Skip to main content
University of Wisconsin–Madison

Social Sciences 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?

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 a question about what you 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 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 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 applicant’s 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 act as your representative rather than as your advocate. 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 how to access the online competition results prior to winter break.

What is an average award in the Fall Competition?

Award amounts vary greatly. For the 2015 Competition, the average award was $35,521, which included fringe benefits and tuition remission. Awards ranged from $2,100 to $55,178.

For what items can I legitimately seek support?

Support may include salary (typically summer salary), a project or research assistant, research associate, student hourly, or funds for research-related travel, supplies, or equipment.

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

Whether or not the research committee supports these requests depends on the linkage of these actions to knowledge generation. 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.

What types of travel constitute legitimate Fall Competition requests?

Travel necessary to accomplish the proposed research is supported. The PI should make clear the role of travel in the project in the budget justification section. Travel to report research findings at meetings or other venues will not be considered a legitimate request. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (VCRGE) maintains a separate program to support conference travel; please see the VCRGE website for further details.

What types of equipment can I legitimately purchase with fall competition dollars?

Purchase of research equipment necessary for the proposed research and that would not be purchased in the normal course of one’s occupational duties is legitimate. For example, the Research Committee has typically turned away requests for standard computer packages, which are considered the responsibility of the individual’s School/College, as well as requests for software that would be regarded as normal components of one’s office computer. The committee is also reluctant to provide funds to individual PIs that would be used to help pay for departmental memberships in collective efforts such as the Social Science Computing Center.

At what stage of my research project should I enter the competition?

Projects are funded at many different stages. If you are uncertain about the suitability of your project stage, contact AVCR Jan Greenberg. Note that, in general, the Research Committee does not provide multiple years of funding for the same project.

How important is it to be seeking external funding for this project at the time of my application?

A major goal of the Fall Competition is to help ‘leverage’ outside research dollars. For junior faculty further along in their probationary period (more than 2 years) and for senior faculty, the committee will be expecting you to seek external funding for the proposed research.

The Fall Research Committee also funds projects that are not linked to an external application. The committee recognizes that for some work in the social sciences, there are few external sources available. In addition, a senior investigator may be proposing a new area of study that requires preliminary work in preparation for an external grant. The Research Committee welcomes applications from faculty in these situations.

What are my chances of winning my full request?

Highly ranked applications may secure most to all of the resources they request. In making budgetary decisions, the committee will rely on the strength of your budget justification for the requested amount. The Research Committee member who will interview you will seek to evaluate the goodness of fit between resources requested and those needed for the proposed project.

How is eligibility for summer salary calculated?

Faculty members and permanent PIs 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) from the Office of the VCRGE every three years. If you are on a 12-month appointment, speak with Russell Schwalbe to clarify your eligibility. Your eligibility rolls over each year, so you should count your awards over the past two years to calculate your eligibility. Only salary is considered in eligibility totals.

Research Committee policies indicate that the Committee has a policy of providing salary support for full-time research. What does this mean?

The policy means that, during a time when you are receiving salary support from the VCRGE (i.e., summer, occasionally during an academic term) you must be working on research full time rather than combining research efforts with other obligations such as teaching. Thus, if you are awarded a month of summer salary, it is the expectation of the Office of the VCRGE that you will not be the instructor of record for a course offered during that month as part of summer sessions. Similarly, if you ask for salary support to allow you to buy out of a course during the fall or spring semester for research purposes, the Research Committee will ask you about your plans to relieve yourself of all teaching during that term.

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)?

Yes, however, faculty members with VCRGE Research accounts (especially those established as part of hiring packages) will be expected to justify their Fall Competition requests in the face of substantial balances in existing 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%) unless they have well-formulated plans for spending those balances down within a limited time period. Thus, if you are saving start-up funds for a clearly specified project that will take place in the near future, this should be noted and explained in the budget section of the application.

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 has important funding needs and does its best to fund senior faculty. The committee recognizes that there are few external sources of support in some research areas being pursued by senior faculty. Or a senior faculty member may be pursuing a new area of inquiry and preliminary work needs to be conducted in order to be competitive for external funding. Where applicable, however, proposals to the Fall Competition from tenured faculty that are submitted as full or partial insurance for an external grant will be seen as more consonant with the goals of the Research Committee than applications with no insurance element.

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

Let’s say you have applied or will apply for extramural support for the same project for which you seek Research Committee funding. If there is 100% overlap in support (i.e., the extramural funds will cover ALL items in your Research Committee request), then you are seeking Research Committee funds as “full” insurance for your extramural request. If there is less than 100% overlap (the extramural award will cover some—but not all—of your Research Committee items), then the Research Committee funds are “partially” insuring your extramural request.

Note that if your extramural funds are awarded, the Research Committee expects you to return the overlap to the Office of the VCRGE. That is, securing your external grant in a full insurance setting means you will receive NO funds from the VCRGE; the partial insurance setting will provide you with the portion of your Research Committee award not covered by the extramural grant.

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 residence at the UW–Madison the following fall. That means accepting another job beginning in, say, Fall 2017, will inactivate your award for 2016–2017.

How important is the Human Subjects box on the application?

It is very important, and you must indicate if your proposed project will require human subjects approval. If you receive a Research Committee award, activating that award will be contingent on your obtaining such approval.

The application asks for an explanation of 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 during these years, you should list outcomes directly relevant to the award, including conference presentations, papers published, in press, or under review, and any grants that have been award or submitted. Full citations should be provided for published manuscripts and for those in press.

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, and your program of research, specially. You should explain your project with a minimum of jargon and provide a detailed justification for your budget request.

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.

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.

How can I prepare for the interview itself?

Share any publications or other materials that might help explain your project. If you have submitted a proposal for external funds for which the Research Committee proposal is full or partial insurance, provide your reviewer with a copy of that application. And 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 s/he will need to present your proposal as clearly as possible.