NERC Independent Research Fellowships, UK

Publish Date: Jul 21, 2015

Deadline: Oct 01, 2015

About NERC Independent Research Fellowships

The NERC Independent Research Fellowship (IRF) Scheme is designed to develop scientific leadership among the most promising early-career environmental scientists, by giving all fellows five years' support, which will allow them sufficient time to develop their research programmes and to gain international recognition.

As part of this scheme, NERC will expand its fellowship networking and training activities, working with host institutions, to support the development of future leaders in NERC science.

The next closing date for NERC Independent Research Fellowships is 1 October 2015. Applicants can begin submission of their proposals on the Je-S System from 1 June 2015; prior to this date, the call will not appear on the Je-S system.

Application and assessment process

In order to identify future science leaders, the assessment process will concentrate on applicants' research potential, with track record assessed in a way that is appropriate to career stage. Applicants will be expected to:

  • demonstrate their research vision and philosophy and outline ways in which their research could be developed over the five year fellowship;
  • explain how they will contribute to the international research area and interact with the leading international groups in their field;
  • explain how they will enable the potential economic or societal benefits of their research to be realised.

In order to demonstrate a commitment to the development of NERC IRFs, the Head of Department of the host institution will be required to demonstrate:

  • the availability of structured institutional support, including infrastructure and facilities, funds to support research, and access to PhD students;
  • support for personal development of the fellow, including mentoring, appropriate review, and training courses.

Fellowship eligibility

NERC Independent Research Fellowships (IRFs) are open to researchers of any nationality and may be held in any area of the NERC remit, but must be based at an eligible UK research organisation. Applicants may not have a permanent academic position in a university or equivalent organisation.

Applicants must expect to submit their PhD thesis before the fellowship interviews would take place (April following the closing date) and, if successful, would not be able to take up the fellowship until the awarding university has confirmed its intent to award the PhD.

Applicants for NERC IRFs must have a maximum of eight years of full-time postdoctoral experience from the PhD certificate date to the closing date of the fellowship competition to which they are applying. The eight-year window is based on full-time working. Where applicants have worked part-time or had career breaks, the window would be extended accordingly.

Applicants should not have a permanent academic position (or the equivalent in institutions other than universities). NERC staff in Bands 5 and 6 only can apply for a fellowship and, if successful, would have to resign from their position in order to take up the fellowship.

Current NERC Postdoctoral Fellows are eligible to apply for a subsequent NERC IRF, provided they meet the eligibility criteria above.

The full eligibility requirements - including those related to the research topic, host institution and resubmission policy - are in the research grants and fellowships handbook.

Find out more about applying for a NERC fellowship.


Fellowship application enquiries should be sent to

How to apply

Applying through the Je-S system

You must use the Joint electronic-Submission (Je-S) system to prepare and submit your Fellowship proposal. In order to apply, the organisation where the Fellowship will be held must be registered to use Je-S. Most UK research organisations are now registered - view a summary of current Je-S registration statuses on the Je-S website.

If you do not have a Je-S account

You will need to create one. To do this, you will need to select the option "Create Account" from the main Je-S log in screen and then specify that you need the ability to create and submit Fellowship proposals. You may wish to refer to the relevant section of the Je-S handbook- external link - for details of how to do this.

If you have a Je-S account

If you have a Je-S account, but it is unregistered, you too will need the ability to create and submit Fellowship proposals. You can change this in the "My Details" section of the Je-S system by selecting that you need the ability to create and submit Fellowship proposals.

If you have a registered Je-S account, you will be able to create Fellowship Proposals without the need to change your registration status.

If you have forgotten your account log in details or are unsure whether you already have an account please contact the Je-S helpdesk who will advise you.

Submitting your Fellowship through Je-S

The submission route that your Fellowship proposal will take depends upon how the host Research Organisation has configured its submission process. The tutorials give an overview of the submission process through Je-S. If you are submitting a Fellowship through a host organisation that is not your own, you may wish to familiarise yourselves with its submission process.

You will of course be in discussion with the organisation where you wish to hold the Fellowship. As part of these discussions, you should ensure that it is content to submit the Fellowship Proposal on your behalf. Upon submitting the Fellowship Proposal to the Research Council, the Research Organisation submitter will be asked to confirm that it has verified your identity. It will also be advised to check the Head of Department statement to ensure that it has been completed by an appropriate person.

Closing dates, times and eligibility criteria are published in the online guidance, or in individual announcements of opportunity. These may vary between schemes so please check the relevant guidance before making your application.


General fellowship enquiries:

Enquiries regarding Je-S submission: 01793 444 164

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Environmental Research

Environmental Studies

Study Levels


Opportunity Types


Eligible Countries


Host Countries

United Kingdom