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Office of Grant Development

High Risk Research in Biological Anthropology and/or Archaeology (HRRBAA)

Amount Note:

Estimated program budget, number of awards and average award size/duration are subject to the availability of funds. Individual awards are limited to $35,000 and one year duration.

Eligibility Note:
Applicant must be based at US institution.

This program is designed to permit the submission of high-risk, exploratory proposals that can lead to significant new anthropological knowledge. Because of a highly competitive environment, proposals that have both a high risk of failure and the potential for significant payoffs are less able to compete with standard research proposals. This program is designed to provide a mechanism whereby risky proposals with a great potential for advancement of the discipline can compete for funding. The risk involved in such endeavors must significantly exceed that associated with regular research projects. Two branches of the discipline represented by NSF programs -- Archaeology and Biological Anthropology -- utilize this mechanism.

Following are examples of possible proposals for this program. This is by no means an exhaustive list. As the definition of risk can vary by sub-discipline and because an assessment of the potential payoff is integral to the decision process, it is necessary to discuss topics with the appropriate program officer prior to submission.

  • An archaeologist may have excellent theoretical reasons for conducting field research in a particular region but it is not known whether appropriate sites or preservation conditions exist. Necessary information is lacking to develop an on-the-ground research plan.
  • A biological anthropologist may desire to search for primate remains in an area of Southeast Asia. The location of appropriate geological formations may be suggested by early documents in a library, but a reconnaissance trip to the area is necessary to assess the ability to locate suitable sites and to gain permissions and logistical support to conduct the research.

Time-limited opportunities for significant research may also be considered. For instance, this program could be appropriate to conduct research on a critically important skeletal collection that is to be repatriated and for which appropriate permissions are in hand but within a limited time frame.

The review process for HRRBAA proposals involves obtaining three reviews from experts in the appropriate area, but does not require review by the cognizant program panel. Hence review can be expedited relative to standard proposals that are evaluated by an advisory panel.

Investigators must contact the cognizant NSF Program Director before submitting an HRRBAA proposal. This will facilitate determining whether the proposed work is appropriate for HRRBAA support.

Last Updated On: 2018-04-02

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