Skip to main content
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 new about the application this year?

You can now upload a single pdf of no more than 50 megabytes as supplemental material. The Research Committee finds it most useful to see a bibliography of works to be consulted or a description of archival resources to be used or images or maps where appropriate. In addition, in the Awards section, you can now see a list of your previous Fall Competition applications. This is intended as a reminder as you answer the question about what you have accomplished with your awards from the past three competition years.

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.

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. If you have questions about the appropriateness of your project, please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Lea Jacobs (2-1044).

Is the writing of textbooks included in ‘research’? What about translating? Editing?

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.

What if I want to branch out from my regular research and propose a project in a completely new area?

The Research Committee encourages new research areas. You must, however, indicate your qualifications to enter the new area and make clear your expected outcomes and contributions.

What is a PA? RA? Hourly Worker?

A project assistant (PA), the most common student-support award in the Arts and Humanities, 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 feeds directly into his or her dissertation work and is much more common in the biological and physical sciences. 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 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. Make a case for the value of your research in the context of your field and explain your project with a minimum of jargon. Remember that your proposal will be judged by scholars from a range of disciplines within the Arts and Humanities. 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. Note also that the interview is an important part of the application process, and you will have a chance to expand on your written application at that time.

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.

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

The Committee will want to know whether you accomplished the goals for which previous awards were given and what outcomes have 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 should be provided for publications, performances and exhibitions.

What is an average award in the Fall Competition?

Award amounts vary greatly. For the 2015 Competition, the average award was $22,193, 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)?

Faculty members will be expected to justify their Fall Competition requests in the face of substantial balances in existing VCRGE 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 account (more than 25% of the initial start-up) unless they have well-formulated plans for spending those balances down within a limited time period. If you have questions about what funding you have and your plans for it, please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Lea Jacobs (2-1044).

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 two 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).

I understand that preference is given to probationary faculty. Is it worth my while to submit an application if I am already tenured?

The Research Committee recognizes that the tenured faculty has important funding needs and does its best to fund senior faculty. However, the Research Committee expects tenured and senior faculty members 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. If you expect to apply for external funding, investigate in advance the average levels and tenure of award and be sure to consult the VCRGE’s supplementation policy (see below).

The application asks for ‘Extramural and Intramural Support.’ What should I put in this section?

Your reviewer will have information about your previous Research Committee awards, including Fall Competition, Start-up, Retention, and others. The committee will also want to know about your other current sources of funding, including other UW and departmental funds as well as external sources, and your reviewer will ask about your plans for their expenditure. The application asks for active, pending, and “to be submitted” awards. If you are planning to submit an application to a funding source during the up-coming year, as we strongly encourage all faculty to do, you should list this as well. If you forget to include an item, be prepared to let your reviewer know at your interview.

Many of the outside awards, like the NEH, Guggenheim and ACLS, provide only limited salary stipends. If awarded, I would take a pay cut. How do I apply for salary supplementation for a major outside award?

If you wish to receive salary supplementation for an external award your application must be vetted by the Research Committee as part of the fall competition. The VCRGE provides salary supplementation in partnership with the College of Letters & Science and the School of Education for three prestigious external research awards (NEH, Guggenheim and ACLS) dependent on the salary eligibility of individual faculty members. Other external awards are considered on a case by case basis. Any summer salary you are awarded in the fall competition may be redirected into academic year salary supplementation should you receive an external award. Please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Lea Jacobs about your plans and to make sure you understand the supplementation process.

What does it mean to seek a Research Committee award as full or partial insurance for another grant?

If you are applying for an external award or awards, you may request a Research Committee award in case the external funding does not come through. If you receive Research Committee funding as insurance and receive the extramural award, the Research Committee award will not be activated. If your extramural efforts are unsuccessful, you must provide formal proof of that to the VCRGE in order to activate your Research Committee award.

What are my chances of receiving my full request?

The Research Committee funds a portion of requests and thus only some applicants will receive funds, either in whole or in part. You should request the full amount that you need to accomplish your project, however, and the Committee will decide how best to allocate its funds. If your budget includes multiple items, such as summer salary and travel or a PA plus additional flexible funds, you will be asked to identify your priorities.

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 Lea Jacobs if you are contemplating one of these options.