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Image: University of Michigan School for Environment and Sustainability [CC BY 2.0], via Flickr

Future of UK Treescapes programme launches individual fellowships

Launched in September 2021, UK Research and Innovation’s Future of UK Treescapes programme was given £14 million of funding to distribute over a four-year period. The programme feeds into the UK’s commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, acknowledging that tree-planting must play a major role in reaching that goal. Six projects, worth around £2m each, were funded by the first call, and bids to the second are under review. 

Now, Future of UK Treescapes has returned with a fellowship scheme. Successful applicants will spend between three and 12 months working on a topic related to the programme’s remit, in a new disciplinary, institutional or applied setting, with personal development a key feature.

Applicants can request up to £50,000, funded at 80 per cent of full economic cost. The deadline for proposals is 29 July. Additional funding via the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs is available for projects focusing on tree health.

Julie Urquhart, an environmental science researcher at the University of Gloucestershire and one of the programme’s two ambassadors, describes what applicants should expect.

What is the aim of the scheme?

The fellowship scheme is predominantly to offer opportunities for researchers who may want to explore more interdisciplinary approaches. They might want to learn new methods or approaches from disciplines that are not their existing background. 

Similarly, we hope practitioners who want to embed themselves in a research environment, and researchers who want to spend some time in a practitioner or policy environment, will apply. 

Is the scheme open to people with no previous experience of forestry research?

Yes, as long as they can show how their expertise can contribute to the themes of the programme. All fellows will be expected to engage in the wider programme, which may include events such as the annual conferences we organise with all our projects. They will be part of a broader Treescapes community.

What do the grants cover?

They are intended to cover the fellow’s time, any travel and subsistence, and any small amount of research funding they might need.

Who do you want to apply?

I don’t think there is one ideal applicant. It’s a very broad call. We want to see a range of applicants; in terms of academic applicants, we are keen to have early career researchers. This grant might give them an opportunity either to extend work they’ve done in their PhD that’s related to the Treescapes scheme, or to learn new methods in a discipline.

Can more experienced researchers apply?

Yes, we are keen to see more established researchers build their capacity and expertise in this area. A more-experienced researcher might want to do some specific research on a piece of policy or area they can’t do in their day job. I should say that we’re looking at these as being quite applied pieces of work rather than pure research.

What role do the host organisations play in the application process?

Any fellow must be hosted by an eligible higher education or research institution in the UK. The funding will go to that organisation, which will basically employ the fellow for the duration of the fellowship. 

If they wanted to work in a policy or stakeholder organisation, that organisation would host the fellow for the relevant period. The organisation could work with the fellow to come up with an idea for the fellowship, which may be a topic of particular interest for the policy or practice organisation.

How are applicants assessed?

They will be assessed by a small review panel, which will include myself and Clive Potter, the other ambassador on the programme. We’ll also bring on board another academic who will have a natural science background, because Clive and I are both social scientists. We will also have some non-academic reviewers, so these would be from policy and practice, and they will be selected from our programme advisory board. If there are any conflicts of interest, we will point others to review the proposals. There will be an interview stage, and we expect to appoint around six or seven fellows.

How is assessment weighted regarding person vs project?

Mainly on the strength of the project and how the project will enhance the capacity of the applicant. The aim of the scheme is to provide a knowledge exchange and learning experience for the applicant. The applicant’s professional development is an important criterion for assessment.

Any advice for potential fellows?

It might be useful for applicants to have a look at our funded projects and carefully consider the programme’s themes. They should think about how their fellowship might be able to fill some gaps that aren’t being covered by the funded projects. It’s quite a broad-ranging programme and there are plenty of opportunities to fill in those gaps. 

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

This article also appeared in Research Fortnight