Find an academic for your third sector research

For third sector organisations (TSOs) who are seeking to undertake research and looking for a starting point to make contact with an academic researcher.

Our signposting list is split into three sections; student internships or research placements (with students at different levels of study); research funding; brokerage (where an external organisation helps you to match with an academic) and other sources of research support.

Research placements or internships

Ran by University of Glasgow & University of Edinburgh

4th year research student placement with a quantitative focus.

TSO proposes project and interviews students.

Various lengths of time from an 8 week summer placement to 26 weeks.

Edinburgh Q-step Centre

Glasgow Q-step Centre

Ran by Scottish Graduate School of Social Science 

3 month internship for PhD student (2nd or 3rd year student).

Costs host organisation £5,500. 

Annual call for applications.

Hosting an Internship – Scottish Graduate School of Social Science

Ran by SGSAH 

PhD student internship for 3 months (flexible).

No core costs for host organisation but may involve some travel/subsistence contribution.

SGSAH – Doctoral Internship and Artist Residencies

Ran by  The University of Stirling 

‘Making the most of Masters’ is a summer research placement. Linked to a variety of Masters taught courses in different fields. Develop a proposal for the research you’d like the student to undertake – university can support you to do so. 3 month placement June – August

Ran by University of Edinburgh Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Social Science 

Employees in public, private and third sector organisations, and self-employed freelancers spend time with the university, working on projects of mutual interest.

Based on your project idea, we will attempt to identify an academic who matches your interests. When a match is found, you will make a joint application. If you are already working with an academic as part of an existing partnership, you can make a joint application directly.

Ran by Data Lab

The Data Lab MSc is a collaborative effort between 11 Scottish Universities and The Data Lab. 

Each university has developed an MSc programme based on its own strengths and capabilities, with the support of The Data Lab to facilitate industry involvement from Scottish organisations, and provide funding and resources. 

Third Sector organisations can apply to host a student placement 

Data Lab – Are you a business with an idea for a student Placement Project?

Ran by Santander

Does not need to be limited to research. 

11 Scottish universities are partners. Intern must be current or graduate of partner university.

There is a cost involved for the host organisation for any internship longer than two weeks (sliding scale).

Santander Universities SME Internship Programme

List of partners for this scheme

Grants & funding

Ran by Scottish Enterprise

Innovation grant scheme for R&D.

Third sector can apply but is open to all sectors.

This does not need to involve an academic partner.

Scottish Enterprise – Research and development (R&D) grants

Ran by The Scottish Universities Insight Institute

Annual call for Knowledge Exchange grants Supports KE activity that would not otherwise have taken place with aim to make positive impact on policy/practice.

Must be in partnership at least two SUII academic research partners

Brokers & other sources of research support

Ran by Interface.

Offers research matchmaking and brokerage between academic & third sector.

Has links with all Scottish universities.

May be able to support with small grants.

Interface – Social Enterprise and Third Sector

Ran by The Scottish Government

Annual opportunity for data support from SG analyst.

Mostly quantitative focus. TSO can apply for SG data analysis support of a few days. Highly competitive.

Ran by The University of Edinburgh

Knowledge Exchange Fellows undertake a variety of projects such as: research, organising an event to link research to policy or practice, building a network or developing a training course. The scheme offers you the opportunity to work with an academic mentor and access to University resources.

Ran by The University of Edinburgh

Engage with companies and organisations to ensure they can access the right expertise at the University quickly and efficiently throughout an
innovation project.

Advises on the most appropriate route for each project and manage the interactions to a successful conclusion.

Mainly used by business although there are examples of TSOs e.g. Consultancy to Save the Children.

Edinburgh Innovations – The University of Edinburgh’s commercialisation service

The list is not exhaustive and there is space only to give a short descriptor of each broker, placement or funding source. If you’re aware of other established sources of support that are not on this list please email details to Jane Marryat.  Please also let us know if you find any of the links are out of date.

Getting started with research

If you work in a third sector organisation and are new to doing research the following questions might help with identifying what you need:

  • What type of research do we want to do? Qualitative, quantitative, mixed methods, not sure? Working with community members or crunching stats? Some schemes only support specific types of research, so it’s helpful to have a rough idea before you start looking around.
  • What level and amount of research do we need? Would a student (undergraduate or postgraduate) placement work well or do we need to collaborate with a more experienced academic for a longer period of time?
  • When do we need it? Can we be flexible on time scales?
  • What kind of research relationship do we expect? Who sets the research brief and who leads or project manages the research?
  • Is this a competitive scheme that needs us to submit an application?
  • Are there additional costs that our organisation is expected to cover?

More guidance about working on collaborative research can be found in the Knowledge Translation Network’s free to download resource ‘Collaborating with Academics’.

Research Offices at universities can be a useful source of knowledge and signposting to academic researchers and their areas of research expertise.  Some universities have one central point of contact while others have a Research Office webpage for each Faculty or School. Universities also have teams that deal with research consultancy if you are seeking to commission research.

Most universities are keen to find hosts for work placements for their students.  You might be able to use a work placement as an opportunity for a student to help you with some research. Contact your local university/ies to find out more.

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