Net Zero Policy Programme - call for research

The British Academy’s policy team is building up its net zero policy programme to use the SHAPE disciplines to address the question: how well do net zero policies address the challenges facing the economy and society in the UK? In doing so we aim to contribute to policy outcomes that deliver on commitments to net zero in the UK. We are inviting proposals from a research team led by a Principal Investigator (PI) to use a cross-temporal, multi-scalar approach to address three specific challenges.
Funding status
Closed for applications
Earliest start date
1 Mar 2023
Scheme opens date
15 Dec 2022
Deadline date
08 Feb 2023 - 17:00 GMT
Duration of award
15 months
Net Zero Governance Programme
Contact details

[email protected]

We are inviting proposals from a research team led by a Principal Investigator (PI) to use a cross-temporal, multi-scalar approach to address three specific challenges:

  • Typology challenge: how can we classify net zero policies?
  • Synthesis challenge: what is the SHAPE evidence on net zero policies?
  • Evaluation challenge: which net zero policies work in practice and why?

Researchers would be expected to produce policy and research outputs that are accessible to policymakers and practitioners.

Scope of the call

We are now seeking a research group led by a Principal Investigator that can use a cross-temporal, multi-scalar approach to address three specific challenges that we have identified as requiring further research and analysis:

  • A typology or framework challenge – how can we classify net zero policies? The current national net zero policy is arguably fragmented - not fully considering the priorities such as cost of living, of those at the more local level, and not joined up across different governance levels. These gaps are an issue for the delivery of net zero and call for a rethinking of how net zero policies are classified, encouraging them to go beyond a narrow focus on angles such as sequestration or technology and rather consider what initiatives and interventions could better involve and motivate people and organisations mostly at the local level to support them. These gaps also highlight the need for a typology or framework that greater considers the range of impacts on people across the country and places greater emphasis on linkages across different governance levels. The researchers will need to consider these issues and set out a typology or framework that explores how net zero policies can be better classified.

  • A synthesis challenge – what is the SHAPE evidence on a range of varying net zero policies in practice (these could be clear net zero policies with interactions on issues such as energy, circular economy, critical materials, nature-based solutions)? Policymakers, particularly those in less-well-resourced institutions (such as SMEs or local authorities) have limited resources to identify and review the full range of evidence available from SHAPE disciplines to develop effective policies on net zero that take account of this evidence. Researchers will need to take a diverse and broad set of net zero policies, fit them to the typology or framework, and bring together existing evidence on each one. The policies selected will need to cover a range of factors identified in the typology/framework.

  • An evaluation challenge – which broad range of net zero policies work in practice for local policymakers and why? local actors face a range of policy options on net zero, many with few precedents to draw on. This is combined with competing priorities and narratives, resource constraints and some public and political contestation and backlash around net zero policies. Given the context, evaluation of the evidence around particular proposals and interventions is essential to make informed choices, including marshalling evidence from other policy areas and from history where similar transformational challenges were faced. Researchers will need to provide a meta-level scoping on what kind of evidence is available and what gaps might need to be filled and provide evidence for the practical application of the policies they have suggested in the synthesis challenge.

The applicant will need to demonstrate how they manage the scope by balancing scale (a sufficient number of policies considered) and depth (a sufficient level of enquiry on the synthesis and evaluation elements) to provide good value for money and a robust output.

The target audience for this programme is policymakers.

Please click here to see the scheme notes for additional information.

Programme background

The British Academy has been exploring the role of SHAPE (Social Science, Humanities and the Arts for People and the Economy/Environment) disciplines in policymaking which aims to deliver on commitments to Net Zero in the UK. This relates closely to our companion work looking at how place-sensitive policymaking can support environmental sustainability (Where we Live Next) and how policy and practices aiming to secure Just Transitions globally are developing.

Work funded under this programme to date has considered how collaboration across sectors (public, third sector, business and local communities) can foster shared commitments to goals, values and programmes to deliver net zero as part of a sustainable future. The research projects and our own policy work have used a wide range of methods and explored diverse people and places. The emerging insights emphasise three areas for further consideration for policy development:

-How should policy effectively balance the range of impacts resulting from net zero policies on different communities over different timescales?

-How can policy interventions take account of the diverse contextual factors within places which motivate people and organisations to make decisions in support of or against net zero objectives?

-How do different types of policy support enable people and institutions at different levels of society and across different dimensions of scale to accelerate the transition to net zero?

Alongside these, this initial research indicated a range of cross-cutting elements to consider: the importance of place (see below); the relationships between people, communities, institutions, and different modes of governance; the connections between different levels of governance; the methods of engagement and communication between people and policymakers; the questions of inclusion and values; the diverse economic and financial considerations; and the types of skills and knowledge needed.

Further details of the research produced under the programme, including summaries of roundtables and the research policy summaries is available here

Given the importance of place to effective policymaking on complex objectives like Net Zero, the British Academy’s Where We Live Next programme provides a crucial complementary framework for a place-sensitive approach to policymaking. It is developing a set of principles to inform place-sensitive policymaking for environmental sustainability. There are six emerging themes:

  • Integrating the tangible (built and natural environment and associated infrastructure) and intangible (people, culture, beliefs and relationships) diversity of places into a holistic and pluralistic approach to policymaking.
  • Fostering a bottom-up approach to knowledge sharing that empowers local communities to share their inter-sectional lived experiences of environmental issues to help overcome environmental knowledge deficits.
  • Using language that resonates with the values, culture and experiences of a particular place and community.
  • Educating people in the democratic process, the policy eco-system and how to solve problems within the local community, using creative, fun and inclusive arts-based activities to support transformative shifts in behaviour.
  • Engaging people using SHAPE-based methodologies that develop long-term, trusted and inclusive relationships and partnerships, including with minority and hard-to-reach groups, to co-design policy approaches where appropriate using more creative approaches and engaging in existing cultural and civic spaces.
  • Working within, across and between different levels of governance to enable multi-level, fluid and organic policymaking that connects places with wider eco-systems and devolves power and resources accordingly.

Eligibility Requirements

The lead applicant must be a researcher from the humanities or social sciences and be based at an eligible UK university or research institute. The lead applicant must be of postdoctoral status or above (or have equivalent research experience) and their position must last at least the duration of the grant funded by the Academy.

Projects can involve Co-Applicants and other participants. No individual may be a Co-Applicant on more than two projects under this call (nor may a PI be additionally a Co-Applicant on more than one other project).

For more details about the programme and the eligibility requirements, please see the scheme notes.

Value and duration

We expect to make a single award of up to £150,000 (with Full Economic Costing at 80%). This means that the maximum budget that can be stipulated is £187,500, of which the British Academy would fund 80% (ie £150,000).  The project duration will be 15 months starting in March 2023 and completed by June 2024. Awardees will be required to engage closely and regularly with the British Academy throughout the award duration and meet clear deliverables and deadlines.

Funding can be used to support the time of the PI and Co-Applicants; research assistance; travel, fieldwork and related expenses; and networking costs.

Application process

Applications must be submitted online using the British Academy's Grant Management System (GMS), Flexi-Grant®.

The deadline for submissions and UK institutional approval is on 08 February 2023, 17:00 (BST).

We will be running a webinar on 19 January 2023 from 11:00-11:45am to respond to any questions potential applicants may have.

Please find Zoom information here:

Zoom link:

Meeting ID: 883 5111 1058

Passcode: Y5pEdF

Sign up to our email newsletters