STARS is not currently accepting new project proposals

Management Board

Each organisation has a local Management Board representative. Your local Management Board (MB) Representatives are:

The Director of Training is Davey Jones (Bangor) and the overall STARS Academic Director and Chair of the MB is Phil Haygarth (Lancaster).


The Mission for the STARS College is to create a novel and unique national training experience for the next generation of soil scientists.

We encourage collaborative and multidisciplinary applications in all areas of soil science, with a strategic focus on four thematic areas:

  1. Understanding the soil-root interface
  2. Soils and the delivery of ecosystem services
  3. Resilience and response of soil functions and global changes
  4. Modelling the soil ecosystem at different spatial and temporal scales

Projects addressing theme 4 are particularly encouraged this year.

The full and original submitted proposal can be found here and the summary that was presented to NERC and BBSRC is available here as PowerPoint slides.

Calls are now invited for proposals to be submitted, using the STARS application form, by 4 pm on 30th September to your local MB Representative. Each local organization is responsible for sifting the 4 best proposals that are then sent forward for further consideration and sifting by the MB during October.

The management board will then select up to 4 projects per organisation to go forward for advertising.

Please note that if your proposal is selected for advertisement, candidates can be considered for multiple projects during the application and interview process to ensure the highest quality students are granted studentships.

Selection criteria and call details

Projects must have a lead supervisor from the submitting organization and at least one additional collaborating supervisor from a second institution within the STARS College; supervisors are strongly encouraged to include a non-STARS partner in the supervision team. The students will be registered at one of the 4 STARS HEIs, where one of the supervisors will be based. There is no upper limit on the total number of supervisors but all members of the supervision team should make an active contribution. Projects will be selected on the basis of strategic fit to the STARS thematic areas, multi-disciplinarity, and the potential for some inspired training for the students. If you are unsure of whether your project falls within the STARS remit please discuss this with your MB representative.

Specific criteria for proposal selection are:

  1. Excellent science and fit to STARS mission and thematic areas.
  2. Methodological innovation such as the use of mathematical and computational approaches, new technologies and/or novel application ofexisting methods.
  3. The project is feasible, well-planned, appropriately costed and can be completed within 3.5 years.
  4. The project provides high-quality training and good opportunities for professional development.
  5. The project provides strong supervisory arrangements: supervisors will be assessed on their record of supervising to completion and quality of research outputs in relation to their career stage.
  6. Projects will also be assessed favourably if they:
    • have secured co-funding or CASE funding;
    • include multidisciplinary collaborations across subject areas, partnerships with external bodies, or plans for wider engagementor impact;
    • are multi-institutional where feasible.
    • address theme 4, modelling the soil ecosystem at different spatial and temporal scales

The aim, following advertising the projects, is to select one student per organisation, with the exception of Nottingham, Bangor and Lancaster, who will select two students, due to match funding provided by the host organisations.


There will be a core stipend and RTSG for 8 NERC/BBSRC studentships commencing October 2017, for a duration of 3.5 years. Each of these will receive a total £7500 RTSG for the 3.5 years. There will be the opportunity to bid for additional RTSG money if necessary on an ad hoc case by case basis, to be agreed by the STARS MB. It would be helpful if you could signal the likelihood and extent to which this will be required in the initial project proposal, if possible.

In addition to the 8 NERC/BBSRC students, Lancaster, Bangor and Nottingham are also funding one matched studentship each. In the event that your student is allocated to a matched studentship, you need to be aware that although the stipend is covered and the student will be trained as part of the cohort, the arrangements for RTSG allocation depends on local arrangements with your University and the STARS MB.

Other Requirements

Each student is required to:

  • Be willing, if necessary, to undertake a partnership internship of at least 3 months during their PhD to experience working in an area that is not necessarily directly related to their own research.
  • Participate fully in the STARS training programme, including some compulsory elements and totalling no less than 90 days (including the internship) during the studentship.

Lead supervisors will be required to:

  • Have successfully supervised PhD students to completion and/or have undertaken supervisory training within the three years prior to the start of the studentship.
  • Comply with requests for progress reports in a timely manner.
  • Participate in the STARS induction meeting and annual conference.

Failure to comply will render the PI ineligible for future STARS calls.

Although we don’t use the metrics on ‘early career scientists’ in our selection criteria, we do wish to gather this information as part of reporting to NERC and BBSRC. Early career scientist supervisors are defined as < 5 years since 1st academic appointment or on a fixed-term research contract that outlasts the duration of the studentship. 

  1. Submit completed STARS application form to your institutional MB representative by 4pm on 30th September 2016.
  2. October 2016: STARS Management Board assesses the proposed projects and selects up to 4 per organisation.
  3. November – December – January: advertise projects.
  4. 22nd January 2017: probable application deadline.
  5. Early February 2017: local interviews to take place, panel to include independent STARS representative, in which the one (two at Nottingham, Bangor & Lancaster) strongest student/s shall be selected.
  6. 1st October 2017: start date for Cohort 3 STARS students.