Applicant Profile

We will ask you to tell us about yourself and your supervisor. Our reviews are all double anonymous. Our reviewers will not have access to any of the following information:

  1. Applicant contact information. This includes your full legal name (first, middle, and surname), email address, and other contact details.

  2. Applicant educational history and current position. This includes your highest academic degree, the discipline of your degree, the year it was awarded, and the institution where you received it. You’ll also need to describe your current academic appointment.  Here, you will indicate that you are a doctoral student and list your department, institution, and country of institution. We will also ask whether English is your and/or your institution’s primary scholarly language.

  3. Supervisor information. You will need to list an individual who will act as the dissertation supervisor. Your supervisor will be responsible for the reporting requirements of the grant. For the purpose of the application, your supervisor must be at the same department or academic institution.  We will ask for your supervisor’s full legal name (first, middle, and surname), email address, department, and mailing address. You will have a chance to discuss other academic advisors elsewhere in the application.

  4. Applicant personal information (optional). In an effort to promote greater equity in funding, we will ask whether you are willing to share some confidential demographic information about yourself. We will remove any identifiers and analyze this data in the aggregate. This section of the application is entirely optional. Your answers to these questions will have no bearing on the success of your application. Our questions concern citizenship, gender identity, pronouns, sexual identity, disability, caregiving responsibilities, your parents’ highest level of education, income insecurity, race and ethnicity, Indigenous affiliation, and how you decided to apply for this program.

Project Information

  1. Project title. This should be 15 words or fewer and contain enough information to tell us what your research is about.

  2. Total amount requested in U.S. dollars. We will also ask you for a detailed budget.

  3. Three keywords or phrases that best describe your research.

  4. Your subdiscipline and regional or topical area.

  5. Project duration and location information, including the project start date. Your project can take place over a period longer than 12 months, and if you wish to do your project in phases, that’s just fine. If you are applying at the May 1 deadline, your start date must fall after January 1 and before June 30 of the following year.  If you are applying at the November 1 deadline, your start date must fall after July 1 and before December 31 of the following year.

  6. Any academic collaborators. These are are individuals responsible for carrying out a substantial portion of your proposed project. They may have taken part in designing the project.  You may have plans to include them as coauthors when you write up the results of their work.  You may be working in partnership with another anthropologist, for instance, who is serving as your project’s co-principal investigator.

  7. Other academic personnel participating in the project. These are individuals responsible for carrying out crucial, yet limited portions of your proposed project.  You may be calling on the aid of an expert in a research approach or methodology that is key to your project’s success.  Here, you should also list local research assistants working under your direction and others who may be helping with aspects of their research.

  8. Other funding applications. Tell us about the other agencies you are approaching for funding for all or part of the research proposed in your application. It is an excellent idea to seek support from as many sources as you can; doing so will not jeopardize your chances of receiving a Wenner-Gren award.  If you are asking other agencies to cover expenses that aren’t included in your Wenner-Gren budget, you must indicate in your response to Project Description Questions 3a and 3b whether your project will still be feasible without this additional support.

  9. Research permits and ethical approvals. You do not need to submit copies of research permits and permissions at the application stage. If your application is successful, the Foundation will request copies of the relevant documents when we notify you of your award. We will not release grant funds until we have received these materials.

    In your application, we do ask you to list the permit(s) required for the proposed project and the estimated date(s) by which you expect to secure them. Your knowledge of the required permits will help demonstrate your awareness of ethical issues your research could raise. This information allows us to evaluate whether your project is feasible and whether you are prepared to begin conducting research. Depending on the project, examples of permits include research visas, approvals or exemptions from institutional review boards and other ethics committees, human subject approvals, animal care and use approvals, government clearances, excavation permits, letters of affiliation, and permissions from the local scientific, academic, museum, institutional, or tribal authorities who oversee your research area. Please do not contact the Foundation to ask which permits you need; instead, consult with your contacts and/or advisors.


Your abstract is a very important component of your application. In language that an interested layperson could understand, you need to convey what’s at the heart of your project. Your abstract should begin broad and go narrow, communicating the major theme or debate in anthropology that your research will address, then explaining the particular question you plan to investigate. It should convey the “why,” “what,” and “where” of your project while giving the reader a sense of the “how”—that is, the methods you will use to gather the empirical evidence you need to address the problem you’ve posed. Your abstract will be the shortest part of your proposal, but it will also be the hardest to write.  You will need to have a very clear idea of your plans to do a good job.  You probably should write it last. [Limit: 200 words]


We will ask you to submit detailed Plan A and Plan B budgets. You should develop these budgets on the basis of your answers to Project Description Questions 3a and 3b. The maximum award for the Dissertation Fieldwork Grant is $25,000. Please note: the total amount of your request for your Plan A and B budgets must be the same.

Please include only the items and amounts you are requesting from Wenner-Gren. If your project is dependent on funding from more than one source, you should include a brief description of the items not covered in your Wenner-Gren budgets together with the cost of these items. Remember to indicate in your response to Project Description Questions 3a and 3b whether your project will be feasible if this additional support is not forthcoming.

It is important to include a detailed breakdown, showing how you estimated expenses in each category. You should use the categories listed below when relevant and be detailed in your justification/explanation. Items not fully justified will not be considered.

We cover the following expenses:

Research expenses directly related and essential to the project, including travel, living expenses during fieldwork, childcare, research assistance, transcription costs, specialized software, gifts for informants, visa fees, and other relevant research expenditures.

  • If you are requesting multiple trips to the field, please provide a justification. The Foundation does not fund pilot research or trips home from the field to consult with supervisors or colleagues or to carry out preliminary data analysis. We also don’t fund trips to the field for supervisors to advise or support their doctoral students.
  • If you are requesting funds for research assistance, please explain why you need this help.  Explain in detail the aspects of the research you will carry out and which aspects the research assistant(s) will be responsible for. Provide a justification for the research assistant(s)’s level of payment in the context of the appropriate wage rate for your research site.  Clearly specify the number of assistants you are requesting and the amount of time they will work.
  • If you are requesting funds for transcription costs, please provide an equally detailed justification.  Account for the payment level, explain the need for assistance, and describe what proportion of this work the assistant will carry out and what proportion you yourself will cover.  Explain how you plan to use the transcriptions in analyzing your data. It is particularly important to make a strong case for why you need word-for-word transcriptions given the goals of your project.
  • We expect our grantees to participate in all aspects of the research. Do not hire others to carry out activities that could give you valuable experience and insight. This is particularly relevant to requests for research and transcription assistance.
  • If you are requesting childcare, please provide the number of hours or days and the hourly or daily rate you’d like us to cover.

Per Diems. Per diem expenses should be an accurate reflection of the actual costs of carrying out the research. You may include a per diem for your current place of residence if it is impossible for you to travel to the field.  The Foundation rarely if ever pays U.S. Department of State per diems for foreign travel. If you do not have a clear idea of the costs of research, you should consult with others who have experience in the area. The Fulbright-Hays or the Economic and Social Research Council (U.K.) websites also provide international per diem and maintenance allowance estimates appropriate for academic research. Justify all per diem amounts.

Course Relief. We will consider covering course relief if you are unable to travel and need to carry out your project remotely.

Tuition Fees.  We will consider covering tuition if you are unable to travel and need to carry out your project remotely.

Compensation for Research Participants and Community Members.   You may include in your budget the cost of fairly and appropriately compensating individuals and groups who collaborate in your research.  Justify the measures you plan to take to reciprocate for the work research participants do.

Supplies and equipment directly related to the successful completion of the project. We expect you to request cost-effective equipment that is appropriate for your research.  If you are asking for funding to pay for an expensive item like a high-end laptop, you’ll need to justify your request in light of the work you plan to do.

You may need to purchase a piece of equipment with Foundation funds that costs $750 or more.  If this item still has monetary value at the end of a project, we will ask you to return the resale value to the Foundation or, with our approval, to donate it to an educational or scientific organization, ideally with ties to the community where you worked. We treat devices comprised of compound elements each costing less than $750 but used together (e.g. a camera body and lenses) as a single piece of equipment.

If you are asking for funding for such an item, we will need to receive a donation statement as part of your application. The donation statement should explain why you need the equipment for your project, why you don’t have access to the equipment through your institution, why you cannot obtain funding for the equipment from other sources, and what you plan to do with the equipment at the end of your project.

Medical Insurance. The Foundation encourages all applicants to make allowance for medical insurance while in the field. Please note, however, that we provide a maximum of $125 per month for this purpose and only provide funds to cover you while you are undertaking work at your research site.

Equipment Insurance. Please provide a justification detailing the coverage level and the role of covered items in the project.

These expenses are not covered:

  • Your salary and/or fringe benefits
  • Personal income taxes
  • Travel, subsistence, insurance, and other expenses of family members and other non-project personnel accompanying you to the field
  • Travel to and/or attendance at meetings if these are not part of your research
  • Return trips to consult with your supervisor or colleagues
  • Institutional overhead or institutional support
  • Expenses incurred prior to the effective date of the grant
  • Writing or publication expenses, including costs related to page charges for journal publication or to the (re)production of illustrations, photographs and maps.
  • Expenses incurred somewhere other than where you’re doing research—for rent, mortgage payments, childcare, storage of personal effects, etc.
  • Living expenses while you’re writing your thesis
  • Contingency funds or miscellaneous expenses.

Resubmission Statement

If you are resubmitting an application that was unsuccessful in a previous funding cycle, you will need to include a resubmission statement. In it, you’ll have an opportunity to tell us about the progress you’ve made since you last applied. How has your thinking developed?  How have you refined your plans?  How does this application differ from the previous one?  How have you addressed the reviewers’ concerns?  [Limit: 1000 words]

Project Description Questions

We will ask you to answer six project description questions.  Our word limits are strict.  To make the best possible case for your work, it’s a good idea to use all the space provided.

Question 1: Describe the purpose of your research. What will be the focus of your investigation? What is your main research question? What other questions will you need to answer to address it? You should formulate your research objectives clearly and carefully. In these uncertain times, conditions can change unexpectedly. Find a focus that will allow you to address your questions through a range of different avenues. [Limit: 1000 words]

A successful proposal’s most important characteristic is a well-developed research question, hypothesis, or research objective. You should follow these three major guidelines:

  • Carefully formulate your research question, hypothesis, or objective.  Ask “why,” “how,” or “what” about an issue of significance to anthropology. Do not present a vast question as the object of investigation; instead, develop answerable questions (or testable hypotheses) in the context of the larger research topic.
  • Do not present your research questions as if the answers were already known.  Demonstrate that the proposed research will answer (or test) the question(s) or hypothesis.
  • Be realistic about what you can achieve.  Many applications fail because they claim their research will answer a wide variety of questions without convincing us that their investigation will answer any single one thoroughly and carefully.

Finally, be sure to provide us with background on the setting where you’ll be working.   Why is this the perfect context for asking the questions you want to ask?

Question 2: How does your research draw inspiration from existing scholarship in anthropology and other disciplines? Whose findings will you be building on? Give specific examples of the various lines of work with which you are in dialogue and which you are seeking to advance. [Limit: 1000 words]

The answer to this question should tell the story of how you arrived at your research question and developed your strategy for answering it.  Who else has written about this subject?  What has been missing from their approach?  Creativity often comes from bringing ideas together in new ways.  What new insights have you gained from other lines of scholarship?  What conceptual resources will you bring to bear on the problems you hope to explore?

It is important to clearly demonstrate that you have a good knowledge of the anthropological literature relevant to your topic, as well as other disciplinary literature. Be explicit in showing how your research will expand on previous work. If you are conducting research in a country with a rich tradition of anthropological scholarship on your topic, we expect you to cite the relevant publications. (Please see the Motion of the 32nd RBA for a discussion of this issue.) Wenner-Gren prioritizes research that is theoretically driven, and Question 2 allows you discuss the broader conversations that have guided you in formulating your research question. It is not enough to just cite literature in answer to this question. Please provide a clear and comprehensive discussion of the issues at stake and demonstrate how your work fits into current debates in the field.

Primatologists should note that to be competitive they should clearly demonstrate how their research is derived from and will contribute to anthropological debates dealing with humanity’s cultural and/or biological origins, development, and/or modern variation. It is not sufficient to merely cite primatological literature and primatological debates in answer to this question.

Question 3a: Research methodology: Plan A. What evidence will you need to collect to answer your research question? How will you go about collecting and analyzing this evidence? Here, we are interested in the best-case scenario: a description of the research activities you will use if you are able to travel and meet with research participants and collaborators safely and ethically in person. [Limits: 1000 words]

Here, you’ll want to clearly and explicitly demonstrate that the evidence you gather and the analysis you propose will realistically support the research goals expressed in Question 1.

Come up with a feasible research plan with clearly defined procedures.  Provide a timeline for your research. Demonstrate that you can complete your planned activities in the allotted time and with the available funds.

If you are planning to conduct the research in phases, provide a timeline and explain why separate trips to the field are necessary. Please note that the Foundation does not fund trips home to consult with supervisors or colleagues, to carry out preliminary data analysis, or to attend conferences.

If you have already received funds from other sources and are applying to Wenner-Gren for either top-up funds or funds to support subsequent phases of the research, you must provide a strong justification for your research.  It is not enough merely to say that you will use the additional funds to collect more data.  Explain clearly and completely why you are unable to achieve your research objectives with the funds already in hand.

The Foundation supports projects using all appropriate methods of data collection and analysis commonly employed in anthropology, including both qualitative and quantitative methods; laboratory, archival, and/or museum research; and fieldwork involving archaeological, survey, or ethnographic techniques.

Question 3b: Research methodology: Plan B. In addition to the plans laid out above, we need to know you have developed a strategy that will allow you to address your research questions should the situation change dramatically. If you are unable to travel or meet in person with research participants and collaborators, how will you address your research questions? What methods will you use to ensure that your research is safe and ethical? [Limit: 1000 words]

See Question 3a, above.  In addition to explaining your methods and strategies, please provide us with any information we might need to assess whether they will be ethical and safe in the context in which you plan to work.

Question 4: Why are you the right person to carry out this project? We are interested in how you became committed to doing this work. Describe your background and your relationship to the community or communities affected by your project. We are also interested in how you have prepared yourself for this research. Describe your language competence, technical skills, previous research, and any other relevant experience. Describe any work you have already done on this project and how this research relates to other research you have done. You may be working with academic collaborators. If so, please describe their role in this project and how it will relate to yours. [Limit: 1000 words]

In assessing your project, we will also pay close attention to your preparation. Do you have the required language skills and technical expertise needed for your project?  You may have listed academic collaborators and other academic personnel in an earlier section of your application.  Who are these individuals?  What will be their role?  How will they contribute to your project’s success? Have you sought the advice of local scholars and/or arranged academic affiliations?   Have you carried out a pilot project? What results did it yield?

We will also take into account your background.  How did you come to your project and why are the issues you plan to explore so important to you?  What connections do you have to the individuals and communities affected by your work? Why are you in a good position to navigate the ethical concerns raised by your research?  Do you have a network of local contacts?  How will you address any safety or access issues that arise?

It’s fine to share personal information if you feel it is important and relevant.  But please don’t name your program or institution.  This will help us avoid the challenges posed by prestige bias.

Question 5: Please discuss the most salient ethical issues raised by your research and explain how you are approaching them. Institutional review boards tend to focus on immediate risks to participants and the importance of anonymizing data. Our understanding of research ethics extends much further. We encourage you to think broadly about your ethical obligations to research participants, descendant communities, local stakeholders, and others affected by your work. Note to applicants who propose to work with human remains: we’re interested in understanding how you are constructing the identity of the people whose remains or tissues you are studying and what efforts you and the institutions you are working with have made to engage with descendant communities. [Limit: 500 words]

We aren’t interested in replicating the work of your institution’s ethics board in asking these questions; instead, we want to encourage you to think carefully about the social, political, and legal implications of your work. We recognize there are no single right answers when it comes to ethical concerns you will be facing. But we would like to see that you have educated yourself on the ethical issues raised by your research and are seeking effective ways of addressing them.

In answering this question, think carefully about the context in which you will undertake your project. All research creates debts. What debts do you owe the people who have made your research possible? This question may seem particularly relevant to ethnographers. But it is just as important for anthropologists undertaking other kinds of work. Whose land are you excavating, and whose ancestors are you studying? If you are working with non-human animals, what unique ethical concerns will you confront? What is your responsibility when it comes to understanding the conditions under which the collections upon your research rests came into being? What acknowledgement do you owe to this history and those affected by it? What risks might your research pose and to whom? Who will benefit from your work?

If you are working with collections of documents, material objects, or biological remains, we expect thoughtful consideration of how these collections were formed. Whose voices are included in these collections? What power dynamics are in play, and how might your work contribute to them? Are there ways your work might either worsen or counter these inequalities in power? In the case of archives and material objects (such as those from historical excavations), what do we know about who did the collecting and how? Who and what was privileged in this process? Whose ancestors may have shaped these items and their interpretation?

We are particularly concerned about the use of human remains (skeletal, genetic, and other kinds of soft tissue). We would like to see that you’ve given careful thought to the problem of informed consent, especially as it affects historically acquired collections. What information does the holding institution have about these individuals? How were they acquired and with what level of consent? What do you know about the people whose remains and tissues you will be studying? Whose ancestors are they? What assumptions, implicit or explicit, have you mobilized in constructing the identities of both groups?

Applicants seeking to learn more about ethical issues in the field are encouraged to read widely, including in anthropological ethics, moral philosophy, applied ethics, and bioethics. You also should consult the guidelines and principles promulgated by professional societies. You should be able to frame their research in the historical context of the field, addressing the discipline’s changes and enduring problems. Although your answer to this question should not replicate the work of institutional ethics boards, applicants should be attentive to their foundational commitments. For example, review boards that provide oversight for U.S.-based researchers were established in the 1970s—when a wave of notoriously unethical medical studies came to light—and are driven by three key principles:

Respect for persons. This principle includes both respect for the autonomy of human subjects and the importance of protecting vulnerable individuals.

Beneficence. More than just promotion of well-being, the duty of beneficence requires that research maximize the benefit-to-harm ratio for individual subjects and for the research program as a whole.

Justice. Justice in research focuses on the duty to assign the burden and benefits of research fairly.

A well-articulated statement to Question 5 will seriously address how broad principles such as these will guide a project’s particular ethical concerns and commitments.

To learn more, see Margaret R. Moon, “The history and role of institutional review boards: a useful tension,” AMA Journal of Ethics 11(4): 311–316.

Question 6: What contribution will your project make to one or more traditions of anthropology? Please note that the Foundation’s mission is to support innovative research and researchers. We are interested in funding scholars who will do more than simply add to an existing body of knowledge. Describe how your project will bring new insights to the field as a whole and help the discipline live up to its full potential. [Limit: 500 words]

The Wenner-Gren Foundation defines anthropology in its broadest terms as a discipline that advances knowledge about what it means to be human.  A successful application is one that emphasizes the proposed project’s contribution to the broader field of anthropology. Be explicit about what your research will add to wider anthropological conversations and how, by funding your project, we will be building capacity in the discipline as a whole.

Optional URL for Access to Figures

You will have a chance to upload charts, maps, or graphs that you refer to in your response to the project description questions. Please use this option sparingly. Only include figures that are essential for communicating your plans and goals.


You should tailor your bibliography specifically for this proposal. Focus on your central research question and the broader conversations and debates that have inspired you. You’ll want to cite literature related to your approach to your topic, your research context, your methods, and any ethical issues raised by your research. You’ll have a chance to upload your bibliography to our online application system.

Please use a format compatible with Microsoft Word.

  1. Only list the sources that you cite in your resubmission statement or your responses to the project description questions. In-text citations should take the form of the authors’ name{s), year, and, where relevant, page number(s). Please format the citations as shown in these examples: (Baviskar 1995), (Friedner and Osborne 2015), (Nelson et al. 2017), (Zee 2020: 1068), (Baviskar 1995; Friedner and Osborne 2015; Nelson et al. 2017; Zee 2020: 1068).

  2. Your bibliography should not exceed 10 pages, using single-line spacing and 10-point font or larger.

  3. Make sure your bibliographic references are complete, listed in alphabetical order, and presented in one of the bibliographic formats found in major English language anthropological journals (such as Current Anthropology, Ethnos, or the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, among others). Whichever model you choose, be consistent throughout.