Anna Harvey, President, Social Science Research Council; and Elizabeth Alexander, President, Mellon Foundation

The future of humanistic social science research is at stake! SSRC and MELLON are ending the International Dissertation Research Fellowship Program. Ask them to reinstate it.

To: Anna Harvey, President, Social Science Research Council; and Elizabeth Alexander, President, Mellon Foundation
From: [Your Name]

We received the news that the Mellon Foundation and Social Science Research Council intend to discontinue the long-standing International Dissertation Research Fellowship program with grave disappointment and concern. As social scientists whose work depends on international research, many of us have been among the 1,600 beneficiaries of the IDRF program when still graduate students. As faculty mentors responsible for the cultivation of new generations of social science researchers, we have considered the SSRC IDRF to be one of the premium sources of funding for doctoral field research. We are enormously grateful for the 25 years of support that the SSRC, with Mellon backing, has provided to junior scholars in our fields.

The SSRC IDRF is rightly known for supporting interdisciplinary and humanistic social science inquiry that is global in its remit, and local in its focus. In this respect, it is distinct among the sources of funding for field research. The intellectual rigor of its adjudication process and the excellence of the scholarship it has underwritten have ensured not only the robustness of the disciplines that depend on field research and qualitative methods, but also the international stature and influence of American social science research in general. In particular, this program has been a life-line for international students at US institutions who are not US citizens. It has thereby helped to ensure equity and diversity among our student populations and nourished the development of international scholarly communities and interdisciplinary conversations. It has also mitigated against the parochialism that afflicts national and nationalist social science cultures where support for research abroad has been weak.

The intellectual and socio-political necessity of social science research based in empirical and humanistic studies undertaken in situ and beyond the United States ought to be a fundamental principle for the Social Science Research Council. SSRC and Mellon have a unique role to play in enabling such research and thereby stewarding humanistic social science scholarship into the future. The challenges of the 21st century – authoritarianisms, climate emergency, conflict and political polarization, migration, global inequality and new economic forms, to name but a few – require active, engaged, and well supported scholarship. We believe that the termination of the SSRC IDRF represents a grave risk for humanistic American social science, and we urge the SSRC and Mellon to reverse this decision and to reinstate the program.