Public Engagement Fellowships


The call for applications to the 2016 STFC Public Engagement Fellowships round has now closed. Interviews will take place in London on Thursday 23rd June.

STFC currently supports a number of Public Engagement Fellows carrying out a range of activities.

We Want To

  • Support the very best people in STFC’s community to undertake extended programmes of the highest-quality, innovative public engagement as a core part of their job role.
  • Create a network of highly-skilled practitioners of public engagement with STFC science who inspire and involve colleagues, students, and the public, in their activities.
  • Highlight the achievements of STFC science and technology, demonstrating the excitement of research and the value of STEM to the UK.

Our Expectations of Our Fellows

  • Delivering a prolonged, thematic programme of public engagement, covering multiple different events and activities during the lifetime of the fellowship.
  • Raising the profile of public engagement within their host institution and professional community, including sharing best practice and developing new talent.
  • Championing STFC science and technology, including the impact of science and technology on society.
  • Regularly interacting with STFC’s public engagement and communication teams, including participation in STFC networks, events, and advisory structures when requested.

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STFC Fellowships in Public Engagement – Overview


1.1 Applicant Eligibility

STFC Fellowships in Public Engagement are open to any applicant who can demonstrate a strong track record of research in an STFC-funded area of science and technology, or can demonstrate a strong track record of research that has been underpinned by use of STFC’s national laboratories and facilities.

Applicants must have a demonstrable record of success in planning, delivering, and evaluating public engagement activities to a wide range of audiences.

Public Engagement fellowships may be held at any eligible UK research organisation as set out in the STFC Research Grants Handbook.

At the time of application, applicants must have a contract of employment at the UK research organisation that wholly covers the duration of the Fellowship. Fellows must be in the employment of their host research organisation when the Fellowship commences.

Anyone who wishes to apply for a Fellowship but is not employed by an approved research organisation should approach an appropriate research organisation to explore arrangements for that research organisation being willing to host the fellowship. In this case, the hosting research organisation will need to confirm as part of their host institution statement that they are in a position to accept the Fellowship when it commences.

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1.2 Host Institution

Applicants are advised to contact their proposed host department as early as possible, and certainly well ahead of the deadline for submission of applications. Departments may have internal processes to select which candidates to support and the deadlines for these may be several weeks in advance of an STFC closing date.

Research Organisations – via a Head of Department or equivalent – must provide a host institution statement to accompany any application. This statement must outline how the department will recognise and support the Fellow and the aims of their Fellowship, should they be successful in their application.

Research organisations should:

  • provide Public Engagement Fellows with the appropriate level of assistance and support required to make the fellowship a success;
  • recognise and value Public Engagement Fellows as outstanding science communicators who have won personal, competitive awards and play an important role in encouraging engagement with UK science and technology;
  • consider Public Engagement Fellows as an important part of their research capability, and ensure that their work is integrated into the host department as part of the research organisation’s activities.

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1.3 Scheme Remit

Engagement programmes must broadly focus around the remit of the STFC core science programme (astronomy, solar and planetary science, particle physics, particle astrophysics, cosmology, nuclear physics and accelerator science) or the work of STFC’s national and international laboratories and facilities.

Applications that highlight the social, ethical, and economic benefits of research are welcomed.

Applicants are encouraged to propose novel or innovative approaches towards engagement as part of their Fellowship, as long as these are demonstrably well-planned.

We encourage applications that propose engagement with audiences considered to have low ‘science capital’. Applicants may choose which audiences to engage with, and the methods of engagement. These must be outlined in the Case for Support.

STFC Fellowships in Public Engagement are not intended to fund single, ‘one-off’, activities. For such engagement activities, applicants should consider alternative funding sources, including STFC Small or Large Awards. Fellowships will not be awarded for the sole purpose of authorship and publication of books and novels, though proposals in which the production of a book is an output of a longer programme will be considered.

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1.4 Scheme Value & Costings

The maximum value that may be sought is £125K. As the scheme comes under the Full Economic Costs (FEC) framework the maximum payable by STFC would be £100K.


1.4.1 Fund Headings

The Public Engagement Fellowships scheme falls under the Full Economic Costs (FEC) framework. Therefore, all costs that contribute to the FEC of the proposal should be included under the cost headings as shown in the ‘Applying for a grant’ section of the STFC Research Grants Handbook. Please note that, as the scheme has no capital budget, applicants cannot request funds under the Equipment heading.

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1.5 Fellowship Duration and Award Start Dates

The time commitment and duration of Public Engagement Fellowships are flexible; a typical Fellowship would be for 20% of a Fellow’s time for a period of up to 36 months. Public Engagement Fellowships can start at any point within a year, beginning the July.

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1.6 Scheme Flexibility

STFC intends this scheme to be flexible and reserves the right to deal, as it thinks fit, with application of unusual character and to waive any rule at its absolute discretion. This would, for example, allow for an early career post-doctoral researcher with an outstanding record of research and public engagement activities to apply to the scheme. Such applications must be discussed with STFC well in advance of an application being made.

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1.7 Scheme Conditions & Features

STFC Public Engagement Fellowships are governed by the grant conditions as set out in the Research Grants Handbook, unless otherwise stated. Applications are accepted and awards are made on the understanding that research organisations and Fellows agree to observe the terms and conditions and the scheme requirements set out in this document and any amendments issued.

Awards are made on the understanding that the Fellow’s work and progress are subject to the same monitoring and appraisal procedures as those of other academic staff within the host institution.


1.7.1 Part Time Working

Public Engagement fellowships are usually awarded at 20% of FTE. Fellows may arrange their engagement activities in order to combine their fellowship with caring responsibilities.


1.7.2 Extensions

After a Public Engagement Fellowship grant has started, the duration may be extended to cover maternity leave, paternity leave, adoption leave, parental leave, extended jury service or paid sick leave for a Public Engagement Fellow, in line with the terms and conditions of the Fellow’s employment. Otherwise, the conditions for extending Public Engagement Fellowship grants are the same as apply to research grants. Any request for an extension should be made via the Grant Maintenance facility in the Joint Electronic Submission system (Je-S), once the required duration is known. All requests for extensions must be made before the grant ends.


1.7.3 Maternity, Paternity, Adoption and Parental Leave

Public Engagement Fellows are entitled to take maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave in accordance with the terms and conditions of their employment. If requested, consideration will be given to allowing a Fellowship grant to be placed in abeyance during the absence of the Public Engagement Fellowship for maternity, paternity, adoption or parental leave, and the period of the Fellowship extended by the period of leave. Consideration will be given to requests to continue the Fellowship on a flexible basis to allow the Public Engagement Fellow to meet caring responsibilities.


1.7.4 Sick Leave

Public Engagement Fellows are entitled to take sick leave in accordance with the research organisation’s terms and conditions. If requested, consideration will be given to allowing a Public Engagement Fellowship grant to be placed in abeyance during the absence of the Fellow due to sick leave, and the period of the Fellowship extended by the period of sick leave. The additional salary costs for the Fellow (pro rata to their percentage FTE on the Fellowship) should be claimed, as necessary, at the end of the extended period.


1.7.5 Break in Service

Public Engagement Fellows will be allowed a break in service not more than twice during the period of the award, for periods amounting together to not more than two years, to enable time to be spent on another related activity not supported by STFC.

Breaks in service will not normally be permitted during the first or final years of the Public Engagement Fellowship, unless this is on maternity or sick leave, and must be endorsed by your Head of Department. Where STFC agrees to a break in service, the duration of the Public Engagement Fellowship will not be extended and payments to the institution will cease for the period of the break.


1.7.6 Movement between Institutions

Applicants must take up the award at the host institution identified in the application. STFC will not allow a Public Engagement Fellow to change their host institution prior to taking up an award. Consideration will be given to requests during the course of an award to relocate the Fellowship, together with any other grant(s) held by the Fellow, to a different institution for scientific or domestic reasons. The agreement of the institutions concerned will be required before seeking approval from STFC. Movement between institutions will not normally be allowed during the first year of a Public Engagement Fellowship.


1.7.7 Reporting & Liaison with STFC

Public Engagement Fellows will be required to provide reports of activities to the STFC Public Engagement Team when requested. STFC reserves the right to request periodic information or to visit the Public Engagement Fellow.

The Fellow may also be asked to attend meetings to exchange information and ideas with others undertaking STFC Public Engagement activities. The Public Engagement Fellow must make all reasonable efforts, if so invited, to respond to requests for information or to attend events or activities organised by the Research Council concerning the research undertaken. Such events may be held after a grant has finished.

Public Engagement Fellows will be expected to attend an annual meeting of all STFC Public Engagement Fellows.

Public Engagement Fellows are expected to regularly update the record of their Fellowship using the Research Council reporting tool, ResearchFish. This enables STFC to easily extract data regarding the impact of the work of our Fellows whenever required, and serves as a database of outcomes and impacts for a Fellow’s own reference.


1.7.8 Publication, Resources & Acknowledgement of Support

Publications and other forms of media communication, including media appearances, press releases and conferences, must acknowledge the support received from STFC, quoting the grant reference number if appropriate.

Resources produced as a result of any grants should acknowledge STFC as the funding source using the standard format agreed by funders and publishers and detailed in the additional information accompanying this grant.

In order to ensure appropriate coordination and opportunities to increase the impact of engagement, external media activity produced as a result of this award must be signed off by the STFC Media team before the activity takes place, or is published. This includes press releases, online videos and media briefings. Award holders are responsible for giving STFC sufficient notice in advance of activities such that STFC can advise on content, and/or build the activities of grant holders into our own communications and engagement programmes.

It is the responsibility of the research organisation, and all engaged in the research, to make every reasonable effort to ensure that the intellectual assets obtained in the course of the research, whether protected by intellectual property rights or not, are used to the benefit of society and the economy. Outcomes and resources should be disseminated and/or made available to both research and more widespread audiences - for example to inform potential users and beneficiaries of the research.

Unless stated otherwise, the ownership of all intellectual assets, including intellectual property, and responsibility for their application, rests with the organisation that generates them.

STFC may, in individual cases, reserve the right to retain ownership of intellectual assets, including intellectual property (or assign it to a third party under an exploitation agreement) and to arrange for it to be exploited for the national benefit and that of the research organisation involved. This right, if exercised, will be clearly set out in an additional grant condition.

There should be suitable recognition and reward to researchers who undertake activities that deliver benefit through the application of research outcomes. The research organisation must ensure that all those associated with the research are aware of, and accept these arrangements.


1.7.9 Organisational Support

Funding is provided in order to enable to undertake specific public engagement activities, free of some or all of the restrictions imposed by their normal employment. Awards are made on the understanding that the Fellow's work and progress are subject to the same monitoring and appraisal procedures as those of other academic staff within the host research organisation. Furthermore, awards are made on the presumption that there are adequate facilities at the host organisation to support the proposed programme of work.


1.7.10 Liability

It is a condition of every grant that STFC accepts no liability for the manner in which the work in connection with the grant is undertaken, and the research organisation and Fellow will be responsible in all respects for the work and the consequences of it.


1.7.11 Termination of Awards

A grant may be terminated, or its conditions varied, at any time at the absolute discretion of STFC. Should the Fellow leave their institution for another research organisation or an alternative type of employment, they must notify the Public Engagement Team immediately. If it is not possible to transfer the grant then STFC will terminate payments from the day immediately after the Fellow leaves the host institution. Failure to submit reports will result in termination of the award unless there are mitigating reasons.

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How to Apply


2.1 Submitting an Application

Applications for Public Engagement Fellowships are submitted via the Research Councils’ Joint Electronic Submission (Je-S) system. If you have not previously used the Je-S system to submit an application, please ensure that, well in advance of the closing date, that you have set up an account. Guidance for completion of the application is provided through the Je-S help text, available from the Je-S front page, and context-sensitive help throughout the system.

Applicants are advised to contact their host organisation’s Research Administration as soon as possible; they will be able to advise about costing your proposal and internal procedures relating to submitting an application through Je-S. Your Public Engagement Fellowship application must be costed and submitted by the host organisation.

The page limits outlined below will be strictly enforced by STFC. If any of the supporting documents exceed the specified limits, only the pages within the limits will be considered. The documents must be submitted as .pdf attachments in 11 point Arial font and have a minimum 2 cm margin.

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2.2 Documents Required

Together with your completed Je-S application form, you will need to provide the following mandatory attachments, in .pdf format:

  • Curriculum Vitae – maximum of two sides of A4 (a comprehensive list of publications is not required). The CV should be tailored specifically to this application and include:
    • Details and highlights of the applicant’s public engagement track record
    • Details and highlights of the applicant’s research track record
    • Examples of audiences reached through previous public engagement activities
    • Evidence of collaborative working in public engagement activities
    • Details of the range of public engagement activities delivered
    • Details of any STFC public engagement awards held (currently or previously) and any similar public engagement awards
  • Case for Support – maximum of six sides of A4. The Case for Support must include the following:
    • A short overview of the applicant’s track record in both their field of research, and in public engagement with science and technology. This track record should demonstrate their suitability for a Public Engagement Fellowship;
    • A rationale for the Fellowship, showing the overall aims, anticipated outcomes and how activities will contribute to meeting the stated aims of the STFC Public Engagement Strategy;
    • An indication of the different activities the applicant intends to undertake during the Fellowship. Where reasonably possible, applicants should provide details of their plans to deliver these activities, including potential risks and mitigation strategies;
    • An evaluation plan showing details of how the outputs, outcomes, and impacts of the activities – and Fellowship as a whole – will be captured and evaluated.
    • A dissemination plan detailing how resources, learning outcomes, outputs, etc. would be made available
  • A host institution statement for the proposal from the applicant’s Head of Department
  • Statements of support from any project partners (see section 2.3)
  • Names of two reviewers, independent of the applicant’s organisation – one or both of whom will be asked for reviewer comments if the applicant is called for interview
  • Justification of Resources – a maximum of two sides of A4. This document justifies the requested funds applied for in an application. A Justification of Resources:
    • should allow reviewers to make an informed judgement on whether the resources requested are appropriate for the proposed programme;
    • should explain why the resources requested are appropriate for the programme proposed taking into account the nature and complexity of the proposal. It should not be simply a list of the resources required as this is already given in the Je-S form. All items requested in the Je-S form must be justified;

    Any proposals requesting items that would ordinarily be found in a department, for example non-specialist computers, should include justification both for why they are required for the project and why they cannot be provided from the research organisation’s own resources (including funding from indirect costs from grants).

    The Justification of Resources is a free-text document. So that you don’t miss any costings from the Je-S form or any justifications for the items requested, we recommend that you match the costs to the proposal headings below (where appropriate). Further details of how costs should be justified can be found in the ‘Supporting Information’ section of the STFC Research Grants Handbook.

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2.3 Project Partners and Statements of Support

STFC public engagement awards are often partnerships between the grant holders (who apply for and receive financial support from STFC) and ‘project partners’. Such partnerships are not a requirement of STFC support, but will strengthen a case for funding when they are deemed well planned and important for delivery of an impactful programme.

Before an application is made, STFC requires that applicants create proposals that commit the involvement of all parties required to make the proposed programme a success. If an organisation wishes to receive funds from STFC, it must be a listed applicant on the grant. If an organisation will not receive funds from STFC but will have an integral role in the proposed programme, that organisation is a project partner. We encourage applicants to create these partnerships in advance of submitting an application for funding, and to include details of the partnership in the application. Well-constructed partnerships strengthen proposals by providing complementary skills and knowledge, additional staff time, and additional cash or ‘in-kind’ support.

As part of the application process, project partners are invited to provide a ‘statement of support’ alongside the main body of the application. This statement is read alongside the proposal’s Case for Support, and is considered as part of the peer review process. A well-written statement of support will confirm the organisation’s commitment to the proposed project by articulating the benefits of the collaboration, its relevance to the partner and the potential impacts of the programme in the eyes of the partner. The statement of support should also identify the period of support, and detail the range of ‘in-kind’ and financial contributions offered by the partner.

Statements of support can be up to two sides of A4 in length, and must be submitted on headed paper. A statement must be dated clearly, within six months of the submission date of the application. To provide assurance that the project partner has authorised the proposed contribution or commitment, the statement should be signed by a named contact, stating the capacity in which they are providing the sign-off. Statements of support are submitted electronically alongside the grant application, via the Je-S system.

Statements of support must show meaningful contribution to the proposed public engagement programme – statements featuring supportive language but offering no contributions to the project are of little-to-no value, and should not be included.

Should an applicant state in their proposal that the involvement of a party or organisation is important to increase the chances of success of their proposed programme, these organisations must be included as either applicants or project partners. Applications received without these collaborations in place by the point of submission will not be supported.


2.3.1 STFC National Laboratories and Employees as Project Partners

Rutherford Appleton Laboratory Daresbury Laboratory UK Astronomy Technology Centre
Sophy Palmer
Public Engagement Manager
Phill Day
Public Engagement Manager
Olivia Johnson
Public Engagement Manager
01235 445 950 01925 603 231 0131 668 8263

STFC reserves the right to choose not to participate in proposals at our own discretion. Please note that applications involving STFC as a project partner are treated no differently to other applications in the peer review and funding decision process.

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2.4 Assessment Process Overview

Public Engagement Fellowship applications are submitted via Je-S.


2.4.1 Stage One – Application Sift Panel

All applications are initially discussed by an independent panel of peer reviewers. The peer review panel will have a range of expertise in outreach, engagement, education and communication of science and technology. The panel will also have knowledge of STFC facilities and grant funded research.

The panel selects a number of applicants to go forward to the interview stage of the scheme. The panel uses the stage one assessment criteria as the basis for selection for interview:

  • Does the applicant have a suitable track record of research?
  • Has the applicant demonstrated a track record in outreach and/or communication work?
  • Does the applicant have the necessary expertise to carry out the proposed programme of work effectively?
  • Does the proposed programme match the aims of the STFC Public Engagement programme?
  • Is there a need for the proposed programme?
  • Is the proposed programme of work likely to achieve the declared objectives?
  • Will the proposed programme make a significant impact in terms of the numbers reached and the effect made on the audience?
  • Is there a plan for publicising the outreach activities and marketing any resources/activities produced?
  • Is there an effective and suitable plan for evaluating any proposed activities?

Applicants short-listed on the basis of their written application will be provided with feedback on any aspect of the application that the panel would like to explore further at the interview. Feedback will also be provided to applicants who were unsuccessful via Je-S.


2.4.2 Stage Two – Written Peer Review

For applications that are short-listed in stage one, written peer review comments will be sought; these peer reviewers are selected from those that the applicant has nominated, and those identified by the Public Engagement Team. Applicants will be given the opportunity to respond to the comments made by reviewers, through the PI Response process.

Peer reviewers are required to comment on the stage two assessment criteria:

Experience The research experience of the applicant and their track record in outreach and or communications work.
Expertise Whether the application has the necessary expertise and/or access to any necessary expertise to carry out the proposed programme of work effectively.
Relevance How well the proposal matches the aims of the STFC Public Engagement programme.
Impact Whether the proposed activities would make a significant impact in terms of the numbers reached and the effect on the audience.
Planning & Delivery If the planned delivery of the project is likely to achieve the declared objectives.
Evaluation Whether there are appropriate stated criteria for the success of the Fellowship and quantitative and qualitative means of evaluating them.
Overall Assessment Comments relating to the proposal that have not been made elsewhere.

2.4.3 Stage Three – Panel Interview

Applicants are required to attend a panel interview, during which they will have an opportunity to give an overview of their proposal, followed by detailed questioning from the panel members. The interviews will be held on a single day, usually between late-May and mid-June. Interviews typically comprise of a ten minute presentation from the applicant, followed by a question and answer session of around thirty minutes. Aspects of the application that had been raised in the earlier peer review comments or feedback provided can be addressed in either part of the interview.

The panel will make final recommendations for funding on the day of the interviews, based on the stage three assessment criteria:

  • Does the applicant have a suitable track record of research?
  • Has the applicant demonstrated a track record in outreach and/or communication work?
  • Does the applicant have the necessary expertise to carry out the proposed programme of work effectively?
  • Does the proposed programme match the aims of the STFC Public Engagement programme?
  • Is there a need for the proposed programme?
  • Is the proposed programme of work likely to achieve the declared objectives?
  • Will the proposed programme make a significant impact in terms of the numbers reached and the effect made on the audience?
  • Is there a plan for publicising the outreach activities and marketing any resources/activities produced?
  • Is there a plan for evaluating any proposed activities?

2.4.4 Stage Four – STFC Funding Decision

Based on the recommendations from the interview panel, STFC will then take decisions regarding which applications are funded. The STFC Public Engagement Team will then prepare feedback for all applicants. Once this is approved by the panel Chair, it will be added to the Je-S system and applicants notified officially of the outcome of their application. It is the intention that this process is completed within two weeks of the stage three panel meeting.

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2.5 Process Timetable

Call Activity Indicative Timetable
Call announced December 2015
Call closes 25 February 2016, at 16:00
Stage one panel short-lists applicants for interview Mid-March 2016
Stage two independent reviewer comments requested Mid-March 2016
PI responses to reviewer comments Mid-April 2016
Stage three Interview panel Late May/Mid June 2016
Awards announced Mid to Late June 2016
PE Fellowships start From July onwards

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Contacts and Enquiries

Before submitting your application you are encouraged to contact Neville Hollingworth in the Public Engagement Team to discuss your ideas. His direct number is 01793 44 2175. General enquiries relating to the scheme can also be sent to the Public Engagement Team.

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Science and Technology Facilities Council Switchboard: 01793 442000