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Discovery Fellowships

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Previously Future Leader Fellowships

Call status: Closed
Previous call: 26 January 2018 - 9 May 2018


The Discovery Fellowship (DF) will provide support for researchers wishing to undertake independent research and gain leadership skills. The DF will support the transition of early stage researchers to fully independent research leaders. As such DFs represent part of our commitment to the supply of highly skilled professional scientists to the UK.

Nature of award

Awards are for three years and it is expected that up to 10 fellowships will be awarded, each of a value of up to £300,000 (80% fEC). Please note: BBSRC will provide funds of up to £300,000 (80% of the full economic cost). The total costs (100% full economic cost) requested may be up to £375,000.

This investment can be used to support personal salary as well as travel and subsistence, training activities, and research consumables, but not equipment. In addition to this investment, it is also expected that a substantial demonstration of support for the fellow be made by the host research organisation (for example in terms of access to facilities and equipment, training, research costs etc.). Applications are welcome from candidates seeking flexible working arrangements (for example part-time); see the Fellowships handbook for further information (see downloads section).

Value for money

Applicants and host organisations should note that value for money is an essential criterion against which fellowship applications will be assessed, alongside excellence and other key criteria. Proposals that do not provide clear evidence that the research programme is highly competitive in terms of value for money, are unlikely to be successful.

Applicants must ensure that the Partnership Details section of the Je-S proforma contains details of all institutional support that will be made available if the applicant is successful in obtaining a BBSRC award. In addition, the justification of resources attachment must clearly show why the resources requested are good value for money and why it is in BBSRC's interests to provide investment. Also letters of support from all parties contributing financial or other support should be uploaded to the proposal under the Letters of Support attachment giving full and accurate details of the commitments being made.

Research areas

Proposals can be submitted in any area of science within our remit. We particularly encourage applications that are aligned with our overarching strategic priorities.


Aimed at early career researchers who want to conduct their own independent research within a host laboratory. Applicants will have demonstrated high potential and have no more than five years of active postdoctoral research experience. The call is open to current PhD students who are expected to have completed their PhD viva exam prior to announcement of the awarded DFs (30 November 2018).


  • Applicants should have a PhD or be expecting to have undergone successful PhD viva prior to 30 November 2018
  • Applicants should not exceed five years in active postdoctoral research employment prior to announcement of the awarded DFs (30 November 2018)

Note: DF applicants are not eligible to apply to any additional 2018 BBSRC fellowship competitions.

Additionally, applicants for a BBSRC Discovery Fellowship are not permitted to simultaneously apply to the UK Research and Innovation Future Leaders Fellowship call.

However, applicants may seek grant support for other projects, from specific research councils or other funders’ calls, while their BBSRC fellowship is under consideration. Any fellowship or grant submissions under consideration at the time of application should be noted in the ‘Other Support’ section of the proposal form. Applicants detailing multiple submissions will not be penalised during the assessment process.

Non-European economic area applicants

  • All successful applicants who require a visa to work in the UK will be eligible to be considered under the Tier 1 (Exceptional Talent) visa route. In line with the highly prestigious nature of the award, this visa route is designed for people who are internationally recognized as world leaders or potential world-leading talent in the fields of science and the arts and enables the holder to be both adaptable and flexible during their research in the UK
  • The grant of any visa is always subject to the standard Home Office general grounds for refusal of a visa. RCUK is able to provide additional guidance regarding the appropriate evidence required to complete the visa application process under the Exceptional Talent visa. Please contact for further details

Assessment criteria

In assessing proposals Research Committee E will consider an applicant’s research proposal, personal track record and future plans, and the research environment in which the fellowship will be held.

As such, the research proposal should be sound and of a novelty and timeliness that will add to the understanding of the research area, the applicant should have an excellent track record (accounting for their research experience) and have considered their training needs (as detailed in the Career Development Plan), and the research environment should be supportive and the best place for the applicant to carry out their research project and advance their career.

The following will therefore be looked at:


  • Scientific quality and feasibility of the proposed research project
  • Timeliness of the research project and how it will advance the field


  • Track record
  • Evidence of independence and leadership
  • How the fellowship will advance the applicant’s career

Research environment:

  • The scientific environment of the host department and institute
  • Evidence of career and professional development support (e.g. access to mentoring programmes, training events etc.)
  • Evidence of research support (e.g. additional financial support, access to core facilities etc.)

How to apply

This call is closed to applications.

  1. Log in to Je-S (Joint electronic submission system)
  2. Select Council: BBSRC
  3. Select Document Type: Fellowship Proposal
  4. Select Scheme: Fellowship
  5. Select Call/Type/Mode: Discovery Fellowship - 9 May 2018
  6. Click Create Document

Proposals will require the following mandatory attachments:

  • CV. You should complete the standard CV template. We do not accept standalone CVs
  • Case for support and track record
  • Diagrammatic workplan
  • Data management plan
  • List of publications
  • Head of department statement
  • Statement from host group Principal Investigator (The Principal Investigator of the proposed host laboratory should hold their post for the duration of the fellowship and be of at least lecturer level or equivalent.)
  • Justification of resources
  • Pathways to impact plan
  • Career development plan (this must be attached to your proposal to allow submission)

Important new mandatory requirement:
All applications involving the use of animals overseas are required to include a signed statement on the use of animals confirming that they will follow the guidelines laid out by the NC3Rs (see external links) and adhere to regulatory systems in the UK and overseas. The signed statement must be attached as a Letter of Support to the Je-S application. Please refer to the “Additional questions on the use of rodents overseas” form in the application downloads below.

In addition to the signed statement, applications involving the use of rodents overseas must also attach the “Additional questions on the use of rodents overseas” form in the application downloads below.

Fellowships are awarded under full economic costing (fEC). Support for proposed research should be costed in line with the grants guide.

Detailed guidance on how to complete proposal forms and attachments, including the Career Development Plan, can be found in the DF Je-S help text and in the Fellowships Handbook (see downloads section). Note: Please do not use the fellowship help text in the Je-S system.

We do not accept late proposals.

Important: applicants should ensure proposals are submitted to their host institution's Je-S submitter/approval pool well in advance (a minimum of 5 working days) of the published deadline. This enables institution checks to be carried out before final submission to BBSRC.

Please also refer to the full UK Research and Innovation terms and conditions, our grants guide and fellowship handbook.

Peer review

Application deadline 9 May 2018, 16:00
Reviewing stage June - September 2018
Fellowship shortlisting for interviews October 2018
Fellowship interviews November 2018
Fellowship award notification 30 November 2018

Related calls: early career fellowships people skills and training