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Groundbreaking agreement strengthens UK-US research collaboration processes

Research Councils UK (RCUK) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the United States have entered into a new agreement designed to help support international research partnerships between the two countries.

This new two-way lead agency agreement enables a simplified and flexible process for researchers wishing to apply for UK-US collaborative research funding, using the usual systems and processes of the respective funding agencies.

A Memorandum of Understanding was signed earlier this year by Professor Paul Boyle, RCUK’s International Champion, and Dr Myron Gutmann, NSF Assistant Director for the Social, behavioural, and Economic Sciences Directorate at the time of the signing, to officially mark the agreement. The agreement will be in place until 2018. It provides an agreed-upon framework with guiding principles on mutual acceptance of each other’s proposal processing routes (including peer review).

Professor Paul Boyle said: “This agreement not only strengthens the existing valuable research links between the UK and the US but by avoiding ‘double jeopardy ‘in funding applications, it removes some of the barriers facing international research collaboration. As two of the strongest research systems in the world and the best resourced, the UK and the US have long been partners in research. The US is the first choice partner for many of the UK's best researchers, so we are delighted to enter into this agreement to make the process for collaborative research between our two countries as simplified and flexible as possible for our world-leading researchers.”

Dr. Joanne Tornow, Acting Assistant Director for SBE, said: “SBE is pleased to partner with the RCUK in this lead agency agreement. We feel this will be an effective mechanism to enhance the ability of US and UK-based researchers to engage in high quality collaborative research projects.”

Under this agreement, proposals will be submitted to either the NSF or RCUK depending on where the greatest portion of the research is to be carried out. Successful projects will receive funds from both agencies, with the NSF funding US researchers, and RCUK funding UK researchers. Using the standard unsolicited/responsive funding schemes allows researchers to submit year-round using the application systems they know.

This agreement is first being implemented by the Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE) of the NSF in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC). It is based on an existing NSF lead agency arrangement between SBE and AHRC. An operational management plan has been put in place, which will lay the foundation for future collaborations between the Research Councils and other NSF Directorates, as well as between RCUK and other national funding agencies. Further information is available on the ESRC website.

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Further information

Katie Clark
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Notes to editors

  1. The National Science Foundation (NSF) is an independent federal agency created by the US Congress in 1950. NSF funds approximately 20 percent of all federally supported basic research conducted by America’s colleges and universities. In many fields such as mathematics, computer science and the social sciences, NSF is the major source of federal backing.

  2. NSF’s Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences (SBE) is one of seven NSF directorates. The focus of the SBE Directorate is to strengthen the capability of the social, behavioral, and economic sciences through funding the highest quality investigator-led basic research projects, both those that fit within traditional disciplines and those that cut across disciplinary boundaries.

  3. Research Councils UK (RCUK) is the strategic partnership of the UK's seven Research Councils who annually invest around £3 billion in research. We support excellent research, as judged by peer review, that has an impact on the growth, prosperity and wellbeing of the UK. To maintain the UK’s global research position we offer a diverse range of funding opportunities, foster international collaborations and provide access to the best facilities and infrastructure around the world. We also support the training and career development of researchers and work with them to inspire young people and engage the wider public with research. To maximise the impact of research on economic growth and societal wellbeing we work in partnership with other research funders including the Technology Strategy Board, the UK Higher Education funding bodies, business, government, and charitable organisations.

    The seven UK Research Councils are:

    • Arts & Humanities Research Council (AHRC);
    • Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC);
    • Economic & Social Research Council (ESRC);
    • Engineering & Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC);
    • Medical Research Council (MRC);
    • Natural Environment Research Council (NERC);
    • Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC).

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