The SUG Program is No More; Please Welcome Digital Humanities Advancement Grants

April 7, 2016

The Office of Digital Humanities is pleased to announce a major change in our grant offerings. The TLDR version: We are eliminating both the DH Start-Up Grant Program and the DH Implementation Grant program and replacing them with a single program that will be offered twice per year that will combine features from both programs. The new program is called Digital Humanities Advancement Grants (DHAG). Details below.

The longer version: The Digital Humanities Start-Up Grants are no more! Long live the SUGs! The Start-Up Grant program was the very first grant competition launched under the NEH’s Digital Humanities Initiative (DHI) way back in 2006. (DHI later changed its name to ODH, the Office of Digital Humanities.) Over the past ten years, we received 2236 grant proposals and made 299 awards in the SUG line. The SUG program was created at a time when getting funding for a digital project was rare and getting scholarly recognition for doing digital work was often problematic. The SUG program was designed to respond to this feedback by making funds available to try out experimental new paths or to explore innovative ideas, using a high-risk/high reward funding paradigm. We wanted to use the imprimatur of the NEH to seed the field with projects that could demonstrate the value of digital scholarship. For those who remember, the SUG program was also co-sponsored by the IMLS for several of those early years, which really helped us get DH practitioners working closely with libraries and museums, a relationship we think has proven to be very fruitful and important.

One feature people really liked about the SUG program was that we had two deadlines per year, meaning you didn’t have to wait up to 12 months to apply. Getting grants already takes too long -- we hoped the SUG program would be able to greatly speed up that process by running every six months.

Five years later, in 2011, we made a major change. Now that we had funded quite a few start-up projects, people in the field were clamoring for a next-stage grant -- a Finish-Up Grant, as one scholar described it to me (though that acronym was problematic ;) ). So in 2011 we launched the Digital Humanities Implementation Grant program (DHIG) which offered a much larger grant for projects that had already moved beyond a successful start-up phase. But due to financial constraints, we couldn’t afford to run two deadlines per year for SUG and have any funds left for DHIG. So we cut SUG down to once a year and ran it alongside DHIG.

Since 2011, the DHIG program has funded many terrific projects. But we continue to receive feedback from the field wishing for more frequent deadlines. Plus, the field has evolved. Since we launched our office ten years ago, we’ve seen amazing changes: New DH centers; faculty members with “digital humanities” in their titles; cluster hires in DH; librarians, technologists, archivists, and other alt-ac folks dedicated to digital scholarship in the humanities; and other funders around the world making grants available for digital projects. 

So we decided this newer environment needed a more flexible grant program. To that end, we are eliminating both SUG and DHIG. In its place is a new, merged program called Digital Humanities Advancement Grants (DHAG). The new DHAG program will run twice a year -- every six months -- so you can apply and hear back from us quickly. At each deadline, you can apply for any of three levels of funding that map neatly to the old SUG/DHIG lines:

Level 1: Max $40,000 (similar to SUG Level I)
Level 2: Max $75,000 (similar to SUG Level II)
Level 3: Max $325,000 (similar to DHIG)

This program is designed to be very flexible and to allow you to apply for the kind of funding you want, when you need it.

The program will also have a cool new feature, again based on lots of feedback we’ve received. It is called Sustainability Match. The idea is that if your project is about sustaining an important digital project that is widely used by the field, you can get an extra level of funding provided you can raise matching funds from a non-federal source.

We are currently working on the guidelines for this program and we anticipate having them up during the summer of 2016. Then the first deadline will be January 11, 2017. The second will be six months later, in June 2017, and so on.

Thank you and we look forward to continuing to support your work.