Some funders have guidelines on who they say is eligible to be a Principal Investigator or a Co-Investigator.
Similarly, some departments in Oxford will have restrictions on allowing fixed term research staff to be a Principal Investigator on an application. In the Law Faculty we would normally allow permanent postholders and fixed term researchers of grade 7 and above to be the Principal Investigator on a grant application.
Each potential application will be considered on a case by case basis. The points to consider are:
- Are there restrictions on office space?
- Are there particular fields of research that the department, centre or faculty wants to encourage?
- Are there concerns about researchers spending time on grant applications instead of working on the current project for which they were employed?
- Are researchers currently employed on their own fellowship or employed to work on someone else’s grant?
- Does the complexity or duration of the project mean that the project requires the participation of a senior, more experienced researcher as the PrincipaI Investigator or as Co-Investigator?
In the Law Faculty we have a relatively small number of fixed term research staff. We tend not to prioritise specific fields of research, but we do have staff employed to work on projects run by senior researchers.
The Faculty will normally support an application for funding to continue an appointment, but not to subsidise a current post: a researcher cannot be paid for more than 100% of full time. Applications for supplementary ‘non-staff’ small grants will also normally be supported. For example, a researcher employed on a British Academy fellowship which funds his salary in full, could apply for a small grant to cover the costs of additional empirical research. Similarly a researcher employed part time on a Leverhulme Trust project grant, reporting to a senior Principal Investigator, could apply for a Fell Fund grant for a related supplementary grant that would pay for some travel and research assistance.
Any person on a fixed term contract who wishes to apply for a research grant, should speak initially to his or her PI or Line Manager and then to the Research Facilitator or the Centre Administrator. The Centre Director, Research Co-ordinator or Dean of the Faculty will then be asked to confirm whether or not the researcher may be the PI on an application.
With a few exceptions, an employment contract for fixed term staff would need to be matched by the funding and funding period of the grant. This means that if the grant budget includes your salary costs at 100% fte for 2 years, then the employment contract from the University will also be 100% fte for 2 years. You will receive a letter explaining that your contract is fixed term rather than permanent because it is linked to the fixed term funding.
Early career fellowships
Fellowship schemes that are intended for early career researchers, such as the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, the British Academy Post Doctoral Fellowship, the ESRC Future Research Leaders scheme, AHRC Leadership Fellows (early career route), Marie Curie Fellowships and Newton International Fellowships are open to applicants who are not already employed by the proposed host institution. All but the last two are also open to those currently employed on fixed term contracts within the Faculty or University. In many (but not all) cases, if the Law Faculty supports an application to one of these schemes, then if successful, the funding would be awarded to the Faculty, and the Faculty would then give the fellow an employment contract to match the funding period. An exception to this is the Newton International Fellowship, where the fellow would receive a stipend and be classed as an Academic Visitor, rather than have an employment contract from the Faculty/University.
Some of the above fellowship schemes require a mentor or supervisor to be named on the application. In some of these cases, that person has to have either a permanent contract of employment (an established post), and in others a fixed term contract is acceptable as long as it runs beyond the end of the proposed fellowship.
Any potential applications from researchers currently outside the Faculty must be supported by a current member of the Faculty, normally someone in a position to act as the mentor for the duration of the fellowship.
The Law Faculty will not normally set a limit on the number of applications to each scheme except for the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship and the ESRC Future Research Leaders scheme. Both of these schemes require part of the salary costs to be covered by the University and so the Faculty can only support a limited number of applications each year.
Mid career and senior research fellowships
These schemes are intended for those in permanent posts, generally to allow them to have time out from teaching to focus on research activities. Therefore, research staff on fixed term contracts are not eligible to apply for these schemes.
This applies to, for example the British Academy Mid-Career Fellowships, Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowships and Major Research Fellowships, AHRC Leadership Fellows (standard route).
ERC Investigator awards – starter, consolidator and advanced awards
The Faculty is able to support applications for ERC Investigator Awards from people currently in the Faculty on either permanent or fixed term contracts or from people currently not employed by the Faculty or the University.
Applicants are expected to spend an average of at least 50% of full time working on the project and the employment costs for this effort would be covered in full. (For advanced investigator awards the minimum is 30%.) For those currently not employed by the Faculty, or currently on a fixed term contract, the new employment contract would match the project funding. The application will also need to be supported by a current member of the Faculty. Those already on permanent contracts would be released from teaching duties, their employment costs would be charged directly to the project, and the Faculty funds released would be used to recruit replacement teaching.
Joint postholders, such as CUF and UL Lecturers should note that the European Commission does not recognise Oxford colleges as part of Oxford University. In some cases it will therefore be necessary to temporarily change the employment contract so that hours worked on the project are all university hours rather than college hours.
Research Project and Research Network Grants
Nuffield Foundation Research Project Grants
The Nuffield Foundation will pay some salary costs for the Principal Investigator, but only between ½ day and 2 days per week. Effort of less than ½ day each week is expected to be covered by the institution. The PI is expected to be already employed by the Institution. Therefore a researcher looking for a salary would need to be named as the Co-Investigator or “Joint Applicant” in the Foundation’s terms. It would then be possible to include a full time salary for up to 3 years in the project budget.
Research Council Research Project Grants
Research Councils will pay directly allocated or directly incurred salary costs for Principal Investigators and Co-Investigators. The higher the percentage of full time, the more difficult it is to justify for senior staff, because they would often be expected to be working on multiple projects. The Law Faculty would allow a researcher on a fixed term contract to be the PI or Co-I on a project grant application, but if the PI, then the application would need to be approved by the Dean, the Research Co-ordinator or the Director of the appropriate Research Centre.
AHRC Research Network Grants
The research networks grant is based on 80% of full economic cost (FEC) in the same way as larger project grants. Therefore we do need to include a few hours/week of the PI's or CoI's time to ensure that the overheads generated by this post cover the top up needed to have 100% of the travel and consumables budget. It is very unlikely that the PI or CoI would be able to request any teaching buyout under this scheme.
Leverhulme Trust International Research Network Grants
This scheme closed in February 2016.
Leverhulme Trust Research Project Grants
The Leverhulme Trust has clear guidelines for its Research Projects scheme. Since we can ask for the costs of the PI and CoI only in terms of the replacement teaching costs and only for up to 1/3 of full time over the project life, a fixed term researcher who is looking to secure a salary would need to be a named researcher on the project, not the PI or CoI.
From the Trust's Research Project page:
“The applicant (Principal Investigator) must take responsibility for directing the grant, and his/her employing institution must also agree to administer the grant. Eligible applicants will already be employed by the eligible institution or be an academic who has maintained close links with that institution following retirement. Applications can be submitted by those holding contract research posts provided that their appointment continues for a period at least equal to the span of the requested award. Up to three co-applicants from the same or different institutions may also be included.”