ISRF Independent Scholar Fellowship Competition (ISF5)

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.


Please read these details carefully – and consult the FAQs – before commencing an application or contacting the ISRF with a query.

Eligible Applicants

Independent scholars from within Europe† are eligible to apply, and they will normally not hold an appointment, temporary or permanent, at an institution of higher education and research. Applications will be considered from those who hold part-time posts within academia and seek support for research carried out outside of their contracted hours. The awards are intended as providing a stipend to allow applicants full or partial relief from non-academic duties for a period of (up to) one year; applications may be made by those whose sole or principal post is a part-time equivalent. The awards are not intended to support newly qualified scholars entering the post-doctoral stage.

Normally applicants will hold a PhD. Other academic or professional qualifications may be considered, along with publications usually in peer-reviewed academic journals. Monographs, professional journals and the popular media may also be considered.

For the purposes of this competition, an ‘Independent Scholar’ is understood as someone, whether or not currently in employment, who is engaged on intellectual work of a nature and standard comparable to that of a professional academic.

† There is no limitation on nationality – however, the proposed institutional affiliation must be with a European institution.

Eligible Research

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, cross-fertilising, and so 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 are also encouraged.

The research proposed may include, but is not confined to: initiation of a project or of research level work intended to draw on or contribute to one of the professions, completion of a project, or preparation of an article or monograph for publication, based on existing work.

Duration and Timing

The awards are intended as providing a stipend to allow applicants full or partial relief from non-academic duties, for a period of up to one year; alternatively, the award may be sought by those who wish to be bought-out directly from their current employment contract (in whole or partially), with the prior consent of their current employer. The award period must begin no later than the end of December 2019.


The amount of an award depends on the nature of the work proposed and individual circumstances – the ISRF expects applications for grants up to a maximum of £25,000 or €28,500†. Within that sum, reasonable support for research expenses will be considered. Reasonable childcare or other domestic costs may be considered.

† PLEASE NOTE: Applicants seeking an affiliation in the UK must apply in GBP (£), up to the limit of £25,000. Applicants seeking an affiliation elsewhere in Europe, including non-Eurozone countries, must apply in EUR (€), up to the limit of €28,500. These amounts are fixed as of 2nd July 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. Awards will be conditional on the establishment of an institutional affiliation, to cover the duration of the proposed research project. Whilst the ISRF will take a lead in negotiating the terms of affiliation, it is the responsibility of the applicant to identify suitable institutions with which they would like to be affiliated. A short final report will be required. Award holders may be invited to present their findings in person to the Foundation’s academic representatives. 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/Group Applications

The competition is open to individuals who wish to undertake a piece of original research. Joint/group applications will not be considered.

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.

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: How the work will be organised over the 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 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)
  • A Budget comprising a full outline of employment costs. If matched-funded research expenses are included for consideration, an explanation should be given as to why these are deemed necessary.
A Curriculum Vitae
  • Including a list of publications
A Letter of Support from a recognised scholar in the applicant’s field of interest, covering:
  • The applicant’s status (personal academic reference).
  • The research proposed (brief comment on how this meets the ISRF criteria).
  • Why the research would not be funded by existing resources.

This must be sent from the nominated scholar direct to ISRF – by email to – to arrive no later than 17th August 2018.

Employer Approval

Where applicants wish to be bought out from existing employment (either wholly or in part) they must confirm that their employer is aware of their application, and should provide the contact details for the relevant contact. Should your application progress, this contact will be asked to confirm, on behalf of your employer, that:

  • You will be granted the period and proportion of time requested in the Duration and Timing section;
  • If replacement costs are requested, you will be in receipt of your normal salary during tenure of the award and the employer will provide cover;
Therefore, it is advisable that you ensure that your employer is in agreement with the content of your application before you submit.

Application Procedure

Applicants are expected to submit their complete application electronically via the online application system, in English. Alternative methods of application (i.e. postal applications) are available in certain circumstances – please contact the ISRF to discuss this.

Completed applications must arrive no later than 4:00pm on 10th August 2018.

Letters of Support must arrive no later than 17th August 2018.

A candidate may submit only one application. The proposals will be assessed on the same criteria and by the same selection process as the foundation’s professional academic fellowships.

Applicants can expect to be informed of the result of their applications by letter by the end of December 2018.


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