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Call for Pre-Proposals

PIIRS Research Communities

The Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS) is soliciting pre-proposals from Princeton faculty for funding from its PIIRS Research Communities program, which provides up to $750 thousand spread over three years to groups of Princeton faculty in support of research, teaching, and scholarly dialogue on a common theme of broad interest within international studies that cuts across disciplines and world regions.

Program Description

A PIIRS Research Community consists of an interdisciplinary group of faculty and graduate students engaged in the study of a common theme of broad comparative or global significance.  The proposed theme should cut across all regions of the world, engage multiple disciplines, and have cultural, social, and political dimensions that open up the possibility for interdisciplinary and cross-area intellectual engagement.  Examples of previously-funded PIIRS research communities can be found on the PIIRS website:  http://www.princeton.edu/piirs/research-communities/.

Research communities are established initially around a minimum core community of five faculty members from at least three different departments, who will act as a steering committee for the community.  Core community members commit to attending the community’s monthly meeting, to participating in the community’s leadership, and to engaging in the community’s activities.  Research communities, however, are open for participation by all Princeton faculty and students, and any Princeton faculty member is eligible to become a core community member.  Moreover, research communities are expected to undertake efforts to expand their core membership over the course of their three-year funding cycle.  Each spring within its three-year funding cycle the community steering committee is to present PIIRS with an annual plan and budget covering the activities of the community for the following year.  All community activities are to be run by core community members with the support of PIIRS staff.  It is strongly recommended that communities also budget for an internal assistant to help with coordination, research assistance, and other tasks.

As a condition of funding, research communities are required to meet at least once a month in a community meeting that all core community members are normally expected to attend.  These community meetings could assume a variety of formats.  For example, a research community might choose to hold its community meetings over dinner and use them to discuss a particularly interesting book or article relevant to the community theme, bring in an author to talk about his or her work, or hear presentations from faculty about their own research.  As a second condition of funding, research communities are expected to demonstrate some form of impact on graduate and undergraduate training during the three-year funding cycle.  This requirement could be fulfilled, for example, by sponsoring a graduate or undergraduate course on the community’s theme, by organizing a workshop for graduate students, or by sponsoring an annual undergraduate summer research internship on the topic of the theme. 

The first year of a research community’s three-year funding cycle is to be devoted primarily to establishing the community and should involve a series of activities (community meetings, lectures, and workshops) intended to solidify the community and the common interaction of its members while clarifying its goals and expanding its membership.  The second year of a research community’s funding cycle will be the community’s “focus year,” in which (in addition to lectures and workshops run by core community members) additional funds will be invested to support a visiting fellows program for the community and fellowships for graduate students working on the theme of the community.  The final year of funding is aimed at community consolidation and transition, with the possibility of a fourth year of some bridge funding from PIIRS should the research community decide that its work merits continuation in another form.  Not all research communities will or should seek to continue their activities beyond the three years of committed PIIRS funding.   Success of a research community will  be judged by the size of the community’s core faculty, attendance at its activities, the quality of its discussions, and its publication results.  Typically, communities seeking bridge funding will also need to demonstrate evidence of application for significant external or internal funding from sources other than PIIRS.

Breakdown of PIIRS Funding

The bulk of the funding provided to a PIIRS Research Community over the three-year period ($440 thousand) is discretionary, to be used by the community as it sees fit in order to support a variety of activities related to the community’s broader theme:  faculty and graduate student research, conferences, lecture series, an assistant for coordination, an undergraduate research program, and/or course development.  However, no more than $150 thousand of these discretionary funds may be handed out in grants to support the research of individual core faculty over the three-year funding cycle.  The $440 thousand of discretionary funds carry over across years during the community’s three-year funding cycle, to be used by the research community as its steering committee deems appropriate. 

An additional $240 thousand of the community’s funding is reserved for supporting a visiting fellows program for the community.  Typically, research communities advertise for visiting fellows during their first year of operation, with the fellows to be in residence at PIIRS during the second year of the community’s activities.  Some research communities, depending on the disciplines involved and the chosen theme, may find it advantageous to have fewer visiting fellows but to engage them for two years instead of one (For example, two post-doctoral fellows associated with the community for both its second and third years).  The desirability and feasibility of such a plan would need to be discussed with the PIIRS director prior to developing plans for the community’s first year of the activities.  All visiting fellows must be in residence at PIIRS for no less than one semester.

Finally, a research community’s funding includes the possibility of obtaining three graduate dissertation write-up fellowships over the three-year funding cycle (approximate total value of $75 thousand), to be used by graduate students who have exhausted their normal graduate school support and who are working on the theme of the community.  The graduate student must be a participant in the research community and must apply through the normal application process in February for the PIIRS Graduate Fellows Program for fellowship support for the following year. Upon application, it is the responsibility of the graduate student to obtain the backing of the research community steering committee, which should inform the PIIRS director of the community’s support of the graduate student’s application.

How to Apply

At this time, PIIRS is seeking only an initial two- or three-page pre-proposal describing the theme of the proposed research community and identifying other Princeton faculty who might be involved.  Pre-proposals can be made by groups of at least three Princeton faculty members from at least two academic departments.  Pre-proposals are not expected to indicate detailed plans of activity, but should give an indication as to why the chosen theme would be suitable for establishing a PIIRS research community and who at Princeton might be possible participants in such a community.  Engagement with a variety of Princeton faculty is one of the key criteria by which pre-proposals will be judged.  Pre-proposals should be sent to PIIRS Director Mark Beissinger (mbeissin@princeton.edu) by February 17, 2015.

One or more the pre-proposals received will be asked to develop a more detailed application (due later).  The more detailed application will consist of:  1) further elaboration of the theme of the research community and its importance across multiple world regions and academic disciplines; 2) a list and description of the faculty who have agreed to become core community members (and evidence that they have committed to participate in the community’s monthly meeting); 3) a list of other faculty who might be asked to participate; 4) a plan and budget for the community’s first year of activity; and 5)  a short description of the kinds of community activities that might be undertaken in future years, including a statement on how the community would like to handle its visiting fellows program and possible ways of satisfying the curricular requirement.  Examples of sample budgets are available from the PIIRS Director.

Further questions or inquiries about the PIIRS Research Community program can be addressed to PIIRS Director Mark Beissinger (mbeissin@princeton.edu).