Grants for studies
Applying for a Grant
Applications should be for support of research or study in any areas of astronomy and geophysics, including, but not limited to, the following:
In general RAS grants aim to support requests which are unlikely to be considered for funding from research councils and other agencies. See the detailed criteria for grants.
Who can apply for a grant?
Any Fellow of the RAS may apply for a grant. Applications are particularly encouraged from (or, where appropriate, on behalf of) those ineligible for grants from the Research Councils or equivalent overseas bodies (for example, undergraduate and other students; individuals who do not hold permanent academic posts; teachers; amateur scientists; etc); and for work, or for sums, not normally directly supported by the Councils (e.g. undergraduate research bursaries). If the member is applying on behalf of someone else, they should include a short statement (less than 500 words) explaining why they are supporting the application.
The Society will not in normal circumstances award grants for the purposes of professional scientific research or for tenured academics where the projects are eligible for funding from a research council or other similar source. Except in the case of NAM Bursaries, it is unlikely that grants wil be given for travel by established professionals to attend conferences or collaborate with fellow scientists.
When are the deadlines?
Applications are assessed twice a year; the deadlines for these grants rounds are 15 February and 15 August each year. Applications received by these deadlines will be reviewed shortly afterwards, and awards announced within two months. It is therefore necessary to plan ahead when you are intending to apply for funds. If you can't wait until 15 October (August applications) or 15 April (February applications), you will need to apply in the previous round.
Urgent applications (which have an upper limit of £1,000) may be considered outside the normal cycle, in exceptional circumstances only and subject to availability of funds, if a sufficient case is made explaining the timing of the application and the deadline for a decision. Please make any deadlines clear when applying.
How much can be applied for?
Applications should normally be for sums between £250 and £5,000 (except for NAM Bursaries and urgent applications, where the upper limit is £1,000). We normally expect evidence of application for matching funding from other sources, and the majority of grants are awarded on the basis of such funding being available. Applications for amounts outside the guideline figures should address this point explicitly. Applicants should make clear why other sources of funding are unavailable or inappropriate. For example, research students or postdoctoral researchers applying for travel funds should explain why their support grants do not cover (or do not fully cover) this element.
Conditions of the Awards
Successful applicants should promptly acknowledge receipt of their award and must agree to adhere to the general conditions of the awards:
For all awards:
(i) Payment will normally be made on submission of receipts, or invoices from audited bodies. Other arrangements can be made on an ad hoc basis by prior agreement.
(iii) Any publications arising from the award, whether wholly or in part, should acknowledge RAS support (this includes online publications, such as conference websites). If required, digital versions of the RAS logo are available at
For awards in support of organization of professional meetings/conferences:
(iv) At least half of the sum awarded should be designated for the support of participation by scientists at an early career stage (e.g., postgraduate students).
(v) RAS sponsorship should be clearly indicated where appropriate.
(vi) A copy of any published proceedings should be made available to the RAS library.
If no invoice (or explanation for the delay) is received within a year of the award being made, the award is deemed to have lapsed.
Objectives of the Society
Competitively within each Grants round and the resources available, the Society will consider any applications that advance its charitable objects, namely to ‘advance astronomy and geophysics’: within this broad area nothing is explicitly excluded. However, given the modest scale of the its grants programme, which cannot compete with government funding, the Society wants to make contributions to its sciences that are additional to their normal functioning. It especially seeks applications for grants for purposes that are not usually supported by other organisations or for the benefit of people who are ineligible for grants from well-established sources.
Personal Funding for Studies
Applications, generally, for grants to fund a PhD student to complete a course,or for other study programmes, will not be approved. The Education Fund and the Benevolent Fund can provide some small-scale help in cases of extreme hardship; applications can be made in any format at any time, in confidence direct to the Executive Secretary.
Travel funding for undergraduate or postgraduate students or recently qualified postdoctoral researchers may be available, especially where this can be seen to help to give a new or developing career some impetus and when full funding is not otherwise available. Conference travel is usually only supported if the traveller intends to give an oral paper at the conference (especially if this represents the results of a forthcoming or recent thesis); the committee will also consider applications from a potential traveller to present a poster paper, but only if there are additional reasons to travel that will advance his/her career. Note that for conference travel applications, it is required that there should be approximately matching funding in the budget from the conference organisers, the parent university department or other sources. If such funding is being sought, we might provisionally award a grant of approximately half the budget, hoping that this might add weight to the parallel application.
At any time, but particularly for the February R&G round each year, applications are particularly encouraged for undergraduate research bursaries (normally from, or on behalf of, potential supervisors). Such bursaries would provide support to enable motivated undergraduates who are considering research as a career to work in a research environment for part of the summer before their 3rd or 4th year. The Society will fund at most one bursary per supervisor per year.
Please ensure that you clearly specify in the application:
The maximum bursary available is £1,200, independent of length of project. Specific research expenses up to £250 will be considered, but general expenses (e.g., for consumables or travel) will not. The RAS does not pay overheads, and bursaries produce no National Insurance contribution liability.
Funding for Meetings
The Society will consider applications for support to hold scientific or other meetings. The applicant should provide an overall budget, showing how the Society’s grant will improve the scientific outcome of the meeting by supporting, for example, attendance by students or recently qualified postdoctoral researchers (perhaps by reduced registration fees), a public lecture associated with the conference, attendance by a key-note speaker, etc. The Society will not offer grants that will be used simply to reduce the registration fee for everyone or for social functions. We may provide additional grants if a publication (other than conference proceedings) will result (see below).
The Patricia Tomkins Foundation has donated funds to encourage young scientists in the development of instrumentation for astronomy or geophysics. Applications may be made for sums of up to £2,000. Full details of the Patricia Tomkins grants.
The Society will consider applications for grants to help publish books etc., but these will have to be proposed for inclusion in the Society’s publications programme and are subject to discriminating editorial controls on quality; financial viability is a further consideration. Book projects that can be completed commercially are not eligible. We will not provide grants to publish straightforward conference proceedings, but we may provide additional grants for conferences that will produce a book that has editorial integrity, e.g. a coherent account of a scientific field, based on a conference or lecture school.
Public Outreach and Schools Education
A range of public outreach activities are funded, such as development of public events, training workshops, broadcasting or podcasting, and development of planetarium show material. Bids by amateur astronomy societies and schools for funds for general equipment such as telescopes, laptop computers, scanners, digital projectors and the like have met with little success to date, even where the basis for the application to the R&G Fund was for promoting public understanding or other purposes relevant to the aims of the Society. A successful application for this sort of equipment would have to argue convincingly that it would be used in an efficient manner, by a community of users, for an additional particularly suitable purpose supported by RAS. The Society is willing to consider applications to get schemes going, or help realise individual projects, but will not provide a subsidy to ongoing educational projects.
Application forms, which include further brief instructions, are available:
Successful past grant applications
For guidance you may wish to consult the list of successful past applications for funding. See below for lists of grants awarded in recent years.
In awarding grants, the RAS will normally fund only directly incurred costs, and not overheads (including 'Full Economic Costing'). In so doing, we follow the guidance provided by the Treasury's "Science & Innovation Investment Framework 2004-2014" (sections 3.31-3.37), and the practice of other charities (such as the Wellcome and Leverhulme Trusts).
For information: in England, recognising the contribution of charities to the excellence of the research base, the Government has established a specific revenue stream, the Charity Support Fund, to contribute towards the fEC of research funded by charities at universities in England. These funds will be distributed through the quality-related research (QR) block grant to Higher Education Institutions by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and will be used to meet the general running costs (e.g. indirect costs, estates costs, investigator costs) incurred by the university in conducting charity-funded research.
In Scotland, the Scottish Funding Council has also announced that it will allocate a charity stream of funding within its main QR grant, to support charitable-funded research in Scottish universities. The level of investment is equivalent to the amount HEFCE is contributing in England to the Charity Support Fund, in proportion to the level of charity income received in Scotland.
In Wales, the National Assembly has agreed an additional £3 million per year to support charitable-funded research, to be delivered by the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales.