Associated Studies Submitting a proposal

An Associated Study is an opportunity for individuals or organisations to collect information from respondents that has not already been asked for in the survey.

We are not currently accepting applications for associated studies. Please join our mailing list to receive information on when the associated study programme opens again. 

Anyone interested in conducting an Associated Study should read this guide carefully before outlining their proposal through the application process detailed below. Initial enquires can be made prior to submission of an application via We welcome and encourage discussions with potential applicants to talk through their ideas and potential costs of their Associated Study.

Putting forward a proposal to conduct an Associated Study is one of two ways in which researchers from outside as well as inside the Understanding Society team can get involved with its development. The other is through the annual Innovation Panel Competition.

Carrying out an Associated Study provides the opportunity for new cross-disciplinary and mixed method approaches, an important aspect of the survey’s design.

You can find out about previous Associated Studies in the projects area.  


All Associated Studies are self-funded and the researcher or research team applying to run the study is responsible for raising the full costs of doing so.

To ensure funding bids are realistic and take into account the complexities of working with such a large-scale survey, it will be helpful for applicants to discuss their funding proposals (in broad terms) with the Understanding Society team before they are submitted, as they can advise on the expected costs for fieldwork and other associated activities. We would therefore strongly recommend that you contact the team prior to submitting your application, to discuss the potential costs. You will not be able to start your Associated Study until funding has been confirmed.

One key thing to consider when making a funding bid is the cost of providing incentives for respondents.


In order to maximise the impact of the Associated Study, data collection methods are not limited to a particular methodological approach and could encompass a wide range of methods and approaches, such as:

  • Qualitative or quantitative
  • Quantitative diary data collection
  • Visual or audio methods
  • Experimental methods
  • The use of web surveys for capturing events at more frequent intervals than the annual interview
  • Follow-up studies of particular sub-groups within the sample


The Innovation Panel sample will be used for the majority of Associated Studies. Applicants wishing to use the Main Sample must state clear reasons in their application why this should be used instead.

The scientific leadership team continues to have a responsibility to ensure sample members are protected and not over-burdened to an extent which would jeopardise future participation in the study.


Associated Studies will take place between waves of the Innovation Panel as a separate process. In order to ensure that the sample members are not overburdened, we limit the number of Associated Studies a year to one in case of a full IP sample. As the IP runs between May and September with the data being delivered towards the end of the year, a full-sample associated study can only take place between January and March. Smaller-scale studies that are designed to approach a small sub-set of individuals from the Innovation Panel sample between waves are more easily accommodated. There may be opportunities to run more than one qualitative or sub-sample associated studies a year, depending on what sub-samples they use, and details will be discussed and agreed on individual basis.


For any full-sample surveys, the researcher will be required to use the currently contracted survey agency (Kantar Public) to conduct the fieldwork. This is so that there can be an opt-out consent process, which would not be possible if using another agency. For small-scale qualitative studies, there will usually be no need to use a fieldwork agency as the invitation letters will be sent by the Understanding Society team and the fieldwork will be carried out by the researchers themselves. The applicant is responsible for the production and provision of all finalised field materials, questionnaires or other equipment needed for fieldwork.

Questionnaires and other field documents will be supplied to the Understanding Society team for comment prior to the applicant making contact with respondents, and will be subject to any changes deemed necessary. The Understanding Society brand will be retained across all materials, but the Associated Study will be clearly distinguished from the core IP or mainstage fieldwork.

Ethical approval

Ethical approval is required for any Associated Study. This should be sought by the applicant from their own institution, and/or from an NHS Research Ethics Committee if necessary.

Written evidence of ethical approval must be provided to the Understanding Society team.

Data security

All applicants are obliged to conform to all data security and confidentiality procedures deemed necessary by the Understanding Society Principal Investigator and to sign a written undertaking stating they will comply with these.

Please read these rules and procedures carefully:

  1. If required, the applicant is responsible for selecting the sample of interest to them from the survey data and for providing the anonymised unique personal identifiers (PIDs) for those sample members to the Understanding Society team.
  2. Respondents will be contacted first by Understanding Society to allow respondents to opt out of taking part in the Associated Study. Where required by the research design, details of names and addresses will only be supplied to the applicant for those respondents who have not opted out.
  3. Where provided, details of names and addresses of sample members will be held by the applicant in a secure environment and not used for any purpose other than the agreed research.
  4. On completion of the research project all confidential paper material will be shredded or permanently deleted if machine readable.
  5. Anonymised data generated by the Associated Study will be deposited with the UK Data Service in an agreed format and within a reasonable time-frame to be agreed. This will normally be within three months of the end of the funding for the Associated Study.
  6. The applicant will deposit a separate correspondence file of the Understanding Society PIDs together with the identifiers used for their study in the UK Data Service and this file will be subject to special licence access conditions.

Criteria and eligibility

Applications will be assessed by the Understanding Society Executive Team and members of relevant scientific groups for their scientific merit according to a set of agreed criteria. An Associated Study must satisfy these criteria in order to be successful.

The criteria for selection include:

  • a clear scientific rationale for the Associated Study in relation to Understanding Society
  • a clear justification of why the associated study requires the use of Understanding Society sample members and could not be carried out on another sample selected for the purpose
  • clear analytic advantages of having the resulting data available within Understanding Society
  • a longitudinal rationale for the proposed study
  • the proposed study will not harm or impose an unacceptable burden on survey respondents
  • plans for high quality research outputs resulting from the study and their likely impact
  • agreement to deposit anonymised data within the UK Data Service within an agreed timeframe

It is expected that studies will make significant use of data already being collected as part of Understanding Society.


Applications to carry out out an Associated Study must be based on scientific merit and value. To maximise your chances of success, you should read all sections of this guide before applying.


Please download and complete the Associated Studies Application Form (PDF) or Associated Studies Application Form (Word). Once completed, return via email to Dr Violetta Parutis

Or via post

University of Essex
Wivenhoe Park
Essex, CO4 3SQ


Download the the application process guide

The step-by-step process and timescales for reviewing applications are as follows:

  1. Applications are evaluated by the Understanding Society Executive Team and members of relevant scientific groups.
  2. A decision is taken on whether the study is suitable for inclusion within 1 month of receipt of the application. Note that the assessors may make recommendations about changes they wish to see to the study design or data collection procedures before giving final approval.
  3. The applicant seeks funding opportunities and submits applications for funding from an external source
  4. Once funding is secured, the Understanding Society team works with successful applicants on the development of fieldwork protocols and the implementation of their study.
  5. The researcher applies for independent ethical approval for the Associated Study.
  6. Once ethical approval is granted, the researcher develops a detailed project plan and data management plan for the Study, and the start date for the study is agreed.

The Understanding Society Principal Investigator reserves the right to halt or withdraw support for the Associated Study if there is any evidence of misconduct or harm to respondents.

Misconduct will include extending the research to be carried out without prior agreement or carrying out any form of contact or data collection not agreed within the protocol.