Doctoral School

Researcher-Led Initiative Fund 2018-19

The Researcher-Led Initiative Fund (RLI Fund) gives researchers greater input into their development by supporting them to organise activities that will enhance their professional and research skills.

Open to doctoral researchers and early career researchers, the RLI Fund aims to complement the training and development opportunities provided through the Researcher Development Programme and within Schools. Researcher can now also apply to the fund to organise public engagement activities.

Please note: from September 2018, the RLI has been merged with Sussex Public Engagement Fund. Researchers interested in public engagement activity should now apply to the RLI Fund for support.

Calls for applications

The Spring Call for applications is now closed.

There are two rounds of funding each year, in autumn and spring. All proposals will be judged by members of the Doctoral School. Up to £15,000 will be available for each funding round with a maximum of £750 available for any one project. This will allow the Researcher Development Programme to support 20 projects across the year. Awarded funds must be spent by the end of the financial year (July 31). Please ensure that you read the application guidance notes.

If you wish to apply to the RLI Fund for support with a researcher training and development activity, please read the guidance below thoroughly. You might also find it helpful to view the previous winning initiatives to see the types of researcher training and development activities that have been funded, and examples of successful previous applications

If you wish to apply for support for a public engagement activity, please ensure you read Section 2, 'Guidance for applications: Public engagement activities'.

RLI Fund Applicant Guidance 2018-19 [PDF 418.04KB]

1. Guidance for applications: Training and development for researchers

Applications are invited from doctoral and early career researchers (i.e. members of research staff whose role is primarily focused on conducting research) at the University of Sussex for funding to support short-term, well-defined training and development projects. The following guidelines for applications are provided:

  • You may seek funding for activities that expand, complement or build on current training provision for researchers.
  • There must be a clear training and development focus to the activity proposed. The activity should enhance and complement the training and development activity available for researchers at School level and through our Researcher Development Programme.
  • Interdisciplinary initiatives benefitting researchers across Schools are encouraged.
  • Funding could be used to develop initiatives addressing a development need not already offered at Sussex, for example writing retreats, career development forums, networking events, journal clubs, or doctoral/early career researcher conferences. We encourage the development of new initiatives which are innovative, creative and use non-standard approaches to skills development.
  • Funding will not be given for travel, course or conference attendance, or staffing costs. Similarly, research projects are outside the scope of this funding stream.
  • Funding will not be granted retrospectively to cover initiatives occurring before application deadlines. All applications will be reviewed after the closing date unless your proposed event will take place before the deadline. If this is the case, please ensure you apply to the Fund at least 4 weeks before the date of your initiative.

The Researcher Development Team ( would be pleased to have informal discussions with researchers in the development of their applications.

2. Guidance for applications: public engagement activities

Following a successful pilot scheme to support doctoral and early career researchers interested in delivering public engagement activity, applications can now be made to the RLI fund to support this activity. Applications are invited from doctoral and early career researchers at the University of Sussex for funding to support short–term, well defined public engagement activities. Applicants are encouraged to consider:

The purpose of the activity should be to:

  • Inform and inspire the public: These projects will have a dissemination function, inspiring, informing, educating and making your research more accessible. Possible activities might include participation in festivals, interactive talks and shows, films and animations.
  • Consult and listen to public views: These projects will involve listening to the public’s views and concerns about your research, and provide an opportunity to gain fresh perspectives and insights into your work. Possible activities might include public debates, online consultations, panels, and user-groups.
  • Collaborate with the public: Here researchers and the public work together on projects. The public help to define your future research directions, policy or the implementation of your research outcomes. Possible activities might include citizen sciences, co-production of knowledge.
  • Or some combination of the above

An important part of any public engagement is to think about the people whom you want to engage with. Who are the public and how can you ensure you engage with them effectively? To find out more about understanding your target audience see:

Applicants are encouraged to consider how you will evaluate your activity. Evaluation is an important part of any engagement activity, and most funders require it. Tools to help you are available at:

Applicants are encouraged to refer to the National Coordinating Centre for Public Engagement and draw upon their resources in developing their application. The University has recently signed up to the NCCPE’s Manifesto for Public Engagement.

The Public Engagement Fund is intended to develop the skills of our researchers; outsourcing of public engagement activity will not be supported. Neither are we able to support projects which form a core requirement of your qualification e.g. the practice component of a practice-based doctorate.

3. Application and Budget

All applicants

The maximum total amount available to any single submission is £750. If you are successful you will be required to identify an existing School/department budget code to which the funds will be transferred. RLI funds must be spent by the end of the financial year (31st July).

An application form should be completed for each request for funding. The funding request should be endorsed by the Director of Doctoral Studies for training and development activities or PI/Supervisor for public engagement activities. 

A clear budget is required in your application and any unspent fund should be returned to the Researcher Development Programme. Funds cannot be used to cover the applicant’s time or conference attendance. Projects are expected to deliver value for money, and funds can only be used for items that are required for the activity.

Successful applicants are expected to provide a final statement of expenditure after the event, and any unspent funds will be returned to the Researcher Development Programme. The deadline for the final statement of expenditure is 6 weeks after your initiative has taken place, or by the 1st July, whichever is sooner.

Award recipients should make themselves familiar with the University's supply agreements, particularly for purchasing stationary and laboratory supplies.

Costs for catering an event should be reasonable, and where an external caterer is used, in line with hospitaliity provided by Sussex Food. We are unable to fund evening wine receptions.

Additonal guidelines for applicants organising training and development initiatives for researchers

  • Applicants are expected to take low-cost options with regards to accommodation for external speakers (e.g. standard hotels from the University approved list). In most cases the University has negotiated special rates to stay in these hotels/guesthouses. When making a booking it is essential that you quote that you wish to make a booking at the University of Sussex rate.
  • To obtain value for money, the University has appointed a preferred travel management company - Key Travel. Key Travel should be used for booking all air travel for external speakers, except where the use of an alternative supplier is substantially cheaper, low risk and outweighs the other benefits of using the preferred provider. The RLI Fund can only support travel by means of public transport.
  • If you are intending to pay an individual for work carried out in relation to your initiative (e.g. if you wish to pay a speaker for their time), you will need to ensure that you obtain evidence of their right-to-work in the UK before the work commences. Please refer to the University's guidance notes on the provision of temporary staff. If you have any questions about this process please contact your School Office, or the HR Compliance team:
4. Selection Process

Membership of the selection panel will be drawn from the Doctoral School. Additionally, Dr. Kathy Petherick (Public Engagement Coordinator, Life Sciences) will review applications for public engagement activity.

  • The panel will evaluate the applications, judging them against the criteria listed in this document.
  • The panel reserves the right to consider the distribution of Researcher-Led Initiative Fund allocation across the University. The panel reserves the right to offer partial funding for applications and may seek expert advice on any aspect of the application.  Applicants may be asked for further information, or to amend their application.
  • We aim to inform you of the decision within four weeks of the closing date of the RLI funding round in which your application falls. The decision of the panel is final and there is no appeals procedure. We encourage you to seek feedback on your application.
  • Unsuccessful applications may be re-submitted however, due to the competitive nature of this fund, projects which have previously been funded will not be considered. We encourage building sustainable activities into your initiatives, to avoid repeat applications to the RLI Fund.
5. Terms and Conditions

Awards are offered subject to the following terms and conditions:

  • That promotional materials for the activities include the words “Supported by the Researcher Development Programme”
  • That the award recipient submits a short evaluation report within 6 weeks of delivery of the activity which should include a final statement of expenditure. Award recipients may also be asked to contribute to the Doctoral School’s Festival of Doctoral Research (June 2019), or a Researcher Development Programme event to share their experiences of developing the initiatives.
  • Where projects involve collaborating with the public (as per the definition above) award recipients must adhere to University ethics and governance requirements.
  • That the organisers identify an existing School/department budget code to which the funds will be transferred, or to work with your School/department to set up a new budget code for your activity.
  • That Researcher Development should be informed of any proposed changes to the budget agreed by the awarding panel in advance of the activity taking place.

After the activity has taken place, any and all unspent budget allocation reverts back to the Researcher Development Programme to allow reinvestment in future public engagement activities.

The University is committed to providing an environment that advances equality of opportunity. We are all responsible for ensuring that staff, students and visitors to the University of Sussex or involved in our events are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. For more information see the Equality and Diversity webpages.

A library of successful applications will be made available to new applicants for assistance in putting together their application. Your application may be included in this Study Direct library

The Researcher Development Team ( and Dr Katy Petherick  (for public engagement activities) would be pleased to have informal discussions with researchers in the development of their applications.

Feedback from previous RLIF recipients

“May we thank you for all your support this term. Not only financially but also the Doctoral School has been so encouraging with re-tweeting and promoting our events online and giving advice" 

"As an organiser, I learnt the academic event management in a tight time compartment and managing themes and scholars. This exposure proved a turning point for my own academic career"

"I improved my networking and team work skills, having to deal with people from many different places and be available to help people at all times during the event. This is something I find difficult as I’m quite a shy person, so this was really good for building my confidence."

Useful Public Engagement Resources

The National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement (NCCPE) has an international reputation for inspiring and supporting universities to engage with the public. Explore their pages for guidance in organising your activity.

For inspiration take a look at the case studies and stories demonstrating how Sussex research has had an impact. They celebrate a rich diversity of work across a broad range of disciplines and showcase research that has been translated into practice, producing innovative solutions to real-world problems.

The Public Engagement Lens on the Researcher Development Framework describes how public engagement can contribute to your development as a researcher.

INVOLVE was established to support active public involvement in NHS, public health and social care research. Their website contains a database of resources on how to involve members of the public in research.

The British Science Association coordinates, delivers and oversees a number of different projects and programmes aimed at engaging more people with science. Check out how you can get involved with the British Science Festival 2018.

Doctoral School

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