Spencer Foundation Midcareer Grant Program on Educational Research
The Midcareer Grant program was launched in 2014 to enrich the work of academic midcareer scholars who are seven to twenty years post doctorate. This targeted program provides support for those who are interested in advancing their understanding of a compelling problem of education by acquiring new skills, substantive knowledge, theoretical perspectives or methodological tools.
Grants are for one year with budgets of up to $150,000.
The program is not intended to encourage researchers to abandon their existing area of expertise, but rather to build on, enrich, and extend that training with the acquisition of new methodological tools and/or perspectives about a subject to which they have been deeply committed throughout their academic career. In developing this program of additive scholarly learning, the Foundation intends to heighten the potential for midcareer productivity and contribution by operationalizing through its grant making an understanding about scholarship that we believe has merit: that reaching beyond familiar ways of thinking about education puzzles and problems has the potential to bring innovative ideas to the work and, by extension, to lines of inquiry in the field.
Applicants will be asked to center their request around the clear articulation and exploration of an important problem, or set of problems, of education that is well-aligned with their core interests and past scholarship. Applicants will also be asked to map the outer edges of what they have come to know through their earlier research and then articulate how they will move into what they do not yet know but hope to learn through a targeted midcareer program of study. In addition, applicants will be asked to fully describe how the acquisition of new tools or perspectives enriches their understanding of that problem and to present a well-thought out plan for acquiring them.
Grant awards will not be confined to proposals to learn a new discipline, although in a number of cases that would fit. A psychologist studying techniques for promoting positive character development in children might spend a year studying philosophical work bearing on character development and the proper role of families and schools in shaping children’s character. A historian of American education might spend a year studying some aspect of the history of education in Brazil or France. A scholar who works on the teaching of writing in colleges might have reason to acquire a deeper understanding of early literacy.
In this award cycle of the grant program, the Foundation will fund up to five Midcareer awards to be undertaken during the 2017-2018 academic year.
- Applicants in the third award cycle (2016 application deadline) must have received their PhD, EdD, or equivalent research degree between January 1, 1996, and December 31, 2009.
- The PI must be affiliated with a college, university, school district, non-profit research facility, or non-profit cultural institution that is willing to serve as the fiscal agent if the grant is awarded. The Spencer Foundation does not award grants directly to individuals.
- Proposals are accepted from the U.S. and internationally, however all proposals must be submitted in English and budgets must be proposed in U.S. Dollars.
- Midcareer Grant budgets are limited to $150,000 total.
- Midcareer Grant budgets may not be used to cover tuition or related charges from the receiving institution(s).
- Midcareer Grant budgets may not include indirect cost charges.
- Midcareer Grants are not eligible for no-cost extensions.
Spencer Midcareer Grant Program Selection Process
The selection process will be conducted by Spencer staff and a committee of distinguished scholars. Primary criteria for evaluating proposals will include the overall significance of the education problem being pursued; the case for the importance of bringing new knowledge to bear on the problem; the likely ability of the candidate to benefit from the proposed program, based on past scholarship and letter of recommendation; and the feasibility of the proposed plan.
Rubric for Evaluating Proposals
Below are some of the questions that the Selection Committee uses in its discussions of applicants:
The quality of the ideas
- Does the proposal make a strong case for the significance of the problem of education that is the focus of the proposed program of study?
- Is the learning program orchestrated in a way that makes it likely that the applicant will build effectively on what he or she already knows and advance it for the purpose of yielding new understandings of the problem?
The quality of the program of study
- Is the program of study designed to enable the applicant to acquire the necessary training and skills, and insights to make an important advance in the grantee’s future research on the identified problem of education?
- Does the learning program have high potential to advance the applicant’s theoretical expertise, substantive knowledge, and/or methodological skill set?
The capacity of the applicant
- Are the applicant’s core interests and past scholarship aligned with the proposed problem of education, and does the proposal explain that alignment in a persuasive and interesting way?
- Does the applicant’s record of research suggest that cultivating his or her scholarly learning will likely lead to new insights and enhanced understanding of an important problem of education?
The quality of the writing
- Is the organization and structure of the proposal clear?
- Is the proposal written for a general academic audience and not for specialists in one discipline or a single area of research?