« Empowering scholars to go where they need to go » – The H.F. Guggenheim Foundation research grants, tips and tricks by a former awardee

By Brian DeLay, Associate Professor of History at UC Berkeley, H.F. Guggenheim Foundation grant holder in 2013DeLay

The Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation was established to support research on “violence, aggression, and dominance.” The foundation supports scholars because it believes that “solid, thoughtful, scholarly and scientific research, experimentation, and analysis would in the end accomplish more than the usual solutions impelled by urgency rather than understanding.” It prioritizes “the study of urgent problems of violence and aggression in the modern world and also encourages related research projects in neuroscience, genetics, animal behavior, the social sciences, history, criminology, and the humanities which illuminate modern human problems.”

HFG takes a particular interest in projects on violence, aggression, and dominance that address the following themes: youth, family, media, crime, biology, war & peace, terrorism, and Religion, ethnicity, and nationalism.

1933Applications consist of an abstract, a budget, two external letters, and a project description of approximately fifteen double-spaced pages (not counting bibliography or notes). The application process is online, and can be found here.

Of course the most time-consuming aspect of the application is the project statement. The foundation wants these statements to do several things: present “the specific aims of the project and discuss the background and significance of the proposed work. Describe the methods and procedures of the research and the means by which the results will be analyzed and interpreted. Indicate your familiarity with the relevant scholarly literature and explain how your project will complement or improve upon it.”

« Lucid, jargon-free language, accessible to non-specialists »

My best advice would be to attend very closely to the questions posed in the funding application, and to address them as clearly as possible. The foundation funds projects in a wide range of disciplines, so it is vital that applicants be able to explain their work and its significance in lucid, jargon-free language accessible to non-specialists.

HFG looks for projects that “promise to increase understanding of the causes, manifestations, and control of violence and aggression. Highest priority is given to research that can increase understanding and amelioration of urgent problems of violence and aggression in the modern world.” Thus all applicants should be able to explain how their project addresses contemporary issues, even if the project is historical. I’ve always found that getting feedback on multiple drafts of funding essays helps sharpen my prose and clarify my thoughts.

« Take advantage of the flexibility that the HFG affords »

It can be difficult for social scientists and humanists to secure outside grants that don’t bind them to a particular university or research institute. One of the many wonderful things about the HFG grants is that they empower scholars to go where they need to go. For my own grant, I spent half a year in London working at the British National Archives, and the other half working in archives in Seville and Madrid.

My advice would be to think big about what you’d need to do to realize the potential of your project, and take advantage of the flexibility that the HFG affords.

The H.F. Guggenheim Foundation’s current call for applications closes on August 1, 2016.


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