John Fell OUP Research Fund

About the John Fell OUP Research Fund

The John Fell OUP Research Fund is an internal University of Oxford fund that is open to academics and researchers at the collegiate university. Its purpose is to complement external research funding, for example by funding early-stage (or ‘pilot’) research that is not sufficiently developed to be submitted to an external funder. It is intended to foster a proactive approach to research opportunities in all subject areas, and particularly interdisciplinary fields.

Online Application Form

Main and Small Award schemes

The Fell Fund has three termly rounds of Main and Small Award applications. The deadline is 12 noon on Wednesday of Week 0 every term. Guidance on eligibility of applicants, types of awards, scope of funding and eligible costs is available on the University Fell Fund website.

All social sciences applications to the Fell Fund Main and Small Award schemes should be submitted via the online application form. Your application needs to be approved and submitted by your department, so you need to submit your application through the online application system well before the deadline. Please inform your department administrator or research contact when you have done this.

Divisional advice on the Fell Fund’s priorities and writing your case for support, is available below, along with information about how decisions are made on Fell Fund applications in the Social Sciences Division.

Due to the large number of bids received, it is not possible for the University John Fell Committee to provide individual feedback on applications. The Division is able to offer some feedback based on the review of applications at Divisional level. Please contact the SSD Fell Fund Inbox.

Divisional Allocation

In addition to the Main and Small Award schemes, the Division is allocated a separate annual funding stream from the Fell pot. The Divisional allocation is used to support Divisional strategic initiatives and for other targeted support of Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship matching funding. Decisions on how to use this allocation are made by the Divisional Planning and Resource Committee.


If you cannot find the information you require on the Fell Fund website or in the Divisional advice, or have further queries, please contact the SSD Fell Fund Inbox

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Fund priorities, guidance, and applications

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The Fell Fund is keen to support pilot projects to enable researchers to get their research off the ground and leverage external funding. The assessment criteria include excellence and intrinsic merit of research and potential for long term sustainability and academic impact of the project.


The relatively modest amounts of funding from the Fell Fund can support pilot projects which may carry some risk, but which often leverage significant external funding or other substantial benefits to researchers and the University.


The Fell Fund is keen to support interdisciplinary research across departments and Divisions. If your application includes co-investigators from another division, it will be shared with that division to allow them an opportunity to comment on it.

Networks, conferences, workshops or seminar series

Networks and conferences need to be part of a research programme or intended to lead to new research activities, preferably in collaboration with colleagues in other departments, divisions or institutions. The Division’s review committee tends to prioritise research projects/programmes over other academic activities.

Make sure you provide a robust justification in line with the Fell Fund criteria by specifying the future opportunities the event is expected to lead to including external funding bids and future research collaborations, the benefits these will bring to the University, and why the full cost cannot be met from other sources.

The Fell Fund would expect that a conference registration fee would be charged to non-University members sufficient to cover venue, publicity and support costs.

Value for money

You should ask for sufficient funds to enable you to carry out the research, but if the reviewers feel that the budget is expensive your project may not be ranked highly or some items may be removed or reduced. There are some restrictions on what the Fell Fund will provide funding for, please ensure you check the Fell Fund guidance carefully. You need to ensure that your budget is costed as accurately as possible, so please contact your department in good time about what you want to include in your budget.

Financial details

Please ensure you give sufficient information in the ‘Financial Details’ section of the form to enable reviewers to see exactly what is being requested. For example, for salaries this should be the type of post, grade and point on the scale, FTE and duration of the post. For travel expenses, give an indication of number of trips, cost per trip etc.


Co-funding is viewed favourably by Fell reviewers and demonstrates your commitment to the project, e.g. your project could be funded in part by an external funder or by college/department research allowances or grants. Please explain briefly the funding sources and the funding levels. If you have applied for some external funding, explain why the funder will not be able to support the full project.

Underwriting ("back-up") bids

It can often be helpful to put the same bid to an external funder and to the Fell Fund at the same time, with the Fell Fund bid acting as a back-up if the external bid should fail. It demonstrates to the Fell reviewers that you have explored other avenues for funding. In addition, underwriting from the Fell Fund shows the external funder that there is institutional commitment to the project.


CVs are not required for senior staff. CVs are required only if the PI is an early career researcher and/or for any named researchers whose salary is requested in the budget. CVs should be one page only per person. If a Co-Investigator is an early career researcher, it is helpful to provide a CV.

Read the Fell Fund guidance notes carefully and ensure your proposal meets the Fell Fund criteria. Use the headings given in the Fell Fund application guidance and case for support template.

Discuss your application with others (colleagues, Head of Department, Departmental Administrator or departmental research contact, as appropriate). The SSD Fell Fund Coordinator is willing to offer advice and read draft proposals before you submit your application, subject to workload. Please contact the Fell Fund Coordinator well in advance of the deadline (preferably 2-3 weeks before the deadline).

Write clearly for a non-specialist audience. Most of the reviewers will not have expertise in your field. Avoid jargon and abbreviations. It may be sensible to run your proposal past a colleague who comes from a different field.

Justification for support: Why the Fell Fund?

  • How does your proposal meet (at least one of) the Fell criteria? 
    (One of the criteria is relevance to departmental and divisional strategy. Find out more about the division's research strategy)
  • Outline why you are applying to the Fell Fund and why funding cannot be sought from other sources (your department/college or an external funder).
  • What further funding will Fell funding enable? 
  • If you are seeking matching funding or underwriting, how does this funding relate to your application?
  • If you have already applied elsewhere and were unsuccessful, summarise any feedback you received and explain how you have addressed this. 
  • The more funding you are requesting, the stronger your justification needs to be – why is it important, what is the benefit to the University, what is the impact if the project does not go ahead?

Research objectives and proposed outcomes

What do you want to do? Why is it important? Why should it be funded? Why are you the best person to conduct this research?

Think about how to ‘sell’ your research project and expertise. Convey your understanding and enthusiasm for the project. What might appeal to a non-specialist audience?

Give enough background and literature context to show how your research will advance the field, but focus on what it is you want to do and the difference your research will make.

What are your research questions/objectives? How will you answer/deliver these (i.e. methods)? What is your timetable? Are there any ethical or technical considerations?

Outline your research objectives, methods and give an indication of the timescales for the various elements of the project and the proposed outcomes, with reference to the academic value of the research and how the research will be sustained beyond the Fell Fund support.

Feasibility: Be ambitious yet realistic. Show that you have thought through the practicalities and ethics of your project. If you are undertaking research in conflict areas or difficult to access areas, briefly state what you will do to mitigate the risks.

What will the outcomes/outputs be?
Be very clear about the outcomes of the research activities to be funded by the Fell Fund, in terms of publications and external research funding applications. Make sure these are proportional to the level of funding you are requesting.

If you intend to apply to an external funding body (subsequently or simultaneously), please indicate: the likely sponsor(s), when you expect to submit.

John Fell OUP Research Fund Committee

The University's John Fell OUP Research Fund Committee (from hereon the 'Fell Committee') is a sub-group of the Planning and Resource Allocation Committee (PRAC) and the Research and Innovation Committee (RIC). The Fell Committee is Chaired by the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Research) and has representatives from all academic divisions (MPLS, SSD, MSD and Humanities). Fell Committee membership is given on the Fell Fund web pages. The Fell Committee meets in Week 9 or Week 10 every term.

Social Sciences Divisional Fell Panel

The SSD Fell Panel consists of the Head of Division, Associate Head of Division (Research) and SSD Heads of Department.

Small Awards

SSD Small Award applications are assessed, scored and ranked by the SSD Fell Panel according to the Fell Fund criteria described in the section above. The SSD Fell Panel submits its recommendations for funding to the Fell Committee. Where appropriate, the release of funds may be subject to particular conditions, for example the PI attaining ethics clearance before the project stars. Small Award applications are approved by the Chair of the Fell Committee.

The amount of money available each term for Small Awards is c. £75,000.

Main Awards

Main Award applications are assessed, scored and ranked by the SSD Fell Panel according to the Fell Fund criteria described in the section above. The SSD Fell Panel submits its recommendations for funding to the Fell Committee. Where appropriate, the release of funds may be subject to particular conditions, for example the PI attaining ethics clearance before the project stars. SSD Main Award recommendations are considered alongside applications from all divisions at the Fell Committee meeting.

The amount of money available for SSD Main Awards each term is dependent on the amount of funds available within the Fell Fund. Usually, SSD is able to recommend that SSD Main Awards are funded up to the value of c. £250,000 - £300,000.

Adjustments to budgets and queries about applications

Given the funding envelope available each term and the desire to fund as many outstanding proposals as possible, the SSD Fell Panel may contact PIs with applications that are being considered for funding with budgets over £45K-£55K. The SSD Fell Panel may request that PIs adjust their budgets. The SSD Fell Panel may also contact PIs with queries and requests for clarification about applications.

Notification of application outcome

The central Fell Fund administration team notify applicants about the outcome of their application and handle the administration of awards (e.g. generating cost codes). See the University Fell Fund website for more information. 

Feedback on applications

The SSD Fell Panel is able to offer feedback to applicants. Please contact the SSD Fell Fund Inbox to request feedback.