ACLS Digital Extension Grants

The deadline for this program has passed. The description below is for information purposes only. Awardees in the 2020-21 competition will be announced in the spring.

Grants Details

  • Awards provide funding of up to $150,000 for project costs. A portion of grant funds must go towards collaborations with new project partners who could benefit from access to the infrastructure at the project’s host site or from substantive participation in the development of the project.
  • Grants may be used to cover salary replacement, staffing, equipment, and other costs.
  • Tenure: 12-18 months, to be initiated between July 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.
  • Completed applications must be submitted through the ACLS online fellowship and grant administration system ( no later than 9 pm Eastern Standard Time, December 15, 2020.
  • Notifications will be sent by mid-May, 2021.

ACLS invites applications for ACLS Digital Extension Grants, which are made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The grants are designed to advance humanistic scholarship by enhancing established digital projects, extending their reach to new communities of users, and supporting teams of scholars at all career stages as they participate in digital research.

This program aims to promote inclusion and sustainability by extending the opportunity to participate in the digital transformation of humanistic inquiry to a greater number of humanities scholars. ACLS Digital Extension Grants support projects that have advanced beyond the start-up phase of development as they pursue one or more of the following activities:

  • Developing new systems of making established digital resources available to broader audiences and/or scholars from diverse institutions
  • Extending established projects and resources with content that adds diversity to the digital domain
  • Fostering new team-based collaborations between scholars at all career stages. Projects that convene, train, and empower communities of humanities faculty and/or graduate students around established digital research projects, as well as projects that allow scholars from institutions with limited digital infrastructure to exploit digital resources or to participate in existing labs or working groups, are especially welcome
  • Creating new forms and sites for scholarly engagement with the digital humanities. Projects that document and recognize participant engagement are strongly encouraged.

ACLS will award up to six Digital Extension Grants in this competition year. Each grant carries a maximum possible award of $150,000. The funds support a range of project costs, including, where necessary, salary replacement for faculty or staff, software, equipment, travel, lodging, and meeting costs, and consultant fees. A portion of each proposed grant budget must be devoted to funding collaborations with and/or building networks among scholars of all career stages from US higher education institutions of diverse profiles.

ACLS grants may not support projects whose focus is the production of creative works (e.g., novels or films), textbooks, straightforward translations, or purely pedagogical projects. Institutional indirect costs will not be covered.

Grants may support projects of 12-18 months in duration. Projects must be initiated between July 1 and December 31, 2021, and be completed no later than June 30, 2023.


  • Projects must be hosted by an institution of higher education in the United States.
  • Project’s principal investigator must be a scholar in a field of the humanities and the humanistic social sciences.
  • Projects must have advanced beyond the start-up or prototyping phase of development.

Evaluation Criteria

Peer reviewers in this program are asked to evaluate all eligible proposals on the following five criteria:

  • The project’s capacity to extend the franchise of digital scholarship throughout the academy.
  • The feasibility of extension and renewal plans.
  • The project’s intellectual, technological, and institutional sustainability.
  • The project’s intellectual scalability. Will it engage the scholarly field it concerns in a significant way?
  • The project’s articulation with local infrastructure at the institution(s) at which the project and teams will be based.

Application Requirements

Applications must be submitted online and must contain the following components:

Project Narrative, 10-pages, double-spaced, in Times New Roman 11-point font. The narrative must include the following sections:

  • Project History and Impact: This section should provide a history of work on the project to date, and some measurement of the project’s current impact among target user communities (such as user metrics, reviews of past work, convenings of advisors to prepare the project for extension, etc.). Proposals will be evaluated relative to the technical requirements for completing a successful research project; evidence of significant preliminary work already completed; and the comparative advantage of the proposed project as measured against other related or similar projects. Projects in the start-up phase or relatively early stages of deployment are not competitive for these grants. 
  • Project Overview: Applicants should describe, briefly but specifically, what the project team plans to do and why. Demonstration of scholarly excellence in the humanities as well as the ability to extend the reach of existing resources to new communities of users will be the primary criteria for selection. Applicants should discuss both the intellectual and programmatic ambitions of the project and its technological underpinnings. Proposals should illustrate with specific examples or use cases how the digital technologies involved in the project add value to humanistic study and (as appropriate) how those features of the project would promote teamwork and collaboration. It is essential that applicants state explicitly the means and tools (software, applications, or interfaces) to be used to extend the project’s reach, content, and/or use.
  • Collaboration: Applications should describe concrete plans to collaborate with and/or build networks among scholars of any career stage from US higher education institutions of diverse profiles, and devote appropriate resources in their budgets to accomplish this work. Grant funds may be used to support a variety of costs related to these collaborations, such as: agreements between institutions to support established projects; arrangements that create sites for participation or training for faculty, graduate students, and undergraduates from regional colleges and universities; and extensions of the project teams to include collaborations with faculty and graduate students from higher education institutions of different profiles.
  • Long-term Sustainability: Applications should address thoughtfully the project’s sustainability and data preservation plans beyond the period of the grant.
  • Infrastructure: Applications also must indicate how their projects articulate with the local infrastructure at their home institutions or the institutions hosting the projects. Applicants are encouraged to work with on-campus institutions (such as libraries or digital research centers) that can help ensure sustainability, networking, and project findability. In addition (see Institutional Statement below), applications must include the endorsement of a senior administrator at the project’s home institution or the institution hosting the project. This endorsement should outline how the institution’s existing infrastructure complements and supports the technologies to be developed for the specified project.

Bibliography, no more than two pages, double-spaced, in Times New Roman 11-point font.

Project Timeline, no more than two pages, double-spaced, in Times New Roman 11-point font.
The timeline should demonstrate a coherent plan for the development and execution of the project, including the sequence of tasks to be accomplished within the grant period. This plan should reflect a thoughtful approach to the project's extensibility.

Budget and Budget Description, no more than two pages.
The budget will provide a detailed account of the proposed use of the grant funds. (ACLS makes available a sample budget for reference.) The project budget is an essential element of the application and its evaluation will weigh in the overall selection process. ACLS Digital Extension Grants do not require supported research leave for project participants, although grant funds may be used toward this purpose. If grant funds will support course buyout or other research leaves for project team members, the budget must itemize the funds dedicated toward the salary and benefits replacement of each relevant team member. Grant funds may not pay for institutional overhead; however, direct administrative costs, such as office expenses and an honorarium for office assistance, are allowed. The budget must indicate which items belong to the funding allocated to support collaboration and/or network building across institutions. If applicable, the budget plan should also reflect any proposed cost-sharing measures undertaken by the host institution or a third party.

Intellectual Property Statement, one-page, double-spaced, in Times New Roman 11-point font.
Applications must include a statement concerning the intellectual property rights relating to software and content developed with grant funds. In this statement, applicants must commit to: (a) making any software developed with grant funds available pursuant to an open source license located at and in a public repository (such as Github or Sourceforge); (b) making any digital content broadly available; and (c) no infringement of third party rights with respect to the development, dissemination, and use of the software and/or digital content. In addition, applicants should explain how they propose to maintain software developed with grant funds after the end of the grant term and for how long they would maintain it in a usable form. Applications should state that the primary grantee institution (and/or a partner grantee institution that is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3)) would be the copyright owner of any software developed with grant funds and of any digital files that result from grant-funded digitization. ACLS will require grantees to report on whether and how they have complied with the commitments regarding intellectual property made in the proposal. Should a grantee not have abided by these commitments, ACLS staff will seek to redress the matter by reporting the non-compliance to the leadership of the grantee institution (provost or dean) and asking that the outcome be corrected.

Project Staffing
Please provide a list of the names and institutional affiliations of members of the project team and a description of each member’s role(s) and capacities on the project. If new staff will be hired to support the development of the project during the grant term, please describe the hiring process/timeline and provide descriptions (1-2 pages) of all positions to be filled. If a postdoctoral fellow will be hired for the project team, the application must outline what resources the fellow would have access to as a member of the team/community and how the role will advance the fellow’s longer-term career interests. If work is proposed with external consultants or contractors, please describe how these partners were chosen and what expertise they provide. Finally, please include two-page CVs for principal project participants.

Two Reference Letters, to be submitted separately by referees via ACLS’s online portal.

Institutional Statement, to be submitted separately via ACLS’s online portal.
The institutional statement should be submitted by a senior official of the principal investigator’s home institution or the institution hosting the project (i.e., a dean, provost, president, or other appropriate senior administrator). The form asks the institutional representative to confirm that the institution's existing infrastructure complements and supports the technologies to be developed and the related program activities to be undertaken for the specified project, and how the activities supported by the grant would be counted as research for purposes of promotion and tenure at the host institution.