Fieldwork Grants : Application Information

The World Oral Literature Project Fieldwork Grants Programme

PLEASE NOTE: the Fieldwork Grants Programme has released all of its funding and is no longer accepting proposals or expressions of interest.

The World Oral Literature Project supports local communities and fieldworkers engaged in the collection of oral literature by funding original research, and organising workshops and training in digital archiving methods. With priority for historically marginalised communities experiencing rapid socio-economic change, the Project awards small fieldwork grants for specific, short-term fieldwork. Applications from indigenous researchers and community cultural organisations are particularly welcome. Non-local researchers may also apply, but will need to demonstrate a longstanding relationship of trust, cooperation and engagement with the community whose oral literature is to be documented.

Grants typically range between $5,000 - $7,000, but may in exceptional circumstances reach up to $10,000 if a convincing case is made to the Fieldwork Grants Review Board for why extra funds are needed. Grantees are expected to complete the research within one year of receiving the funds, or provide a written explanation as to why the fieldwork has been delayed. At the conclusion of fieldwork, grantees will submit a short report on the research outcomes together with itemised receipts (see more below). While it is anticipated that the transcription, transliteration (if appropriate), translation and analysis of the collected oral literature will be well underway at the time of report submission, the Board also recognises that this is a lengthy process which requires care and extensive rechecking. Once the research is complete, grantees are expected to deposit copies of their catalogued recordings and transcribed data sets with the World Oral Literature Project in Cambridge for long-term preservation and archiving (see deposit information here). The degree and extent of online digital access to the materials must be guided by the needs and desires of the originating community. Options include an entire collection being freely available to all through the Web, more restricted levels of access to community members only by means of a secure login, or no digital access of any kind. Respecting local ritual beliefs is central to the mandate of the Project, and non-local researchers are expected to take the lead from the communities with whom they work when planning for appropriate forms of dissemination.

The World Oral Literature Project does not hold copyright, nor will it exert intellectual property rights over the materials. It is expected that researchers reach agreement on these important issues with the source community, and that intellectual property rights and access are carefully addressed in the proposal. The Project requests that its financial support be acknowledged in publications and lectures that derive from the research. Most importantly, the Project expects the community in question to benefit from the fieldwork and urges all researchers to take culturally appropriate steps to ensure that collections are available and accessible locally. Applicants are encouraged to build the costs of safeguarding the collection for the community into their proposal.

How to apply

There is no application form and no deadline for the Fieldwork Grants Programme - proposals are evaluated on a rolling basis year-round. Applicants should include the following sections in their application:

  • Title of the proposed research
  • Short description of the research (one paragraph)
  • Map of the research area
  • Historical overview, brief literature review and socio-economic context of the community
  • Prior experience of the researcher(s), including proficiency in local languages and relationships with the community, discussion of intellectual property rights and access rights to collected materials
  • Discussion of methodology, recording techniques, transcription and translation technology (including software to be used and appropriate orthographies), cataloguing and archiving strategy (helpful guidelines on audio, image and video recording, compression and standards can be found on the EAP and JISC websites, and a great deal of supportive information on managing research data has been provided by the University of Cambridge library). Please read our Audio Recording Guidelines and our Field Documentation Sheet when preparing your application
  • Urgency and relevance of proposal, level of endangerment of oral literature
  • 3-4 page proposal including a detailed description of proposed project, timeline for completion and expected deliverables
  • Demonstration of community participation/involvement and support (such as a letter, endorsement, reference or outline of previous collaborative initiatives)
  • Short curriculum vitae (no more than 4 pages) of the researcher(s)
  • Detailed budget (costed in USD $) showing line items, unit costs, and including other funding sources received or applied for
  • Two signed reference letters (scanned attachments are preferable) from individuals familiar with your work who can vouch for your relevant experience, including their contact information

The Fieldwork Grants Review Board is aware that all fieldwork scenarios are different, and that the above outline may not be appropriate in all cases. All applicants are strongly advised to consider the time and financial costs of transcription and translation, and to give due consideration to the process of cataloguing and archiving the collection on completion of fieldwork. Grants are explicitly 'fieldwork', i.e. they are not designed to replace core funding but rather to support or enrich existing long-term research initiatives. Applicants who can demonstrate that they have secured other funding or can draw on support in kind will be given priority. Proposals should be emailed to

Eligible costs include: travel, insurance, visa fees and permits, maintenance in the field, consultant fees, translation fees, recording media, hardware (all items costing over $500 must be returned to the Project on conclusion of fieldwork for other grantees to use or be donated to the community where the fieldwork is undertaken), limited costs associated with local publishing and dissemination, and other reasonable, itemised expenses associated with fieldwork. All proposed hardware purchases must be justified in terms of recording methodology and context, i.e., the value of the acquisition of a digital camera must be explained in terms of its importance to the proposed fieldwork. The Fieldwork Grants Programme of the World Oral Literature Project does not pay overheads, direct or indirect costs to organisations and institutions, tuition fees, fringe benefits or conference travel, nor may applicants apply to cover the salary of the principal researcher(s) if they are already in regular employment.

The review process

Upon receiving your application (either by email or postal mail if you have no access to email), we will acknowledge receipt within 10 working days. The application will then be forwarded to the Fieldwork Grants Review Board for initial evaluation. Since Board members may wish to seek clarification on specific elements of the proposal, applicants should be prepared to engage in an open discussion about the merits and challenges of their proposed project. The Fieldwork Grants Review Board will then send the proposal out for anonymous external review. Reviewers will be asked to provide a confidential evaluation of the importance, urgency and feasibility of the proposed project. The entire review process is estimated to take approximately 8 weeks. Final decisions will be communicated by email. When possible, the Project prefers making payments to organisations rather than to individuals.

Oversight and accounting

As a project based at the University of Cambridge, the World Oral Literature Project is subject to the University’s financial oversight and control. Successful grantees are required to keep all receipts and to provide accurate and itemised accounts at the conclusion of the project, along with a final report. Please see the Final Report Guidelines on our website. Original receipts should be sent to: Dr Mark Turin, World Oral Literature Project, University of Cambridge, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Downing Street, Cambridge CB2 3DZ, United Kingdom, by registered mail or courier. These will then be submitted to the University auditors at the end of the financial year.