Funding for independent researchers

In this blog, Dr Helen Kara, (Director, We Research It Ltd. and the first fully independent Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences), provides a tour of the, very limited, funding landscape for Independent Researchers. 


I am an independent researcher who regularly works with universities and other research institutions. I have written on my personal blog page about how independent researchers can help academics. Yet I find that there are few research grants that independent researchers are eligible to apply for.
The UK’s research councils now have an umbrella body, UK Research and Innovation, which came into operation in 2018. So far it doesn’t seem to have improved the funding situation for indie researchers in the UK, though I live in hope.
The good news is that I have compiled a list of  funding sources that UK indie researchers can apply to. 
On the one hand, these are paltry amounts of money compared to the £6 billion of UKRI funding each year that indie researchers can’t access directly. But on the other hand, I could do a great deal with a small five-figure sum. This is partly where I think the larger funders are missing a trick: indie researchers don’t have big overheads, so we’re very cost-effective. 


  • The British Academy offers Small Research Grants, in partnership with Leverhulme, of between £500 and £10,000 which may be spread over two years. These grants are for research expenses only, in the humanities and social sciences. Projects may be solo or collaborative. If collaborative, the lead scholar must be based in the UK, but beyond that, people from other countries may be involved in the project. The funders look for a clearly defined piece of work with an identifiable outcome.
  • The Wellcome Trust offers Research Fellowships for health-related researchers in the humanities and social sciences who do not hold established academic posts. These are for up to three years (or even longer, if part-time) and can be of a total value up to £275,000. You need to work at a ‘host organisation’ and the grant can cover a basic salary, personal removal expenses, and research expenses.
  • The Independent Social Research Foundation offers Independent Scholar Fellowships for European researchers. They are intended to buy out someone’s time for up to a year, with a maximum award of £25,000 or €28,500 depending on location, to enable them to work on a research project or an article or book.
  • The Leverhulme Trust offers Research Fellowships for experienced researchers in any discipline, including independent researchers, to complete a piece of original research. The fellowships may last for 3-24 months and the maximum value is £55,000. The awards provide research expenses over and above normal living costs and/or provide a contribution towards reasonable replacement costs or loss of earnings.
  • The Winston Churchill Memorial Trust offers Fellowships for travel in one or two continents, for 4-8 weeks, to find ‘innovative solutions to today’s most pressing problems’ from experts abroad. The grant covers all the costs of travel: transport, accommodation, food, visas, travel insurance, and so on. It does not cover loss of earning or replacement costs.

Then of course there’s , crowdfunding and so on. My personal blog is funded by my beloved patrons. It takes me around one working day per month to post there each week. At the time of writing I’m receiving funding of $34 per month. This isn’t a day of my time, but support from Patrons and donors enables me to keep my blog ad-free. 

AUTHOR: Dr Helen Kara has been an independent researcher since 1999 and writes and teaches on research methods. She is the author of Creative Research Methods in the Social Sciences: A Practical Guide (Policy Press, 2015). In 2015 Helen was the first fully independent researcher to be conferred as a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences. She is also a Visiting Fellow at the UK's National Centre for Research Methods. Her latest book is Research Ethics in the Real World: Euro-Western and Indigenous Perspectives (Policy Press, 2018).
Acknowledgement: A version of this blog first appeared on Dr Kara’s personal blog on 31st January 2019

Twitter: @DrHelenKara