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ACLS Digital Extension Grants


The deadline for this program has passed. The description below is for information purposes only. Awardees in the 2017-18 competition will be announced in May 2018.

Grants Details

  • Awards provide base funding of up to $125,000 for a variety of project costs, such as salary replacement, staffing, travel and lodging, meetings, equipment, and software. Projects that demonstrate concrete plans to develop new collaborations with partners at different institutions and/or engage in community building activities with scholars from US colleges and universities of diverse profiles may apply for up to $150,000 in funding.
  • Tenure: 12-18 months, to be initiated between July 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018
  • Completed applications must be submitted through the ACLS Online Fellowship Application system (ofa.acls.org) no later than 9 pm Eastern Standard Time, January 10, 2018.
  • Notifications will be sent by mid-May, 2018.

ACLS invites applications for the ACLS Digital Extension Grant Program, made possible by the generous assistance of The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. This program supports digitally based research projects in all disciplines of the humanities and related social sciences. It is hoped that these grants will help 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 projects.

This program aims to extend the opportunity to participate in the digital transformation of humanistic inquiry to a greater number of humanities scholars. To this end, projects supported by ACLS Digital Extension Grants may:

  • Develop new systems of making existing digital resources available to broader audiences and/or scholars from diverse institutions
  • Extend existing digital projects and resources with content that adds diversity or interdisciplinary reach
  • Foster 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
  • Create 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 five Digital Extension Grants in this competition year. Each grant provides funding of up to $125,000 to support a range of project costs, including, where necessary, salary replacement for faculty or staff, software, equipment, travel, project related convenings, and consultant fees. ACLS especially welcomes projects that demonstrate concrete plans to extend their reach through developing new collaborations with partners at different institutions and/or engaging in community building activities with scholars at all career stages from US higher education institutions of diverse profiles; such projects are eligible for maximum funding of up to $150,000. Allocation of funds between collaboration and basic project costs may be determined by the applicant (see “Budgeting for New Collaborations” below).

Applicants must list current and past funding sources for their projects; in the case of joint funding sources for the project, applicants should indicate clearly in their budget plans how each source of project funding will be used during the ACLS grant period.

ACLS grants do 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.

Applicants should take care to address the following topics in their proposals:

Grant Term and Project Timeframe
Grants may support projects of 12-18 months in duration. Projects must be initiated between July 1 and December 31, 2018, and completed no later than June 30, 2020. Project participants must commit themselves to their preferred timeframe on their completed applications.

Scholarly Merit and Extension
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. Applications should discuss both the intellectual and programmatic ambitions of the project and its technological underpinnings. Proposals should illustrate with specific examples or case studies how the digital technologies involved in the project add value to humanistic study and (as appropriate) those features of the project that would promote teamwork and collaboration.

Project History and Impact
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. Applicants should cite evidence of the scholarly impact of the project (such as user metrics, reviews of past work, convenings of advisors to prepare the project for extension, etc.).

Project Plan and Long-term Sustainability
Applications must present a coherent plan for development of their project, including a description of tasks to be accomplished within the period of the grant, and the budget required for those tasks. The project budget is an essential element of the application and its evaluation will weigh in the overall selection process. The project plan should reflect a thoughtful approach to the project’s sustainability, scalability, dissemination, and preservation.

Intellectual Property
Applications must include a statement concerning the intellectual property rights relating to software and content developed with grant funds. See the Application Requirements section for further details.

Successful proposals should also indicate how their projects articulate with the local infrastructure at their home institutions or the institutions hosting the projects. All applications must include the endorsement of a senior administrator of the applicant’s home institution or the institution hosting the project. This endorsement should outline how the institution’s existing cyberinfrastructure complements and supports the technologies to be developed for the specified project.

Budgeting for New Collaborations
To be eligible for the maximum budget of $150,000, the proposal should demonstrate a project’s concrete plans to extend its reach through developing new collaborations with partners at different institutions and/or engaging in community building activities with scholars at all career stages from US higher education institutions of diverse profiles. The 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 and graduate students from regional colleges and universities; and/or extensions of the project teams to include collaborations with faculty and graduate students from higher education institutions of diverse profiles. See the sample budgets provided for further details.


  1. Projects must be hosted by an institution of higher education in the United States.
  2. Project’s principal investigator must be a scholar in a field of the humanities and the humanistic social sciences.
  3. Principal investigator must have a PhD degree conferred prior to the application deadline. (An established scholar who can demonstrate the equivalent of the PhD in publications and professional experience may also qualify.)

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

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

Application Requirements
Applications consist of:

  1. An application form completed online by the designated team leader for the project.
  2. A 10-page double-spaced proposal. The proposal should explain the proposed project development plan in relation to the objectives of the Digital Extension Grant Program. The narrative statement should explain, briefly but specifically, what the project team plans to do and why, and illustrate with specific examples the scholarly value of the project within its specific and general fields. The proposal must also 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.). Applicants should balance the description of specific work plans against an overview of the goals and the contribution the project will make to digital scholarship generally and toward the extension of digital humanities scholarship to new communities of use. Furthermore, proposals should explicitly state the means and tools (software, applications, interfaces) to be used to extend the project’s reach, content, and/or use. Proposals should present plans for how the project will be sustained and preserved over time, and how it will come to the notice of potential users. Proposals also should provide a brief, descriptive title, and label sections of the narrative as appropriate to assist readers (e.g., project overview; intellectual ambitions and extension plans; project history and impact to date; collaboration and network building; long-term sustainability; articulation with local cyberinfrastructure). Applicants seeking the grant funding dedicated specifically for engaging project participants or collaborators at diverse institutions should include a description of relevant plans.
  3. A project timeline (no more than three double-spaced pages) providing a coherent plan for the development and execution of the project, including a description of tasks to be accomplished within the grant period. This plan should reflect a thoughtful approach to the project's extensibility.
  4. A budget plan (no more than two pages) providing a detailed account of the proposed use of the grant funds. (ACLS makes available sample budgets for reference.) The ACLS Digital Extension Grant Program does 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 base funding for project costs and which items belong to the funding specified to support collaboration and community building across diverse institutions. If applicable, the budget plan should also reflect any proposed cost-sharing by the host institution or a third party. 
  5. Applications also must include a statement concerning the intellectual property rights relating to software and content developed with grant funds. Applicants must commit in their application to: (a) making any software developed with grant funds available pursuant to an open source license located at www.opensource.org and in a public repository (such as Github or Sourceforge); (b) making any digital content broadly available; and (c) not infringing on third party rights with respect to the development, dissemination, and use of the software and/or digital content. In addition, the 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. The applicants should also 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. ACLS staff will indicate that the Mellon Foundation is receiving a copy of any such message.
  6. 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. Include two-page CVs for principal project participants.
  7. Two reference letters.
  8. An institutional statement from a senior official of the applicant’s home institution or the institution hosting the project (dean, provost, president, or other appropriate person). The form asks the institutional representative to confirm that the institution's existing cyberinfrastructure complements and supports the technologies to be developed and the related program activities to be undertaken for the specified project. Though two or more institutions may serve as sites for funded grant activities, one must serve as the lead institution and administer all grant funds.