FOOTNOTES February 2001
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Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline: A History of Success

by Roberta Spalter-Roth, Co-Principal Investigator, ASA FAD Program

The ASA’s Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline (FAD) has had an august history.

The FAD program (originally called POD—Problems of the Discipline) was created as a small grants program in 1973, funded by ASA member’s book 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), a collaboration between the National Science Foundation (NSF) and ASA on FAD began in June 1987. Since then, 622 proposals have been submitted to the program and 184 have received awards for a funding rate of about 30 percent. The program is limited to those who have been awarded PhDs (or the equivalent degree), but winners come from a broad spectrum of colleges and universities, all academic ranks, and a range of years since they received their PhDs. Not surprisingly in a program that emphasizes substantive and methodological research breakthroughs, the greatest share (almost half) of the applicants were employed at Research I universities. Likewise, those with more professional experience (i.e., full and associate professors), and those at least six years beyond obtaining their PhD degrees, had a better chance of receiving a FAD award.

Still, FAD is a training ground for those in the early stages of their sociological careers, despite the weighting of awards to those in Research I universities and those with more years of experience. More than 40 percent of FAD applicants were assistant professors, and a similar share were less than seven years from obtaining their PhDs. Although assistant professors are less likely than their higher ranked colleagues to win awards, still about 30 percent of all awards went to this group, and one-quarter of awards went to those who were out less than seven year. For assistant professors, these grants come at a time in their career when funding can do the most good. In addition, women have done well in this program, representing 47 percent of applicants and 55 percent of awardees.

FAD projects address a wide range of theoretical problems, substantive issues, and methodological techniques. They challenge a discipline’s concepts and categories, its models of social processes, and its ways of knowing. For example, recent FAD projects developed macro/micro linkages in a variety of substantive areas. Some projects challenged rationalistic models by bringing sentiments and emotions into the study of social movements and social organizations. Others challenged the widespread view of migration and citizenship as discrete events. Still others challenged the theoretical and substantive hegemony of economics by developing a sociology of market relations, and some of the most recent work challenged cognitive universalism, whether cognitive patterns are uniform across cultures and eras. FAD funding has also resulted in a series of methodological innovations stemming from efforts to conceptualize, construct, and validate measures.

These groundbreaking projects have contributed to the advancement of the scientific, educational, and policy infrastructure of the discipline through the publication of scholarly books and articles, the training of students, the creation of data sets, and the dissemination of these advances through curricular improvements, media citations, and policy decisions. Table 1 shows the percentage of the 1994-98 FAD awardees who reported these outcomes, with a whopping 9 out of 10 reporting scholarly publications as an outcome of their FAD grant. In addition, almost half of FAD-sponsored projects reported receiving additional funding to the tune of 1.6 million dollars. Figure 1 shows that for every $1.00 given in grants, there was a return of $6.26 across the total cohort of projects, $8.12 across all projects that responded to the survey, and $18.59 across responding projects that received additional funding. FAD awardees received awards from such widely respected national institutions as the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Mellon Foundation, the Aspen Institute, the Russell Sage Foundation, and the Spencer Foundation as well as local foundations.

The latest renewal grant allows the Fund for the Advancement of the Discipline to continue with its tradition of supporting groundbreaking sociological work. With the unique niche of this program and its track record of success, it is no wonder that FAD is funded again!

TABLE 1: Outcomes Reported by FAD Grantees,
12/94-12/98 Award Cycles

Led to publications -- 86.8% 46#
Led to presentations -- 83.0% 44#
Led to improvements in teaching -- 81.1% 43#
Supported students -- 64.2% 34#
Contributed to infrastructure of of discipline -- 54.7% 29#
Led to additional funding -- 45.3% 24#
Has been cited by other scholars -- 39.6% 21#
Has been cited in the popular media -- 26.4% 14#
Has informed policy decisions -- 13.7% 7#
Source: ASA Survey of FAD Recipients