Seed Awards in Medical Humanities and Social Science

"Artificial Intelligence"

Seed Awards help researchers develop compelling and innovative ideas that will go on to form part of larger grant applications to Wellcome or elsewhere.

The current funding round is on the theme of artificial intelligence.

The ethical, social and political challenges of using artificial intelligence in healthcare

For the current funding round of Seed Awards in Humanities and Social Science, we are only accepting applications that explore the ethical, social and political challenges of using of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare and biomedical research.

The ever-increasing use of AI represents a major change in healthcare and biomedical research. Although there is much excitement about this change, its implications for society have not been properly explored.  We have commissioned a report from Future Advocacy that identifies many ethical, social and political challenges resulting from the use of AI in healthcare and biomedical research.

Applicants should read Future Advocacy’s report before they apply.

In the report, Future Advocacy identifies the following ethical, social and political challenges: 

  • What effect will AI have on human relationships in health and care?
  • How is the use, storage and sharing of medical data impacted by AI?
  • What are the implications of issues around algorithmic transparency and explainability on health?
  • Will these technologies help eradicate or exacerbate existing health inequalities?
  • What is the difference between an algorithmic decision and a human decision?
  • What do patients and members of the public want from AI and related technologies?
  • How should these technologies be regulated?
  • Just because these technologies could enable access to new information, should we always use it?
  • What makes algorithms, and the entities that create them, trustworthy?
  • What are the implications of collaboration between public and private sector organisations in the development of these tools?

Proposals can address the challenges identified in the report, or other challenges.

We welcome applications from any discipline, or interdisciplinary approach, in the humanities or social sciences.

Eligibility and suitability

Who can apply

You can apply for a Seed Award if you're a researcher who wants to develop a compelling and innovative idea that will go on to form part of a larger grant application to Wellcome or elsewhere.

For the current funding round, we are only accepting applications that explore the ethical, social and political challenges of using artificial intelligence in healthcare and biomedical research.

You must: 

  • have a PhD or the equivalent professional experience
  • be based at an eligible host organisation in the UK, Republic of Ireland or a low- or middle-income country (although collaborators can be based elsewhere)
  • have enough time to commit to the award.

The award is open to applicants with or without established academic posts.

We particularly encourage researchers who are at the start of their independent careers to apply.

You can have collaborators, but you can't submit a joint application with another person.

Research proposal

Seed Awards give researchers the opportunity to use innovative methodologies and carry out a broad range of activities, such as:

  • pilot and scoping studies
  • preliminary data gathering
  • proof-of-principle studies
  • planning sessions
  • collaborative network meetings. 

We will review:

  • how your idea addresses the challenges outlined in the themed call
  • the potential for your proposed research to make a significant advance in your field
  • your track record as a researcher, relative to your career stage
  • the feasibility of your approach and its likely outcomes 
  • the suitability of your research environment.

Who can't apply

You can't apply if you are currently undertaking a Master's or a PhD.

Also, you can't apply for funding for:

  • an existing, rather than a new, research project
  • a standalone project, with no follow-on plans.

What we offer

Seeds Awards are usually between £25,000 and £100,000. Most Seed Awards are for 12 to 18 months.

We'll pay your salary if you don’t have an established academic post.

All costs must be fully justified. Support can include:

  • a salary or research/teaching replacement
  • research expenses, including costs for a researcher or consultant
  • conference and meeting costs

What we don’t offer

Seed Awards cannot be used to: 

  • top up existing grants
  • fund part of a PhD or Master’s course
  • write up publications from previous awards and qualifications. 

We don't provide funds for directly allocated or indirect costs unless they're included on this page.

Application date
6-12 months
Social sciences