ISRF Flexible Grants for Small Groups Competition (FG5)

The Independent Social Research Foundation wishes to support independent-minded researchers to explore and present original research ideas which take new approaches, and suggest new solutions, to real world social problems. Such work would be unlikely to be funded by existing funding bodies.


PLEASE NOTE: There are two categories of award available through this competition. Applicants must clearly indicate which category they are applying for. Budgetary limits vary between categories, as detailed below.

Please read these details carefully, and consult our Frequently Asked Questions, before commencing an application or contacting the ISRF with a query.

Eligible Applicants

Scholars from within Europe† are eligible to apply as Principal Investigator (PI) to convene a small research group of 2-8 scholars (which may include graduate students). The PI should hold a PhD and will normally have a permanent appointment at an institution of higher education and research. Applications may be made by those whose sole or principal post is a part-time equivalent. Independent scholars with an academic affiliation may also apply. The award will enable researchers to conduct a research collaboration. The ISRF aims to support independent-minded researchers to do interdisciplinary work which is unlikely to be funded by existing funding bodies, and therefore encourages innovative proposals involving novel groupings of researchers, especially in interdisciplinary areas involving overseas collaborators, normally with a maximum of two researchers from any one university.

† There is no limitation on nationality – however, the Principal Investigator(s) should be affiliated to a European institution.

Eligible Research

The ISRF wishes to support innovative research which breaks with existing explanatory frameworks so as to address afresh empirical problems with no currently adequate theory or investigative methodology. Innovation may also come from controversial theoretical approaches motivated by critical challenge of incumbent theories. Interdisciplinarity in the generation of new investigative initiatives may be achieved by combining and transforming empirical methods and theoretical insights from the social sciences. Projects ranging across the breadth of the social scientific disciplines and interdisciplinary research fields are welcome, and relevant applications from scholars working within the humanities and the natural sciences are also encouraged.

Check our Frequently Asked Questions for further clarification on eligibility, Terms & Conditions, the application procedure, and competition-specific questions.

Nature & Timing of Support

There are two categories of award, (I) Flexible, and (II) Residential. The ISRF intends to make several awards in each category. Both categories of award are intended as providing support for intensive small group research collaboration.

Category I: The Flexible award is intended to facilitate collaborative face-to-face working over a period of up to a year, by providing the PI(s) with funds for expenses for meetings and small workshops, for travel, and for associated fieldwork and practical work. Such projects must begin no later than the end of December 2019.

Category II: The Residential award is intended to support a week’s intensive face-to-face group work in an onsite residential meeting. The designated date for this is 4-9 August 2019, and the venue in Berlin is provided at no cost; PIs will be able to use their monetary award for participants’ travel, and for any extra expenses associated with the residential research programme. The awarded research groups will each have provided for them a dedicated onsite research space, accommodation in ensuite study bedrooms, and full board. There will also be social space shared by all research groups, and the ISRF will host an informal social event. The ISRF-funded Interdisciplinary Editor at The Conversation will also be available for groups or individual group members to discuss ways in which research findings may be disseminated to a wider audience.


The amount of an award depends on the nature of the work proposed, and the category of award. For Category I (Flexible) awards, the ISRF expects applications up to a maximum of £5,000 or €5,500†, to cover the intended activities of the group for the duration of the project; for Category II (Residential) awards, requested funds should not exceed £4,250 or €4,700†, primarily to cover participants’ travel to and from the Berlin residency (PIs are free to seek additional funding for travel to Berlin).

Applicants should note that the ISRF cannot offer reimbursement to universities for teaching or lecturing expenses, or residential stipends.

† PLEASE NOTE: Applicants based in the UK must apply in GBP (£). All other applicants must apply in EUR (€). These amounts are fixed as of 5th September 2018, and will not be adjusted in the event of GBP/EUR currency fluctuations.

Terms & Conditions

The ISRF reserves the right to extend the deadline for the competition. A short final report will be required. Award holders may be invited to present their findings in person to the ISRF Annual Workshop. The ISRF’s support to be acknowledged in all public presentation of research. Full Terms & Conditions governing awards will be provided to successful applicants in their formal offer, based on the draft general terms and conditions available on the ISRF website. Formal acceptance of the award must be completed by the end of March 2019.

Joint Applications

The competition is open to individual researchers who wish to bring together and to cooperate with others (to be named on the proposal), on a specific project: this may be at the pilot stage. There will normally be one principal applicant, but joint applications by two colleagues are acceptable. In such cases, the application should be submitted by one of the PI’s, and the other should be clearly labelled as co-PI when details of collaborators are entered in the application form. CV’s for both PI’s must be submitted.

Applications to Other Funding Bodies

Applicants may apply without prejudice to other funding bodies. If applications for identical projects were successful it would be expected that only one award (i.e. either the ISRF or another) would be accepted. If applications for either wholly or partly different projects are successful there should be no duplication in the budget headings funded by the ISRF and another body.

Check our Frequently Asked Questions for further clarification on eligibility, Terms & Conditions, the application procedure, and competition-specific questions.

The Research Proposal

All applicants will be expected to provide the following details as part of their proposal (maximum of 1750 words total; 250 words per section):

  • The Research Idea: The innovative thesis of the project.
  • Background: Current research reference points and their limitations.
  • The Focus: How the research provides a fresh approach to real-life problems.
  • Theoretical novelty: What conceptual innovation the research is aiming at.
  • Methodology: How different disciplinary inputs will interact in empirical inquiry.
  • Work Plan:Why the work will merit funding under the chosen Category (I or II), how the group’s work will be organised over the relevant (1-week or 1-year) award period, and what outputs are intended.
  • Outcome: What further steps and what longer-term outcome are envisaged.

The Submitted Application

This will be read by academic evaluators who are social scientists but not necessarily in the applicant’s own field; applicants should bear this in mind when writing their application. In particular for key theoretical terms and references, enough detail of methods must be given.

The Budget

Applicants should provide a detailed budget to cover expenses for all projectrelated expenses, including (for Category II applications) travel to and from Berlin. Please note that Category II applications do not need to include accommodation or subsistence costs, as full-board accommodation and meeting space will be arranged by the ISRF. Successful Category II applications which do not require full-board catering for the duration of the residential may be allocated up to an additional £750 towards travel expenses.

In order to be considered for the award, all applications must comprise the following:

A completed Application Form, to include:
  • An Abstract (300 words) of the research’s aims, methods, contribution to knowledge, and value in realising the goals of ISRF.
  • A completed Research Project Proposal form (1750 words total; 250 words per section)
  • The Budget should comprise a full outline of eligible costs, within the limits for Category I (£,5000) or Category II (£4,250).
A Curriculum Vitae
  • Including both academic and non-academic details.

Institutional Approval

Applicants must confirm that their home institution is aware of their application, and should provide the contact details for the relevant Administrative Officer.

Check our Frequently Asked Questions for further clarification on eligibility, Terms & Conditions, the application procedure, and competition-specific questions.

Application Procedure

Applicants are expected to submit their complete application electronically via the online application system, in English.

Completed applications must arrive no later than 4:00pm on 2nd November 2018.

A candidate may submit only one application. Applicants can expect to be informed of the result of their applications by letter by the end of January 2019.

Check our Frequently Asked Questions for further clarification on eligibility, Terms & Conditions, the application procedure, and competition-specific questions.
For any other queries: Telephone +44 (0) 20 7262 0196 or email