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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Arts and Humanities FAQs

Who funds the Research Committee Fall Competition?

The Research Competition is funded by a gift from the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF). Since its founding in 1925, WARF has served the UW–Madison scientific community by patenting research discoveries at the UW–Madison and licensing such technologies to leading companies in Wisconsin, the U.S., and worldwide. WARF distributes the income from these commercial licenses in an appropriate manner between the UW–Madison Office of the VCRGE, the inventors, and their departments. The Research Committee Competitions are two means by which the Office of the VCRGE distributes the gift to faculty and permanent PI’s on campus.

What is considered ‘research’ for the purposes of the Fall Competition?

In general, faculty submit proposals for the type of research and scholarly activity for which they were hired, on which they will receive tenure, or which further new developments in their fields. In the Arts, such research activities might mean creating original works of art, developing new repertory for a musical instrument, or developing new methods of set design. In the Humanities, it is more likely to involve the research and writing of an article or a book chapter. Note that since WARF explicitly supports the research mission of the University rather than instruction, applications must be for research and not classroom projects, and any requests for salary are expected to support full-time research activity. In general, there is a tremendous variety to the research done on campus. The Research Committee gives preference to original scholarship/research/creative activity but takes into consideration the type of research products that are appropriate for individual disciplines and fields. If you have questions about the appropriateness of your project, please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Florence Hsia (2-1044).

How are proposals reviewed?

After the application deadline, your file will be assigned to a member of the Arts and Humanities Research Committee, who will contact you or your department administrator about setting up an appointment for an interview. At the interview, your assigned reviewer will seek more details about your proposal. You should be sure that s/he understands your project as well as possible. In the case of junior faculty, the reviewer will also speak with the department chair.

At the meeting of the Research Committee, the reviewer will present your proposal and answer questions from other committee members. S/he will be reporting on your project rather than acting as your advocate. Decisions for funding are made by committee vote. You will be notified via email how to access the online competition results prior to winter break.

How can I best present my project in the limited space available on the application?

In writing the application it may be useful to employ these subheadings:

  1. Specific aims/research questions
  2. Significance
  3. Approach (design, methods, and analysis)
  4. Expected products
  5. Future directions

Be sure to describe what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and what product is likely to result. Indicate your qualifications to undertake the project and specify your expected outcomes and contributions.

As you write your proposal, remember that it will be read by artists and scholars from a range of disciplines. Many may not be familiar with your field, and it is unlikely that anyone on the committee will be an expert in your particular research area. The proposal should make clear to the reader the value of your research in the context of your field and explain your project with a minimum of jargon.

How does the research committee support long-term research projects such as scholarly monographs?

The Research Committee prefers to fund ambitious projects, such as monographs, that will have a major impact on the applicant’s field of research. In such a case, the application should describe the book project as a whole and then specify what is to be completed during the award period (people usually propose intensive research and/or the completion of a chapter during a summer). Please upload a chapter breakdown and bibliography with your application. Please make sure your interviewer understands what has been accomplished already and what remains to be done. Bear in mind that the Research Committee is unlikely to fund two long-term projects simultaneously: it is necessary to finish one project before requesting funding on another.

How should I prepare for the interview?

Have any publications or other materials that might help explain your project available to show your reviewer. S/he may ask to borrow some of these materials to share with the entire committee. Be prepared to explain your budget and your priorities. Remember that your reviewer is not so much your advocate on the committee as the member who has become most knowledgeable about your project. Equip your reviewer with the information s/he will need to present your proposal as clearly and concisely as possible.

Can I apply for a semester of research leave?

Most requests for salary support are funded at the level of one or two ninths of summer support. However, the Arts and Humanities Research Committee invites applications for one semester of research leave (4.5 ninths salary support) through the Fall Competition. Up to two awards will be made each year. Proposals should be for ambitious and innovative new projects for which the applicant also seeks major external funding. Senior faculty members with distinguished records of publication, exhibition or performance are particularly invited to apply. Proposals will not be considered without a brief letter from the Chair attesting to the department’s willingness to release the applicant from teaching a semester.  Prospective applicants should consult with Associate Vice Chancellor Florence Hsia in advance of the Fall Competition deadline.

Should I plan to apply for external research funding?

The Fall Competition application asks you to list active, pending, and “to be submitted” awards. The Research Committee expects applicants to investigate and pursue other sources of funding and to make applications for external support whenever possible. Be knowledgeable about what is available and be prepared to speak with your reviewer about the opportunities you have explored.

The Research Committee particularly welcomes Fall Competition applications for pilot studies or exploratory research that will prepare our faculty to write new proposals to external agencies. In addition, faculty should be aware that programs are in place to supplement external fellowships and awards. If you have questions about the supplementation program see: or contact Associate Vice Chancellor Florence Hsia.

The application asks how I have used recent Research Committee awards. What should I put in this section?

This section is the equivalent of a “progress report” on prior funding. The Committee will be discussing what was accomplished with previous grants and what outcomes ensued. For each award that you have received over the past three years you should list outcomes directly relevant to the award including conference presentations, papers published, in press, or under review, performances or exhibitions, and any grants that have been awarded or submitted. Full citations must be provided for publications, performances and exhibitions.

What is an average award in the Fall Competition?

Award amounts vary greatly. For the 2017 Competition, the average award was $27,308, which included amounts for fringe benefits for salary and tuition remission for graduate student PAships.

Can I enter the competition if I have a previous award from the Office of the VCRGE that I have not yet spent (start-up, retention, Romnes/Kellett Mid-Career/Named Prof) or a Vilas Award?

Faculty members will be expected to justify their Fall Competition requests in the face of substantial balances in existing VCRGE and Vilas accounts. The Research Committee typically does not support new Fall Competition requests made by faculty who have a substantial balance in an existing start-up, retention, Named Award or Vilas account (more than 25% of the original award) unless they have well-formulated plans for spending those balances down within a limited time period.  Faculty in the first or second year of a Vilas Associate Award should not apply to the Fall Competition for salary support; in extraordinary cases applications for a graduate PA will be considered.  If you have questions about what funding you have and your plans for it, please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Florence Hsia (2-1044).

What is a PA? RA? Hourly Worker?

A project assistant (PA), can be requested to help on aspects of the project that require graduate-level training or research expertise. Project Assistants are usually 33.3% or 50% appointments for 4.5 months (one semester), 9 or 12 months. A research assistant (RA) carries out research for the project that also contributes to his or her professional training. An hourly worker need not be a graduate student. Be sure to indicate clearly on the application how the student will contribute to the project.

Note that PA and RA awards must cover the currently required tuition remission. Summer assistantships are possible, but require more attention to details regarding a student’s previous support, level of funding, and enrollment in courses. We strongly advise you to consult with your departmental payroll officer in advance of making a request so that you understand any requirements or restrictions.

How is salary eligibility calculated?

According to current policy, faculty members and permanent PI’s on a 9-month pay cycle are eligible for a maximum four months of salary (4.5 months, if taken as a semester rather than summer funding) every three years. (If you are on a 12-month appointment, speak with Russell Schwalbe for clarification of your eligibility.) Your eligibility rolls over each year, so you should count your salary awards over the past three years to calculate your eligibility. If you received summer salary as part of your start-up package or elected to use a portion of your start-up funds for summer salary that usage does not count towards your eligibility (start-up funds are “non-pre-judicial” with regard to the 4.5 month limit).

Do I need to be in residence for my award?

No, not if your research takes you elsewhere. The expectation for salary support, however, is that you are carrying out full-time research during the time of the salary award. In addition, Research Committee salary support is an investment in tenured or tenure-track faculty and Permanent PI development. It is available only for persons who will be UW–Madison staff members in the academic year following that support.

Once I have won an award, can I move funds between categories?

Transferring funds to new categories is sometimes possible, although the Research Committee usually insists that graduate student funding be protected. It is common to redirect summer salary toward academic year salary supplementation of another research award. An early start to an award is also possible. Contact Associate Vice Chancellor Florence Hsia if you are contemplating one of these options.