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Advancing the Frontiers of Earth System Prediction (AFESP) is a new 15-year, £30million research programme at the University of Reading, in partnership with the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), the UK Met Office and the National Centre for Atmospheric Science. 

AFESP is establishing a long-term Doctoral Training Programme to develop skills in the fundamental new research across the physical, mathematical and computational sciences that will be required to address next-generation challenges in Earth system prediction and operational weather and climate forecasting. PhD students will be trained and embedded within the overall AFESP programme.

We are inviting applications to be part of the first cohort of up to ten PhD students to commence in Autumn 2023. 


All PhD projects will sit within one or more of the three strategic AFESP themes:

  1. Predicting the Earth system up to the sub-seasonal range (up to 1 month)
  2. Challenges and opportunities in simulating the Earth system at the kilometre-scale
  3. Data assimilation for the Earth system across a range of scales.


Our vision is that AFESP will be recognised internationally for:

  • Making world-leading contributions to the advancement of next-generation, extended-range weather and Earth system predictions
  • Offering a unique research and innovation hub combining meteorology, physics, mathematics and computational science
  • Offering long-term career opportunities for exceptional scientists, able to move seamlessly between fundamental and applied research
  • Researching and enabling new applications and services, in partnership with public and private sectors.


AFESP also aims to maximise the societal benefits of improved extended-range Earth system predictions by working with operational weather services, weather data users (e.g. energy, agriculture, fisheries), industry and government decision-makers to improve risk assessment, planning and resilience.

About the Earth System Prediction Doctoral Training Programme

The Earth System Prediction PhD programme will offer a wide range of excellent and innovative training in quantitative environmental science, research skills and a wider set of professional skills in preparation for a leading role in science, industry, the public sector or academia.

The awarding institution for PhDs will be the University of Reading, which will also provide the lead supervisor for all PhD projects. Each PhD will also have at least one co-supervisor from ECMWF or the UK Met Office.

From the start of their PhD, students will be part of a supportive research group, including other PhD students, early-career researchers and senior investigators, within a funded AFESP project. Students will be immersed in an excellent research environment and involved in regular AFESP science workshops and meetings, where they will hear about the wider research developments, help shape the programme, and have the opportunity to discuss their research with world-leading scientists.

A wide range of MSc modules are available to PhD students from the full range of modules at the University covering the specific requirements of AFESP research. In addition, the University’s Doctoral and Researcher College runs a Researcher Development Programme which offers generic skills training with courses on, for example, how to write a thesis, publishing papers, and interacting successfully with your supervisor.


Studentship awards from the University of Reading will cover tuition fees, research-training costs and a stipend for up to three-and-a-half years for living costs, on similar terms to the PhD funding offered by UK Research & Innovation. Towards the end of the PhD, there is the opportunity to apply for an extension; the maximum duration of funding is four years. This call is open to applicants worldwide, with additional support for international students to help with costs of visas, access to UK healthcare and travel.

How to apply

We are aiming to recruit an initial cohort of up to ten PhD students to commence in Autumn 2023. Applicants should have the potential to contribute outstanding work to the programme and demonstrate a keen motivation for working in one of the AFESP strategic themes.

Applicants must set out their interest in, and suitability for, doctoral training in one of the AFESP strategic themes listed above with reference to the AFESP Science Plan. Co-development of specific PhD projects will take place following acceptance onto the programme (a list of example projects will be available on the research programme website in mid-January 2023).

Applicants should hold or expect to gain a Bachelors (or equivalent) at 2:1 (Upper Second Class) level or above and/or Masters Degree in physics, mathematics, computer science, or a closely related environmental, physical, or engineering science. Strong programming skills (Python and Fortran) will be beneficial, but programming and software development will be part of the training offered.

The selection criteria are:

  1. Degree in core scientific disciplines, e.g. physics, mathematics, chemistry, engineering, computational science (50%)
    1. Candidate profile fit to the AFESP science programme (look at type of degree, modules covered, grades, etc.)
    2. Previous research experience of relevance to a PhD in any of the three AFESP themes.
  2. Personal statement (50%), including:
    1. why you want to apply to this PhD programme on Earth System Prediction
    2. what particular skills and experience you would bring to the programme
    3. which AFESP theme, or themes, are of interest to you, and why
    4. why you think that AFESP will make a difference, e.g. in terms of benefits to society.
  3. Other indicators of merit/distinction, e.g. overseas development work (even as volunteer), previous work in government/industry that motivated a return to academia (bonus 10%).


Please apply using the AFESP application form.

Applications should be submitted to by midnight (GMT) on Tuesday 31 January 2023. Following a selection process based on the criteria listed above, and interviews in mid-February, offers will be made to successful applicants in late February 2023. Offers will need to be responded to by 15 March 2023 to ensure entry onto the programme. Successful  applicants will be invited to apply online for a PhD place and must meet the University's PhD entry requirements in order to for their place to be confirmed. International candidates must demonstrate the necessary levels of English proficiency described on the University of Reading’s Doctoral and Researcher College webpage.


Programme partners

Below is some contextual information about each of the AFESP partners.

University of Reading

AFESP is hosted within the School of Mathematical, Physical and Computational Sciences at the University of Reading, which occupies a distinct position in the physical sciences community in terms of the variety of ways it applies the core disciplines of computing, environmental sciences, mathematics, meteorology and to addressing the fundamental challenges of climate change, climate resilience and climate protection. Scientists will also be involved from the School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Sciences which aims to further the understanding of environmental systems, human communities and their interactions in the past, present and future.

The University of Reading is the 8th highest ranking UK university for Physical Sciences (Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023, by subject).

The two Schools host more than 280 academics and research scientists, including five Fellows of the Royal Society, a Regius Professorship, and six lead authors of the most recent IPCC Assessment Report. At any point in time, there is a community of approximately 200 PhD students.

All PhD students are supported by the Doctoral and Researcher College which provides advice, study facilities, training and professional development for all doctoral students (c.1880 students from over 100 countries in 2020/21). The Doctoral and Researcher College is dedicated to ensuring students get the most out of their PhD and fulfil their potential as a researcher. It runs a number of programmes to help students develop academically and professionally.


The European Centre for Medium-Range Forecasts is both a research institute and a 24/7 operational service, producing medium and extended-range global numerical weather predictions and other data for the European Member and Cooperating States and the broader community. The Centre has one of the largest supercomputer facilities and meteorological data archives in the world. Other strategic activities include delivering advanced training and assisting the World Meteorological Organisation in implementing its programmes.

The Met Office

The Met Office is the national meteorological service for the UK, providing weather services and world-leading climate science for government and business in the UK and around the world. The Met Office is a science-led organisation and its reputation for weather forecasting and climate prediction depends on its world-class research programme, which spans an ever-increasing range of science disciplines from fundamental atmospheric physics to ecosystem behaviour.


The National Centre for Atmospheric Science is a world-leading research centre, funded by the UK’s Natural Environment Research Council. NCAS research covers three key areas: air pollution, climate and high-impact weather and long-term global changes. NCAS also provides the UK with state-of-the-art services for observing and modelling the atmosphere. These include a research aircraft, advanced ground-based observational facilities, computer modelling and support, and major facilities for storing and analysing diverse data.


For application enquiries 
For enquiries related to an application, or to submit an application please e-mail

For programme enquiries 

For enquiries and further details please contact Claire Wyllie, Research Development Manager (

Further information about AFESP is available on the AFESP project website.