AR2F: Academic returners’ research fund

  • mother smiling at baby in her arms
  • Father with baby in his arms

The Academic Returners’ Research Fund (AR2F) provides support for female and male academics embarking upon, or returning to work after, a period of maternity or parental leave, or extended health-related absence.

Established in 2014, the AR2F was initially designed to provide support for female academics working in STEMM subject areas.

The scheme was expanded in 2022 to include maternity and parental leavers whose research is impacted by the extended leave, and expanded again in 2023 to include those returning from extended health-related leave.

The AR2F scheme has been recognised as 'Sector Leading' and 'Innovative Practice in Advancing Equality and Diversity', HEFCE 2017

About the scheme

The AR2F research fund exists for the benefit of all full‐ and part‐time staff, as well as postdoctoral researchers, and provides the opportunity for staff to continue their research endeavours and plan how their research commitments and aspirations can be supported during and/or after their period of maternity or parental leave, or extended health-related absence.


Dr Lacey Wallace, Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Heritage

Dr Lacey Wallace

Senior Lecturer, School of Humanities and Heritage

AR2F Award 2022

Lacey is an archaeologist and Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Heritage. Her research focusses on how people constructed settlement, community, and identity in Iron Age and Roman Britain. The AR2F assisted Lacey in returning from maternity leave to support her current project 'Things called villas: countryside around Roman Canterbury', which is also funded by the Society of Antiquaries of London and the Roman Research Trust.

View Lacey's Profile
Prof Anna Wilkinson, Professor of animal cognition, School of Life Sciences

Prof Anna Wilkinson

Professor of animal cognition, School of Life Sciences


Anna's research focuses on understanding animal cognition as part of a biological framework. She is interested in how animals perceive the world, how they learn about their environment, and how they use and retain this information.

The AR2F allowed Anna to sustain her research during maternity leave, ensuring that her research continued in an upward trajectory and maintaining her research profile. The fund was used to engage a research assistant, and provided key pilot data to underpin a funding application, and form the basis of a 'REFable' publication.

Dr Hannah Henderson, Senior Lecturer, School of Sport & Exercise Science

Dr Hannah Henderson

Senior Lecturer, School of Sport & Exercise Science


Hannah is a senior lecturer in physical activity, exercise and health. Her research interests focus on the design, delivery and evaluation of community-based projects, with a particular interest in complex, multi-level interventions. Current research projects are concerned with developing physical wellbeing in policing, and the evaluation of community-based health 

The AR2F has allowed Hannah to sustain her research during maternity leave, and in particular continue to establish her impact case study 'Improving the well-being of the Lincolnshire Police Force', which has been earmarked as a priority ICS for the School's REF2021 submission.  

Dr Hannah Merdian, Associate Professor, School of Psychology

Dr Hannah Merdian

Associate Professor, School of Psychology


Hannah is a clinical and forensic psychologist. Her research is focused on enhancing professional practice, including psychological assessment and case formulation, with a specific focus on child protection issues.

My work is embedded in classical test-theory and the Scientist-Practitioner Model, with a specific interest in the analysis of "real life" data. Together with Prof Derek Perkins, I am co-lead of onlinePROTECT [Pathways of Risk and Offender Typologies in the Exploitation of Children through Technology], a research and consultation programme on online child protection.

Dr Pallavi Sharma,

Dr Pallavi Sharma


Pallavi is currently on maternity leave, and has applied to the AR2F for support for 'Continued excellence in research on return from maternity leave ─ Bridging the Gap'.

"The AR"F support is needed to employ a Research Associate for 5 months (0.5 FTE), who will be key to supporting my research work by generating preliminary data essential for drafting grants; provide assistance for communicating results on completed work by filling any remaining gaps; help transfer group technology to any new research candidates so as to maintain continuity upon my return in November 2017. Having an experienced researcher in my lab when I re-join will provide much needed assistance while I focus on developing research bids and teaching material"

Dr Lorna Lancaster, Senior Lecturer, School of Pharmacy

Dr Lorna Lancaster

Senior Lecturer, School of Pharmacy


Lorna received AR2F support for a research project 'Isolation and Identification of Klebsiella bacteriocins' on returning from a period of maternity leave.

"During the time of maternity leave, my research progression was paused and as an early career researcher my independent research was only in the initial stages.  This funding will help me to re-establish this research project and generate results so I am able to apply for and obtain external funding.  My research will also be advertised at a conference and disseminated by publication to increase my research profile.  I am requesting the funding for a Masters student as I am restricted in the experiments I can perform in the laboratory because of breast feeding"

Dr Manuela Mura, Senior Lecturer, School of Mathematics & Physics

Dr Manuela Mura

Senior Lecturer, School of Mathematics & Physics


Manuela received funding to support her research project 'Computational modelling of short peptides in the presence of lipid bilayers' on returning from a period of maternity leave.

"During my maternity break I needed to take a break from my work and my research activities. Most of my running projects were on hold because I could not dedicate enough time to run simulations, read literature and to interact with my experimental/theoretical project partners. After I came back from maternity leave I found myself immediately in a new institution with less resources and with several teaching challenges".

The AR2F was used to buy a new computer and new software which will give a boost to my research allowing me to obtain results in a shorter time. Moreover, as the experimental groups are very demanding to publish in high impact journals(3* and above) fast results are essential. Since the computer methods are evolving very fast using more powerful machine/hardware, this grant will help me to step further and keep me up-to-date with the computer tools (the computer program - AMBER - is one of the best, and includes the newest tools, which will give the best performance for my research)"

Dr Lynda Skipper, Senior Lecturer, School of History & Heritage

Dr Lynda Skipper

Senior Lecturer, School of History & Heritage


“I am really grateful for the opportunity afforded by the fund, which has not just benefitted my research, it has also had wider benefits for our students. AR2F funding enabled me to concentrate solely on my research in historic pigments for a month after returning from maternity leave, and has also covered the cost of training and consumables for my research. I’ve used the funding to receive training on two pieces of equipment which were new to me – Raman spectroscopy and polarising light microscopy (PLM), both of which I’ve been using as part of my research. I’ve also built PLM into our syllabus for 2nd year Conservation and Restoration students, and given more in-depth training in this technique to students for their 3rd year research projects, so that they’ve also had the opportunity to benefit from my experience"

Dr Kyla Pennington, Lecturer, School of psychology

Dr Kyla Pennington

Lecturer, School of psychology


“I am a lecturer and Early Career Researcher in the School of Psychology with strong collaborations with the School of Life Sciences and an established published background in neuroscience and psychopathology. The AR2F allowed me to keep my research active during the time I was on maternity leave and develop in terms of capacity, data collection and, once I had returned, dissemination. I used the funding to employ a research fellow, Dr Kevin Butler, who worked in my research group whilst I was on maternity leave, supervising two summer projects designed by me before I had my baby. The fund also recruited participants for the research and bought some equipment and kits needed to analyse saliva samples for cortisol analysis. The fund also supported me in attending two conferences this summer (2016) to present the first results from this work. Returning to work from maternity was hard, however, I returned to an active research group with data collected and ready to analyse and that was very exciting. It has given me the momentum and motivation needed to adjust back to a busy research life, which I believe would have been a lot harder, if not impossible, without this financial support”

Dr Lucy Easthope, Senior Lecturer, School of Life Sciences

Dr Lucy Easthope

Senior Lecturer, School of Life Sciences


“The AR2F funding has provided me with a great deal of reassurance about the way in which Lincoln values and supports women working in science.  I am passionate about my work and my research and that meant that I have always been determined to manage my research life alongside motherhood. I work in the field of Disaster Victim Identification and Mass Fatalities Planning is dynamic and changes very quickly with every new incident, so it’s essential that I am able to keep up and stay current". 

The funding has meant that I didn’t fall behind with opportunities and/or the chance to access events, which I may have otherwise struggled to do, and I absolutely do not think that I would have been able to create the impacts from my ESRC grant without the AR2F support provided by the University. This investment has been extremely beneficial to my research, and my continued profile, which has also been positive for my School and Lincoln as an institution”

Dr Malgorzata Pilot, Senior Lecturer, School of Life Sciences

Dr Malgorzata Pilot

Senior Lecturer, School of Life Sciences


 “The aim of my project is to understand patterns of genetic differentiation and long-term demographic changes in Asian grey wolves and free-ranging dogs based on the analysis of genome-wide diversity. This project will have practical importance by providing a scientific basis for conservation of grey wolf populations in Asia. I was able to carry out my project work thanks to the University’s AR2F fund. At the time, this funding was the only support I was able to access in a way that enabled me to balance both my researcher and family needs during that critical period that followed my maternity leave.”

“I am very grateful to the AR2F for providing me with an opportunity to carry out this research and re-establish myself as a productive researcher in my field despite the constrains resulting from taking care of a small child”

More pages in this section