Virtual Sandpits

The British Academy is inviting applications for participants in international virtual sandpits to take place in February 2021. Participation is open to researchers based in the UK and internationally across the whole range of the humanities and social sciences. The Academy is keen to ensure that the diversity of the humanities and social sciences is represented at the virtual sandpits. The sandpits are split across three themes: What is a good city?; Global (Dis)Order; and Just Transitions.
9 Nov 2020
16 Dec 2020 - 17:00 GMT

Further information is available from Christina Moorhouse, Georgina Fitzgibbon, and Flora Langley at international@thebritishacademy.ac.uk

The British Academy is inviting applications for participants in international virtual sandpits to take place in February 2021. Participation is open to researchers based in the UK and internationally across the whole range of the humanities and social sciences. The Academy is keen to ensure that the diversity of the humanities and social sciences is represented at the virtual sandpits.

The Academy wishes to encourage early career researchers in the humanities and social sciences to participate and therefore will look to ensure there is significant representation at the sandpits from these scholars.

The virtual sandpits will be framed around the themes of ‘Just Transitions’, ‘Global (Dis)Order’, and ‘What is a good city?’. Through these virtual sandpits the Academy wishes to engender new thinking, develop interdisciplinary collaborations, and further international engagement with a particular international policy and practice focus.

There will be three virtual sandpits related to the above themes. Each sandpit will have three sessions of a maximum of two hours each. The sessions will take place on separate days in February 2021. Participants will need to be available for the three sessions. There will be additional time required for offline working. Participants will apply to attend a sandpit related to a specific theme, however, opportunities for synergies during the sandpits could be explored.

This call is for applications to participate in the virtual sandpits. It is not an application for funding. Participation in the virtual sandpits is not a guarantee of funding. It will be necessary through the virtual sandpits to apply for funding generated through the discussions and collaborations developed.

Purpose and focus

These virtual sandpits will aim to draw on the insights of the humanities and social sciences to explore the themes of ‘Just Transitions’, ‘Global (Dis)Order’, and ‘What is a good city?’. This framing is not intended to be prescriptive. Instead, the Academy wishes to incentivise bottom-up ideas. However, in order to indicate some of the questions that might be relevant, we have provided some guide questions below.

What is a good city?

  • What are and have been the criteria of a good city? Who makes and has made the good city? What are the values embedded in urban policymaking now and in the past? How will or can the transformation of urban spaces in a decarbonised society of the future open up or effect collective action and democratic processes?
  • The good city evokes the good life, however, urban citizens often have lived with ill health, pollution, poor living conditions, fear, anxiety, isolation, crime and helplessness, how can urban life maintain and repair human wellbeing and mental health rather than the opposite?
  • What positive measures can a city undertake to make things better for different groups of people to live together? What infrastructural – understood well beyond the physical – decisions can be taken to better the wellbeing of citizens?

Global (Dis)Order:

  • Is there a ‘multilateral system’? Can there be an ‘open, liberal world order’ with ‘global rules, norms and standards’? What can a more historical perspective tell us including on how the foundations of international order and multilateralism are shifting and that many armed conflicts are connected to the collapse of empires and the inherent difficulty of establishing new successor states?
  • How are the organisations and institutions of global governance related to shifting geopolitical relations and how could these be brought into closer and more stable alignment? What role can there be for transnational governance and regional networks and movements?
  • Are there better collective answers to global problems?

Just Transitions:

  • What constitutes a just transition? How and by whom should such transitions be designed and led? How can the most profound social and environmental transformations in human history take place in a just and equitable fashion? How will these transitions be experienced and understood differently across societies and communities? How have such transitions been managed in the past and how have and will they be imagined and represented?
  • How can political institutions – nationally, transitionally, regionally and globally - be reframed so as to encourage the adoption of forward-looking public policy? What role may there be for green deals or stimuli to support this transition and the COVID-19 response? How might the global economic system support or hinder this? How can a low carbon world be facilitated by human behaviour rather than attempt to be imposed by technological innovation?

The Academy is aware that there are considerable possibilities both within and across these framings. Applicants will be required to select a primary theme as they apply, however, there may be opportunities to develop synergies during the virtual sandpits.

Aims of the Virtual Sandpit

The virtual sandpits will be designed to be interactive and free-thinking experiences where a diverse range of participants and perspectives will be brought together. The idea is to develop an immersive and intensive opportunity to develop collaborative thinking and construct innovative approaches to the themes set out above. The process for the virtual sandpits will include the following:

  • Applying to participate;
  • If successful, receiving further briefing and orientation information and opportunities to engage with participants prior to the first session of the virtual sandpits;
  • Networking and relationship-building as the virtual sandpits begin;
  • Sharing and learning from perspectives on the theme and challenges that it presents;
  • Developing a set of common understandings related to the themes and their challenges that speak across different perspectives, terminologies, experiences, and methodologies;
  • Focused activities to build on these common understandings to create tangible ideas for research collaboration;
  • Transforming these ideas into the forms of innovative research projects for further discussion and comment;
  • Applying for funding for collaborative research projects;
  • Taking forward the research projects following a funding decision and after the virtual sandpit.

The Academy aims to bring together international applicants from across the humanities and social sciences to discuss the themes above. In particular, the Academy wishes to:

  • Foster creative ideas related to our understanding and thinking towards global challenges past, present and future;
  • Develop interdisciplinary collaborations across the humanities and social sciences through cultivating discussion and engagement across disciplines and with practitioners and policymakers;
  • Create international partnerships focused on tackling global challenges;
  • Provide opportunities for participants to apply for further small-scale funding for high-quality research projects.

There will be three virtual sandpits related to the above themes. Each sandpit will have three sessions of a maximum of two hours each. The sessions will take place on separate days in February 2021. Participants will need to be available for the three sessions. There will be additional time required for offline working. Participants will apply to attend a sandpit related to a specific theme, however, opportunities for synergies during the sandpits could be explored.

In order to stimulate collaboration and networking, small-scale research funding will be made available after the virtual sandpits, which participants can apply for competitively. The Academy expects there to be around £250,000 available in total across the three themes and the Academy intends to provide opportunities across all three themes. The Academy has no preconceived idea whether a virtual sandpit might apply for one large award or a series of smaller awards. The Academy wishes to provide the opportunity for participants to discuss how best to structure and form any collaborations during the virtual sandpits.

This call is for applications to participate in the virtual sandpits. It is not an application for funding. Participation in the virtual sandpits is not a guarantee of funding. It will be necessary through the virtual sandpits to apply for funding generated through the discussions and collaborations developed.

These collaborations must be international and interdisciplinary in their composition. Time will be set aside for participants to share and discuss their ideas for collaboration over the course of the virtual sessions with the aim to build these out into tangible research projects. The application form for this funding will be circulated in advance of the virtual sandpits to ensure participants are fully aware of the opportunity and requirements.

Eligibility

  1. For the purpose of this virtual sandpit, participants must have a doctorate (or equivalent research experience).
  2. Participants are welcome from any eligible UK or international university or research institute.
  3. Participants must have fluency in spoken and written English.

Participants must be able to participate fully in the virtual sandpits. This includes access to the internet and a functioning device that enables voice and video communication. Sandpits are intensive activities and participants will be required to be able to attend throughout.

Participation

The Academy wishes to encourage early career researchers in the humanities and social sciences to participate and therefore will look to ensure there is significant representation at the sandpits from these scholars.

The Academy wishes to ensure an appropriate mix of disciplinary backgrounds across the humanities and social sciences. The Academy intends to select around 20-30 applicants to participate in each of the themes for the virtual sandpits. It will only be possible to apply to one theme.

The Academy does not have any preconceived ideas regarding the composition of the disciplinary backgrounds of participants. The onus is on applicants to convince the Academy that their participation would address the aims described in this call and advance the success of the virtual sandpits.

Virtual sandpits are collaborative endeavours working across disciplines and in this case internationally. Applicants will therefore be required to demonstrate their commitment and ability to work across disciplines and bring together different communities of expertise including outside academia. This call is for applications to participate in the virtual sandpits. It is not an application for funding. Participation in the virtual sandpits is not a guarantee of funding. It will be necessary through the virtual sandpits to apply for funding generated through the discussions and collaborations developed.

The virtual sandpits will by design bring together participants who would not naturally interact and engage with each other. Applicants willingness to be open to new and different perspectives, ways of working and methodologies will be key, as well as their openness to developing new approaches.

Selection criteria

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

  • The applicant’s rationale and motivation for participating;
  • The applicant’s potential contribution to the virtual sandpits, including methodological skills, and ability and experience in contributing to interdisciplinary and international engagement and research;
  • The applicant’s ability and experience of working in teams and with experts outside of academia, particularly in policy and practice.

The Academy will aim on the basis of these criteria to select participants that will ensure a mix of disciplines across the humanities and social sciences and that supports significant early career researcher participation.

Application process

All applicants must register in the British Academy’s online Flexi-Grant system to enable the processing and assessment of their application. All applications must be submitted in English.

All applications will be subject to an eligibility check undertaken by appropriate British Academy staff before being put forward for assessment, and applications that are not completed correctly and on time will not be considered.

Applicants should provide a completed application form, including:

  • A CV which should not exceed two pages;
  • Responses to the assessment criteria set out in paragraph 26 above

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

The deadline for submissions is Wednesday 16 December 2020 at 17.00 (UK time). Applicants will not be allowed to make any changes to their applications or submit any additional information after the 16 December deadline.

We will seek to notify successful applicants in January 2021.

Code of Practice

The British Academy has a Code of Practice for assessing applications, setting out the principles of equity, integrity and confidentiality governing the treatment of all applications for research support. The Code of Practice also covers Data Protection, the Academy’s ethics policy and the appeals procedure.

Feedback is not a feature of this programme and the Academy is, regretfully, unable to enter into correspondence regarding the decisions of the awarding committee, which are governed by the Code of Practice. Please note that by applying to this programme, applicants undertake to accept the terms under which applications are assessed.

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