considering innovative approaches to peer review (e.g. by the British Academy and by NERC), we are keen to investigate the anticipated benefits of partial randomised allocation for research culture at the University, for example: 

  1. Reduction of bias. Among the strongest applications that are deemed equally fundable, randomisation should radically reduce conscious or unconscious bias against people, thus addressing inequities that may be experienced by e.g. early-career researchers or those from under-represented groups. Randomisation should also reduce bias against particular research ideas, e.g. towards safer options at the expense of more radical proposals. 
  2. Efficiency. Partial randomisation will ease the burden on reviewers as they need only to provide a simple but rigorous threshold judgment. 
  3. Feedback. Partial randomisation will allow us to provide brief feedback to applicants who do not pass the quality threshold, and to those who have passed the threshold but lost out during the randomisation process. 

Based on last year’s open call, the high volume, high quality, small-scale applications for exploratory studies typical of this scheme, coupled with the relatively small and busy panel, we believe a partially randomised approach is well-suited to this call. 

Further reading on randomised funding allocation 

Gladstone, J., Schipper, L., Hara-Msulira, T., Casci, T. (2023). Equity and Inclusivity in Research Funding: Barriers and Delivering Change.  

Golberg, A. (2022) The (partial) rise of (partial) randomisation, Research Professional News. Available at: (Accessed: 16 May 2023) 

Liu, M., Choy, V., Clarke, P. et al. (2020) The acceptability of using a lottery to allocate research funding: a survey of applicants. Res Integr Peer Rev5, 3.  

Shah, H. (2022) Our @BritishAcademy_ Small Grants Scheme has opened. we are doing a 3 year trial of partial randomised assessment, because we receive so many good applications. awards will be allocated randomly between those applications that meet our quality threshold, Twitter. Available at: (Accessed: 16 May 2023) 

The case for lotteries as a tiebreaker of quality in research funding (2022) Nature News. Available at: (Accessed: 16 May 2023) 

Application form (Word)

Applications have now closed. Please select this link to find out about the funded projects.