Research office adds $1,000 research incentive for humanities faculty

Media Credit: Dan Rich | Photo Editor

Leo Chalupa, the vice president for research, said the research office will give humanities researchers an extra $1,000 for every outside grant they receive.

Every time a humanities researcher applies for a grant, they’ll get a grand in return.

Leo Chalupa, the vice president for research, said in an interview last week that his office will now offer a $1,000 reward to any humanities researcher who applies for an outside grant. Researchers in those fields say it can be hard to find and get grants, and this incentive from GW could inspire more faculty to start projects and earn larger grants.

We want to promote research across the campus, not just in science.

Chalupa said he wants to promote research across departments – not just in science where research is often concentrated. Many of the available grants in the humanities are small and limited, which can be discouraging for researchers who are trying to get funded, Chalupa said.

“I don’t want people looking at this office and just seeing science and engineering and medicine,” he said. “We want to promote research across the campus, not just in science.”

The incentive is available now and will be publicized this week, Chalupa said. He said any humanities faculty identified by the dean’s office in Columbian College of Arts and Sciences are eligible to receive the funding one time during the program period from Jan. 1 to June 30.

Chalupa said the number of $1,000 awards given out will depend on the number of submitted proposals. Any proposal submitted to external sponsors will qualify for the award, he said.

The purpose of the program is to get humanities faculty, who normally feel like they are not part of the University’s broader research efforts, motivated to apply for more grants and do more research, he said.

“I want to make sure that the humanities faculty make sure they feel like they are included,” he said. “We want to promote excellence across the campus, I don’t care whether you are in physics or Spanish.”

The research budget for the National Endowment for the Humanities is already less than 1 percent of the federal budget for scientific research, and faculty members have expressed concerns that President Donald Trump will make cuts to research, especially in the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Tyler Anbinder, a professor of history who has a grant from the NEH to study bank records and ancestry databases of New York’s Irish immigrants, said funding in the humanities is “very limited,” which is discouraging to researchers.

“What happens is humanities faculty just don’t apply because it is just so depressing. The odds of getting funding are just so small that people figure, ‘Why should I spend a month or two months spending time on a grant proposal that is probably going to fail?’” Anbinder said.

Anbinder said the $1,000 could be used to hire a student research assistant or to pay for a research trip.

“Unlike the sciences, $1,000 in the humanities is a lot of money,” he said. “There is a tiny fraction of the funding available to faculty in the humanities compared to that in the sciences.”

Anbinder said when researchers try to get funding, it can help crystallize ideas and make connections with scholars. Chalupa’s new program will likely give the financial motivation for researchers to at least try, he said.

“Let’s give those humanities people an incentive to try because if you don’t try you can’t succeed, and he knows that it is better to try to get funding and fail than to not get funding at all,” Anbinder said.

Research is the lifeblood of any academic discipline.

Katrin Schultheiss, the chair of the history department, said the way people understand historical events today is far different from the way many understood the same events 20 or 30 years ago because of research. Schultheiss said ongoing research also brings attention to historical subjects that have been ignored.

“Research is the lifeblood of any academic discipline,” she said. “Without research, we would be teaching the same material over and over again.”

Schultheiss said that grant funding is competitive in all fields, but there are fewer grants in the humanities, and those that do exist are smaller than grants in science fields. Many of her colleagues – especially those who travel to do research – have cut down on the length or number of research trips because of a lack of adequate funding, she said.

“But historians do need to travel to archives, often far away. Travel can be expensive especially if you need to make multiple trips to, say, Asia or Africa,” she said. “Larger humanities grants can give us the time and resources we need to conduct our research and to write the articles and books that are the fruit of that work.”

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