Select Committee on Science and Technology Written Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC)


  The following information was requested. "Please provide an analysis of the cost efficiency of Postdoctoral Fellowships programmes, indicating whether your accounts isolate administrative costs associated with these schemes."

  Average ESRC staff salaries 2001:
Band 3£24,000
Band 4£17,000
Band 5£13,200

  Using the time recording data we have established that the approximate time spent administering the scheme in 2001 was as follows:
Time spent% of salary
Band 329%6,960
Band 414%2,380
Band 524% (12% x 2) 3,168

  Using the average staff salaries for 2001 the total annual staff costs to Postgraduate Training Division for administering the scheme was £12,508. However, this was the first year of the scheme and much of the band 3 time was spent in writing the documentation and developing the scheme. We have also streamlined the referee selection process this year so in practice these costs should be lower this year and subsequently.

  The amount of money paid out to a pool of referees during the period 1 April 2002 is £9355.00 or approximately £252.00 per referee.

  An independent Panel was set up to make the final funding decisions. The amount paid out to Panel members who attended the meeting during April 2002 is £2755.56.

  Total costs are therefore in the region of £25k. We received 250 applications so could say that the average cost of processing an application is about £100. This does not take into account post-award admin costs in PTD which were not recorded separately.


  The figures quoted have been provided by our colleagues within the ESRC finance division. The total cost of administering postdoctoral fellowship awards during the full first year, including balancing claims and final claims, is £1356.48

  (b)  The main features of the Postdoctoral Fellowship Scheme are:

    —  each award is for one year only;

    —  the scheme is restricted to those who have just completed their doctorate, or expect to be awarded their doctorate in the coming year;

    —  applicants are expected to provide a mentor to support the fellow but in addition the institution is required to demonstrate its commitment to the long term support and promotion of new researchers within its research strategy;

    —  the mentor will be a senior colleague within the institution and will provide guidance and support for the fellow during their award.

  (c)  How does the scheme deal with applications for interdisciplinary research?

  As long as the applications are within the social science remit, we deal with them in the same way as other applications to the scheme, ensuring appropriate academic review.


  In answer to your questions, the ESRC has a Fellowship Scheme, which provides for full salary support for academic social science researchers at two stages of their careers—Senior Fellowships for those with an outstanding track record and Junior Fellowships, for post doctoral researchers who have already demonstrated exceptional promise. The awards can be made for up to three years.


    (a)  We do not analyse costs of these schemes separately from the costs of processing all our research awards

    (b)  This scheme gives both senior and less experienced researchers the opportunity to undertake a period of concentrated research activity. Fellowships provide a significant career development opportunity for promising researchers, who benefit from a term in concentrated research activity and development. For more senior researchers, the Fellowships will contribute to the achievement of sustained high quality research knowledge and expertise.

    Fellowships fund a wide variety of academic activities ranging from further training to the consolidation of previous research. Fellowships offer a salaried period of two to three years (five years in exceptional circumstances) to researchers working in all areas of social and economic science.

    Fellowships may be used to consolidate previous research, to assist theoretical and methodological development through journal articles and to provide time to write books. Some of the time may be used to develop skills, such as undertaking training in advanced research methods, research management and teaching.

    A minimum of extra responsibilities will be expected of the Fellow to contribute to the development of the research field and appropriate dissemination to non-academic audiences, such as teaching, supervision, dissemination or networking seminars.

    Each award is made for a known person based on their research potential or their track record of excellence in research.

    A Fellow with less than 10 years' post-doctoral research experience will have a mentor within the institution who will support and appraise the Fellow's progress annually and submit a report to the ESRC.

    (c)  All our responsive Awards, including Fellowships, are made by a single multidisciplinary Board, the Research Grants Board, which covers the whole of the social sciences. Interdisciplinary applications, and applications from one or more disciplines, are peer reviewed and evaluated on their merits.

June 2002

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