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Research & Collections Programme

Growing research through the convening power of Cambridge’s collections

Call for Project and Visiting Scholar Proposals, 2021-2022

Project Proposal Guidance

The Research & Collections Programme (RCP) invites researchers from the University’s collecting institutions as well as faculties and departments to submit proposals for seed funding to support collections-focused research projects. Project proposals should demonstrate how this research will contribute to and be supported by one of the RCP’s four Research Growth Networks (RGN): Digital, Environment, Materiality, and Ownership

Applications are invited for project proposals costed up to £10,000. Applicants can propose projects that are one phase of a larger project or a small, finite case study to develop a new research question or build upon an existing one. Proposals also can include a supplementary application to fund a Visiting Scholar as part of the project application. Most importantly, all project proposals must draw upon two or more Cambridge collections and include collaboration with researchers based in a Cambridge Faculty or Department. Preference will be given to projects that foster inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration. We particularly welcome proposals that involve an international partner, or that are accompanied by an RCP Visiting Scholar application.

Proposals are due by midnight on 15 August 2021 and should be submitted via the Online Form. Please do not hesitate to contact the Research & Collections Programme Manager through the Contact Page should you have any queries about the Programme or the CfP, or visit the FAQs. Decisions will be announced by the end of September 2021 with projects starting in October. Successful applicants will be expected to complete the work by the end of October 2022.

New Projects & the Research Growth Networks

Project proposals should demonstrate how this research will contribute to and be supported by one of the RCP’s four Research Growth Networks, which offer researchers the opportunity to explore and develop big ideas and build capacity for collaborative, inter- and trans-disciplinary, projects inspired by Cambridge’s collections. Each Research Growth Network supports projects that contribute to the exploration of one of its four research themes. Developing a project within one of the RGNs gives researchers the opportunity to explore and develop big ideas along with the practical support required for creativity, collaboration and network building. This includes:

  • Support from the RCP Manager and the University Library and Fitzwilliam Museum Research Facilitators.
  • A dedicated project web page on the Research & Collections Programme Website.
  • Opportunities for networking and collaboration with the wider Cambridge collections research network.


To be eligible, applicants must hold a current contract of employment with Cambridge University or a Cambridge College (but not visiting or affiliated researchers) and whose role includes research activity, which includes:

  • Senior Staff on academic-related contracts who are research active.
  • Senior Research Associates or Research Associates.
  • College Teaching Officers and Junior Research Fellows.


  • The research team must include staff from both a collecting institution and a Faculty or Department. Preference will be given to projects that foster inter- and trans-disciplinary collaborations.
  • All project proposals must draw upon two or more Cambridge collections.
  • Applicants are asked to follow their respective departmental/institutional approval procedure for undertaking research projects and provide evidence of approval to apply for RGN funding. 

Proposal requirements and selection criteria

A  project proposal (around 1500 words) submitted via the Online Formincluding the names and affiliations of the Cambridge PI(s) and larger research team, that demonstrates:

  • A clear vision for the project’s outcomes: whether to develop new collections-focused practices and methodologies, explore an established research question by drawing upon our collections, or explore our collections to develop new research. 

  • How the project will contribute to one of the four Research Growth Networks and complement or build upon current projects within those RGNs. 

  • How the project will foster collaborative exploration and participation across the collections and Schools at Cambridge -- this can be through seminars, workshops, conferences, and so on.

  • The project’s aims to provide opportunities and resources for Cambridge colleagues to participate in the project, either through training and events or to participate in the research itself.

  • How the project could build capacity through training or collections development (e.g. host a hackathon to increase awareness of digital innovations in collecting institutions; digitise, catalogue and/or conserve an underused collection).

  • How the project contributes to the RCP’s and University's values of equality, equity, diversity and inclusivity.

  • The intention to develop a bid for a grant or fellowship from a major funding body.

  • The intention to build external partnerships, nationally and internationally.

  • The project's potential to impact society, culture, policy or the economy beyond academia. 

  • Additionally, you will be asked to provide:

    • A brief timeline or project plan.

    • A breakdown of the budget and how it will be used to deliver the aims stated in the proposal. Activities/resources that can be funded include (but are not limited to):

  • Holding meetings, workshops, seminars and/or conferences.

  • Training/capacity building events.

  • Hiring an administrator (ideally a doctoral student or postdoc for training and mentoring purposes) to convene seminars, workshops and liaise with external speakers. 

  • Hosting a visiting scholar. Travel, bench fees (if relevant), living costs, and so on, should  be considered in the amount requested. See below for further guidance.

Post-award responsibilities of successful applicants

  • PIs will be asked to provide updates ahead of quarterly steering group meetings and attend occasional Research Growth Network meetings.

  • Provide content for curating the Research Growth Network webpages.

  • PIs will be asked to write a final report on project outcomes and impact, which will be submitted to the RCP Manager and Steering Group.

Additional Project Proposal Guidance: Visiting Scholars 

The vision for the Visiting Scholar Fund is to expand our collections-focused Research Growth Networks, enrich our research approaches through knowledge exchange, diversify our research approaches, and promote greater awareness of our research collections. Visiting Scholars are chosen based on the strength of the Cambridge applicant’s project proposal, the unique contribution of the Visiting Scholar’s expertise to better understand our collections, and the contribution this collaboration will make to the RCP's Research Growth Networks. It is expected that Visiting Scholars will undertake research in Cambridge for at least the duration of a term or three months (including the summer) during the 2021-2022 academic year, but longer or shorter visits can be considered.

Visiting Scholars will benefit from participating in the Cambridge collections community through the department or institution with which their Cambridge academic host is affiliated, as well as through workshops, seminars, and other events organised by the Research & Collections Programme and Research Growth Networks. Visiting Scholars will be invited to present the outcomes of their research at one of these events. 

Note that this Visiting Scholar funding route is intended to supplement a new project proposal. If you currently are undertaking research on a Cambridge collection through another funding scheme and would like to apply for the RCP's Visiting Scholar scheme, please read the Guidance for this funding route.

Proposal Criteria

Visiting Scholar Details:

  • Name, post, institution and contact details

  • Proposed date and tenure of visit (must be in residence for at least one term or three months).

  • Summary of the Visiting Scholar’s relevant research expertise and experience.

  • Cambridge collection(s) that the Visiting Scholar will consult and what it will contribute to the proposed project.

  • How the Visiting Scholar’s contribution on the existing project will contribute to one of the four Research Growth Networks (e.g., idea-sharing or training workshops, organising/speaking at seminars or conferences in collaboration with the RCP and RGNs).

  • Anticipated Outcomes and/or Outputs from the Visiting Scholar’s research and how it will contribute to the host institution and collection(s) that support their research.

Supporting Documents (Required):

  • An up-to-date Curriculum Vitae of the proposed Visiting Scholar.

  • A letter from your host institution at Cambridge. 

  • A letter signed by the Visiting Scholar’s Head of Department (or equivalent) confirming:

    • That they are a member of staff at their home institution and are research active.

    • That their proposed visit has the Head of Department’s support.