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Collaborative doctoral awards

2018 Open Call—AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Studentship Proposals for the Science Museums and Archives Consortium

The Science Museums and Archives Consortium is delighted to announce the 2018 Open Call for proposals for AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Awards to be supported through our Collaborative Doctoral Partnership.

About the programme

The Collaborative Doctoral Partnership (CDP) programme provides funding for doctoral projects. Any studentship must be jointly proposed by a university-based academic in collaboration with a member of staff at the Science Museums and Archives Consortium (SMAC).

Successful doctoral candidates are jointly supervised by subject specialists at both their Higher Education Institute (HEI) and at one or more of the institutions of the SMAC Consortium, comprising:

  • BT Archives
  • Science Museum Group (Museum of Science and Industry, National Railway Museum, National Science and Media Museum, Science Museum)
  • The Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
  • The Royal Society

We encourage CDP applications on any topic in contemporary and historical curatorial, conservation, audience and/or learning research that address the collections, current interests and programme priorities of the SMAC Consortium.

The proposed project must demonstrate academic originality, be appropriate for collaborative study at doctoral level, and fall into the AHRC subject areas.

The scheme provides an exceptional opportunity for doctoral students to:

  • access distinctive, but complementary environments
  • study within a research-led museum and archives environment
  • benefit from a diversity of approaches with an applied/translational dimension
  • have an opportunity to develop a range of valuable skills and significantly enhance their future employability.

Through the programme the students are encouraged to engage with the wider public and to present their research to non-specialist audiences.

The research projects establish links of long-term benefits for both collaborating partners, providing access to resources and materials, knowledge and expertise that might not otherwise have been available.


This is a two-stage collaborative process that may be initiated by either HEI academic or member of staff at SMAC.

HEI researchers, working with SMAC professional staff collaboratively develop outline proposals. The Consortium members ensure that the studentship and proposed area of research contribute substantively to respective organisational objectives. HEI academics need to ensure that the proposal is driven by academic originality.

Research topics

The academic research needs to be grounded in the studies of objects and practices relevant to the SMAC sites and institutions. The research topic is to critically relate to the organization’s collections, strategy, policy for future projects and collecting areas, conservation and collections management as well as the diversity of current and aspirations for new audiences and user constituencies. The research can engage with exhibiting and curating practices within historical and contemporary organisational and societal contexts.

We are keen to explore innovative methodologies in the theory and practice of curation and collecting, digitisation, archiving and preservation, object and collections discovery, access and re-use.

The outline research proposal should be structured using the followings questions:

  • What is the project about? What are the likely research questions?
  • What is the research context?
  • What are the main works or collections in this area? What approach is proposed?
  • Why is this a doctoral project?
  • If you have identified supervisors and departments, please name them.
  • At this stage and the next, it is entirely appropriate for a prospective student to be involved in the drafting.

We expect a proposal outline of no more than two pages co-developed with staff at one of the consortium member organisations and an academic at an HEI by 21 September 2018.

An expert panel will select a shortlist of proposals to take forward as full applications. Successful applicants to Stage 1 will be notified by 15 October 2018.

SMAC staff will work with the authors of the shortlisted applications, so that full proposals are submitted by the final application deadline of 23 November 2018.

The submitted full proposals are assessed and judged by a panel composed of subject-appropriate academics and SMAC senior staff. Applications are expected to display both academic quality and relevance to SMAC members’ concerns. Once agreed, the successful studentships are advertised by the HEI and the Science Museums and Archives Consortium as well as through the AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Partnership network.

The awards are announced in January 2019. We award six doctoral studentships to start in October 2019. All studentships are fully-funded for 3 years (with options for part-time study in accordance with AHRC policy). The AHRC makes available an additional six months funding to support career development opportunities; we expect this to be pursued within the individual SMAC organisations. The individual Consortium member organisation provides additional financial support to the student towards travel and related costs. The studentship administration resides with the awarded university.

Assessment criteria

Proposals are assessed on the academic strength and originality of the proposal to support research at doctoral level, and how well the research addresses the collections and programme priorities of the SMAC Consortium. The research needs to befit the collaborative model of combined academic as well as collections- and archives-based research and be achievable within the given time frame.

Make contact

Those interested in developing a research project are encouraged to email Alison Hess, Acting Research and Public History Manager at the Science Museum to discuss ideas and/or to approach Consortium members directly:


Explores the leading role that the UK, and particularly BT and its predecessors, have played in developing communications technology, providing communications services around the world, and their influence on society and communities.

The UK’s learned society and professional body for geography. Founded in 1830 it explores the development of geography and exploration.

The Science Museum Group is devoted to the history and contemporary practice of science, medicine, technology, industry and media, with the most comprehensive and significant collections anywhere in the world.

The Royal Society promotes excellence in science, supports international collaboration and seeks to demonstrate the importance of science to everyone, including through its history.