"The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate" Request for Proposals"


Application Deadline: October 31st, 2016, 5:00 p.m., Central Time



The Humanities without Walls consortium invites applications for funding from cross-institutional teams of faculty and graduate students wishing to collaboratively pursue research topics related to “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate.”

This new research initiative continues to link the consortium partners in a common commitment to intellectual exchange and dialogue, this time around a broad question that resonates with many contemporary humanist scholars—namely, what is the work of the humanities in a changing climate? This rubric is intended to be both intellectually focused and capacious. In its narrowest interpretation, it calls for collaborative work on climate change, arguably the most pressing grand challenge of our time. We seek collaborative research in the field of environmental humanities, broadly conceived, as well as the development of new humanities-centered paradigms for thinking through the limits and possibilities of climate change policy. We do so out of a conviction that the current climate crisis has deep historical roots yet to be fully tapped; that it calls for new philosophies and theories of the human and the anthropocene; that its fictions and visual cultures bear mightily on its material consequences, past, present and future; and that collaborative research on these questions and more is indispensable to scholarly expertise on the subject, in the humanities and beyond.

As a metaphor, climate change is pluripotent: it offers humanists the opportunity to think expansively about the meanings of “climate” and “change” as they manifest in their own research, and to bring their contributions to bear on cognate questions in the present. Thus “The Work of Humanities in a Changing Climate” also hails scholars who wish to consider the pressure of other forms of contemporary “climate change” on their fields of inquiry—from a changing racial climate to a changing economic climate to the changing notion of “the public” and what it means for the intellectual work environments of humanists.

Though the urgency of grappling with this variety of ecological and environmental changes is not unique to the HWW partners, institutions of higher education in the heartland are uniquely positioned to lead a national conversation on this given the way that the Midwest has been, and remains, a key site for the shaping of global ecosystems, whether economic, cultural or geophysical. And while proposals for “actionable research” and public policy platforms are most welcome, we also know that curiosity- driven research yields unlooked for insights that can prompt new ways of seeing and inspire innovative ways of approaching problems as well. This combination of research applicable to climate change and research that explores the wider context of “changing climate” allows applicants to identify those entry points that will enhance their current thinking and practice in sustained collaboration with consortium partners. Whether scholars who participate in the “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate” research initiative pursue specifically environmental studies topics or choose to interpret “climate change” broadly, they can do so at multiple scales and across an equally diverse set of times and places.

Proposal Components

Proposals should include a detailed Graduate Humanities Lab Practicum experience for graduate students. Collaborators should explore similar environments across the contemporary university campus—e.g., the chemistry lab, design studio, and research seminar—for inspiration, but the design and implementation of this practicum experience is up to the collaborators. Ideas for what a Humanities Lab Practicum could and should look like should arise out of the intellectual content of research projects themselves, with graduate students as equal partners. So, for example, the collaborative research practice that might emerge from environmental histories in medieval Europe would likely be quite different from those that stem from curating the climate of racial micro-aggressions in the wake of Ferguson (to give two hypothetical examples).

Graduate students are the best possible drivers of this aspect of research practice, and it is possible that in some cases, projects would benefit most from graduate students doing a critical ethnography of the research collaboration itself, rather than engaging in research work that was not directly connected to their dissertation work. Regardless of the structure, and in keeping with more traditional research methods, proposals will need to link the design of the collaborative practice design itself to the substance of the research, and vice versa.

The Humanities without Walls renewal grant includes funding specifically allocated for this practicum component to support up to two graduate programs per project via stipend. Proposal budgets should include a $10,500 stipend for each of the two graduate students ($21,000 total for two students per year) for the duration of the project’s period of performance, with tuition and fee waivers to be generated by each home institution. Participating graduate students may be either both from the same university or from two different collaborating universities.

All collaborators on funded proposals also commit to showcasing their results to undergraduates on their campus and/or beyond. As with our approach to the Graduate Humanities Lab Practicum, we leave the format for such engagement open to the collaborators. Many of the consortium partner humanities centers have established mechanisms for linking undergraduates to their events and mission and they will be encouraged to make use of those channels to help guarantee undergraduate participation. All proposals are required to elaborate their ideas for such presentations and to budget accordingly.

Finally, one of the biggest challenges of any multi-sited project is planning specifically for the collaboration process—not just up front or on the fly but all along the way.

Proposals should include discussion of how collaborative ambitions and practices will be structured across the life of the grant. This might include a description of when and how brainstorming will happen; evidence of planning and budgeting for one or two face-to-face meetings beyond a conference or workshop; or a description of     workflows and/or a calendar of shared intellectual/organizing labor.

Due to the size and complex nature of collaborative research in the Humanities, we encourage collaborators to think big (i.e., in the area of $100,000) for their budgets, not including funds set aside for the graduate practicum.

Scholars interested in submitting proposals for this grand research challenge may find a model budget and budget narrative on the HWW website. Scholars may also find more information, including model budgets, about the projects funded through the previous grand research challenge, “The Global Midwest,” on the HWW website. (When referring to the models from “The Global Midwest,” please remember that the current proposal requirements are different than those in previous rounds and that projected costs should reflect specific institutional guidelines.) The selection criteria for “Changing Climate” projects may also be found on the HWW website and can provide additional insight into what previous selection committees have sought in terms of strong, compelling, well designed proposals.


Qualified project leaders will be tenure-line faculty at any of the Humanities Without Walls consortium institutions,* and each collaborating university’s “sub-team” must be led by a tenure-line faculty member who will serve as that sub-team’s project coordinator.**

In order to be eligible for funding, research teams must include scholars from at least two consortial institutions with participant eligibility being determined by their home university’s policies (contact the Sponsored Programs Office or equivalent on your campus for more information on eligibility). Proposals must include two graduate students from at least one consortial institution as per the instructions on the Grad Lab Practicum above. Research teams may also include collaborators from non-consortial institutions, with the understanding that these participants may not receive any Humanities without Walls funds except as contracted service-providers.

The project leader and project coordinator(s) must also come from a discipline within the humanities and/or arts, but teams may include scholars from any discipline.

Duration and Awards

All allocated funds awarded to research teams must be expended by no later than August 16, 2018 without exception. A midterm progress report, including detailed financial information, is due by October 31, 2017.

The amount of each award will vary according to the budgetary requirements detailed in each application, and we strongly encourage proposal teams to think expansively in budgetary terms. The upper award limit for a single team is $100,000, not including the amount ($10,500 stipend per student per year, up to $42,000 for two students for two years) allocated to support graduate student stipends.

*Consortial institutions include Indiana University Bloomington, Michigan State University, Northwestern University, Ohio State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue University, University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Illinois at Chicago, University of Iowa, University of Michigan, University of Minnesota, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, University of Notre Dame, and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

**“Project leader” refers to the individual responsible for overseeing the entire proposal, i.e., the Principal Investigator or PI. “Project coordinator” refers to the individual responsible for overseeing a particular university’s component portion of the proposal, i.e., the “sub-PI.” All such positions should comprise tenure-line faculty.

You are strongly encouraged to work with your home university’s Office of Proposal Development or equivalent to ensure that your proposal meets all of the requirements in this RFP and also complies with your home university’s policies on sponsored research.

Project leaders and project coordinators should contact their Humanities Center, department chair, and college dean (when applicable) no later than October 1, 2016 with an email indicating intent to apply for this challenge, the project title, and all external collaborators and their institutions. Proposals with an international component should be reviewed by your home university’s Office of International Programs or equivalent. Proposals which involve human subjects should contact their Institutional Review Board or equivalent to ensure compliance and receive approval. All project leaders/coordinators should also work with their university’s Office of Sponsored Programs or equivalent (see Contact information on the HWW website) to ensure that their application is in compliance with all relevant policies and procedures. We strongly encourage project leaders to begin working with these offices no later than fifteen business days before the submission deadline, in order to obtain all necessary approvals and signatures in a timely fashion. As well, we strongly encourage project coordinators to begin working with their home universities offices with even more lead time, to ensure that all approvals are obtained in a timely fashion.

Recipients must submit a signed agreement form indicating the project leader’s responsibility for managing and reporting on the use of all grant funds, before award funds will be released. Recipients (and sub-recipients) should work with their departmental business offices to establish anticipation accounts to ensure that funds are available during the award issuing process to begin research. Recipients must also be prepared to work closely with those administering subaward grants on their campuses, typically the Office of Sponsored Programs, the Grants and Contracts Office, or equivalents.

Application Requirements

  • Completed Signature Page and Application Checklist (available on the HWW website)
  • Abstract of proposal (no more than 200 words)
  • Proposal narrative of no more than 2,000 words. This must include:
    • Description of project
    • Detailed plan of work, including:
  • Plans for collaboration across the life of the grant
  • Plans for the Graduate Humanities Lab Practicum
  • Detailed work schedule including detailed list of activities
  • Role(s) and expected intellectual contributions of project participants
  • Significance of project and its relationship to the “The Work of the Humanities in a Changing Climate”
  • Statement of proposed outcomes, including plans for undergraduate outreach
  • Detailed budget and budget narrative explaining and justifying all items in the budget (see Budget Guidance below, model proposals and budgets on HWW website for examples)
  • List of names and contact information for everyone participating in the project for whom you are submitting CVs, along with a brief description of their individual intellectual contributions to the collaboration
  • CV for project leader and all research participants, including all graduate students (2-pages maximum per CV, should include publications and activities relevant to the proposed project)
  • Letter of Intent from the Project Leader University (the project leader university may in turn require Letters of Intent from all collaborating universities)

Budget Guidance

The proposal budget should constitute your best estimate of the project’s total costs. Costs to consider in planning a robust budget include personnel and fringe benefits, materials and supplies, travel, and participant costs. The budget justification narrative should explain the budget in sufficient detail to provide a clear understanding of the necessity and basis for all proposed costs. The budget justification narrative should address each cost category in the same sequence in which they appear on the budget spreadsheet.

The budget should provide as much detail on expenses as possible, and the budget justification narrative should provide a compelling rationale for their inclusion. So instead of simply saying, for example, “1 month summer salary - $10,000” you could say “1 month summer salary @ base salary, $90,000 on 9/12 appointment,” so that it is clear how you arrived at the figure you are requesting. Ask yourself, and explain in your budget narrative, how each expense benefits the project and why the particular expense is special enough (i.e., not standard operating expenses) to merit being included in the budget.

As noted above, we strongly encourage scholarly teams to think expansively in budgetary terms, and to consider the costs of collaboration across the life of the grant and of public dissemination as they develop their budgets. We welcome proposals with budgets of $100,000, and remind scholars that this amount should not include the amounts (up to $42,000) allocated to support graduate student stipends (i.e., total budgets may equal up to $142,000, including graduate student stipend funding).

Acceptable budget items include air and ground travel, hotel/accommodations, speaker fees/honoraria, venue fees, copying/reproduction costs, publicity costs, graduate student assistantship stipends, and hourly research assistant costs.

Summer salaries are allowable but must not total more than $10,000 per participant (not including applicable fringe benefits) and should comprise no more than 20% of the award budget (again, not including applicable fringe benefits). All positions for which summer salary is requested should be named and described in the budget & budget justification narrative; accurate and up-to-date fringe rates should also be included for all positions. Summer salary must be consistent with the current academic year’s rate of pay detailed in the Notification of Appointment (NOA). For employees with 9-month appointments, the monthly rate for summer pay is equal to the total Academic Year salary divided by 9 (and adjusted, if required, for differences in FTE.) The summer salary rate must never exceed the current academic year salary rate. The determination of each summer salary must be spelled out explicitly in the budget and budget justification narrative.

Food and catering costs are allowable but (1) must constitute no more than 3% of the total budget, (2) must be called-out and broken-down in the budget narrative in a detailed manner which indicated your home institution’s upper spending per meal, an estimate of the number of attendees; a robust justification must be provided for the inclusion of these expenses.

Faculty salary replacements, staff salaries, overhead costs and basic equipment purchases (such as computers), and alcoholic beverages included in costs for meals/receptions related to projects will not be funded.

See the FAQ on the HWW website for more detailed information on allowable expenses. All expenditures must be made in keeping with the relevant universities’ guidelines and best practices related to purchases, procurements, and travel.

Applicants will know the results of the competition by February 2017 at the latest. Funds will be awarded to successful recipients as quickly as possible after the decision date with the expectation that work will commence as soon as possible following the award announcement.