Notes for applicants

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The John Fell OUP Research Fund is open to both academic and service units. All subject areas are encouraged to apply, and interdisciplinary and/or interdivisional projects are especially welcome.

The applicant should normally be a current salaried employee of the collegiate university holding an academic post (Professor or Associate Professor), or a research fellowship awarded competitively and intended to enable the holder to establish an independent research career (eg Royal Society University Research Fellow, Junior Research Fellow).

Retired and emeritus fellows, and DPhil and other students, are not eligible to apply to the John Fell Fund (including as co-applicant).

Main awards

For main award applications (more than £10,000), you must hold a post that includes responsibility for developing your own research agenda. If you do not hold an academic post, but the department would support a research application to an external body in your name as principal investigator, then you will normally be eligible to apply. You are advised to consult your departmental administrator and/or head of department (or chair of faculty). Your application will not be considered unless it is supported by your department or faculty via the online application process.  

Small awards

For small award applications (up to £10,000), the same rules apply as for main awards, except that the committee will also consider applications from an early career researcher employed by the collegiate University who aspires to an academic post or fellowship, but does not yet hold such a post, provided that the applicant has the support of their line manager. The line manager should supply a letter of support, including confirmation that holding the John Fell award would be consistent with the applicant’s existing duties (eg meeting the requirements of external funders). The application must also be supported by the department via the online process.

Medical Sciences – non-academic

If you are in Medical Sciences and are not an academic or equivalent, you should consult the divisional office and, subject to their advice, supply a covering letter from your head of department confirming your eligibility to apply to the John Fell Fund. Clinical research fellows who have not yet completed their DPhil may not apply.

Researcher Co-Investigators

The status of Researcher Co-Investigator (RCo-I) allows for named researchers working on JFF projects who are providing significant intellectual input to the development of the research proposal and management of the project to have their contribution recognised.

Researcher Co-Investigators are research staff at the University who would not normally be eligible to apply to JFF in their own right (for example, because they do not hold an eligible post and/or have a contract of employment for the duration of the proposed project prior to application).

Details of the RCo-I’s contribution to the project should be provided as part of the Case for Support. For further guidance on how to include an RCo-I on a JFF application, please visit the dedicated webpage.


  • Excellence and intrinsic merit of research
  • Potential for long term sustainability and academic impact of the project
  • Relevance to department and divisional research strategy
  • Necessity for John Fell Fund versus other sources of funding
  • Value for money, noting in particular the potential for shared use of equipment and other facilities



  • Small award scheme – Requests to this scheme must not exceed £10,000. Applicants will need to demonstrate how the award would lead to further funding or research opportunities.
  • Main award scheme – Applications under this scheme must be for over £10,000. There is no upper limit on the value of awards, but the higher the sum requested, the more exceptional the case will need to be.
  • Divisional awards – A special scheme is available in the Social Sciences Division.



The John Fell OUP Research Fund is used in a variety of ways to stimulate and sustain research.

The Fund makes available outright grants, underwriting, or loans. The division, department or faculty concerned is normally expected to provide a contribution to the cost of the project and/or complementary expertise. Projects that will generate income are welcome.

Awards are not normally made for projects that are eligible for support from external sources.

Applications can be made for any of the following purposes:

Details of award types
Award type Description
(a) Pump-priming For innovative projects and proof-of-concept work, especially of an interdisciplinary nature, that are currently at too early a stage to put to an external sponsor, the Fell Fund award being intended to bring the project to a stage at which a strong application for external funds can be made towards the end of the period of the award.
(b) Early Career Researcher

Start-up funds for applicants who are in the early stages of their careers as independent researchers, to accelerate establishment of their research and scholarship. You will have held a post that includes responsibility for developing your own research agenda for less than five years*.

*This condition will be relaxed proportionately for applicants who have had a career break or who work part-time.

(c) Networks, collaborations and partnerships Activities to support the development of new research networks, collaborations and partnerships, including  seminar series and international interactions likely to lead to new research initiatives.
(d) Research facilitators (discontinued)

Administrative posts that help to maximise the University's response to research opportunities by supporting the development of research through the establishment of collaborations and/or the preparation of bids for external funding.

Please note: the John Fell Fund no longer accepts stand-alone applications for research facilitator posts. However, costs for administrative support may be included in applications for projects submitted under category (a) ‘pump-priming’, (c) ‘networks, collaborations and partnerships’ or (e) ‘support related to bids for external funding’.

(e) Support related to bids for external funding Normally matching funds, usually in the form of a contribution towards a proposal that is about to be submitted to an external sponsor in order to enhance the chances of success. In such cases any award will be contingent on the success of the external bid. It is expected that the Fell Fund would not contribute more than 25% towards the total cost of the project, unless a higher contribution is explicitly required by an external funder.
Please note: the required 50% institutional match for equipment on Research Council standard grants is not eligible for JFF support. Departments are expected to provide this match from their own resources.
(f) Strategic investment in research assets Applications in this category must include a business case.

Individuals considering applying under category (f) should consult their divisional contact about the strategic case and financial package for their application at an early stage and well in advance of the closing date. Applications for support which have not been discussed with the division will not be considered.

Applications must normally be for a minimum of £100k towards the cost of research equipment or other assets (such as datasets), which must represent a contribution towards a project of a major strategic nature where the balance of the cost is the subject of a bid to an external funding body that assesses bids by peer review.

It is normally expected that at least 70% of the cost of the project will be sought from the external body. A contribution of up to 75% of the internal costs of the project (ie of the balance after the anticipated external contribution) may be available from the Capital Fund. The department or division is expected to contribute to the direct costs. This can include hiring costs in the form of technicians’ time. The department/division may also seek support from the main JFF. Normally, therefore, this category will apply only where the full cost of the project as a whole is over £445k, and any award will be contingent on the success of the external bid. 

Applications under this heading should make clear the effect of the project on the division’s research strategy, and how running costs, including equipment replacement and maintenance, would be met over the next ten years.


Awards are normally made only for the directly incurred costs of research including posts, equipment, consumables and other items required for the project.

Grants are not made for:

  • building costs
  • the salary of the principal or co-applicants
  • other academic posts, i.e. new academic posts or academic posts held by individuals other than the applicant (provided that in exceptional circumstances funds might be made available towards an academic post for a limited period where this is tied to a specific bid to an external body under category 'Support related to current bids for external funding')
  • bridging support
  • article processing charges (APCs) incurred under the Open Access publication model
  • honoraria

In exceptional cases, grants may be made towards refurbishment costs, but only as part of a bid for equipment, where refurbishment is required in order to house the equipment. Bids for refurbishment only may be made to the Capital Steering Group.

Salary costs for named Researcher Co-Investigators working on a project may be requested as a directly incurred cost.


All bids to the main award scheme should be prepared on an FEC basis unless you are not asking for staff costs. Applications should make clear both the full economic costs of the project, and the directly incurred costs that are requested from the John Fell Fund.

The entry on the application form under 'amount requested from John Fell Fund', and the figures given in the breakdown of costs table should consist of directly incurred costs only. 

Please consult your administrator about the preparation of costings. The department or faculty is responsible for confirming the accuracy of the costings.


In all cases, departments/divisions are expected to cover the indirect costs of projects (except that the Fund may exceptionally cover directly-allocated costs other than academic staff time).

For categories (a)-(e) they are encouraged where possible to contribute to direct costs.

For category (f), a contribution to direct costs is required.

The department or faculty should indicate whether it proposes to contribute to the directly incurred costs of the project and comment on why it cannot meet the entire costs of the project.

The extent of the department/faculty's support should be made clear on the application form under 'contribution from department/faculty'.


Where John Fell awards are made conditionally, funds will not be released until the condition is fulfilled. In cases where ethical clearance is required from the Central University Research Ethics Committee (CUREC) or related bodies (IDREC and DREC), funds will not be released until clearance and a CUREC number has been confirmed to In exceptional cases where data from the initial stages of work will form an essential part of the application for ethical approval, or where ethical approval for subsequent stages of work necessitate completion of previous stages, please note that:

(a) the department should satisfy itself that all necessary ethical approvals are in place for the initial stage(s) of the work, and underwrite costs up to the point where CUREC gives approval for the full project;

(b) the department should charge the costs to itself and then recharge them later to the award if and when full CUREC approval comes through, on the understanding that if approval is not received, the John Fell award will be revoked;

(c) any request, in exceptional circumstances, to proceed other than as under (a) and (b) above should be referred to;

(d) decisions relating to any one award do not in any way set a precedent for ethical clearance of other awards, as the circumstances around CUREC and ethical approval relate directly and only to the nature of the research in each individual study.


The John Fell Committee expects that awards will be managed by PIs working in departments within the University. 

If, exceptionally, it is proposed that some of a John Fell award will be transferred upfront to a third party outside the University, on the basis that they would then administer those funds on the University’s behalf (eg to arrange payments in a developing country), the committee expects a number of conditions to be met, as set out under ‘Costs’ in the FAQs.