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.

DGN team meetings

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

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 that:

  • 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

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 [LINK]. 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:

  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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.

  4. 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
  5. 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
  6. 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

How to apply

Complete the Digital Good Research Fund application and submit to applications[at] by 23:00 on 28 April 2023.

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.

Research fund sandpit

We will run an online sandpit for potential applicants to the Digital Good Research Fund on 27 March, 14:00 - 16:00. The main aim of the sandpit is to give potential applicants an opportunity to connect with other interested parties and form teams with which to bid for funds.

To express your interest in attending the sandpit, please fill in this application form by 23:00 on 14 March. The purpose of this expression of interest is to match people into groups for working on the sandpit activities together.

Please note that joining a group at the sandpit event does not guarantee that you will become a member of a submitting team and participation in the sandpit does not guarantee that you will receive funding.