Research Development Awards in Humanities, Social Science and Bioethics

These awards are for groups of researchers who want the time and resources to shape the direction of their future work. The development programmes will lay the foundation for research that takes risks and pushes academic boundaries.

Scheme at a glance

Career stage:

Where your host organisation is based:

  • Anywhere in the world

Level of funding:

Up to £1 million

Duration of funding:

3 to 5 years

Who can apply

You can apply for a Research Development Award if you're part of an emerging or established research group working in health-related humanities, social sciences or bioethics. 

Your research group (for example a cluster, centre or department) can be in one discipline, interdisciplinary, or focused on a theme or issue. 

The research development programme you propose must: 

  • lead to a significant and sustainable research agenda that takes risks and pushes academic boundaries
  • develop the careers of the people in your research group 
  • build a diverse and collaborative research community

Programme leaders

As lead applicant, you must have experience of running a research programme or network, or of delivering complex projects. 

You must have at least one coapplicant and no more than six. The number of coapplicants should be appropriate to your proposed activities. These researchers can be at any career stage.

Each applicant must have a permanent, open-ended or long-term rolling contract, or the guarantee of one. Your salary must be paid by your host organisation.

If you, or any coapplicants, hold a permanent, open-ended or long-term rolling contract but have to get your salary from external grant funding, you can ask us for this in your application. If this applies to you, or any coapplicants on your grant, you must commit at least 10% of your working hours to the programme. In this case, your host organisation must confirm details about your employment contract(s) or their policy on salary recovery costs.

You and your coapplicants can be based at the same organisation or at different organisations (for example a research collaboration between two universities).

Organisations can be of any size.

Organisations can be based anywhere in the world, although the lead applicant’s organisation cannot be based in mainland China.

As a group, you should have a good track record of attracting research funding, though not necessarily from Wellcome. 

Your proposal

In your application, you must give a clear outline of how you'll develop a research agenda and support the careers of people in your research group. 

This should include (but is not limited to):

  • the significance of your proposed research agenda and how you are taking a risk and pushing academic boundaries
  • how you'll shape the future direction of research in your field 
  • evidence that the researchers in your group have substantial shared research interests, relevant expertise and will work together well, for example you've collaborated with each other before, or been involved in similar teams
  • the amount of time your group will spend on this award (ie through asking us for teaching replacement costs) and how the award fits in with your other academic commitments 
  • career development opportunities for non-permanent research staff, including the freedom they will have to pursue their own research as part of your wider research group
  • your group's commitment to equality and inclusion, both in developing your research agenda and in managing the people it will bring together 
  • the activities you propose, for example networking, travelling, attending events, and awarding and running your own small research grants. 

If you plan to work closely with non-academic groups who are integral to your research ('co-creation'), tell us how you will do this. 

If you want to take on extra non-research staff, such as project managers, meeting facilitators and communications staff, you should provide details in your application.

Who can't apply

You can't apply if you already hold a Wellcome Trust Centre Award or a Discretionary Award for Centres (Oxford CEH, Exeter CCEH, Durham IMH, Edinburgh CBSS).

What's expected of your host organisation

The lead applicant's host organisation must confirm that they can sign up to our grant conditions.

If applicants are based at more than one host organisation, these organisations must confirm that they can sign sub-agreements with the lead applicant's host organisation.

Statements of commitment

All applicants (lead applicant and co-applicants) must provide statements of commitment from their host organisations when they apply.

These statements must show that all of the organisations and senior leaders involved are committed to delivering and sustaining the programme. 

Statements must include a commitment to:

  • dedicated time away from other duties for the programme leaders
  • career development opportunities for all staff employed on the grant.

Examples of other ways in which organisations can show commitment include:

  • additional administrative and operational resources
  • relevant networks or expertise to support the programme.

The organisation should tell us why the proposed award is a clear fit within its overall vision. 

These statements must show that the space and resources you need have been agreed and will be made available to you from the start date through to the end date of your award.

If your organisation is in a high-income country, you'll need to show significant additional resource commitment, either from your own organisation or from another funder.

A Research Development Award is up to £1 million and lasts for three to five years.

The award covers the costs of running your research development programme.

We encourage you to think creatively about what you'll need to achieve the aims of your grant.

Support includes:

    • You can ask for salary costs of all staff, full or part time, who will work on your project and whose time can be supported by a full audit trail. Staff members may include:

      • research staff
      • project managers
      • communication officers, for example social media manager
      • copy editors
      • translators and interpreters
      • meeting facilitators
      • training and development staff.

      We don’t usually provide a salary for the applicants for this scheme. But if you, or any coapplicants, hold a permanent, open-ended or long-term rolling contract and have to get your salary from external grant funding, you can ask us for this in your application. See the ‘Eligibility and suitability’ section above for more information.

      • Staff salaries should be appropriate to skills, responsibilities and expertise. You should ask your host organisation to use their salary scales to calculate these costs, which should include:

        • basic salary
        • employer's contributions, which should include any statutory obligations (eg National Insurance contributions if they’re based in the UK) and pension scheme costs
        • Apprentice Levy charges for UK-based salaries
        • any incremental progression up the salary scale
        • locally recognised allowances such as London allowance.

        You should allow for salary pay awards during Year 1. These should be based on pay awards already agreed: if you don’t know what the pay award is yet then use our inflation rate.

        From Year 2 onwards, you should use your organisation’s current pay rates. We’ll provide a separate inflation allowance for salary inflation costs.

        Find out more about people working on a Wellcome grant.

    • Visa, work permit and settled status costs

      If you have named people on your grant whose salaries will be funded by Wellcome, you can ask for visa or work permit costs to help them take up their posts at the host organisation. You can also ask for:

      • visa costs for the person's partner and dependent children
      • essential associated costs, such as travel to attend appointments at a visa application centre or embassy if you can justify these
      • Immigration Health Surcharge costs for the person, their partner and dependent children if they will be in the UK for six months or more.

      You can also ask for settled status costs if the named people:

      • are European Union citizens living in the UK
      • meet the requirements for settled status set by the UK government.

      You can also include these costs for the person's partner and dependants.

  • You can ask for funds for research or teaching replacement to cover the cost of a temporary replacement lecturer. Costs:

    • can cover up to 40% of your contracted time and up to 40% of your coapplicant's contracted time
    • are usually for a person at a more junior level than the post-holder
    • can be spread across the full period of the grant.
  • We will pay for the materials and consumables you need to carry out your proposed research, including:

    • archival photocopying
    • printing associated with fieldwork and empirical research
    • materials directly related to hosting workshops and interviews.
  • Equipment purchase

    You can ask for smaller items of equipment that are essential to your proposed project. Costs may include purchase, delivery, installation, maintenance and training, where necessary.

    If you want to request larger items, please contact us before applying.

    We will cover VAT and import duties if:

    • the usual UK exemptions on equipment used for medical research don’t apply
    • you’re applying from a non-UK organisation, and you can show these costs can’t be recovered.

    Equipment maintenance

    We will cover maintenance costs for equipment if:

    • you are requesting it in your application
    • it is existing equipment that is:
      • funded by us or another source
      • essential to the proposed research project
      • more than five years old
      • cost effective to keep maintaining it.

    We won’t cover maintenance costs for equipment if there is a mechanism in place to recoup these costs through access charges.

    Computer equipment

    We will cover the cost of one personal computer or laptop per person up to £1,500.

    We won't pay for:

    • more expensive items, unless you can justify them
    • installation or training costs.
  • You can ask for overheads if your grant will be based at a:

    • university outside the UK or Republic of Ireland
    • research organisation that does not receive core funding for overheads
    • charitable or not-for-profit organisation
    • small or medium-sized commercial organisation.

    You can also ask for overheads on any part of your grant that is sub-contracted to any of the organisations listed above.

    If you’re based at a UK university you can’t ask for overheads for sub-contracted activity if your university will include the sub-contracted funding in its annual report to the UK Charity Research Support Fund.

    Overheads can include:

    • estates, for example building and premises
    • non-project dedicated administrative and support staff
    • administration, for example finance, library, and room hire.

    The total cost for overheads should not be more than:

    • 20% of the direct research costs if you’re based in a low- or middle-income country
    • 15% of the direct research costs if you’re based anywhere else.

    These costs must directly support the activity funded by the grant.

    How to apply for these costs

    In your grant application you must:

    • give a full breakdown of costs (you can't ask for a percentage of the research costs)
    • explain why these costs are necessary for your research
    • include a letter from the finance director of your host organisation, or the sub-contracted organisation, confirming that the breakdown is a true representation of the costs incurred.
  • You can ask for costs to host:

    • conferences
    • symposia
    • seminar series
    • advisory board meetings.

    Costs can include:

    • travel and accommodation for keynote speakers
    • room hire and catering
    • event publicity conference pack publication, including name badges
    • childcare or other caring responsibility costs for delegates
    • any costs related to accessibility and inclusion
    • any associated expenses that you can justify.
    • Travel costs

      You should use the most suitable and economical form of travel. Please include a breakdown for each part of your trip, eg air fares and number of journeys.

      Conference attendance

      You can ask for a contribution towards the costs of attending scientific and academic meetings and conferences, including registration fees. The limits are:

      • applicants – £2,000 a year
      • staff employed on your grant – £1,000 each a year.

      You’ll need to specify the amount you’re requesting for each person and break down the costs into registration fees, travel, subsistence eg food and accommodation.

      You can also ask for costs to cover caring responsibilities if any staff employed on your grant attend a conference. This includes childcare and any other caring responsibility they have, provided:

      • Wellcome is paying their salary
      • the conference is directly related to the research
      • the caring costs are over and above what they'd normally pay for care
      • the conference organiser and their employing organisation are unable to cover the costs.

      You can ask for up to £1,000 per person for each conference.

      Collaborative travel

      You can ask for travel and subsistence costs for collaborative visits for you and any staff employed on your grant. You’ll need to justify each visit and its duration.

      Other travel

      We may pay for other essential visits eg to facilities, libraries, archives and for fieldwork. You can include subsistence costs.

      Subsistence costs

      If you’re away for up to one month you can ask for subsistence costs. These include accommodation, meals and incidentals (eg refreshments or newspapers).

      If your administering organisation has a subsistence policy, use their rates.

      If your administering organisation doesn’t have a subsistence policy, please use the HMRC rates.

      If you’re away for more than one month and up to 12 months, we will pay reasonable rental costs only, including aparthotels. You should discuss appropriate rates with your administering and host organisations, or Wellcome, as appropriate. We expect you to choose the most economical options, booked in advance where possible.

      If you’re from a low- or middle- income country and will be working in a high-income country for more than one month and up to 12 months, you can also ask for up to £10 a day to cover extra costs, such as transport and incidentals.

      If you’re away for more than 12 months, we will pay the costs of your housing. You should discuss your needs with your administering and host organisations.

      The allowance we provide will be based on family and business need. We will set the maximum allowance we pay for each location. This will be based on current market data or, where data is unavailable, in consultation with your administering organisation, using equivalent market rates. Please contact us if you need help calculating the costs.

      We will cover the direct expenses you have to pay to find and rent a home. We will not cover the cost of utilities or any refurbishment.

      Overseas research

      If you or any staff employed on your grant will be doing research away from your host organisation, we'll help with the additional costs of working on the project overseas. Please see the 'Overseas allowances' section for details.

    • If you or any staff employed on your grant will be spending time in another country, we’ll help you with the additional costs of working on the project overseas.

      Our overseas allowances are:

      • a contribution towards the personal cost of carrying out research overseas, to ensure that you are not disadvantaged
      • provided on the assumption that you’ll be paying income tax, either in your home country, or the country you will be working in (your personal tax is your responsibility).
      • provided on the understanding that you or your partner will not receive equivalent allowances from elsewhere
      • determined by the amount of time you will spend away from your home country.
    • If you will be away more than 12 months, we will provide overseas allowances for your partner and any dependants if they are travelling with you.

      If you will be away for 12 months or less and can justify why your partner and dependants must travel with you, we may provide overseas allowances for them.

      We define your partner as the person:

      • you’re married to
      • you’re not married to but with whom you’ve been in a relationship for at least a year

      and

      • you live with at the same permanent address and share some form of joint financial commitment with (eg a mortgage).
    •  

      See a list of low- and middle-income countries, as defined by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

      You can ask for the following allowances. You need to provide estimated costs as accurately as possible.

        • We will pay your travel costs at the beginning and end of your overseas work. Costs can be for air, ferry, train or coach fares.

          All fares should be:

          • economy class
          • the most suitable and economical form of travel
          • booked in advance where possible.
        • If you are away for up to 12 months, you can ask for up to 80kg of additional baggage or unaccompanied airline freight for your outward and return journeys.

          If you are away for more than 12 months, you can ask for the costs of shipping your personal items at the beginning and end of your overseas work.

          We will pay the full cost of transporting:

          • half a standard shipping container if you’re travelling alone
          • a whole standard shipping container (20ft) if you’re travelling with a partner and/or dependants.
        • We will pay the cost of your medical insurance and travel insurance.

          If you will be working in a low- or middle-income country we will also cover the cost of emergency evacuation cover.

          We won’t pay for medical insurance if you will be based in the UK or Republic of Ireland.

        • We will pay the costs of visas, vaccinations and anti-malaria treatment.

        • You can ask for this if you’ll be based in a low- or middle-income country and it is necessary.

          Costs can include guards, panic buttons and alarms. You should ask your employing organisation for advice on the level of security you need.

        • If you’re away for up to one month you can ask for subsistence costs. These include accommodation, meals and incidentals (eg refreshments or newspapers).

          If your administering organisation has a subsistence policy, use their rates.

          If your administering organisation doesn’t have a subsistence policy, please use the HMRC rates.

          If you’re away for more than one month and up to 12 months, we will pay reasonable rental costs only, including aparthotels. You should discuss appropriate rates with your administering and host organisations, or Wellcome, as appropriate. We expect you to choose the most economical options, booked in advance where possible.

          If you’re from a low- or middle- income country and will be working in a high-income country for more than one month and up to 12 months, you can also ask for up to £10 a day to cover extra costs, such as transport and incidentals.

          If you’re away for more than 12 months, we will pay the costs of your housing. You should discuss your needs with your administering and host organisations.

          The allowance we provide will be based on family and business need. We will set the maximum allowance we pay for each location. This will be based on current market data or, where data is unavailable, in consultation with your administering organisation, using equivalent market rates. If you need help calculating the costs please contact Grants Management.

          We will cover the direct expenses you have to pay to find and rent a home. We will not cover the cost of utilities or any refurbishment.

        • If you’re away for more than 12 months we will pay:

          Local nursery or school fees

          You can ask for these costs if you are in a location where there isn’t free local education of the same standard as in your home country.

          Costs include:

          • local nursery school fees up to a maximum of 30 hours a week for 3 to 4 year olds
          • local junior or secondary school fees, up to the end of secondary school education.

          Local international school fees

          You can ask for these costs if local schools do not provide the same standard of education as in your home country. We will only pay the published termly school fees.

          We will not cover the costs of:

          • extracurricular activities, including field trips
          • other extras including, but not limited to, uniforms, sports kit and equipment, transport, meals, books and electronic equipment.

          Boarding school fees

          We will consider paying the cost of boarding school fees in your home country if:

          • a local international school is not available
          • both parents, guardians or the sole care giver live outside the home country.

          The allowance covers:

          • up to a maximum of £30,000 a year for each child for the published termly fees only
          • the cost of economy class return airfares at the start and end of each school term.

          We will not cover the costs of:

          • additional annual leave airfares
          • extracurricular activities, including field trips
          • other extras including, but not limited to, uniforms, sports kit and equipment, transport, meals, books and electronic equipment.

          We will cover the cost of providing special needs education as far as possible. Please contact us to discuss your needs.

          We would not usually expect to provide an education allowance if you will be working in a high-income country.

        • If you will be away for more than 12 months, we’ll pay for you to travel back to your home country for annual leave. This is in addition to your outward and return travel costs and depends on how long you will be away:

          • 12-24 months – 1 annual leave trip
          • 25-36 months – 2 annual leave trips
          • 37-48 months – 3 annual leave trips
          • 49-60 months – 4 annual leave trips
          • 61-72 months – 5 annual leave trips.

          All fares should be:

          • economy class
          • the most suitable and economical form of travel
          • booked in advance where possible.
        • If you will be away for more than 12 months, you can ask for up to 100 hours of lessons in the local language for you and/or your partner during the first 12 months of your visit.

          We will cover 100% of the costs for local language school classes or up to 50% of the costs of individual tuition.

          We will not cover the cost of examinations or personal learning materials such as DVDs and books.

  • We will add an inflation allowance to your award.

    How we calculate your inflation allowance

    Your inflation allowance is based on your total eligible costs and the duration of the award. You'll receive the allowance if the costs in your application are in pounds sterling, euros or US dollars.

    Award duration (in months)Inflation allowance
    0-120.0%
    13-241.0%
    25-362.0%
    37-483.0%
    49-604.1%
    61-725.1%
    73-846.2%

    These rates are calculated using compound inflation at 2.0% a year from Year 2 onwards.

    If your costs are in any other currency, we will use an inflation allowance that reflects the inflation rate of the country where the host organisation is based.

    What to include in your application

    The costs in your application must be based on current known costs, excluding inflation.

    You should allow for salary pay awards during Year 1. These should be based on pay awards already agreed; if you don’t know what the pay award is yet then use our inflation rate.

    Wellcome's studentship stipend scales include an annual increase for inflation.

  • If your organisation receives block funding through the UK’s Charity Open Access Fund (COAF) you can ask them to cover your open access article processing charges.

    If you're at an organisation that doesn't receive COAF funding, we’ll supplement your grant when your paper has been accepted for publication.

    You can't ask for these charges in your grant application.

  • If you need to carry out research using NHS patients or facilities you can ask for certain research costs. Annex A of the guidelines for attributing the costs of health and social care research and development (AcoRD) sets out which costs you can ask us for, and which should be funded through the Department of Health in England, or its equivalent in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. If you're based in the Republic of Ireland, we would expect you to adhere to the spirit of these principles.

    More information about our policy on clinical trials.

  • Costs you may ask for (you will have to justify these costs in your application):

    • funds to co-create your research and work with other sectors, for example fees for participants and facilitators
    • funds to award and run your own small research grants – these should be related to the work your research group is doing
    • researcher care costs – we encourage you to provide training and support for staff working in challenging environments, for example by commissioning a specialist trainer
    • fieldwork costs, including survey and data collection and statistical analysis
    • specialist publications that are relevant to the research and not available in institutional libraries
    • consultancy fees to enable the participation of important stakeholders who would not otherwise be able to take part – for example, activist groups, non-governmental organisation staff and volunteers, and experts-by-experience
    • expenses for subjects and volunteers – includes recruitment of participants, their participatory fees and travel, as well as interviewee expenses
    • reasonable research-associated costs related to the feedback of health-related findings but not any healthcare-associated costs
    • costs associated with developing an outputs management plan
    • questionnaires, recruitment material, newsletters etc for clinical, epidemiological and qualitative research studies
    • public engagement materials where dissemination (including printing and publishing) is a key activity of the project
    • recruitment, advertising and interviewee travel costs for staff to be employed on the grant
    • purchase, hire and running costs of project-dedicated vehicles
    • computing, including recurrent costs dedicated to the project (for example software licences)
    • formal transferable skills and personal development training, including the International Funders Award, in addition to what we'd expect your organisation to provide.

    Costs we won’t pay:

    • estates costs – such as building and premises costs, basic services and utilities. This also includes phone, postage, photocopying and stationery, unless you can justify these within a clinical or epidemiological study.
    • page charges and the cost of colour prints
    • research, technical and administrative staff whose time is shared across several projects and isn’t supported by an audit record
    • charge-out costs for major facilities – departmental technical and administrative services, and use of existing equipment
    • cleaning, waste and other disposal costs
    • indirect costs – this includes general administration costs such as personnel, finance, library, room hire and some departmental services
    • office furniture, such as chairs, desks, filing cabinets, etc.
    • clothing such as lab coats, shoes, protective clothing
    • non-research related activities, eg catering, room and venue hire for staff parties, team-building events and social activities
    • indemnity insurance (insurance cover against claims made by subjects or patients associated with a research programme)
    • ethics reviews if you are in a UK higher education institution
    • radiation protection costs.

What we don’t offer

  • Large research projects
  • Dissemination
  • Capital costs.

We don't fund overheads unless they're included on this page.

You must submit your application through the Wellcome Trust Grant Tracker (WTGT).

Start your application

Stages of application

Information session: presentation and frequently asked questions [PDF 815KB]

  1. Watch an information session on Facebook

    We encourage you to watch an information session about this scheme on Facebook.

    You can also view the presentation given at the information session and frequently asked questions [PDF 815KB].

  2. Submit your preliminary application to your host organisation for approval

    You must submit your application through Grant Tracker.

    View the Sample preliminary application form for Research Development Awards in HSS and Bioethics [PDF 204KB].

    When you’ve completed the preliminary application form on Grant Tracker, submit it to the 'authorised organisational approver' at your host organisation for approval. Make sure you leave enough time for the approver to review and submit your application before the deadline. The approver may ask you to make changes to your application.

    You'll need to provide a letter of support from each host organisation involved in your proposal.

    You don't need to contact us before you submit a preliminary application. We prefer to speak to applicants when we invite them to submit full applications.

    Get some tips to help you write a Wellcome grant application.

  3. Host organisation reviews your preliminary application and submits it to us

    Your application must be submitted by 17:00 GMT on the deadline day.

  4. Assessment of your preliminary application

    We'll assess your eligibility, suitability and competitiveness. If suitable, we'll invite you to submit a full application. We'll contact you to give you feedback on your preliminary application and answer any questions you may have. If your application is unsuccessful, we’ll provide brief feedback.

  5. Site visit by Wellcome staff and external experts

    We'll get in touch to arrange a site visit at the host organisation with you and your coapplicants. We'll help you to prepare for the visit and answer any questions you may have. We can provide travel expenses for any coapplicants who are not based at the organisation.

  6. Site report by Wellcome staff and experts

    We’ll send you a report of the site visit to help you prepare your full application.

  7. Submit your full application to your host organisation for approval

    Complete the full application form on Grant Tracker and submit it to the 'authorised organisational approver' at your host organisation for approval. Make sure you leave enough time for the approver to review and submit your application before the deadline. The approver may ask you to make changes to your application.

  8. Host organisation reviews your full application and submits it to us

    Your application must be submitted by 17:00 GMT on the deadline day.

  9. Review and shortlisting

    First Wellcome staff will determine the eligibility, suitability and competitiveness of all proposals.

    Then a committee of internal and external experts will assess the applications. We don’t provide applicants with the names of committee members as they are selected after the applications have been reviewed by Wellcome staff. Committee members are chosen for their specific expertise and broader research experience.

  10. Decision

    There are no interviews. We’ll give you a decision within three months of the application deadline. 

Disabled applicants

If you are disabled or have a chronic health condition, we can support you with the application process.

Dates

  • Final information session (also live streamed on Facebook)

    7 November 2019

  • Preliminary applications deadline

    3 March 2020, 17:00 GMT

  • Site visits

    September/October 2020

  • Full applications deadline

    January 2021

  • Review and shortlisting

    March 2021

  • Decision

    April 2021

Key dates

This is a one-off scheme.

  • Final information session (also live streamed on Facebook)

    7 November 2019

  • Preliminary applications deadline

    3 March 2020, 17:00 GMT

  • Site visits

    September/October 2020

  • Full applications deadline

    January 2021

  • Review and shortlisting

    March 2021

  • Decision

    April 2021

Contact us

Contact our information officers if you have a question about funding.

If you have a question about the research content or scope of your proposal, email hss@wellcome.ac.uk.