Frequently Asked Questions – Arts and Humanities

If you are applying for major external awards, please review our salary supplementation policy. If you are applying for the NEH Summer Stipend, which requires institutional nomination, please review this information.

For general questions: Russell Schwalbe at

Computer or web related questions: James Leaver at

Questions specifically on content of application: Lea Jacobs, Associate Vice Chancellor for Arts and Humanities (2-1044)

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.

The application process begins with an online application form, including short abstract, budget, project description, and other information. 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 interviewer will ask you follow-up questions to the written application and your cv, and try to learn as much as possible about your research project, your budget priorities, and your qualifications as well as the results of projects previously funded by the Research Committee. In the case of junior faculty, the interviewer also speaks with the department chair. At a Research Committee meeting, the interviewer then presents your proposal, and answers questions from other committee members. The committee interviewer will present your proposal to the Research Committee, and thus you should make sure that he or she understands your project as well as possible. Decisions for funding are made by the committee as a whole. You will be informed of the results of the competition by the end of December.  We encourage you to speak with Associate Vice Chancellor Lea Jacobs to get feedback on your proposal.

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 into which their activities have turned through their time on campus. In the Arts, such research activities might mean creating original works of art, developing new repertory for a musical instrument, or writing on the theory of set design. In the Humanities, it is more likely to involve the research for and/or 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 is expected to support full time research activity.  Overall, there is a tremendous variety to the research on campus. If you have questions about the appropriateness of your project, please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Lea Jacobs (2-1044).

Many different types of projects are funded through the Research Competition. In general, the 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.

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.

Projects are funded at many different stages. If you are uncertain about the suitability of your project, contact the Associate Dean of your division. Note that, in general, the Research Committee will not fund an identical project over a series of years.

Award amounts vary greatly. For the 2014 Competition, the average award was $17,997, which included amounts for fringe benefits and tuition remission. The Committee typically funds only some requests at the full amount, and more at partial amounts.  Some requests receive no funding at all. In the Arts and Humanities, applicants often ask for summer salary to carry out full time research, for a project assistant, for an hourly worker, and/or for flexible funds for research travel, supplies, etc. It is possible to ask for a semester research leave, if your salary eligibility allows. Note that a semester leave is an award substantially above the average and is usually granted as supplementation or insurance to an external grant.

Your start-up funds are "non-prejudicial" in the sense that they do not count against the limits of eligibility. You are eligible for 4.5 ninths of salary support every three years. But, should you take your start-up funds as salary, they do not count as part of the 4.5 ninths. This is quite distinct from the problem of spending down account balances before asking for more. Everyone needs to spend down their start-up funds to a relatively low level before coming into the Fall Competition. This helps to ensure that funds are distributed fairly across campus.

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.

First, make sure you understand the VCRGE's supplementation policy as well as that of your School or College.  Also make sure you know whether you are eligible to receive salary support through the VCRGE’s fall competition process.  The VCRGE has automatically provided 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. For all other external awards, salary supplementation must be requested competitively as part of the VCRGE process and will not be awarded by either the VCRGE or L&S without it.  Any summer salary you are awarded in the fall competition may be redirected into academic year salary supplementation should you receive another external award.  It is always a good idea to speak directly with Associate Vice Chancellor Lea Jacobs about your plans and to make sure you understand the supplementation process.

Indicate on the application that you are applying for a specific award or awards, and explain that you are requesting 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.

Your interviewer 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 interviewer 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 interviewer know at your interview.

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. While the VCRGE understands that funding is more readily available in some areas than in others, its funding resources are limited, and it can support only a small portion of research activity on campus.  Be knowledgeable about what is available and be prepared to speak with your interviewer about what 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.  If you wish to receive salary supplementation for an external award other than the NEH, Guggenheim or ACLS, your application must be vetted by the research committee as part of the fall competition.  (See “Supplementation” above.)

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.

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. Remember, however, that 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 semester following that support.

The committee strongly encourages you to consider ways in which a graduate student assistant might contribute to your project. Our resources go further when they fund both a graduate student and support faculty research. 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 6, 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 to 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 surcharge of $4,000 per semester.  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.

No. If you receive a summer funding award from the Research Committee you may activate those summer funds only if you will be in residence at the UW–Madison the following fall.

Because Research Committee funds are limited we expect you to make use of the funds currently available to you before requesting additional support.  Start-up funds for summer salary, in particular, must be expended before requesting additional summer salary. If you have questions about what funding you have and your plans for it, please contact Associate Vice Chancellor Lea Jacobs.

Absolutely.  The Research Committee recognizes that tenured faculty have important funding needs, and does its best to fund continuing, as well as new, faculty.  Senior faculty are expected to seek other means of external support especially if a project has received earlier funding from the VCRGE.  If you have an appropriate project, you are encouraged to submit an application to the Fall Competition. In addition, the Research Committee is also responsible for the Romnes/Kellett Mid-Career/Named Professor awards, as well as for Vilas Associate awards. All of these specifically reward tenured professors for their research activity. The chair of your department receives notice of these competitions.

The Committee will want to know how you have benefited from previous Research Committee awards, and whether you accomplished what you intended to as stated in your previous application. If your project turned out differently than planned, explain this to your interviewer.

The same advice holds as for all competitions: state up front what you are requesting; make a case for the value of your research in the context of your field; state your qualifications for this particular project. And explain your project with a minimum of jargon. Remember that your proposal will be judged by colleagues from across the Arts and Humanities division, but not necessarily by anyone with a close knowledge of your particular area or discipline. 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.

Have any publications or other materials that might help explain your project available to show your interviewer at the actual interview. He or she may ask to borrow some of them to share with the entire committee. And remember that your interviewer is not so much your advocate on the committee, as the member who has become most knowledgeable about your project. Equip your interviewer with the information she or he will need to present your proposal as clearly and concisely as possible.

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.

You can call Associate Vice Chancellor Lea Jacobs (2-1044).

Last updated on 11/09/2014.