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Arts Humanities and Social Sciences Research


ESRC IAA Social Science Impact Fund

The Social Science Impact Fund (SSIF) aims to support the use of research and expertise through the development of relationships with non-academic stakeholders, beneficiaries, and partners. This can be done in a number of ways but begins with thinking carefully about the people, groups, organisations or bodies that you hope to work with and by clearly identifying the best methods for engaging those stakeholders. Understanding stakeholder needs is vital to strong impact work and leads to a clear understanding of how success can be measured and evaluated. The University of Cambridge has an established and experienced impact ecosystem and can support researchers in developing ways to apply their research by working with policy makers, industry partners, arts communities, the wider public, and others.

Impact activities can be undertaken at any point in the research life cycle. In developing research plans, impact activities and opportunities to engage with stakeholders can be included in pathways to impact statements but should unanticipated opportunities emerge at later stages, the Social Science Impact Fund can support emerging activities from two distinct streams:

  1. Impact Fund
  2. Discretionary Fund

Although each funding stream is dedicated to support impact arising at various points, both streams must make clear how activities meet the aims of ESRC IAA Social Science Impact Fund.


For details of the Cambridge ESRC IAA Social Science Impact Fund please see the Guidance for Applicants and Annexes.

For more information contact Dr Tina Basi, Social Science Impact Facilitator,

2019/2020 Social Science Impact Fund

ESRC IAA Social Science Impact Fund is now closed for applications. 

Digital Application Form 

Scheme Guidance Notes

Applicants should note that their of Head of Faculty/Department and relevant Research Grants Administrator must be informed about the application at the earliest opportunity, to ensure that internal approval procedures are followed. All applications must be approved by the Head of Faculty/Department through the online system before the scheme deadline. 

Applications are invited from any researcher active in the social science and economics who holds a current contract of employment as a senior independent researcher – at the point of application – with the University. Relevant non-school institutional staff (such as from Museums or Libraries) on academic-related contracts are also eligible to apply. Full details on eligibility are available in the Scheme Guidance Notes

Applications can only be accepted through the digital application form. If you experience any technical difficulties with the form, please get in touch with Social Science Impact Facilitator. 

For advice and support in preparing an application, or for guidance on impact or knowledge-exchange activities more generally, please contact Dr Tina Basi, ESRC IAA Social Science Impact Facilitator, on

ESRC IAA SSIF - General Guidance


The principle concern of the ESRC IAA is to take social science research and expertise and put it directly into the hands of stakeholders through carefully selected methods and approaches, and to build in to projects the opportunities for evaluation and tracking of activities and outputs. It is easiest to think of this as a three-step process: beneficiaries, methods, and metrics.


A first step to creating impact is in choosing the stakeholders and beneficiaries that will most benefit from your research and expertise, and in strategically involving external partners throughout to help develop and deliver the project outputs. Please see Annex A: Partners, Collaborators, Stakeholders, and Beneficiaries for examples of potential beneficiaries and types of impact that may be generated by your activities.

Methods and Activities

Successful impact work can often depend on choosing the most appropriate method or activity for your community of stakeholders and beneficiaries. The methods and approaches for social science impact work can include a wide range of activities, some suggestions for what can be funded out of the IAA are below. Please see Annex B: Methods and Activities for examples of engagement activities.

Metrics and Indicators

Evaluating impact projects is necessary for both the evidencing of success and in planning for future pathways to impact. Therefore choosing the most appropriate methods and indicators to qualify and quantify the outcomes of the project are important. Please see Annex C: Metrics and Indicators for examples.

Other things to consider

We particularly encourage innovative bids, whether this is a new method for engagement or collaborating with a new partner.

Applications are invited from any researcher pursuing activity in the social sciences or policy engagement (whether or not they are ESRC grant holders) who holds a current contract of employment as an independent researcher – at the point of application – with the University. This includes: all University Teaching Officers, externally-funded Research Fellows, Senior Research Associates, Research Associates and those working in research centres or other relevant non-School institutions. Post-graduate students are not eligible to apply.

There will be one call annually with a deadline of 30th September. The Rapid-Response Discretionary Fund has no deadline and we aim to get decisions to applicants within ten days.

For the Impact Fund the maximum award is £20k, projects must be completed in 12 months, awards will cover 100% of directly incurred costs but will not cover indirect costs. Grants can be used to support staff on the project, consumables, travel etc. but cannot be used to support students or to cover PI time.

Letters of support from partner organisations, with details of their contribution to the project where appropriate, will help support your case. Please use the online application form which, upon completion, will be automatically sent to the lead applicant’s Head of Department for approval/signature of support (cross-departmental bids are encouraged)

Assessment criteria

Applications to all funds will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • Quality of the impact plan: including relevance and timeliness of proposed activity, clear objectives that align with aims, clear identification of the beneficiaries, stakeholders, and partners, and their potential involvement with the activities, achievable milestones over the life of the project, and metrics or indicators against which long-term success could be gauged;
  • Project management: A clear description of how the project will be managed;
  • Added value: the application must describe how the award will be expected to develop or enhance the prospect of impact and be additional to existing Research Council or other funding for impact activities, additionally the way in which the award will benefit both the applicant and target audience;
  • Budget: A clear outline and rationale for the activities included in the proposal. Co-funding of activities is encouraged, but not required;
  • Where partners or collaborators are involved in activities and outputs, a clear statement of any commitment in kind or in terms of co-funding by those organisations should be provided in a letter of support.


Applications to all schemes will be evaluated by a cross departmental Steering Group comprised of senior researchers.

Progress and Final Reports

For Impact Fund projects, progress updates from project holders will be required after three months, or half way through the project, whichever is sooner. Updates shall be brief (approximately 250-400 words) and will outline progress against the milestones proposed for the project and agreed by the members of the Steering Group. A Final End of Award Report will be required after all projects have completed and will be assessed by the Steering Group.

An Update report will also be requested six months after the end of the project. This is designed to record any additional impact that has developed or continued beyond the completion of the project.

For all other funds, the reporting requirements will be confirmed by the relevant co-ordinator at the time of award.

ESRC IAA Discretionary Fund

This fund is available to fund timely, tactical opportunities in short time scales, which require a quick turnaround for funding. This could include, but is not limited to, activities such as select committee attendance, workshop organisation, or the creation of short-term impact projects. Funding is also available for initial meetings with non-academic partners that can demonstrate a potential to lead to further impact. 

Awards will typically not exceed £2,000 and will cover 100% Directly Incurred Costs only.

Applications to this scheme are accepted on a rolling basis, through the dedicated application system.  

Discretionary Fund Online Form

Please contact Dr Tina Basi, Social Science Impact Faciliatator, on, for a conversation, before beginning the application process.


ESRC Festival of Social Science 2019

The call to host an event or exhibition as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences is now open. The annual event is a celebration of the social sciences and takes place across the UK via public debates, conferences, workshops, interactive seminars, film screenings, virtual exhibitions and much more. 2019 will be the seventeenth Festival of Social Science and each year the Festival has gone from strength to strength.

More information about the ESRC Festival of Social Science 2019 can be found on funder’s webpage and our ESRC IAA webpage.

Please submit your application form to Dr Tina Basi, Social Science Impact Facilitator, by 20 September 2019.

ESRC IAA Resources

A set of case studies, based on the ESRC IAA funded Impact Fund projects (ESRC Impact Acceleration Account 2014-2019, ES/M500409/1), and a series of Impact through Engagement films have been created to provide resources for the Cambridge research community on how researchers in social science and economics collaborate with non-academic partners to maximise impact from their ESRC funded research.