The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and U.K. Research Councils (RCUK) have entered into a new agreement designed to help support international research partnerships between the two nations.

This new, two-way, lead-agency agreement enables a simplified and flexible process for researchers wishing to apply for U.S.-U.K. collaborative research funding, using the same systems and processes within the respective funding agencies.

To officially mark the agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed earlier this year by U.K. Professor Paul Boyle, RCUK's international champion, and Myron Gutmann, who at the time of signing was the assistant director for NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate (SBE). The agreement, which will be active until 2018, provides a consensual framework with guiding principles on mutual acceptance of each other's proposal processing routes, including peer review.

International research takes a giant step with the United States and United Kingdom agreeing to work together to produce high quality collaborative research projects. Image credit: Thinkstock  

"This agreement not only strengthens the existing valuable research links between the U.K. and the U.S., but by avoiding 'double jeopardy' in funding applications, it removes some of the barriers facing international research collaboration," said Boyle. "As two of the strongest research systems in the world and the best resourced, the U.K. and the U.S. have long been partners in research. The U.S. is the first choice partner for many of the U.K.'s best researchers, so we are delighted to enter into this agreement to make the process for collaborative research between our two countries as simplified and flexible as possible for our world-leading researchers."

"SBE is pleased to partner with the RCUK in this lead agency agreement," said Joanne Tornow, acting assistant director for SBE. "We feel this will be an effective mechanism to enhance the ability of U.S. and U.K.-based researchers to engage in high quality collaborative research projects."

Under this agreement, proposals will be submitted to either the NSF or RCUK depending on which country hosts the greatest portion of the research. Successful projects will receive funds from both agencies, with NSF funding U.S. researchers, and RCUK funding U.K. researchers. Using standard unsolicited/responsive funding schemes allows researchers to submit year-round using their most familiar application systems.

This agreement is first being implemented by the NSF's SBE Directorate in partnership with the Economic and Social Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council. It is based on an existing NSF-lead agency arrangement between SBE and AHRC. An operational management plan has been put in place that will lay the foundation for future collaborations between the Research Councils and other NSF directorates, as well as between RCUK and other national funding agencies.