NERC Independent Research Fellowships (IRF) for Environmental Science

The NERC Independent Research Fellowship (IRF) Scheme is designed to develop scientific leadership among the most promising early-career environmental scientists, by giving all fellows five years' support, which will allow them sufficient time to develop their research programmes and to gain international recognition.

As part of this scheme, NERC will expand its fellowship networking and training activities, working with host institutions, to support the development of future leaders in NERC science.

IRF key dates

  • call opens for applications on Je-S - 4 June 2019
  • call closes on Je-S - 1 October 2019
  • Peer review - October 2019 - January 2020
  • IRF sift meeting - 29 January - 4 February 2020
  • IRF sift meeting results available - mid-February 2020
  • IRF interviews - 10-18 March 2020
  • IRF interview results available - April 2020.

Application and assessment process

In order to identify future science leaders, the assessment process will concentrate on applicants' research potential, with track record assessed in a way that is appropriate to career stage. Applicants will be expected to:

  • demonstrate their research vision and philosophy and outline ways in which their research could be developed over the five year fellowship;
  • explain how they will contribute to the international research area and interact with the leading international groups in their field;
  • explain how they will enable the potential economic or societal benefits of their research to be realised.

In order to demonstrate a commitment to the development of NERC IRFs, the head of department of the host institution will be required to demonstrate:

  • the availability of structured institutional support, including infrastructure and facilities, funds to support research, and access to PhD students;
  • support for personal development of the fellow, including mentoring, appropriate review, and training courses.

NERC has prepared a document answering some common queries about the Independent Research Fellowships.


You may not have a Co-Investigator on your application - the fellow can be the only member of staff on their application.

You may, however, request staff time for technicians, field work help, etc., but these costs must be requested as costed pool staff time to undertake a particular activity. Named staff positions (for example, 0.5 FTE Technician) cannot be requested on an application.

You may have an overseas project partner, there is no limit to how many project partners you can have or where they can be based. A project partner must provide specific contributions to the project and these detailed within a letter of support. The role of all project partners to the success of the fellowship must be clearly detailed within the Case for Support document.

You can move move your fellowship to another research organisation once it has been granted, but the organisation you are moving to must be UK Research and Innovation eligible. Please contact NERC Head Office if you are considering moving your award.

There is no funding limit for IRF; however, all costs must be justified appropriately. Applications generally request £500,000 total funding although this varies between research areas and according to the research objectives of the fellowship proposal.

Application date
5 years
Europe : United Kingdom
Social sciences : Economics, Environmental Sciences, Geography
Other : Agronomy, Biology, Chemistry, Engineering, Physics
Required post-doc experience
Between 0 and 8 years
Award granted
Generally £ 500.000