Frequently Asked Questions – Social Studies

If you are applying for an NEH, Guggenheim, or ACLS fellowship, contact Jan Greenberg, Associate Vice Chancellor for Social Studies (2-1044), in advance of the Fall Competition deadline. 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: VCRGE IT at

Questions specifically on content of application: Jan Greenberg (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.

There are several features of the application that are new this year for the Social Studies division.

1. Please select your Application Academic Division on the Project Info page. Your selection will result in customized instructions for writing the application.

2. In writing the application, if applicable, please use these subheadings: (a) specific aims/research questions, (b) significance, (c) approach (design, methods, and analysis), (d) expected products, and (e) future directions.

3. If you have received support from the Fall Research Committee in 2012-13, 2013-14, or 2014-15, for each award we are asking that you specify the outcomes (i.e., conference presentations, publications, papers under reviews, grants submitted and received) from that award. A drop down list and “?” instructions will help guide you.

4. A line item budget justification for new Fall Competition applications is now required. We have reworded the instructions for clarity but note the request for prioritizing your budget request.

5. If you have more than 25% of your start-up package remaining, we are asking that you specify your plan for spending these funds.

6. You may upload a single pdf (eg. a figure or chart) of no more than 50 megs as supplemental material to the proposal.

7. WARF Summary page: This is a new page for the 2015 application and is designed to capture, in lay person language, a summary of your project that can be understood by someone outside of your academic discipline.

After the application deadline, your file will be assigned to a member of the Social Studies 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.

Award amounts vary greatly. For the 2015 competition, the average award was $32,081 (range from $10,961 to $50,484), which included fringe benefits and tuition remission.

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.

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 Studies Research Committee.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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 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.

If applicable to your field of study and the specific nature of your proposal, use the suggested subheadings listed in the application. Otherwise, be sure to describe what you plan to do, how you plan to do it, and what product is likely to result. Be sure to 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 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.

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 Committee will want to know whether you accomplished the tasks for which previous awards were given and what outcomes have ensued (i.e., publications).

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 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.  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.

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.

Call Jan Greenberg, Associate Vice Chancellor for Social Studies (2-1044).

 Last updated 8/5/2015.