Social Sciences FAQs
WHO FUNDS THE RESEARCH COMMITTEE FALL RESEARCH COMPETITION?
The Fall 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 Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE), the inventors, and their departments. The Research Committee Competitions is one means by which the OVCRGE distributes the gift to faculty and permanent PI’s on campus.
REVIEW PROCESS: HOW ARE PROPOSALS REVIEWED?
After the application deadline, your file will be assigned to a member of the Social Sciences Research Committee, who will contact you or your department administrator to set up an appointment to interview you. At the interview, your assigned reviewer will clarify any questions they may have about your proposal. The interview is not an opportunity for the investigator to fill in for missing information on a hastily or poorly written proposal but rather an opportunity to ensure the reviewer is well-positioned to present your proposal to the committee and field members' questions. The committee as a whole will evaluate your proposal and base this evaluation (for the most part) on the quality of the written proposal. In the case of junior faculty, the reviewer may speak with the applicant’s department chair.
At the meeting of the research committee, the reviewer will present your proposal and answer questions from other committee members. The committee will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the proposal. After the discussion, each committee member confidentially scores your proposal on a 1 to 5 scale, with a 1 indicating an outstanding proposal. You will be notified via email prior to winter break whether your proposal was funded.
When you submit your proposal, you indicate which divisional committee should review your proposal. In a few cases, the committee may move your proposal to a different division if they believe that committee would constitute a more suitable review panel.
ELIGIBILITY: AM I ELIGIBLE TO APPLY IF I HAVE RECRUITMENT OR STARTUP FUNDS?
New faculty come with recruitment packages to help them start their research. The policy of the research committee is that at least 75 percent of the startup package must be spent before funding from a new Fall Research Competition award may be activated. Thus, if more than 25 percent of the startup package is available, the FRC application must include a specific and realistic plan to spend the startup package before July 1 of the year in which the award would be active. The committee evaluates the realism of the spend-down plan (e.g., has an order been placed for a piece of equipment that will reduce the startup package) in deciding eligibility. At its discretion, the committee may review the status of the startup package before activating an award; FRC funds can be denied if remaining startup funds exceed 25 percent of the original amount. In most cases, applications from newly appointed faculty who are recent recipients of sizable start-up packages are typically viewed as being a low funding priority. If you are a new faculty member who started after July 1, 2023, please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Lonnie Berger (email@example.com) to discuss whether you should apply to this year’s competition.
AWARDS: WHAT IS AN AVERAGE AWARD IN THE FALL COMPETITION?
Award amounts vary greatly — from $12,000 to $83,000. For the 2022 Competition, the average award was $44,782, which included fringe benefits and tuition remission. This is roughly the amount needed to support a 12-month Research Assistant. Only a handful of awards were for substantially more than this amount.
CRITERIA: WHAT CRITERIA ARE USED IN DECIDING WHICH PROPOSALS TO FUND AND FOR HOW MUCH?
The most important criterion is the significance and excellence of the research, including the research questions, design or approach, and strength of the data. The committee also considers the appropriateness of the budget, whether the investigator is a probationary faculty member, whether recruitment research funds remain unspent, and whether the research is in an area for which other sources of funding are rarely available. The committee also considers whether the proposal requests “insurance,” that is, if the research is in an area where external funding is available, the committee considers whether a request for external funding is being submitted. (See FAQ about “insurance.”)
CRITERIA: I HEARD THAT PREFERENCE IS GIVEN TO JUNIOR FACULTY. IS IT WORTH MY WHILE TO SUBMIT AN APPLICATION IF I AM ALREADY TENURED?
The Research Committee recognizes that the tenured faculty also need funding, particularly as seed money for a proposal that is being developed or as bridge funding, and does its best to fund senior faculty. Among the faculty who apply to the social sciences committee, approximately 55% of the dollars are awarded to junior faculty and 45% to senior faculty. In areas in which funding is available, proposals to the Fall Research Competition from tenured faculty are expected to be submitted as “insurance” for external funding. (See the FAQ about “insurance.”)
CRITERIA: HOW IMPORTANT IS IT BE SEEKING EXTERNAL FUNDING FOR THE PROJECT AT THE TIME OF MY APPLICATION?
A major goal of the Fall Research Competition is to help leverage outside research dollars. For research in areas for which external support is available, senior faculty and junior faculty more than two years into their probationary period are expected to submit a proposal for external funding.
The committee recognizes that for some work in the social sciences, there are few external funding sources available. In addition, an investigator may be proposing a new area of study that requires preliminary work in preparation for an external grant. The Research Committee selectively funds applications from faculty in these situations.
INSURANCE: WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO SEEK A FALL RESEARCH COMPETITION AWARD AS “INSURANCE” FOR ANOTHER GRANT?
Asking for “insurance” commits you to apply for external funding and to only use Fall Research Competition (FRC) funds if such external funding is not awarded. You may only submit a FRC proposal as insurance if you will have a funding decision on the relevant extramural proposal(s) prior to the start date of the FRC award, that is, by the following Ju1y 1st. In most cases, this means that your proposal must have been submitted by the summer or fall of the year in which you are applying for FRC support. The application provides a place to enter the dates of the expected submission and decision. For the committee to consider your application as “insurance,” these dates must be provided and occur prior to the anticipated start date for the FRC award. Note that you cannot submit an insurance proposal asking for a greater amount of support than the external proposal for which it will serve as insurance. The number of awards made in the FRC assumes that external funding will be received – and FRC funding not activated – for a proportion of insured FRC awards.
There are two very different types of “insurance” that can be requested in the Fall Research Competition:
- “Full” insurance: If your external application is not successful, full insurance allows you to draw on the award from the FRC. If you receive the extramural funds, the Research Committee does not release funds. For example, your proposal requests a research assistant and the FRC awards funds for a research assistant (RA) as insurance. If you submit a proposal, but it is not funded, you may activate the FRC funds for the RA. If your proposal is funded, the FRC funds are not activated and are returned to the pool.
- Insurance “supplement”: Some expenses needed for your research may not be eligible for funding from the external agency, foundation, or funding mechanism to which you have applied. In that case, you may request an “insurance supplement” for just those expenses. For example, if a foundation will cover the stipend for an RA but not the tuition – and supplementation from the Graduate School is not available (see that FAQ) – you may request an “insurance supplement” from the FRC for the tuition. If you submit the external proposal and it is funded, the FRC funds can be activated to cover the tuition as a supplement to the grant. If you do not submit the external proposal or the external proposal is not funded, the FRC funds cannot be activated.
BUDGET: WHAT ITEMS MAY I REQUEST?
Support may include a project or research assistant, research associate, student hourly, or funds for data, research-related travel, supplies, or equipment. See separate discussion of salary support.
BUDGET: WHAT TYPES OF TRAVEL MAY I REQUEST?
Travel necessary to accomplish the proposed research can be supported. The PI should make clear in the budget justification section the role of travel in completing the project in the budget justification section. Travel to report research findings at meetings or other venues will not be considered. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE) maintains a separate program to support conference travel; please see the OVCRGE Conference Travel website for further details.
BUDGET: WHAT TYPES OF EQUIPMENT MAY I REQUEST?
You may request funds to purchase research equipment necessary for the proposed research but that would not be purchased in the normal course of your occupational duties. The Research Committee does not fund standard computer packages, which are the responsibility of the individual’s School or College, or software that is a normal component of one’s office computer.
BUDGET: WHAT IF I HAVE PARTIAL FUNDING FOR A GRADUATE STUDENT BUT NEED TUITION?
The Graduate School provides supplements for many fellowships for graduate students. If such funds cannot be made available to you, you may apply for an insurance supplement for a submitted or already funded extramural grant (See also the FAQ about “insurance.”).
SALARY: WHEN DOES THE FALL RESEARCH COMPETITION PROVIDE SALARY SUPPORT FOR FACULTY?
The Fall Research Competition (FRC) cannot be used to buy out a course or supplement a sabbatical. The FRC sometimes provides one or two months of summer salary support. For example, some summer salary support has been awarded if the researcher must travel in order to, themselves, conduct primary data collection(e.g., via interviews or archival research). Few awards include both summer salary and a research assistant.
Salary supplementation for faculty fellowships is described here: Salary Supplementation for Fellowships.
SALARY: HOW IS ELIGIBILITY FOR SUMMER SALARY CALCULATED?
Faculty members and permanent PIs on a 9-month pay cycle are eligible for a maximum of four months of salary (4.5 months, if some funds are provided for supplemental salary for a faculty fellowship during the academic year, rather than summer salary) from the OVCRGE every three years. If you are a permanent PI on a 12-month appointment, contact the Fall Research Committee Administrative staff to clarify your eligibility. (See Research Committee Policies about calculating salary: Research Committee Policies | Research)
SALARY: WHAT DOES THE POLICY OF PROVIDING SALARY ONLY IF THE PI IS CONDUCTING “FULL-TIME RESEARCH” MEAN?
The policy means that, during a time when you are receiving salary support from the OVCRGE (i.e., summer or supplementation for a faculty fellowship during an academic term) you must be working on research full time rather than combining research efforts with other obligations such as teaching or administration. Thus, if you are awarded a month of summer salary, it is the expectation of the OVCRGE that you will not be the instructor of record for a course offered during that month.
APPLICATION: HOW MUCH DETAIL IS NEEDED IN THE BUDGET JUSTIFICATION?
In making budgetary decisions, the OVCRGE relies on the overall merits of the application as evaluated by the committee as a whole and on the strength, clarity and detail of your budget justification. Make clear how the budget items and amounts are needed for the research you plan. The interviewer and the committee must be able to understand why you need the resources you request.
APPLICATION: HOW DO I KNOW WHETHER HUMAN SUBJECTS APPROVAL IS NEEDED?
You must indicate if your proposed project will require human subjects approval. In most cases the IRB must decide whether a project is exempt; the PI cannot make this decision. Do not assume that existing/secondary or purchased data sets, data from social media, or other sources of data do not require IRB approval. Contact the IRB to get a preliminary assessment before you check this box. If you receive a Fall Research Competition award, activating that award will be contingent on your obtaining any required approvals.
APPLICATION: THE APPLICATION ASKS HOW I USED RECENT RESEARCH COMMITTEE AWARDS AND WHAT PRODUCTS RESULTED. WHAT SHOULD I PUT IN THIS SECTION?
The Committee wants 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 in the past three years, list products and outcomes directly relevant to the award, including conference presentations, papers published, in press, or under review, and any grants that have been awarded or submitted. Provide full citations for published manuscripts and for those in press. You must provide complete information about outcomes and products from previous awards before activating a new Fall Research Competition award.
APPLICATION: HOW CAN I BEST PRESENT MY PROPOSED WORK IN THE LIMITED SPACE AVAILABLE ON THE APPLICATION?
Use the suggested headings to structure your application (i.e., specific aims, significance, approach, etc.). Be sure to make a case for the importance of your research for your discipline and how the project further advances knowledge in your field, in general, as well as your program of research. In the Approach section, describe the study design, the sampling strategy, and data analysis procedures. For quantitative studies, include a section on study measures. In the budget section, please provide a detailed justification for the budget requested.
Remember that your proposal will be judged by scholars in a large range of social science 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. Explain your project with a minimum amount of jargon.
Please note that the interview is not meant to correct for a hastily written proposal. The interview is meant only to clarify any questions that the research committee member may have about your written application. In evaluating your proposal, the committee will give the greatest weight to the written application.
APPLICATION: HOW CAN I SUBMIT ADDITIONAL SUPPLEMENTAL INFORMATION BEYOND THE ONE-PAGE FIGURE OR DOCUMENT ALLOWED AS PART OF THE APPLICATION?
APPLICATION: HOW CAN I PREPARE FOR THE INTERVIEW ITSELF?
Reviewing the FAQs is a good place to start. Bring publications or other materials that are crucial for justifying or explaining your project in case your reviewer asks for them. It is up to the reviewer whether or not to consider additional materials to insure that applicants to the competition have comparable opportunities to provide information. If you have submitted a proposal for external funds for which the Fall Research Competition proposal is full or supplemental insurance, provide your reviewer with a copy of that application. Remember that your reviewer’s job is not to serve as your advocate on the committee but to accurately summarize your project for other committee members. Equip your interviewer with the information they will need to present your proposal as clearly as possible.
ELIGIBILITY: AT WHAT STAGE OF MY RESEARCH PROJECT SHOULD I ENTER THE COMPETITION?
The Fall Research Competition supports faculty and permanent PI research, not projects undertaken for graduate students or postdocs, although graduate students or postdocs often staff a faculty member’s research project as part of their training. Projects are funded at many different stages. It helps the committee if you indicate clearly the stage of your research, for example, “seed” money for an analysis needed for proposal under development or “bridge” funding while you await a funding decision. If you are uncertain about the suitability of your project stage, contact the Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Social Sciences.
Please note that the Research Committee does not provide multiple years of funding for the same project.
ELIGIBILITY: CAN I ENTER THE COMPETITION IF I HAVE UNSPENT FUNDS FROM A RETENTION, ROMNES OR KELLETT MID-CAREER AWARD, OR NAMED PROFESSORSHIP?
Balances in these accounts are considered “non-prejudicial,” and are not considered in deciding eligibility for an award in the Fall Research Competition. See the separate FAQ on startup funds for information about how they are considered.
ELIGIBILITY: IS THE WRITING OF TEXTBOOKS INCLUDED IN ‘RESEARCH?’ WHAT ABOUT TRANSLATING? EDITING? OUTREACH ACTIVITIES?
The Fall Research Competition supports research activities. For example, seeking funds to conduct library research for the preparation of a book-length manuscript may be supported. A request for help to prepare a manuscript for submission or writing a textbook is typically not supported by the Social Sciences Research Committee. Similarly, community outreach activities are generally not supported by the Social Sciences Research Committee.
ELIGIBILITY: IF I INTEND TO LEAVE UW-MADISON FOR ANOTHER JOB BEGINNING IN A FALL SEMESTER, CAN I STILL ACCEPT A RESEARCH COMMITTEE SUMMER SALARY AWARD FOR THE PRIOR SUMMER?
No. If you receive funds from the Research Committee, you may activate those funds only if you will be in full-time residence at the UW–Madison the following fall. That means accepting another job beginning in, say, Fall 2023, will inactivate your award for 2024–2025.