Setting up your research

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The Research Councils expect recipients of funding to be able to manage the project expenditure with a unique identifier within their accounts. The University of Oxford uses project coding within the finance system. Each research project has its own unique identifier and expenditure is coded to this. Collaborators need to have a similar capability to be eligible for Research Council funding.

The best response a collaborator can provide is that their financial accounting system allows for project specific accounting. Where this is not possible, more information is required to understand how they will be able to identify the expenditure specifically related to an externally funded project.

It is advisable to discuss with the collaborator at an early stage whether they have appropriate project accounting capability that enables staff to compare actual expenditure with budget available.

It is also worth being aware that the African Academy of Sciences, which has strong links to University of Oxford academics, has developed a standard for Good Financial Grants Practice. This is a standardised, integrated system for the financial governance of funds awarded to grantees to improve the governance of grant funding. In future some funders may require grant recipients to use the GFGP standard. If you are interested in this, please contact as there is support available.

The University already operates an overseas bank account in South Africa and the use of this needs to be discussed with Ben Heath or financial reporting team.

Otherwise, any overseas expenses for University staff will need to be funded within the current expenses policy i.e. through advances and expense claims. More information can be found on the Finance Division's website.

All University of Oxford research requires ethical review if it involves human participants or personal data. Further information about how to apply for ethical review and approval is available from the research ethics (CUREC) webpages

The ethics process depends on the type of research that is being conducted, and on the University department or faculty where the researcher or research team is based.

  • Clinical or biomedical research conducted outside the European Union requires review by OxTREC  but it must also be reviewed by a local review committee in the country where the research is taking place.
  • Research in the social sciences or humanities is generally reviewed by the SSH IDREC. This committee is currently considering under which circumstances local review may not be feasible or appropriate. It is always good practice to seek local review of some form, unless there are good reasons not to. Some NGOs have their own research ethics committees (also known as institutional review boards), so it is worth following up on review processes with partner NGOs.

Young Lives has provided an overview of their approval processes from multiple ethics committees which has also been written up as a case study by ESRC.

Given an inevitable degree of unpredictability during the research process, the ethical challenges researchers will encounter cannot be fully anticipated in a one-off form-filling exercise. For this reason, the university recognises the need to support good practice among students and staff not just at the beginning but throughout the project lifetime. The GCRF team includes a Senior Ethics Advisor working closely with the Ethox Centre and others in and outside Oxford with specific expertise in developing countries, who can provide ongoing support in a variety of ways. See our Ethics page for more information.    

The University is best protected against exchange rate fluctuations when collaborators are paid in sterling, and the collaboration agreements is created in sterling. However, this places the exchange rate risk with the collaborator and this could cause them to discontinue their activity on the project if significant losses occur.

The Research Council awards are made in sterling, but we assume that the payments to collaborators will not be.

In these instances, as the X5 exchange rates are set for billing purposes only, using these rates for purchasing purposes may give rise to exchange rate losses at the University. To overcome this situation, it is advisable that you contact the Treasury team. The Treasury team will advise on an appropriate exchange rate for purchasing purposes, which will be used when the sterling budget is determined.

Written confirmation of the exchange rate supplied by Treasury should be forwarded to your Research Accounts advisor, along with any invoices that need to be paid using the quoted rate.

This will mean that the foreign currency invoices will match back to the sterling budget.

There is an expectation that there will be increased demand for demonstrably strong project management in GCRF calls, particularly in large hubs. Previous expectations for hubs (e.g. the GCRF Growing Research Capacity call) has included the stipulation that every successful application should have a programme manager to provide effective operational management. For further detail see the UKRI website.

The GCRF hub call included specific guidance on project management:

Applicants will be required to describe the project management organisation (PMO), ie the way project management will be organised. The PMO should fulfil the following minimum requirements:

  • Project/work stream initiation and delivery
  • Monitoring, evaluation and impact tracking
  • Financial monitoring and controls
  • Risk management, including financial, project, reputational and legal risks
  • Plan to manage distributed work streams
  • Integration and coordination with other GCRF projects
  • Communications management
  • Data management
  • Compliance with ethics frameworks
  • Regular engagement with the RCUK GCRF and Assurance teams and relevant Research Council colleagues

It is likely that future calls will require similar project management processes to be put in place, with the level of PMO capacity required dependent on the scale and complexity of each project. There is some generic programme management guidance from JISC that is useful.

In terms of experience from the University of Oxford, one approach taken by the Young Lives project is to have country directors in each of the partner countries. In their experience, this set-up has ensured leadership and coordination at a country level. This has been particularly important for ensuring that the different partners and elements of their research are aligned and that the research feeds into national policy processes.

Grantees are responsible for undertaking due diligence check of overseas collaborators that receive funding for joint research projects.

Please contact your Research Services divisional team who will be happy to advise on any financial due diligence which may be required.

The University has a number of centres overseas which currently conduct high volumes of research. These are: