skip to content

The Wenner-Gren Foundation

close window

2006 Annual Report

President's Report

President's Report

Leslie C. Aiello Ph.D.

This year saw the implementation of many of the initiatives that were planned and developed during 2005, my first year at the Foundation.  We also have a number of new initiatives underway.  On July 1 we launched a new website to provide a clear and intuitive portal for the Foundation’s many programs and other activities. We are particularly proud of the site's interactive map of the world showing the geographical breadth of the research carried out by our grantees, the searchable grantee database, the overall design of the site and the ability it affords us to communicate easily and effectively with the anthropological community.  The numerous images on the website provided by our grantees also illustrate the breadth of modern anthropological research supported by the Foundation.
Together with the website we have also launched a web-based application and grant review system that has many advantages over the paper-based system previously in use. Among the most important benefits is the ability to promptly provide all grant applicants full reviewer feedback in time for those whose applications are declined to reapply for the next deadline, particularly those who are declined in the first stage of the review process. Other benefits include the ease with which applicants can now apply to the Foundation and the economies in processing the applications once received. 
Along with this new public face of the Foundation, we have revised our information and application materials with the aim of improving and clarifying all of our grant-making activities. We have also taken this opportunity to revise some of our programs in order to provide a better service to the field and increase the international reach of the Foundation.  In particular, we have added a South African Fellowship to our Wadsworth International Fellowships program. This fellowship is designed to support African students working towards doctoral degrees at South African universities. It updates the Foundation’s long-term program of support to anthropology and archaeology at the University of Cape Town and the University of the Witwatersrand.  We also have expanded our Wadsworth Short-Term Fellowship to cover training opportunities as well as library research for international students and scholars from countries where anthropology is under-represented. In addition, we have increased the maximum amount of money available through the International Collaborative Research Grant to encourage training activities to help build anthropological capacity in countries where it is needed. Finally, we have laid the groundwork for a new Institutional Development Grant worth $125,000 over five years and designed to aid academic departments in countries where anthropology is underdeveloped.  

Over the past few years applications for our Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship have increased considerably. While this reflected a definite need in the field for writing fellowships, there was also the danger that the corresponding increase in the number of fellowship awards was shifting the focus of the Foundation from funding research to supporting the publication of research already completed. To maintain our primary aim of funding anthropological research and encouraging international anthropology, these prestigious fellowships are now limited to eight or nine per year.
In addition to the steady increase in the number of Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship applications over the past few years, this year saw a particular increase in applications across all of our programs.  We believe that the increase in applications for our individual awards is largely due to our new systems, which provide feedback in time for declined applicants to apply again in the same year. The increase in our other programs is most probably due to the clarity of the new website, which better advertises the availability of these awards and facilitates the application procedure.  

This year we have also actively promoted the Foundation by attending and presenting grant-writing workshops at a number of high-profile anthropological conferences including the American Association of Physical Anthropology (March, in Anchorage, Alaska), the European Anthropological Association (August, in Budapest, Hungary), the European Association of Social Anthropology (September, in Bristol, UK) and the American Anthropological Association (November, in San Jose, CA). At the AAA meeting we sponsored a number of additional events, including: an evening reception, where we introduced our new website and funding initiatives; a Presidential Panel, "The Roots of Human Sociality: A Four-Field Approach," which stemmed from the 134th International Wenner-Gren Symposium on "The Roots of Human Sociality: Culture, Cognition and Interaction"; and a book launch reception for three international symposium volumes published in 2006.
These initiatives and activities could not have occurred without the enthusiasm and support of the Wenner-Gren Board of Trustees, the academic Advisory Council, and the Foundation staff. I would like to offer my sincerest thanks to the entire Wenner-Gren community which has supported me during my first year and a half at the Foundation, enabling the many developments we have achieved in this time and placing the Foundation on a secure footing that assures our continuing support for the field into the future.   
Leslie Aiello
Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research