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ASA Receives $165,000 from Science Foundation to Fund Early Career Scholars

The Sociology Program of the National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded a three-year grant of $165,000 to the American Sociological Association (ASA) to support the Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD) from August 2004 through July 2007. FAD, a small grants program administered by ASA, continues an important and long-term collaboration between NSF and ASA.

The small grants (up to $7,000) provided by this program to early-career researchers result in important projects, field-shaping conferences, and seminal publications in the discipline. The evaluations by the NSF panel that reviewed the proposal were uniformly positive about the FAD program, praising the ‘venturesome” and ‘cutting edge’ quality of the funded projects, the high publication rates, and the influence outside the confines of the discipline. Over time, FAD has become a program that funds scholars early in their careers at a wide range of institutions of higher education.

The FAD program, originally called POD (Problems of the Discipline), was created as a small grants program in 1973, funded by ASA members’ book publication royalties. Grants were to be awarded strictly “for intellectual purposes in advancing the discipline.” From the outset, the FAD program followed this model. Although book royalties still fund the program (it is a tradition for FAD recipients to donate 50 percent of their royalties back to the program), ASA and NSF began their collaborative support of FAD in June 1987. Since then, 764 proposals have been submitted to the program, and 232 have received awards, a funding success rate of about 30 percent.

Support for Cutting Edge, Early Careers

A major goal of the FAD program is to provide small grants for cutting edge research to scholars early in their careers and who are not necessarily employed by Research I universities. These are the scholars who have the most difficulty in obtaining non-university funding because of their lack of a track record. The scholars who applied and won awards from the FAD program in the previous (2001-2004) cycle came from an increasingly broad spectrum of colleges and universities, all academic ranks, a mix of years since receiving their PhDs, and both genders (see Table 1).

The largest share (40 percent) of the applicants were employed at Research I universities, but the proportion of applicants from non-Research I schools increased by more than 8 percent compared to the previous cycle (1997-2000). Although those with a Research I background had a better chance of winning an award than did their peers in other types of colleges and universities, there was an 18.5-percent increase of awardees from non-PhD and other institutions. Likewise, those with more research and grant writing experience (i.e., full and associate professors) were more likely to apply for FAD grants than assistant professors, but the share of applicants with 10 or more years of experience declined.

Although senior members of the profession who applied for grants had a better chance of receiving a FAD award, there was a striking increase in the percentage of assistant professors and younger scholars who won awards. These changes suggest that the program’s increased outreach efforts have been successful. These efforts have included pre-proposal guidance and workshops at regional and annual meetings to recruit and prepare younger scholars hailing from a wider range of academic institutions.

FAD Makes a Difference

Some of the indicators of the merit of the FAD projects include an average of 2.7 publications and 4.0 presentations per project. For every $1.00 spent through ASA/NSF funding, award-winning projects subsequently received an additional $5.33 in research funding from other organizations. A large percentage of FAD awardees go on to receive noteworthy research grants from NSF and other sources as their careers progress.

New research areas that were explored during the 2001-2004 FAD funding cycle included connections between global integration and social movements, globalization and gender regimes, geographic space and inequality, and identity and institutional structure. FAD projects also reconceptualized and refined sociological methods and techniques. Some of these advances included new techniques for measuring and analyzing wealth, household structure, geographic space, the constructions of social problems and public policy, and the impact of technology on communities.

We expect even more projects and more theoretical and methodological breakthroughs in this next funding round. Information about submissions can be obtained on ASA’s website at www.asanet.org/members/fad.html. Brief descriptions of the latest round of FAD awards can also be found on ASA’s website www.asanet.org/footnotes/julyaugust04/fn3.html. For additional information, call or e-mail Roberta Spalter-Roth (202-383-9005, spalter-roth@asanet.org) or Bill Erskine (erskine@asanet.org).