UK Research and Innovation, through the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) are sponsoring four to six one-year COP26 Fellowships.

The Fellowships are an opportunity for early career and experienced researchers to engage with the international climate negotiations in the run up to the 26th Conference of the Parties of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26).

The overarching purpose of the Fellowships is to support the international climate negotiations through the provision, synthesis, translation or interpretation of  scientific evidence.  

Thematic focus

Applications are invited from across disciplines, including social sciences, natural sciences, engineering and arts / humanities.  Within this disciplinary breadth, proposed topics must be of direct practical relevance to the deliberations at COP26 and support the objectives of the COP.

The following research topics have been identified as particularly salient to the COP negotiations.  However, innovative proposals on other COP-relevant topics, and proposals that cut across topics, are also welcome:

  • Raising ambition (e.g., net zero targets, zero-carbon solutions);
  • Climate change and health, including links to Covid-19 (e.g., compound climate and pandemic risks; co-benefits of climate and Covid responses);
  • Climate finance (e.g., scaling up climate finance; the role of development finance institutions; the role of private capital);
  • Adaptation, climate resilience and loss & damage (e.g., climate-smart development; nature-based solutions);
  • The case for a just transition (e.g., socially inclusive decarbonisation; zero-carbon skills)
  • The Paris process and wider climate initiatives (e.g. subnational / city-scale initiatives, place-based climate action, private sector initiatives).

Call details

The Fellowships will be awarded through the ESRC-funded Place-Based Climate Action Network (PCAN). The selection process is managed by the PCAN team at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), led by Prof Sam Fankhauser (PCAN PI) and Dr Alina Averchenkova (Senior COP26 Fellow).

The Fellowships will be embedded into the activities of the COP26 Universities Network run by the Grantham Institute at Imperial College London and led by Alyssa Gilbert.  The Fellowships will form the nucleus of a broader programme of coordinated outputs and events by UK universities ahead of COP26.  

The COP26 Fellows are expected to play an active part in the activities of the COP26 Universities Network. This will allow Fellows to share their insights with policy makers and the wider UK research community.  Each Fellowship will have its own deliverables, but the universities network also plans some overarching activities, to which the COP26 Fellows will be expected to contribute (e.g. joint policy briefs, public engagement and workshops with policy makers). 

Training and some expert advice may be available to help support the Fellows build relevant engagement skills and deliver impact.


Applicants must have an existing employment contract with a UK Higher Education institution and have the support of their institution.  Applications are welcome from both early career and established researchers.  All Fellows must have completed their PhDs.

The proposed activities must be relevant to the COP26 process and timed accordingly. As such, the emphasis will likely be on research synthesis, engagement, training and knowledge co-creation, rather than primary academic research. However, we expect many of the insights from the Fellowships to be published in peer-reviewed journals in due course.  The standard UKRI expectations on data management, research ethics and reporting apply. 


The overall budget for the COP26 Fellowship programme is £400,000. We anticipate making four to six awards, implying an indicative budget of £65,000 - £100,000 FEC per Fellowship. Proposals outside this range will also be considered, however budgets may be subject to revision.  UKRI will contribute 80% of this amount and the host institution 20% FEC.

Funds may be used to cover salaries, research assistance, engagement activities, travel and other research expenses. Overheads and estate costs are eligible. COP26 Fellows are expected to commit a significant part of their time to COP26 activities.

As an illustration, Fellowship bids might look as follows:

  • a Fellowship for an early career researcher might comprise of 0.8 FTE for the Fellow over 12 months plus a small research fund for travel and publications.
  • a Fellowship for an established researcher might comprise of 0.2 FTE of the Fellow plus an allocation for research assistance and a small research fund.


The Fellowships will be awarded for the academic year 2020/21 and run until mid-November 2021, covering the pre-COP26 process and COP26 itself.

This implies the following timeline:

  • Deadline for applications: 28 June 2020
  • Notification of awards:mid-July 2020
  • Start of the fellowships: autumn 2020

Criteria for assessment

The programme will seek a good balance amongst the Fellows in terms of experience (including early career researchers), disciplinary background, host institutions and gender.  Proposals will be assessed by an interdisciplinary panel according to the following criteria:

  1. Relevance: a research topic that is relevant to COP26 and related priorities in the coming 1-3 years.
  2. Track record: a solid track record in research and engagement, commensurate with the candidate’s level of experience.
  3. Excellence: an ambitious, rigorous and original project that combines research and engagement in a novel and effective way.
  4. Impact: a clear pathway to impact and excellent potential for impact within the timescales of the project.

How to submit

The proposal documents are kept deliberately light to encourage a large and diverse set of applications.  Candidates are expected to:

  • Complete a short online proposal form
  • Provide a CV
  • Record and submit a short (up to 2 minutes / 50 MB max) video message to introduce themselves and their project.

Proposals should be submitted electronically through the following platform: . Please follow the instructions there.

The deadline for submissions is 28 June 2020, 12.00am BST.

Fellowships will be awarded solely on the basis of that submission. There will be no rebuttal, interview or second stage submission. 

For further questions about the COP26 Fellowships or the submission process please contact


A Q&A session was held on Zoom on 18 June (see video), presented by Prof Sam Fankhauser of PCAN/LSE, Alyssa Gilbert of the COP26 Universities Network, Alina Averchenkova (Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment) and Elizabeth Hincliffe of UKRI. A list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)  has been put together to address supplementary questions about the Fellowships. This is available in the downloads beneath the video.