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Return to Research support bursary


The Return to Research Support Bursary is intended to provide support for those seeking to resume an academic research career to develop a proposal suitable for submission to the STFC Fellowship scheme. The period of absence from active research could be due, for example, to family or other caring responsibilities, long-term illness or working in a non-research role.

The maximum term of an award is six months. Activities undertaken may include literature reviews, familiarisation with equipment and techniques and attendance at meetings and seminars, culminating in the production of a proposal for funding through an STFC Fellowship. In addition to this, the holder of the bursary may also contribute to the preparation of an application for funding for which they are a named researcher.

Key facts

Financial Support

The Return to Research Support Bursary will provide for reasonable costs associated with visiting the Host Institution to develop an application for future funding. Eligible costs may include additional childcare or other care and travel to the Host Institution or to meetings. The maximum total value of the award is £2500. Eligible costs will be paid directly by STFC upon submission of a claim suitably supported by evidence of expenditure. Where the costs are for care it is expected that this will mainly be for registered or approved carers. The care must be provided by someone eligible to work in the UK.


Applicants must have a PhD in and focus their application on an area relevant to STFC-funded research: astronomy; solar and planetary science; particle physics; particle astrophysics; cosmology; nuclear physics; accelerator science. A break from active research of at least two years is normally required but if you have had a shorter break and do not have a right to return to your previous employer (e.g. due to fixed term contract) you may still be eligible to apply. The period of absence from research may be calculated from the start of the break up to when the next appropriate round of Fellowship funding is scheduled to start (usually annually in September).

Host institution

You may hold the bursary at any UK Institution with a recognised expertise in areas funded by STFC. Institutions are strongly encouraged to provide appropriate support for returners to research, such as mentoring or role model schemes and support in developing an application for further funding. Applicants are responsible for identifying and contacting a suitable host university and research group which will host them during the period of the bursary. Many departments advertise opportunities to apply for STFC Fellowships on their websites.

Applications must be accompanied by a letter of support from the host institution. Host Institutions must be prepared to grant the award holder official status, e.g. visitor, for the period of the award and provide equipment and access to other necessary facilities.

You must provide a clear statement in your application as to your choice of Institution. When selecting an institution at which to hold the proposed Award you should consider where it would be most appropriate to further your research career. If you are applying to hold an award at an Institution in order to co-locate with your spouse or partner, you should make this clear in your application. Applying to hold an award at a particular Institution because of spouse or partner constraints will not disadvantage a candidate.

Employment in Parallel

Successful applicants may undertake the proposed programme of activities in parallel with part-time employment, either at the Host Institution or elsewhere.

Outcomes of the Bursary

Bursary holders are expected to produce an application for funding through an STFC Fellowship. In addition, they may also contribute to an application for funding for which they are a named researcher. If it should not prove possible to produce a proposal a short report should be submitted which outlines the activities undertaken, any outcomes and the reasons why it has not been possible to produce a proposal.

Data Protection Requirements

The Data Protection Act 1998 regulates the way in which certain information about individuals is held and used. STFC is in full compliance with the requirements of this legislation.

STFC records information about Council-supported Bursary holders in a document management system. This information is used for administrative and management purposes, e.g. payments, statistical surveys or reports, career path tracking.

Details which may be made publicly available are:

  • host organisation;
  • name of bursary holder;
  • project titles.

Personal data will not be used for any purposes other than those stated above, nor will any additional data other than that stated above be disclosed to any third party.

Career Path Tracking

STFC is keen to track the careers of its bursary holders and may wish to undertake detailed studies of the career paths followed several years after their fellowship has been completed. Such studies inform policy decisions affecting STFC's bursary and fellowship programme.

Bursary holders should be aware that STFC will maintain their details for the purpose of contacting them to seek their assistance with future career path studies.


Please contact STFC Fellowships Team for further guidance.

How to Apply

The application must be written by the applicant and submitted through the online form and should include:

  1. Outline (up to 500 words) and timetable of activities to be undertaken, and breakdown of financial support requested (e.g. travel, care costs);
  2. CV of the applicant including publication record and statement (up to 500 words) of how you meet the criteria set out below. Please use the template provided
  3. Letter of support from the host department indicating that they will provide suitable support to the bursary holder.

Consideration of your application

In considering the applications the Panel will use the following criteria:

  1. the excellence of the applicant before the break in terms of research achievements such as scientific output and the significance of results, the ability to communicate their science effectively, standing at national/international level;
  2. the likelihood of the award leading to a high quality and timely research proposal;
  3. the potential of the individual, including the capability to perform the wider role and responsibilities of an academic career (public engagement, service on committees, teaching etc), evidence of leadership; awareness of the future development of the subject; development of novel technology;
  4. the appropriateness of the group with whom the individual intends to work (see also the infomation above on Host Institution).

The Panel will comprise of members of a sub-group of the STFC Education, Training and Careers Committee.

Applicants will be informed of the outcome within one month of submitting their application.

Last updated: 11 August 2020


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