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The Osmundsen Initiative and other important program changes

February 11, 2009

The Wenner-Gren Foundation is pleased to announce the Osmundsen Initiative, named in honor of Lita Osmundsen who was president of the Foundation from 1963 to 1987.

The Osmundsen Initiative provides up to an additional $5,000 of support for select applicants who receive either a Dissertation Fieldwork Grant or a Post-Ph.D. Research Grant from Wenner-Gren. This new initiative will enable grantees to demonstrate how their work would scale up from a local situation or focused topic to address broader social or intellectual issues. In the process, it encourages applicants to demonstrate the unique value of the anthropological approach to illuminating these broader issues.

Applicants for either the Dissertation Fieldwork Grant or the Post-Ph.D. Research Grant can simultaneously apply for the Osmundsen Initiative by simply answering an additional question on the application form, and providing a supplementary budget showing how they would use the additional funds. It is therefore essential that all applications for 2009 grants be made on the most recent application forms. Applications on out-dated forms will not be processed.

Importantly, applicants who apply only for the basic Dissertation Fieldwork Grant or the Post-Ph.D. Research Grant will be at no disadvantage in these competitions if they elect not to simultaneously apply for the Osmundsen Initiative. Likewise, applicants who elect to be considered for the Osmundsen Initiative have no special advantage in the regular Dissertation Fieldwork or Post-Ph.D. Grant competitions.

The Foundation hopes the Osmundsen Initiative will help offset cuts in our maximum grant awards. Our endowment has declined meaningfully in value over the past year, while the number of applications received by the Foundation continues to rise. Our goal is to fund as many grants as possible while at the same time preserving the Foundation's endowment for future generations of anthropologists.

We have therefore made the very difficult funding decision to decrease the maximum amount of the Dissertation Fieldwork Grant from $25,000 to $15,000, and to reduce the maximum amount of the Post-Ph.D. Research Grant from $25,000 to $20,000. Although these are significant cuts, over the past two years most of our grants have been considerably below the $25,000 maximum: The average amount spent has been $17,400 for Dissertation Fieldwork Grants and $20,300 for Post-Ph.D Research Grants. Nonetheless, we know the lower maximums will create challenges for some applicants, and deeply regret the need for these reductions.

Wenner-Gren has also made necessary cut-backs across our other programs. In 2009 we will award fewer Hunt Fellowships and fewer Wadsworth International Fellowships. The success rates for both our Conference and Workshop Grants and International Collaborative Research Grants will be lower than they have been in recent years. We have also made signifi