Planning  your DH Institute: Outcomes and Budgets 

January 12, 2021
Flamingoes, study folder for the book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom by Abbott Handerson Thayer.
Photo caption

Flamingoes, study folder for the book Concealing Coloration in the Animal Kingdom by Abbott Handerson Thayer.

This is the third of three posts (post 1 | post 2) that will help you conceptualize and describe your Institute for Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities. This post was written for the 2021 application cycle.

In this blog post, we’ll focus on the follow-up activities for your Institute for Advanced Topics in Digital Humanities (IATDH) and how to describe them to the peer reviewers who will read and evaluate your application.

We’ll be concentrating on the Impact and evaluation section of the narrative as well as the R&R Budget form. We’ll also be focusing on the following evaluation criteria:

  • The appropriateness of the project’s budget, in view of the project’s design and likely results.

You can find a full explanation of the review criteria in the Notice of Funding Opportunity.

Impact and Evaluation

Individuals involved in ODH Institutes often form a community that continues after their conclusion. Participants and faculty continue to work together on their projects, collaborate on scholarly articles and public programs, and highlight the work of the institute on social media to a new audience.

For an example of this kind of ongoing community, check out the Twitter hashtags #lawdi (from the 2011 Linked Ancient World Data Institute) and #msudai (from the 2014 Institute on Digital Archaeology Method & Practice).

In your application, make sure to describe strategies you will use to build and sustain a community after the completion of your Institute.

Because many Institutes receive more applicants than they can accommodate, we also ask you to describe any plans for making the curriculum available to an audience beyond the participants.  Consider if you will be making recordings (either audio or video) of any sessions, such as introductory lectures or plenary speakers. Will you be posting the project bibliography or showcasing the participant projects on an institute website?  How will the Institute’s website be maintained? 

Evaluation of any NEH-funded project is always important, and reviewers will look for evidence that you have a well-designed plan for evaluating your institute as it proceeds. How will you know if your institute is meeting the goals that you outlined in the Significance section of your application? How are you ensuring that you are gathering sufficient information so that you can recalibrate during the institute if participants are encountering difficulties? As one example, the Further Expanding Communities of Practice proposal outlines a multistep process for gathering feedback from their participants.

You’ll also want to plan to ask participants to evaluate the success of the Institute after it’s over. You’ll need data about participant experiences for your final report to the NEH. If you had such a fantastic time directing your institute and want to propose another iteration to the Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities program, you’ll also need to include those evaluations for your next application. So plan for this activity now.

R and R Budget and the Budget Justification

Starting in 2021, the Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities program, like most NEH funding opportunities, is using the Research and Related Budget form (known as the R&R Budget form).

The R&R budget form requires a budget justification to be attached. A budget justification asks applicants to help clarify their budgets and to help reviewers determine whether the budget is appropriate to the institute's goals.

In filling out the R&R budget form, make sure that you have accounted for all the activities and individuals described in your narrative and work plan. While a judicious budget is always appreciated, reviewers look askance if there aren’t sufficient funds to accomplish a project’s stated goals. A particular concern is whether instructors and participants are compensated appropriately. Instructors generally receive an honorarium, and while the amounts vary by project, reviewers will notice inconsistencies within an institute.

Funds are often allocated for participant travel, and sometimes also for a participant stipend. These funds can be distributed as reimbursements or as a set amount. Recently, reviewers have been attentive to the ways that these decisions may limit the accessibility of a program. While reimbursements put an extra burden on participants, set amounts may make it difficult for participants from distant or rural communities to attend. You can use the budget justification to explain how you made this decision.

More broadly, reviewers are particularly concerned about the ways that participant stipends may limit the applicant pool for a program. In one case, for example, a reviewer expressed concern that out-of-pocket costs could potentially prevent graduate students or faculty from smaller institutions from attending.

One thing reviewers tend to appreciate is the relatively new trend of allocating funds for post-institute support or mentorship, which can help demonstrate a commitment to the long-term impact of the program.

In all of these cases, clear explanations of how you came to determine your budget will help alleviate the concerns of reviewers, who are responsible for determining whether a budget is “appropriate” for an Institute for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities.

We hope that you have found this blog series to be useful and please don’t hesitate to contact ODH staff (@email) if you have any questions.  We look forward to receiving your application.