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The Public Scholars program supports the creation of well-researched nonfiction books in the humanities written for the broad public. It does so by offering grants to individual authors for research, writing, travel, and other activities leading to publication. Writers with or without an academic affiliation may apply, and no advanced degree is required. The program is intended both to encourage non-academic writers to deepen their engagement with the humanities by strengthening the research underlying their books and to encourage academic writers in the humanities to communicate the significance of their research to the broadest possible range of readers. NEH especially encourages applications to this program from independent writers, researchers, scholars, and journalists.
What’s new for 2020 and 2021
- Changes have been made to the application format, including the following:
- The page limit for the narrative section of the application has been reduced from four pages to three pages.
- A new required one-page attachment indicating your plan of work.
- A new required form indicating the location(s) where you will carry out your plan of work.
- The program continues to offer special encouragement to independent writers who do not have a long-term position at an academic institution.
- The Notice of Funding Opportunity announces two deadlines (in December 2020 and December 2021).
Online Information Session
- A free online information session will be held on November 9, 2020. Register at the link below.
- Registration Link:
- The information session will explain the goals of the NEH’s Public Scholars program, the eligibility requirements, how to apply, how applications are reviewed, and how to write an effective application. The main presentation will be about 30 minutes long, and it will be followed by about 30 minutes of questions from participants. The session will be recorded and posted on the NEH website, together with a transcript. The recording and transcript will remain available on the website through the application deadline, which is Wednesday, December 16, 2020.
Begin by reading the Notice of Funding Opportunity. You want to ensure you understand all the expectations and restrictions for projects delivered under this program and are prepared to write the most effective application.
Sample Application Narratives
Ashley's Sack (African-American History)
Origins of European Genocide
A Biography of the American Architect Louis Kahn
A History of America through 100 Maps
Napoleon on Elba
A New History of Masada
American Folk Music
As soon as you know you're ready to apply, make sure you register for a Grants.gov, account as this is vital to the application process. If you already have registered, make sure it is up to date.
Follow the instructions outlined in the Notice of Funding Opportunity and Grants.gov instructions.
You will receive a confirmation from Grants.gov when you've successfully submitted your application.
After you submit your application, Grants.gov will send you up to five e-mail messages confirming receipt of your application. These messages represent different stages in the application acceptance process. You should verify that you have received all confirmation messages. Please note that email filters may send these messages to your spam or junk folder.
NEH requests letters of reference from your recommenders approximately seven to ten days after the application deadline. You will be notified by e-mail when each of your letters of reference has been received. After you have received the fifth message from Grants.gov (confirming that NEH received your application), you may check the status of your letters by logging in to the secure area of NEH’s website. Enter your NEH application number and your Grants.gov tracking number. You will be able to see the names and e-mail addresses of your letter writers and whether their letters have arrived. If necessary, you may send reminders to your letter writers (including the upload link) from this site. You are responsible for ensuring that your letter writers have received the solicitations from NEH and submitted their letters.