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University Research Fellowship

This scheme is for outstanding scientists who are in the early stages of their research career and have the potential to become leaders in their field.

Crystals of the phage tail fibre protein Hylp1. Credit: Dr Edward J Taylor, University Research Fellow from the University of Lincoln.

This fellowship provides the opportunity to build an independent research career. Those appointed are expected to be strong candidates for permanent posts in universities at the end of their fellowships.

Research must be within the Royal Society’s remit of natural sciences, which includes but is not limited to biological research, chemistry, engineering, mathematics and physics. For a full list, please see the breakdown of subject groups and areas supported by the Royal Society. The Royal Society does not cover clinical medicine (such as patient orientated research and clinical trials), social sciences or humanities, other than when working in partnership with organisations.

Researchers addressing a direct biomedical research question should apply for a Sir Henry Dale Fellowship.

The Society is providing newly appointed University Research Fellows with an enhanced level of research expenses between October 2019 and the end of March 2021 due to additional funding from the UK Government’s Talent Fund. The additional funding is intended to support University Research Fellows in the delivery of their fellowship programme i.e. their research and building their research team.

Suitable individuals of any nationality can apply for a University Research Fellowship to be held in an eligible UK host research organisation.

Please note: Applicants proposing to be based in Ireland (ROI) are funded by the Science Foundation Ireland. If successful these candidates will be awarded a Royal Society – Science Foundation Ireland University Research Fellowship. Before applying, please ensure that you meet all the eligibility requirements, which are explained in the scheme notes

Am I eligible to apply?

You can apply for this scheme if you:

  • have a PhD (note we will not consider applicants who have just submitted their PhD)
  • are in the early stages of your research career and have between three to eight years of research experience since your PhD by the closing date of the round. The three to eight years do not include any career breaks, refer to the scheme notes for further detail.
  • do not hold a permanent post in a university or not for profit research organisation
  • do not hold or previously have held a fellowship that provides an opportunity to establish an independent research group and therefore independent researcher status, i.e. that allows the applicant to submit research grants as a PI or be registered as the primary supervisor of a PhD student. For example, STFC Rutherford Fellowship, NERC Independent Research Fellowship, EPSRC Early Career Fellowship or BBSRC David Phillips Fellowship. (Note holders of postdoctoral fellowships such as MCSA can apply. Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellows who meet with the research experience eligibility requirements outlined above can also apply).


The Society’s fellowships are highly flexible for example part-time working requests can be considered for personal reasons such as ill-health or caring responsibilities. Sabbaticals and secondments can be accommodated too. There is also provision for maternity, paternity, adoptive or extended sick leave.

When applying, the Society will consider time spent outside the research environment when assessing eligibility. Additionally, where applicants have taken formal periods of maternity, paternity, and adoptive leave as the primary carer (either the mother, father, partner or adopter), or extended sick leave, the Society will allow the actual time of leave taken, as well as an additional six months for each period of leave when assessing eligibility (e.g. 18 months will be allocated for someone who has taken 12 months of parental leave).

What is the scheme’s value and tenure?

Initially funding is provided for five years with the opportunity to apply for an extension of three additional years.

The scheme provides:

  • Research Fellow's salary: 80% of the basic salary costs up to £40,354.58 in the first year, estates costs and indirect costs. (Under the full economic costing model, 80% of these costs will be met by the Royal Society).
  • Research expenses:
    • Contribution to research expenses of £13,000 in year one and £11,000 per year thereafter.
    • Additional research expenses of up to £40,000 in 2019/20 and £80,000 in 2020/21 will also be awarded.
  • Research assistance:
    • 80% of full economic cost of a postdoctoral research assistant, including salary costs, indirect and directly allocated costs, and estate costs.
    • Contribution to a four-year PhD studentship.
    • Equipment costs. 
    • Up to £1,000 per year to support public engagement activities.
    • Up to £5,000 for training and professional development for the Research Fellow and any staff or students supported by the grant.

The Society is providing an enhanced level of research expenses for newly appointed research fellows between 1 October 2019 and the end of March 2021 due to additional funding from the UK Government’s Talent Fund. Any future decision by The Society to continue this enhancement beyond March 2021 will be subject to the availability of continued funding of the Royal Society through the Government’s Talent Fund. In the event that funding is available, the Society may run a further application process to enable award-holders to apply for additional funding during financial year 2020-21.

The basic salary requested should be at a level commensurate with the applicant’s skills, responsibilities, expertise and experience, up to a maximum of £40,354.58 per annum. An annual spine point increase of 3% may be applied to the salary. For more information about indexation and inflationary increases, please refer to the scheme notes.

Equivalent values for Royal Society - Science Foundation Ireland University Research Fellowships (funded by Science Foundation Ireland), are available in the scheme notes.

What is the application process?

Applications should be submitted through the Royal Society’s grants management system (Flexi-Grant®) when the round opens.

Applications are initially reviewed and then shortlisted by members of University Research Fellowship Selection Panels. Applicants are notified if they have reached the shortlisting stage.

The shortlisted proposals are reviewed by three independent referees suggested by the panel members and successful applicants are shortlisted for interview. Applicants are informed of the result of this stage and interviews take place in early to mid-April 2019.

The final decision is made at a meeting of the panel Chairs towards the end of April, and applicants are notified of the result during May.

Please note that interviews for the fellowships are held at the Royal Society. Applicants are asked to keep April free. Only applicants that pass the other stages of assessment will be invited.

We are committed to supporting applicants with disabilities. If you require a reasonable adjustment during the application process, please contact

Benefits of holding a Royal Society University Research Fellowship

University Research Fellows have the opportunity to access a range of training programmes covering topics including leadership, science communication and public engagement. Furthermore, opportunities arise throughout the year for University Research Fellows to participate in activities coordinated by the science policy, public engagement, schools outreach and industry engagement teams at the Society.

In addition to the support the Society offers through its policy on maternity, paternity, adoptive and extended sick leave; University Research Fellows are able to receive financial support for childcare costs to support attending conferences and collaborative research visits. Further information can be found in the Society's Childcare Travel Policy.

University Research Fellows can participate in networking opportunities regionally and nationally to encourage collaboration amongst Research Fellows and support across peers. In addition, all new Research Fellows are invited to an induction meeting typically held in November.

Meet our University Research Fellows

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