Research Incubation Fund


Research in the social sciences has undergone significant changes in the past few decades. The complexity of the subject matter, the sophistication of methods and theories, and the demands for expertise and information to launch innovative research are increasing at a rapid pace.

Modern research requires teamwork, specialized expertise, and planning. Its financial demands also require administrative skills and access to major outside funding. Such endeavors are potentially risky as well. Ideas may not pan out, effort becomes dissipated, and funding may be hard to come by. Nascent teams can get distracted and discouraged, and their funds easily depleted, often before a promising project is able to get off the ground. The Center's research faculty in international affairs needs support to think and plan. This is especially true in a project's early—and possibly unstable—stages.

This is a fund for incubation, to help large-scale research projects get launched and on a path toward securing major outside support.

The Weatherhead Center has earmarked, annually, three awards of $30,000 to support the development of faculty research proposals that are intended to be submitted to major outside funding agencies or foundations (the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, and various private foundations).

Activities to be Funded

Principal investigators must intend to apply for major outside funding to carry out the bulk of the proposed research for an incubation-fund grant from the Weatherhead Center. This plan should be described in the application for incubation funds.

Research must be related to the core interests of the Center, focusing on international, transnational, global, and comparative national issues that may address contemporary or historical topics, including rigorous policy analysis, as well as the study of specific countries and regions outside the United States.

Funds may be requested for the following purposes:

  • Facilitating occasional meetings of collaborators (planning sessions, workshops, etc.).
  • Facilitating intensive work sessions with collaborators of a week to several weeks in length. Funds could include travel, food, and lodging costs to bring collaborators to Harvard for such sessions.
  • Providing summer salary (1/9) for affiliated principal investigators intending to devote full-time attention to project development for at least one month of the summer.
  • Providing infrastructural and consulting support, including access to funding advisers, budget development, and professional grant-writing expertise. The Center will strive to develop the infrastructure that will make such consulting expertise available on a regular and accessible basis.
  • Providing working space as necessary. This could include short-term office space for collaborators, graduate students, and undergraduate researchers intensively involved in project development. It could also include meeting and discussion space. To the extent possible, this space will be arranged from existing Center space allocations.
  • Providing small honoraria to encourage researchers with funding expertise to review the project.

Principles and How to Apply

  • Applications for incubation funds must show evidence of a firm commitment to securing significant outside funding. Programs and target deadlines should be part of the application itself.
  • Applications must include a three- to four-page narrative describing the research topic and its significance; a budget proposal; and a two-page curriculum vitae listing no more than five publications relevant to this research proposal.
  • Proposals will be selected that meet the criteria for Center funding (international, transnational, global, or comparative social science research) and that are especially innovative, require collaboration, and are most likely to be successful.
  • Research teams applying for incubation funds must be headed by a Weatherhead Center Faculty Associate.
  • Successful applicants accept the norm of “pre-peer review”; that is, they will be expected to provide (and to receive) feedback from other recipients of incubation funds.
  • Renewals/reapplications may be considered, but on a highly competitive basis.
  • Individuals may also apply for incubation funds, but priority will be given to projects involving research teams that may be in greater need of coordination in the development phase of their research.

Please direct all requests for substantive advice and all proposals to the executive director, Theodore J. Gilman.

Proposal Evaluation

The WCFIA Steering Committee evaluates research incubation proposals and makes recommendations to the Center's director and executive director.


Proposals for a research incubation grant must be filed on or before each of three faculty-funding deadlines every year: October 1, February 1, and April 1.


Faculty who receive these research funds will be expected to contribute actively to the intellectual life of the Center. Faculty who receive support from the Center should acknowledge it in future publications of their research. All grant recipients must submit a one- to two-page memo at the end of the academic year reporting on the use of Weatherhead Center funds. Reporting memos are due on June 30.

See also: Faculty Grants