The New Weatherhead Clusters: A Three Year Pilot Program

A group of tenure-track and senior faculty, graduate students and visitors will collaborate over a period of three years around questions of shared interest under the leadership of one or two WCFIA faculty leaders. The form that this collaboration takes will vary across clusters and may include regular seminars, conferences (including at Talloires), research projects, or others activities. These clusters can be disciplinary or interdisciplinary (with a preference for the latter) and should focus on exciting questions of burning importance for the social sciences and the world, with the goal of making a significant contribution. Each cluster will have an office in the CGIS Knafel Building that will host together visitors and students. Postdoctoral fellows may also be connected to, and supported by, cluster funds. Clusters will also have some staff support. Their work will be regularly featured in WCFIA publications and will connect with each of the main disciplines that define the core of the WCFIA. 

This new program will address several of the challenges the WCFIA faces, which were noted in the report of the external review committee: 

  1. Strengthen the identity of the center and its intellectual profile while maintaining focus on funding a wide range of faculty research 
  2. Strengthen future research contributions by promoting interfaculty and multidisciplinary collaboration
  3. Generate ties between undergrads, graduate students, post-docs, and faculty by bringing intellectual activity within the Center’s home
  4. Improve collaboration with FAS leadership regarding international objectives and foci
  5. Bring our research activities in line with what our peer institutions are doing
  6. Direct Weatherhead Initiative grants consistent with the terms in the grant and in line with WCFIA’s intellectual objectives 
  7. Support the work of WCFIA core faculty and help define this core 


Each cluster will receive $180,000 for a period of three years from the Weatherhead Initiative funds ($60,000 per year) provided it addresses scholarly questions of worldwide salience (note that there are no restrictions on the use of these funds in the terms of endowment). 

Participating scholars will be eligible to apply for WCFIA general grant competitions. Clusters will be encouraged to invite visitors, GSAs, and doctoral and undergrad WCFIA affiliates to join the clusters. Synergy with clusters will be one of the criteria factored into the selection of visitors. 

These funds may be used to support a postdoctoral fellow connected to the research cluster.

Proposed Topics 

Existing/in-formation clusters:

  • Comparative inequality and social inclusion (Michèle Lamont, Sociology)
  • Global history; would receive only space and limited staff support (Sven Beckert and Charlie Maier, History) 

New clusters

Topics suggested in the external review report:

  • International political economy 
  • Security
  • TBD
    • Funds are available for two more clusters which would support a proposal from WCFIA Faculty Associates. If a few scholars have a shared interest, they could be asked to brainstorm with colleagues about potential topics, and make a proposal; or we could have an open call directed to all Faculty Associates. The executive committee might discuss the pros and cons of each approach.

The selection process is still to be determined. We may ask external reviewers to evaluate proposals and make recommendations to the executive committee.

The clusters would not support ongoing collaborative projects, but should aim to produce new knowledge. We would aim to select a set of clusters that speak to the various disciplines represented in the WCFIA. 

Tentative Timeline 

Note: Different timelines could be agreed upon for the TBD clusters.

March 3, 2017: Each potential team delivers a five-page white paper 
March 31, 2017: Proposals are reviewed by outsider evaluators
April 2017 EC meeting: Selection of proposals 
May 1, 2017: Appoint and announce new cluster faculty leaders 
July 1, 2017: Publicly launch and announce new clusters