The Center awards approximately 20-25 residential fellowships annually to individuals with outstanding project proposals in a broad range of the social sciences and humanities on national and/or international issues. Topics should intersect with questions of public policy or provide the historical and/or cultural framework to illumine policy issues of contemporary importance. While the Center does not engage in formulating actual policy, it is particularly interested in those projects that help provide the essential background against which current issues can be more thoroughly understood.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

Applications from any country are welcome. Men and women with outstanding capabilities and experience from a wide variety of backgrounds (including government, the corporate world, and the professions, as well as academia) are eligible for appointment. For academic participants, eligibility is limited to the postdoctoral level. It is expected that academic candidates will have demonstrated their scholarly development by publications beyond their doctoral dissertations. For other applicants, an equivalent level of professional achievement is expected. An applicant working on a degree at the time of application (even if the degree is to be awarded prior to the proposed fellowship year) is not eligible.

All applicants should have a very good command of spoken English since the Center is designed to encourage the exchange of ideas among its fellows.

Proposals of a partisan or advocacy nature are not eligible. Primary research in the natural sciences is not eligible, nor are projects that create musical composition, dance, or the visual arts.

Further, the Center does not consider projects that represent essentially the rewriting of doctoral dissertations; the editing of texts, papers, or documents; or the preparation of textbooks, anthologies, translations, or memoirs. If you have questions regarding your eligibility or the suitability of your project, please email the Scholar Selection and Services Office at

Selection Process

Fellowships are awarded on a competitive basis. Applications are assessed by interdisciplinary panels of distinguished scholars and practitioners. The panels’ recommendations are presented to the Center’s Fellowships Committee of the Board of Trustees, composed of public officials who serve ex officio, citizens appointed by the President of the United States, and citizens from the private sector. The Fellowships Committee of the Board of Trustees makes the final decisions on selection.

The basic criteria for selection are:

  • significance of the proposed research, including the importance and originality of the project;
  • quality of the proposal in definition, organization, clarity, and scope;
  • capabilities and achievements of the applicant and the likelihood that the applicant will accomplish the proposed project;
  • the relevance of the project to contemporary policy issues.

The Center welcomes in particular those projects that transcend narrow specialties and methodological issues of interest only within a specific academic discipline. Projects should involve fresh research—in terms of both the overall field and the author’s previous work. It is essential that projects have relevance to the world of public policy, and fellows should want, and be prepared, to interact with policymakers in Washington and with Wilson Center staff who are working on similar issues.


The Center devotes significant attention to the exploration of broad thematic areas. Primary themes are:

  • governance, including such issues as the key features of the development of democratic institutions, democratic society, civil society, and citizen participation;
  • the U.S. role in the world and issues of partnership and leadership—military, political, and economic dimensions; and
  • key long-term future challenges confronting the United States and the world.

Priority will be given to proposals related to these themes. Within this framework, the Center also welcomes projects that provide the historical and/or cultural context for some of today’s significant public policy debates.


The Center tries to ensure that the stipend provided under the fellowship, together with the fellow’s other sources of funding (e.g., grants secured by the applicant and sabbatical allowances), approximate a fellow’s regular salary. Stipends provided in 2002 ranged from $26,200 to $85,000 (the maximum possible in 2004-2005). Stipends include round trip travel for fellows and for their spouses and dependent children who will reside with them during the entire fellowship period. In addition to stipends, the Center provides 75 percent of health insurance premiums for fellows and these accompanying family members.

Length of Appointment

Fellows are expected to be in residence for the entire U.S. academic year (September through May, i.e., nine months), although a few fellowships are occasionally awarded for shorter periods with a minimum of four months. The Center does not award fellowships for the summer months (June, July, August). Fellowships may not be deferred.

Deadline for Applications

October 1, 2003

Decisions on appointments are announced by early April of the following year.

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