John Fell Fund FAQs


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You may apply to the fund if you are a current employee of the collegiate university holding an academic post, or a research fellowship awarded competitively and intended to enable you to establish an independent research career. Further details are given in Notes for applicants

For small awards (less than £10,000), applications may also be considered from an employee who does not yet hold an academic post or fellowship. These applications must include a letter from the applicant’s line manager confirming that they support the application and that it is consistent with the applicant’s existing duties (eg the requirements of external funding bodies).

If in doubt, you should talk to your departmental administrator and/or head of department (or chair of faculty), and to the relevant divisional office – for divisional contacts, see the Advice tab.



You should contact the divisional office and, subject to their advice, ask your head of department to supply a covering letter confirming that they consider you to be eligible to apply to the John Fell Fund.



You may not apply unless you have already successfully completed your DPhil.



No, retired and emeritus fellows may not apply to the John Fell Fund.



No, students may not apply to the John Fell Fund.



To qualify as an early career researcher you should be in the early stages of your career as an independent researcher.

You will have held a post that includes responsibility for developing your own research agenda for less than 5 years in all (including periods at other institutions). If you have had a career break, and/or work part-time, this requirement will be relaxed proportionately.

To assist us in evaluating your application, please provide details on the timeframe for such circumstances (it is not necessary to disclose personal information).

If you hold, or have held, a post of professor, reader, or senior lecturer, you are not eligible under this category. If however you hold the title of associate professor at Oxford, you are eligible, provided that you fulfil the other requirements outlined above.



Yes, the John Fell Fund will accept applications from staff who have been appointed to the University but who are not yet in post, providing the applicant has signed a contract with the University. Please note that funds will not be made available until the applicant has taken up the appointment.


Purposes of grants

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The fund will not support a studentship under the following award categories: 'pump-priming', or 'early career researcher', or 'other academic activities'. A studentship covers a longer period than these types of awards are expected to last.

The fund will not support a student who is already on course.

In exceptional cases, it may be willing to make a contribution to an application to an external body for a research project or scheme that includes new studentships, provided that a strong strategic case is made for matched funding, under the award category 'support related to bids for external funding'.



Yes, you may apply for a grant for a research assistant, provided that this is for a project that is at too early a stage to take to an external research body.

We would expect the employment of such an assistant to be aimed at establishing your research in Oxford, and therefore the JFF would normally provide less than two years' funding. You should make clear how you would propose to fund your research subsequently: normally this would be by applying to an external body on the basis of the initial support from the John Fell Fund.



The committee recognises that in some disciplines these provide a major contribution to pump-priming research. It will therefore consider such applications provided that they make clear:

(a) to what future opportunities the event is expected to lead, including external funding bids and future research collaborations, highlighting the benefits that these will bring to Oxford, and

(b) why the full cost cannot be met from other sources, which would normally be expected to cover the cost.

The committee requires clear information about income and expenditure in the application form, showing which items the Fell Fund is being asked to support.

The committee will expect to see evidence of attempts to raise external and internal funds, in particular external funding applications submitted through the relevant faculty, matching private funding or sponsorship (eg from individuals or publishers) and faculty or college support (which may be 'in kind' such as the free use of rooms and/or reduced accommodation rates).

Conferences, workshops or symposia for which the Fell Fund is requested to provide support should normally charge a registration fee to non-university members that is sufficient to cover venue, publicity and support costs.

For applicants in the humanities, the Division provides further guidance on requests for conference support



It is expected that the attendees at a conference or workshop will meet travel and subsistence costs from their own home institution's funds. However, the John Fell Fund may meet such costs in exceptional circumstances.

The case will need to make clear why the individual cannot receive funding from their home institution and why it is in Oxford's interests to pay for their attendance. An example might be where a certain individual from a developing country is key to developing a new collaboration.



No, the Fell Fund will not under any circumstances fund receptions, honoraria or similar costs. It is highly unlikely that conferences to be held outside of Oxford will be supported.



We recommend that you discuss arrangements with your departmental administrator in the first instance.



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Applications are automatically submitted to the relevant department. Subject to departmental approval they are then considered and ranked by the division(s) before being received by the John Fell Committee.



All applications should be submitted online and are, if approved by the department, forwarded to the appropriate divisional office.

These applications are then reviewed by the relevant divisional committee and put forward to the John Fell Fund Secretariat in priority order.

Main awards are then approved by the John Fell Fund Committee. Small and divisional awards are subject to approval by the Chair of the John Fell Fund Committee.



Applicants should contact their departmental administrator in the first instance as assistance may be available locally, or there may be a research facilitator who can provide some informal feedback on your application.



In all relevant cases, you must seek ethical approval before you start work on the project. See details of University ethical approval policy and process on the CUREC web pages.

In approving the application, the head of department undertakes that any ethical requirements will be covered. 

Divisions or the John Fell Committee may also require as a condition of an award that ethical approval be provided. In such cases, confirmation of ethical approval must be supplied to before funds can be released.



Where a publication results from a project supported by the John Fell Fund, this should be acknowledged in the publication by a statement along the lines of: 'This publication arises from research funded by the John Fell Oxford University Press (OUP) Research Fund'.



If you are unable to start your project within six months of the start date you originally proposed, and/or if you expect the end date to be different, you should request a change in dates using the 'Request Extension' tool alongside your award listing on 'My applications and awards'.

This should set out the new expected start and end dates and explaining the reasons for the delay. Changes in start and end dates are subject to approval by departmental approvers and by the John Fell Committee.



Applications for extensions to John Fell awards should be made via the online system, using the 'Request Extension' tool, accessed via the button alongside your award listing on 'My Applications and Awards'.

Extensions must be approved by your departmental approver before being reviewed by the John Fell Secretariat.

Final reports are submitted using the 'Final Report' button. Please ensure that any final reports outstanding on John Fell awards are submitted as soon as possible.



Prospective applicants for category (f) need to discuss proposal with their divisional JFF contact well in advance of the submission.



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Awards will normally be made only for the directly incurred costs of research.

Applications should make clear both the full economic costs of the project, and the directly incurred costs that they request from the John Fell Fund.



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

If, exceptionally, it is proposed to make an arrangement whereby some of a John Fell award would be transferred upfront to a third party outside the University, on the basis that that party would then administer those funds on the University’s behalf (eg to arrange payments in a developing country), you are advised as follows:

(a) that the committee would expect that no more than 30% of the value of a John Fell award, or £10,000 (whichever is the greater) will be handled in this way;

(b) that before applying you should discuss the proposal with the Research Services Office; and

(c) that you must make clear in the application to the Fell Fund the rationale for the arrangement, the proposed payment arrangements (including the total amount and spread of payments to the third party), and the main terms of the proposed agreement, including implications for intellectual property.

If funds are awarded in such a case, it will be a condition of the award that any transfer of funds will be governed by a research contract, to be negotiated through the Research Services Office.

These requirements do not apply in respect of retrospective payments to third parties for goods or services rendered, nor to funds to be managed by staff within Oxford colleges.



Please consult your administrator about the preparation of costings.



John Fell awards are cash-limited and will normally not be increased.

If you do not need certain items that were originally budgeted for, the relevant funds should be returned to the fund for the benefit of future applicants.

If you wish to vire funds from one heading to another, you should write to the John Fell Secretariat setting out the proposed change, explaining why this was not proposed at the outset and justifying the proposed new arrangements.

Changes in the budget are subject to approval on behalf of the committee.



Additional costs that are over and above those stated within the original application will not be normally covered by the John Fell Fund and should be met by the department.

In exceptional circumstances, it may be possible to reapply to the John Fell Fund for a supplementary small award to cover these additional costs. Such a reapplication will be subject to approval by the relevant divisional committee, which will take into account the justification for the shortfall and the reason why the department cannot cover it, and set it against the needs of the new small award applications received in that round.



Article Processing Charges (APCs) are not a permissible cost within John Fell applications.


The John Fell Fund will provide a contribution toward the cost of paid maternity/paternity/adoption/shared parental leave for staff employed on JFF projects.  In these circumstances, departments may request a costed extension to increase the award budget by writing to the John Fell Fund Secretariat.

Costed extensions for parental leave will provide a contribution to the additional cost to the employing department for the period of leave (minus any recoverable statutory pay) including: basic salary, employer’s NI & pension contributions, any paid leave accrued, Keeping In Touch days and any other applicable benefits.  Departments will be required to provide a breakdown of the actual costs incurred as part of the costed extension request.

Award supplements will provide up to 50% of the unrecoverable costs, proportional to the FTE% charged to the JFF award, with the balance to be met by the employing department.

Please note that costs for Principal or Co-Investigators are not eligible for support from JFF and would fall to departments to cover.


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You should start with your departmental administrator or other colleagues in your department for advice on eligibility and costings.

For further advice, including on the types of purposes for which you may make an application, the relevant divisional contact may be able to help, as below:

You may also consult the John Fell Secretariat.



Technical issues

Application process

Contact your departmental administrator in the first instance.

Further help is available from divisional contacts: