Information about the Congressional Research Grants Sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center
Grant Recipients, 2013
How do I apply?
did grant recipients accomplish in their first year of funded
Information about the Congressional Research Grants Sponsored by The Dirksen Congressional Center
NOTE: The next deadline
for applications is March 1 of the current year. Awards will be announced in April.
The Dirksen Congressional Center invites applications for grants to fund research on congressional leadership and the U.S. Congress. The Center, named for the late Senate Minority Leader Everett M. Dirksen, is a private, nonpartisan, nonprofit research and educational organization devoted to the study of Congress. Since 1978, the Congressional Research Grants program has invested more than $915,136 to support over 425 projects. Applications are accepted at any time, but the deadline is March 1 for the annual selections, which are announced in April.
The amount of funding available varies from year to year. In 2013, for example, The Center budgeted $35,000 for the grants with individual awards capped at $3,500. In 2014, however, The Center expects to make up to $75,000 available with the same limit of $3,500 per grant. Alternatively, the Board of Directors may choose to allocate a portion of the total to fund research on one particular subject and increase the cap amount for that category of grants accordingly.
Who is qualified to apply?
The competition is open to individuals with a serious interest in studying Congress. Political scientists, historians, biographers, scholars of public administration or American studies, and journalists are among those eligible. The Center encourages graduate students who have successfully defended their dissertation prospectus to apply and awards a significant portion of the funds for dissertation research. Applicants must be U.S. citizens who reside in the United States.
The awards program does not fund undergraduate or pre-Ph.D. study. Organizations are not eligible. Research teams of two or more individuals are eligible. No institutional overhead or indirect costs may be claimed against a Congressional Research Award.
What kind of research projects are eligible for consideration?
The Center’s first interest is to fund the study of the leadership in the Congress, both House and Senate. Topics could include external factors shaping the exercise of congressional leadership, institutional conditions affecting it, resources and techniques used by leaders, or the prospects for change or continuity in the patterns of leadership. In addition, The Center invites proposals about congressional procedures, such as committee operation or mechanisms for institutional change, and Congress and the electoral process.
The Center also encourages proposals that link Congress and congressional leadership with the creation, implementation, and oversight of public policy. Proposals must demonstrate that Congress, not the specific policy, is the central research interest.
The Center does NOT require grant recipients to use historical materials in its collections. For persons interested in such research, however, please visit http://www.dirksencenter.org/print_collections_overview.htm for information about our holdings.
The research for which assistance is sought must be original, culminating in new findings or new interpretation, or both. The awards program was developed to support work intended for publication in some form or for application in a teaching or policy-making setting. Research produced by previous grant recipients has resulted in books, papers, articles, course lectures, videotapes, and computer software.
What could a Congressional Research Award pay for?
Generally speaking, an award can cover almost any aspect of a qualified research project, such as travel to conduct research, duplication of research material, purchase of data sets, and costs of clerical, secretarial, research, or transcription assistance. This list is merely illustrative. Specifically excluded from funding are the purchase of equipment, tuition support, salary support for the principal investigator(s), indirect costs or institutional overhead, travel to professional meetings, and publication subsidies.
Awards range from a few hundred dollars to $3,500. Stipends will be awarded to individuals (not organizations) on a competitive basis. Grants will normally extend for one year. In some circumstances, the Center will make more than one award to a single individual in consecutive years, but not more than three awards to the same person in a five-year period.
The Internal Revenue Service requires The Center to report disbursements of more than $600 to individuals. Accordingly, we file a 1099-MISC reporting grant payments. If potential recipients prefer to have payments made to a university foundation on their behalf, they must submit with their proposal a letter from the responsible official stipulating that no indirect or overhead costs will be charged against the grant. In other words, the entire amount must be paid out to the individual.
How do I apply?
Download the Word document -- Congressional Research Award Application -- and complete the required entries. You may send the application as a Word or pdf attachment to an e-mail directed to Frank Mackaman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please insert the following in the Subject Line: “CRA Application [insert your surname].” Thank you.
The Congressional Research Award Application contains the following elements:
- Applicant Information.
- Congressional Research Award Project Description. A description of the project's goals, methods, and intended results demonstrating clearly its importance to the awards program priorities. This is the most essential element of the application. Be sure to explain the project's significance and relationship to existing scholarship. Recommended length: five pages.
- Budget. Indicate how funds will be spent and the extent of matching funds available, if any. Recommended length: one-half page.
- Curriculum Vita. The vita or resume should not exceed two pages.
- Reference Letter. Graduate students (those who have successfully defended their dissertation proposal) must arrange for a letter of reference from the person directing their dissertation work. The letter should be sent on institutional letterhead as a signed pdf attachment to Frank Mackaman at email@example.com. Length not to exceed one page.
- Overhead Waiver Letter. If potential recipients prefer to have payments made to an institutional entity on their behalf, they must submit with their proposal a letter from the responsible official stipulating that no indirect or overhead costs will be charged against the grant. In other words, the entire amount must be paid out to the individual. The Overhead Waiver Letter should be sent on institutional letterhead as a signed pdf attachment to Frank Mackaman at firstname.lastname@example.org.
IMPORTANT: The entire application when printed must NOT exceed ten pages. This total does NOT include the reference letter (one additional page) or the Overhead Waiver Letter (one additional page).
When is the deadline?
All application materials must be received on or before March 1 of the current year. Awards will be announced in April.
How are recipients selected?
Proposals are judged by the significance of the research project; the project's design, plan of work, and dissemination; the applicant's qualifications; the relationship of the project to The Center's program goals and to current work in the field; and, the appropriateness of the budget request for the project's requirements.
Grant recipients agree to...
- Acknowledge the support given by The Dirksen Congressional Center wherever material is published or presented.
- IMPORTANT. Provide an “Impact Statement” after one year describing how the grant was spent and evaluating the impact of the research project. This 350-500 word statement will be posted on The Center's Web site.
- Furnish The Center with a copy of any book, article, or other publication incorporating research made possible by the grant.
- Cooperate in periodic studies conducted by The Center to evaluate the grants program. This may include writing summaries of research findings for use in other Center publications.
- Permit publication of the research abstract in print and electronic formats.
Call, write, or e-mail
Frank H. Mackaman
The Dirksen Congressional Center
Pekin, IL 61554-4219 USA
(309) 347-7113 (309) 347-7113
(309) 347-6432 FAX
Grant Recipients, 2013
Neal Allen, Political Science, Wichita State University
“Successfully Navigating the Politics of Race in the 1950s and 1960s: Future Congressional Leaders and Civil and Voting Rights Legislation”
This project will examine the politics of civil rights and voting rights in Congress in the 1950s and 1960s, with a focus on future congressional leaders Carl Albert, Jim Wright, and Bob Dole. Allen will collect and analyze data from congressional archives, particularly letters from constituents. This project will demonstrate how future leaders navigated the complex politics of civil rights, and also the relationship between House members and constituents generally. This work will speak to the scholarly literature of congressional leadership selection, partisan realignment, and the politics of race.
Robert G. Boatright, Department of Political Science, Clark University
“The Development of Congressional Primary Elections”
This project explores the development of congressional primary elections. Direct primary elections were among the most widely adopted reforms of the Progressive Era. At the time of their implementation, primaries posed the possibility that congressional elections would be far less predictable than in the past and far more open to party outsiders. In response to contemporary concerns about the relationship between primaries and political polarization, in this project I study legislative deliberations about the creation of primaries and archival material on nonparty organizations that sought to use primaries to run congressional candidates sympathetic to their goals.
Janet M. Box-Steffensmeier and *Alison Craig, Department of Political Science, Ohio State University; Dino P. Christenson, Boston University
“Cue-Taking in Congress: Interest Group Signals from Dear Colleague Letters”
We bring a new approach to the study of interest group influence in Congress by examining the impact of interest group endorsements in Dear Colleague letters on legislation. Dear Colleague letters are the official bulk correspondence among Members of Congress and one of the primary information-sharing tools available to them. They are a valuable information shortcut for legislators and, as such, provide insight into the cues that Members use to make policy decisions. We explore the effect of interest groups and interest group networks at several stages in the legislative process, including gathering cosponsors, committee hearings, and floor consideration.
*Neilan S. Chaturvedi, Department of Political Science, University of California, Irvine
“Surviving the Ideological Center: The Influence of Moderates on Lawmaking in the Senate”
This dissertation examines lawmaking in the Senate. Previous theories of lawmaking have put great importance on centrist senators as crucial to resolving gridlock and argue that they are the most powerful players in the legislative arena—when centrists are not satisfied, gridlock ensues. These presumptions dismiss the electoral background of moderates in the Senate. Chaturvedi argues that moderate senators are elected from states with unique electoral characteristics which force them to create a volatile coalition made up of differing interests. On salient and controversial bills, rather than maximizing policy outcomes, moderates are more interested in minimizing accountability.
Nancy Walbridge Collins, International Affairs, Columbia University
“Congressional Intervention: Historic Leadership of National Security Reforms”
This research project analyzes historic leadership in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate, in their creation, implementation, and oversight of national security policy. Methodologically, it seeks to intercede in a significant contemporary debate about Executive authority in this arena, which largely focuses on Presidential power and neglects to account for Congressional directives that compel organization, resources, and rules of the armed forces. Specifically, this work centers on the 1940s, a significant pivot in defense strategy focused on two leadership case studies, of Senator Arthur H. Vandenberg and of Representative Everett M. Dirksen.
Laurel Harbridge and Yanna Krupnikov, Department of Political Science, Northwestern University
“The Role of Gender in Legislative Compromise”
In 2012, a record number of female legislators were elected to Congress, leading news outlets to suggest that more women will mean more compromise and bipartisanship in the legislature. In this project we investigate these claims and analyze whether female legislators have a greater incentive to engage in compromise, while male legislators have a greater incentive to appear steadfast. We will assess whether increasing numbers of women in Congress can be expected to change the willingness of leaders to compromise on political questions. More broadly, our work has implications for the analysis of electoral incentives and public perceptions of Congress.
*James Jones, Sociology Department, Columbia University
“The 'Last Plantation': Racial Stratification and Segregation in the United States Congressional Workforce”
This dissertation project examines the impact of race upon the careers and daily work experiences of congressional staff. While there has been some attempt to document the high levels of racial and gender inequality that exist amongst congressional staff, this dissertation examines the structural processes that produce and reproduce a highly stratified and segregated workplace. Jones takes a mixed methods approach, combining quantitative and qualitative methods, to study the career trajectories of staff and to uncover barriers that block workplace mobility for staffers of color that ultimately provides a sociological window into the inner workings of Congress.
Inez Mergel, Department of Public Administration and International Affairs, Syracuse University
“Strategic Intent vs. Observed Tactics of Twitter Use Among Members of Congress”
This project aims to develop insights about how Members of the U.S. Congress intendto use innovative forms of Information and Communication Technologies, such as social media applications, to increase transparency, participation, and collaboration with their constituents. New forms of highly interactive online communication tools, such as the microblogging service Twitter, are challenging the existing information paradigm of Members of Congress, who have traditionally pushed out static chunks of information. This project will employ qualitative in-depth interviews with communication directors in combination with quantitative data derived from online interactions, to provide insights into the social media strategies and observable online.
*Maxwell Palmer, Department of Government, Harvard University
“Time and Political Power”
This project studies the importance of limited plenary time on legislative organization and leadership. I examine how time constraints lead egalitarian legislatures to create leadership positions and other organizational hierarchies and form procedural coalitions. I focus on calendar setting, the process by which a time constrained legislature decides on the set of bills that it will take up during the legislative session. I develop a formal model that shows why legislatures choose to elect a leader with the power to propose a calendar, and that this choice leads to outcomes that benefit a majority of the legislators.
*Melinda Ritchie, Department of Political Science, University of Illinois
“Who Follows Up on Policy? Members of Congress & Public Policy Implementation”
This dissertation presents a new type of congressional policy making activity called “home front advocacy”: Members of Congress advocate for their constituents’ policy interests by intervening with the bureaucracy to influence public policy. Using original data detailing interactions between the bureaucracy and members of Congress, I examine who follows up with policy to either ensure or block implementation and how legislators use home front advocacy to represent groups and local regions of their districts and states. Finally, I consider whether congressional leadership uses the bureaucracy’s discretion as a resource to exert their influence over public policy.
Scot Schraufnagel, Department of Political Science, Northern Illinois University
“Measuring Change in the Electoral Security of Congressional Leaders”
This research measures the electoral value of holding a leadership position in the House or Senate in the most recent midterm election, and compares this to the electoral security of congressional leaders in earlier elections (1982, 1994, and 2002). Theoretically, the relative surety of reelection for party leaders allows them to serve as public trustees without the parochial concerns of rank-and-file members. But, this allowance may have eroded in recent years. Preliminarily, we learn sub-committee and full committee chairs did receive statistically significantly more electoral support in 2010, but the same cannot be said for party whips or floor leaders.