ESRC Digital Good Network

Digital Good Research Fund

About the Digital Good Network

The ESRC Digital Good Network is building a research community focused on what a good digital society should look like and how we get there.

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The network will:

  • bring disciplines and sectors together
  • support and fund interdisciplinary research, internships, fellowships
  • provide training, including a summer school
  • host events (eg talks, exhibitions, workshops, sprints)
  • engage policy, industry, practitioners, communities and civil society

The network was launched in November 2022 with £4 million investment from the Economic and Social Research Council and £1 million from collaborating organisations.

The Digital Good Research Fund

Applications for the 2023 Digital Good Research fund have now closed. Decisions will be communicated to applicants by 30 June.

2023 Call: Foundations of the Digital Good

The aim of the Digital Good Network is to enhance our collective understanding of how we can ensure that digital technologies work for people and societies. One way that we do this is by asking what the digital good should look like and how it can be achieved. In this first year, we invite research proposals that will help us lay the foundations for this collective research.

What we’re looking for

Our first call for applications to our Digital Good Research Fund is intentionally broad. It is an invitation for researchers to help lay the foundations for the network and the Digital Good Index by provoking rich, interdisciplinary debate that will take place at our first annual showcase event in January 2024.

We invite proposals which do one or more of the following:

  • connect researchers with communities and organisations external to academic research to address challenges relating to the digital good
  • explore how the digital good is defined and the terms we use to discuss it
  • test methodological innovations for the digital good
  • explore how to evaluate the digital good across different technologies, dimensions and perspectives

We will also consider other types of applications that help to lay the foundations of the digital good.

Proposals can include original research or activities that build connections with communities, policymakers and/or practitioners. For a sense of what digital good research might look like, check out the research profiles of the Digital Good Network Management Team. But please note, we want to fund proposals from across all disciplines, that address issues we haven’t even thought about!

We will dedicate between £200,000 and £400,000 to funding applications that respond to this call. We will fund multiple projects in the range of £20,000 (£16,000 at 80% fEC) to a maximum of £50,000 (£40,000 at 80% fEC).

In keeping with standard UKRI funding procedures, we support projects, internships and fellowships at 80% of the Full Economic Costs. Lead institutions are expected to make up the remaining 20%. Non-academic and/or international organisations can claim eligible costs at 100% of Full Economic Costs. Justification for exceptional funds at 100% of the Full Economic Costs should be included in applications. If in doubt, please consult ESRC’s Research Funding Guide.

Who can apply

The principal applicant must be based at a UK research organisation eligible for ESRC funding. Proposals can also include:

To meet our objective of building research capacity and upskilling future digital society research leaders, teams should include at least one early career researcher. We follow UKRI’s definition of early career researchers.

To meet our objective of capacity building, teams should be interdisciplinary.
We fund in accordance with ESRC’s Research Funding Guide.

How we will assess your application

The following Digital Good Network-specific assessment criteria will be used:

The proposal should specify:

  • what aspects of the digital good it addresses
  • which of the network’s three societal challenges it addresses
  • how it addresses the call theme
  • how it might contribute to the development of the Digital Good Index

This includes whether:

  • explain the approach to EDI, and the ways in which the team is diverse
  • explain how the project will develop early career researchers
  • explain the approach to i) sustainability and ii) internationalisation, if relevant to the proposal

The proposal should explain the way in which it includes interdisciplinary teams and early career researchers. A primary aim of the Digital Good Research Fund is to enable early career researcher development, so all teams must include early career researchers.

In addition, proposals will be assessed against some of the following standard UKRI assessment criteria, where relevant to the call:

This includes:

  • how the proposed research will generate new knowledge and lead to new insights
  • clearly described and justified research methods and research design
  • clearly described and justified data management and access plans that identify the risks to, and mitigations for, accessing, managing and sharing data, if data management is part of your proposal

This includes whether:

  • the proposal sets out clear, measurable, and achievable outcomes that demonstrate evidence of the research’s planned impact, and which goes beyond a list of outputs
  • the project has potential for practical or applied outcomes, a policy impact or both
  • there is evidence of well thought-through and realistic plans for engaging diverse publics or knowledge exchange that maximise opportunities for academic, societal, economic and user impact

This includes whether:

  • the funds requested are essential for the work
  • the importance and scientific potential justify funding on the scale requested
  • there’s a clear allocation of duties and responsibilities if your proposal has more than one person
  • the proposal represents good value for money

It is a condition of funding that lead applicants commit to contributing to the network by:

  • Attending the annual project showcase event associated with the call round, in January 2024
  • Making a contribution to the Digital Good Network training programme (eg, giving a talk or running a workshop)
  • Producing Digital Good Network website content (eg, a blogpost or short video) about your research

The costs of making these contributions will be covered by the network and do not need to be included in your proposal.


  • Call launch: 7 March
  • Pre-submission sandpit/webinar, online: 27 March
  • Deadline for submissions: 28 April
  • Decisions communicated to applicants: by 30 June
  • Awards start: from August 2023, for up to 10 months
  • Showcase of funded research: 18/19 January 2024

Applications for the 2023 Digital Good Research fund have now closed. Decisions will be communicated to applicants by 30 June.

How to apply

As part of your application, we will ask you and your team to fill out an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Monitoring form. The information collected in this form will help us work towards our goal of building an inclusive and broad network.

Please address any queries to info[at]

Assessment process

Proposals will be reviewed by members of the network’s Management Team and College of Experts with relevant disciplinary expertise. Principles of peer review, including conflicts of interest, will be strictly adhered to.

The network’s Management Team will meet to rank the applications. The most highly ranked applications above an agreed grade will be awarded funding, up to the total amount available in the call. If all available funds are not distributed in a call, they will be rolled forward to the subsequent call.

Read more about how we work.

Frequently Asked Questions


Does the early career researcher (ECR) have to be working in an academic institution, or can they be working in a non-academic institution?

Teams can include people who are not employed by a university. Proposals can include co-investigators from UK business, policy, or civil society. This would be in accordance with UKRI’s policy on working with other organisations.

Can people on fixed term contracts apply?

Team members on fixed-term contracts can apply. Those whose contracts are due to end before the proposed project completion date must accompany their application with a letter of support from their employer, stating that they will extend the contract for the duration of the project if the project is successful.

Can PhD students apply?

PhD students can’t be named applicants (that is, as PIs or Co-Is). They can act as research assistants, if research assistant hours are costed into the proposed project. The amount of time that a single PhD student can dedicate to a project is determined by the guidelines of the PhD student’s university / research organisation. Such guidelines exist to ensure that PhD research does not suffer because the PhD student is committed to lots of additional activities. Please note there are other opportunities targeted at PhD students, including our annual summer school, and internships, to be announced soon.

Can international applicants apply?

The principal investigator must be based at a UK research organisation that is eligible for UKRI funding. Proposals can also include eligible international co-investigators (in accordance with UKRI’s international co-investigator policy).

Can we include non-academics from international organisations in our proposal?

There is guidance on including international project partners in the ESRC’s International Co-Investigators Policy Guidance. Guidance on Project Partners (p6) and Consultants (p7) is relevant in response to this question.

Application & Budget

Can we employ research assistant(s) and include their cost in the budget?

Yes. There is some guidance on this in the ESRC Research Funding Guide.

Should PI and Co-I time be costed into the budget?

It is up to applicants whether they want to cost investigator time into their proposals or include investigator time as an in-kind contribution. For full information about the costs that can be included in ESRC grant applications, go to ESRC research funding guide.

Will you offer feedback on drafts, for example via video call consultations?

Unfortunately we are not able to provide feedback on draft applications. If you have any questions you can contact us at o info[at]

What costs can be covered by the grant?

For full information about the costs that grants cover, go to go to ESRC research funding guide.

In the application form, a one page summary of CV for each academic team member is required. We have non-academic members in the team. Would their CV not be required?

Non-academic team members do not need to submit CVs.

Who are defined as 'partners'?

Project partners are very specifically defined as partners who are not paid through the project, and who contribute in-kind or other resources to the project.

Would a team of different kinds of psychologists, or different kinds of socio-legal researchers, be considered sufficiently interdisciplinary?

Two of the Digital Good Network’s main aims are to bring disciplines and sectors together, and to support and fund interdisciplinary research. When it comes to making decisions about which applications to fund, we'll weigh research excellence alongside other criteria like interdisciplinarity, and we'll also ensure that, across the portfolio of applications to be funded, there are a number of highly interdisciplinary teams.

Will inflation be applied to the costs post award or should we include this within the costs we provide at the application stage?

Please apply for the amount of money that you require. Amounts will not be amended after funding has been granted.

In section 2 there are specific points required to align the proposal with the vision of the Digital good network. Where can I read more about this?

Information about the Digital Good Network vision can be found on the What we do page, and in the video recordings from our lunchtime seminar series in early March, especially the first seminar, where Digital Good Network directors discussed 'What is the digital good?' You can watch the recordings on our YouTube Channel.

Are we expected to include references, and if so are they part of the word counts on the form or can submit a separate document with the application?

We do not require references.  If you do wish to submit them they can be a separate document and therefore are not part of the word count.

How do we decide whether to include someone from a non-academic organisation as a project partner or a CoI?

This comes down to what contribution they are making to the project. If they are making a significant scientific contribution, they should be a Co-I where possible. If they are facilitating research, engagement or impact, and if their organisation is benefiting from their activities, they should be a project partner.  Project partners are expected to make contributions to projects.  Please note as per UKRI guidance, project partners can’t be paid.

Does this scheme allow the payment of a participation fee/ hourly fee for participants? If not, can participants be offered travel/subs as an incentive to participate?

An appropriate level of incentive to participants for their time can be costed in (e.g., gift vouchers for interviews/honorarium), as can things like travel and subsistence.

Would it be possible to resubmit a bid that failed at this coming round or are you following the ESRC resubmission rules which says that’s not allowed?

Each call round will have a different focus, so a word-for-word resubmission of a previously unsuccessful application is unlikely to meet the criteria of two successive call rounds.

Are childcare costs recoverable?

These are not eligible costs.  For full information about the costs that can be included in ESRC grant applications, go to the ESRC research funding guide.

Does the Digital Good Research Fund have any restrictions on the number of applications per institution, or are multiple applications per institution permitted?

We do not have any restrictions on this.

Is it possible to go to a conference a few months after the end of the project using the project budget?

No, we would not cover costs for conferences taking place after the end of the project.

Can someone be listed as a Co-Investigator on a proposal and a subcontractor? If the Co-Investigator is providing their time 'in-kind' can they then charge for the work of their company, or would it be better for this person to include their time within the subcontractor fee?

Yes - they can simultaneously provide time in kind and charge for the work of their company.  However it is possibly more straightforward to include their time in the remit of the subcontractor fee. 

The relevance sections of the guidance (ESRC Funding Guide) are below:

Subcontractors: A subcontractor is a third party organisation, or third party person not employed on a grant, who is subcontracted by the host organisation to deliver a specific piece of work. This subcontracted work will be subject to the procurement rules of the host Research Organisation. All costs that support the delivery of the subcontract are eligible and will be paid at 80% fEC unless otherwise stated, these should be outlined and fully justified in the proposal and will be subject to peer review.

Dual Roles: An organisation or individual may act as both a Project Partner and Subcontractor on a project, however this must be fully justified and will be subject to peer review. This dual role may be required, for example, when an organisation or individual is contributing to the project in kind, but is selected to deliver other work to the project involving substantial costs to be covered via a subcontract.

Post Award

If we’re successful in being awarded funding, who would be the funder?

If you need to name the funder for your institutional costing processes, please use ‘the ESRC Digital Good Network at the University of Sheffield’. If successful, the funding contract would be with the University of Sheffield.

When should successful projects start and end?

The start date is any time from August 2023. Projects don't have to start in August 2023, but we do want them to be finished within 10 months of August 2023, unless there is a good reason to pause or delay (e.g. parental leave).

The annual project showcase where the funded work is expected to be presented is in mid January . How much work would you expect to be completed by then?

There are no set guidelines on this. Recipients of DGRF funding will have a well articulated project that they should be prepared to present at the showcase, but we appreciate that there may not be many concrete results at this stage.

Digital Good Research Fund webinar recordings

As part of the launch of the Digital Good Research Fund on 7 March, we held a series of webinars on the network and our research funding opportunities. You can watch recordings of these webinars here: