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Image: Pedro Ribeiro Simões [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

A major Economic and Social Research Council scheme tackles ageing inequalities

With a total budget of up to £9 million, the Economic and Social Research Council’s call for Research on Inclusive Ageing is a major undertaking. It will support interdisciplinary research to improve understanding of ageing in one or more of the following groups: disabled adults with lifelong physical and learning impairments, including those whose life expectancy was previously limited and is now less so; ethnic minority adults from midlife to later life; and LGBT+ adults from midlife to later life. Projects must go beyond describing inequalities to identify practical ways to improve inclusivity.

Teams may apply for up to £2m at 80 per cent full economic cost and projects may last for up to five years. The deadline for outline applications is 8 June.

Eve Forrest, the senior portfolio manager for health and human behaviour research at the ESRC, has some tips for potential applicants.

How does this call fit into the ESRC’s portfolio?

This scheme builds on previous calls around making ageing better, on healthy ageing and social care, but is more specific about some areas we want academics to focus on. When our advisory group discussed this field, they noted that charities and public sector organisations felt they lacked certain information they see as essential on ageing. We took that to heart in this call. It’s also come at a time when we’re thinking about inclusivity and diversity—all those conversations have aligned with the aims of this call.

How does it differ from other targeted ESRC schemes?

We have several areas we’re asking people to focus on, including contemporary risks such as social isolation, people’s education and its effect on later outcomes in life. We’re not usually so strict with what applicants must do. The projects also need to take an interdisciplinary, intersectional approach, and applicants must have external partners. Those conditions are unusual to the ESRC.

Which areas and disciplines are you looking to engage?

Calls in relation to ageing tend to attract applications from the same people. We’ve made the call as open as possible here to encourage interdisciplinarity. We would like to see researchers from subject areas who wouldn’t normally think about crossing over into ageing or who work on the periphery of this field to submit or join in on proposals. 

We want to see teams of social scientists working with researchers in other disciplines collaborating together. However, some areas are out of scope for this scheme that people might expect to be included—for instance, dementia isn’t covered.

How will the application process work?

It’s a two-stage process. In the first step we’re looking for researchers to submit a three-page outline proposal with two-page CVs for their teams. The outlines will then be reviewed by a panel in early September, and then shortlisted applicants will be contacted to submit a full proposal. The deadline for that is due in December. Grants will start in June 2022. 

How does this call encourage interdisciplinarity?

Projects need to include at least 50 per cent social science as a baseline. But they will need to demonstrate interdisciplinary to succeed—for example, you can’t just have a group of economists.

Do you expect bids to be co-created with subjects?

We do encourage people with lived experience of issues relevant to ageing to be included in projects, although this could be via collaboration with bid partners.

Can projects be purely investigative or must they aim at some sort of application?

Projects must show they are going beyond describing inequalities, thinking about how they can improve understanding and at the same time identify practical ways to reduce the impact of inequalities and improve inclusivity in later life.

Do you expect every project to have detailed engagement plans?

As the initial outlines are only three pages long, we understand space is limited. If a team is invited to apply to the full stage, projects will need to give more detailed plans of their engagement strategy. 

Could grants be used to trial an intervention to reduce, for example, health inequalities in old age?

We welcome proposals that focus on reducing the impact of health inequalities, where they fit the other requirements in the call. Ultimately, projects must demonstrate they are improving evidence and understanding on at least one of the specified under-researched groups.

How do you anticipate distributing the funding?

At this stage, we’re not sure how many people will go for the upper limit of funding. We may have two or three big projects and some smaller ones. Based on another call we ran that was similar in size, it’s likely we’ll have a mix of projects and fund eight or 10 of them at most. We’re allowing a wide band of amounts because we did not want to limit people to a certain kind of project. 

This is an extract from an article in Research Professional’s Funding Insight service. To subscribe contact sales@researchresearch.com