FAQ: ACLS Fellowships (the central fellowship program) Updated August 6, 2020

Eligibility

Q: What kind of projects does this program fund? Are there some types of projects this fellowship program does not fund?

Q: May I apply to more than one ACLS fellowship or grant program in the same competition year?

Q: If I am currently in a PhD program or will have finished my PhD by the time I would start the fellowship period, am I eligible for this fellowship?

Q: May I apply if I have the equivalent of a PhD?

Q: Do I have to be a US citizen or permanent resident to be eligible?

Q: Can the fellowship be deferred to the following year? Can it be postponed if I find out I have to teach in the fall semester? What if I find out I have to teach in the spring semester?

Q: Do I need to be untenured to be eligible for this fellowship program?

Q: If I am untenured at the time of application but secure a tenured position by the time of the award or proposed fellowship term, must I resign the fellowship?

Online fellowship application process

Q: May I edit an application submitted in a previous competition and resubmit it for this year?

Q: How long does it take to fill out the application?

Q: Do I have to complete the application all at once?

Q. What is the application deadline for the ACLS Fellowship program?

Q: I'm not sure right now whether I should apply for a six-month or a 9-12 month ACLS Fellowship. What should I do?

Q: I may receive sabbatical funding during the year I would be taking the fellowship, but I do not know for certain or exactly how much it will be. What should I fill in on the application form?

Q: After submitting my proposal, I had an article/book accepted for publication. May new information be added to my publications list?

Q: How can I make sure I receive notification about my application or that I receive responses to queries using the “OFA Help” link within the online fellowship and grant administration (OFA) portal? How can I make sure that my letter writers receive ACLS’s email?

Reference letters

Q: Whom should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?

Q: Do all my reference letters have to be in the system before I submit my application?

Q: What should I do if one of my referees does not send in the letter s/he agreed to?

Q: Does ACLS accept reference letters from Interfolio or university-based dossier services?

Review process

Q: Who is reading my proposal?

Q: What other proposals will my application be judged against?

Q: Since my application will be read by both experts in my area and in a range of humanistic fields, how should I pitch my proposal?

Q: How much of the proposal should be devoted to explaining methodology, the project's significance, theoretical framework, work plan, etc.?

Q: What kinds of projects are usually successful in the ACLS Fellowship competition? Do you have examples of successful proposals?

Q: Can I receive reviewer comments on my application?

Stipend

Q: If I receive this fellowship from ACLS, can the fellowship monies be paid through my institution instead of my receiving the funds directly?

ACLS Project Development Grants

Q: How do I apply for these new ACLS Project Development Grants?

Q: How does ACLS define teaching-intensive institution?

Q: Will the grant funds be paid through my institution or to me directly?

Q: On what types of expenses may these grants be used?

Eligibility

Q: What kind of projects does this program fund? Are there some types of projects this fellowship program does not fund?
A: ACLS Fellowships support academic research in all fields of the humanities and related social sciences. In order for social science applications to be eligible, they must employ predominantly humanistic approaches and qualitative/interpretive methodologies. The ultimate goal of the project should be a major piece of scholarly work by the applicant.

ACLS Fellowships do not fund works of fiction or the performing arts (e.g., novels, films, performance, or musical composition), nor does it fund textbooks or pedagogical projects, or work that consists solely of translation.

Q: May I apply to more than one ACLS fellowship or grant program in the same competition year?
A: Yes, an applicant for this fellowship may also apply to as many fellowship and grant programs as are suitable. However, not more than one ACLS or ACLS-joint award may normally be accepted in any one competition year.

Q: If I am currently in a PhD program or will have finished my PhD by the time I would start the fellowship period, am I eligible for this fellowship?
A: No, your PhD degree must have been officially conferred by the application deadline. If you are a doctoral student, you may be eligible for one of ACLS's dissertation fellowships.

Q: May I apply if I have the equivalent of a PhD?
A: If you have published scholarly work on a par with the academic work required by the PhD degree, you may apply. You need to have completed a substantial academic project that required a sustained period of research, similar to a dissertation, in the humanities or humanities-related social sciences between October 1, 2012, and September 30, 2020.

Please note that we do not consider a JD in itself to satisfy the PhD equivalency unless it was accompanied by a) a record of scholarly publications that are humanistic in nature (as opposed to case studies or technical legal issues) and b) a substantial academic project that required a sustained period of research (such as a dissertation or book).

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Q: Do I have to be a US citizen or permanent resident to be eligible?
A: You must be either a US citizen, US permanent resident, or DACA recipient. You need not, however, be employed at an academic institution located in the United States.

Q: Can the fellowship be deferred to the following year? Can it be postponed if I find out I have to teach in the fall semester? What if I find out I have to teach in the spring semester?
A: An ACLS Fellowship cannot be deferred to the following academic year. Fellowship tenure is for a period of six to twelve consecutive months, which can be initiated between July 1, 2021 and July 1, 2022. Tenure must be concluded by December 31, 2022.

Q: Do I need to be untenured to be eligible for this fellowship program?
A: Yes, in the 2020-21 competition year, ACLS is restricting eligibility for the ACLS Fellowship to scholars who earned their PhDs within 8 years of the application deadline and who do not hold a tenured faculty position. If an applicant is untenured at the time of application but holds a tenured position at the time of award or will begin their first tenured semester during the proposed fellowship term, the fellowship offer must be declined. This rule will ensure that the awards support untenured scholars. Please note that other ACLS awards, such as the Mellon/ACLS Scholars and Society Fellowship, the Luce/ACLS Fellowships in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs, and the Digital Extension Grants, are open to tenured scholars.

Q: If I am untenured at the time of application but secure a tenured position by the time of the award or proposed fellowship term, must I resign the fellowship?
A: Yes. Since this program is committed to providing supported research leave to emerging, untenured scholars exclusively this year, the 2021 awards may not be held by scholars with tenure. Please note that other ACLS awards, such as the Mellon/ACLS Scholars and Society Fellowship, the Luce/ACLS Fellowships in Religion, Journalism & International Affairs, and the Digital Extension Grants, are open to tenured scholars.

Online Fellowship and Grant Application (OFA) process

Q: May I edit an application submitted in a previous competition and resubmit it for this year?
A: No, you will need to start over with a new online application.

Q: How long does it take to fill out the application?
A: This will vary, depending on how much work you have prepared before you begin the application process. Simply filling in the form will probably take an hour if not two, plus you will need to submit your proposal and supporting documents. You will also need to secure referees to write letters in support of your application. We highly recommend that you start the process several weeks before the deadline to get a sense of what is required and start preparing your materials.

Q: Do I have to complete the application all at once?
A: No, you may work on it in multiple sessions, though you will need to save your work after you finish each section of the application. Once you have submitted the application, you cannot work on it again.

Q. What is the application deadline for the ACLS Fellowship program?
A. The deadline to submit completed applications for this fellowship is 9 pm, Eastern Daylight Time, September 30, 2020.

Q: I'm not sure right now whether I should apply for an ACLS Fellowship for six months or for a longer period. What should I do?
A: We are flexible on this issue. We suggest you indicate the longer period. Should a fellowship be awarded, the tenure period can be adjusted at that time.

Q: I may receive other support during the year I would be taking the fellowship, but I do not know for certain or exactly how much it will be. What should I fill in on the application form?
A: You may estimate the amount you expect to receive, or fill in nothing. You can enter this amount in the section asking you to list other major funding sources to which you are applying for your present research proposal. Should you be offered a fellowship, you will need to provide a specific amount for any other funding you will receive during the fellowship period.

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Q: After submitting my proposal, I had an article/book accepted for publication. May new information be added to my publications list?
A: No, your application will be judged as it is at the time of submission.

Q: How can I make sure I receive notification about my application or that I receive responses to queries using the “OFA Help” link within the online fellowship and grant application (OFA) portal? How can I make sure that my letter writers receive ACLS’s email?
A: Notifications and other correspondence are sent via email from “acls.org” addresses. In order to prevent ACLS emails from being blocked, we suggest that applicants and letter writers:

  1. Add the relevant ACLS email addresses (e.g., ofahelp@acls.org, fellowships@acls.org, and references@acls.org for letter writers) to their address book or safe senders list.
  2. Check spam or junk mail folder for notifications and correspondence, if you are expecting them.
  3. In the event that you continue not to receive ACLS emails in either your inbox or spam/junk folder, it may be that your institution (“.edu”) or internet service provider (“.com” or “.net” email) is blocking these emails before they reach you. Please contact the appropriate personnel, e.g., your IT department, so that they may resolve the issue.

Reference letters

Q: Whom should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?
A: Your main priority should be to secure letters from referees who can write strong, specific letters on your behalf, preferably those who can comment on the proposed project. Reviewers often prefer "arm's length" letters from scholars who can attest to the significance of your work in the field and have less personal interest vested in your success. It's good to be able to show that you have placed yourself in the field, not merely in the department or institution where you are employed or did your graduate work. Think carefully about who can write the best letters and weigh that against personal connections. Applicants at early career stages will rely more on dissertation advisors as advocates. In any case, you will want your referees to be tenured scholars.

Q: Do all reference letters have to be in the system before I submit the application?
A: No, but note that the deadline for reference letters is the same as the application deadline. The system will continue to accept letters for a few days after the deadline and will add them to your application at the earliest possible time, though we cannot guarantee that they will accompany your application in the first stage of review.

Q: What should I do if one of my referees does not send in the requested letter?
A: You should check online to see if your references have been submitted. If one or more of your letters has not been submitted by the deadline, you may wish to contact the letter writers. If one of your designated referees cannot write the letter, you can ask someone else to write for you and submit the appropriate information on your reference form. However, please note that once the required number of letters has been submitted for your application (regardless of which of your referees submits them), no more will be accepted. Think carefully, then, before requesting replacement letters. You would not want to put a referee in the position of writing a letter for you and then not being able to submit it.

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Q: Does ACLS accept reference letters from Interfolio or university-based dossier services?
A: No. ACLS requests that reference letters contain specific elements targeted to this fellowship program. Peer reviewers have expressed strong reservations about letters from dossier services since they are necessarily general and thus less helpful in assessing the merits of the proposed project. This information is particularly crucial for proposals that reach the final round of selection where they are evaluated by multi-disciplinary committees. ACLS understands the demands placed on senior scholars and has sought to moderate that burden by reducing both the required number and the length of reference letters to minimum essential levels.

Review process

Q: Who is reading my proposal?
A: Proposals will be reviewed in two stages. At the first stage, three established scholars in your discipline (and/or regional area of study) will judge your proposal. These reviewers may or may not specialize in the particular sub-field(s) covered in your proposal. The first stage of review determines which applications will go on to the final stage. At that point, applications are reviewed by a panel of scholars whose collective expertise covers a range of disciplines in the humanities and humanities-related social sciences.

Q: What other proposals will my application be judged against?
A: At the first stage, your application will be reviewed in the context of others at your relative career stage (recent PhD, advanced assistant professor, etc.) in your discipline. In the second stage, your application will be judged against others in various disciplines.

Q: Since my application will be read by both experts in my area and in a range of humanistic fields, how should I pitch my proposal?
A: To address experts in your field, explain why this project offers insight into the issues of your discipline, and make clear what question or problem is being addressed. In addition, though, be sure to explain any terms that might not be familiar to those outside your field or subfield, and discuss the significance of your project within your field. In a section of the application separate from the body of the proposal, you are also asked to address the significance of your proposed project for the humanities.

Q: How much of the proposal should be devoted to explaining methodology, the project's significance, theoretical framework, work plan, etc.?
A: The portion of the proposal that should be devoted to its constituent parts varies according to the proposed project. An important part of the application process is gauging the most central elements of your project and presenting those elements to your best advantage within the specified word/page limit.

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Q: What kinds of projects are usually successful in the ACLS Fellowship competition? Do you have examples of successful proposals?
A: The projects that are ultimately selected vary widely. While there is no one model to follow for a successful application and we do not provide examples of proposals that receive funding, you are encouraged to view previous awardees and brief project descriptions here. You may also benefit from asking an ACLS Fellow that you know to show you her or his proposal and from reviewing Writing Proposals for ACLS Fellowship Competitions by Christina M. Gillis.

Q: Can I receive reviewer comments on my application?
A: Yes, you may request feedback generated through ACLS's peer review process by writing to fellowships@acls.org with the subject line "Request for feedback –" followed by your full name, e.g. "Request for feedback – Jane Q. Applicant." Requests for comments from the 2020-21 competition must be received by June 30, 2021.

Due to the number of requests ACLS receives each year, and the work of administering new fellowships each spring, we do not begin processing feedback until the summer, after the competition year is complete. Thank you for your patience.

Please also note that feedback is made available at the discretion of each reviewer. Comments may not be available from every reviewer who assessed your application. We encourage peer reviewers to provide constructive feedback to applicants looking to improve on their ideas or how they express those ideas; comments are not an explanation or rationale for why an application was not selected for an award. Such feedback also is not intended to be directions that, if followed, would lead necessarily to greater success in future competitions. After all, the pool of reviewers changes every year, as does the pool of applications.

Stipend

Q: If I receive this fellowship from ACLS, can the fellowship monies be paid through my institution instead of my receiving the funds directly?
A: The fellowship is awarded to an individual scholar. ACLS can arrange payment through the scholar’s institution upon request. However, institutions may not deduct funds for overhead or indirect costs from the individual's fellowship. For more information, review Information for Institutional Administrators.

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ACLS Project Development Grants

Q: How do I apply for an ACLS Project Development Grant?
A: There is no separate application for ACLS Project Development Grants. Rather, these $5,000 research grants will be offered to especially promising applicants from teaching-intensive institutions from within the overall pool of applicants to the ACLS Fellowship program. Recipients will be selected within the normal review process from among applicants from teaching-intensive institutions who advanced to the final stage and whose projects, while not selected for one of the very few fellowships available, would be advanced substantially by these seed grants.

Q: How does ACLS define teaching-intensive institution?
A: While teaching and service are vital elements of a faculty career at all institutions of higher education, teaching-intensive institutions are those whose tenure-track and tenured faculty teach a greater number of courses per year than more research-focused institutions, often with fewer institutionalized resources for research. Community colleges, baccalaureate colleges, and regional comprehensive universities are generally considered to be teaching-intensive institutions.

Q: Will the grant funds be paid through my institution or to me directly?
A: ACLS can arrange payment through the scholar’s institution or to the grant recipient directly.

Q: On what types of expenses may these grants be used?
A: ACLS Project Development Grants are intended to be flexible and may be used to cover any expenses that help advance the fellow’s proposed research project, including but not limited to: travel expenses (for research or for attending relevant scholarly conferences); research assistance; research materials (books, equipment, software/licensing fees, reproductions); archival access/permission; scholarly programming such as workshops or speaker series related to their projects, etc.

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