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Call for an Immediate-Launch Democracy Lab

The College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences is announcing a call for an “immediate launch” Democracy Lab that brings faculty, PhD students, post-docs, and undergraduates to work together on a project that addresses the challenges to democracy that became urgently apparent on August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville.

This lab will be the first of several that are part of a broader, multi-year Democracy Initiative, which received a pledge of matching support from the University’s Strategic Investment Fund at the Board of Visitor’s June 2017 meeting.  Over the next several years, we plan to launch a series of labs that take up a broad range of challenges to democracy including: poverty and joblessness; social and income inequality; refugee crises; eroding support for democratic institutions and norms; corruption and authoritarianism; pressures of food and water shortages; and the changing media environment.  By launching the Democracy Initiative, the University of Virginia seeks to catalyze a series of interconnected research and teaching projects that study how democracies have fared in their efforts to achieve legitimacy, stability, civil equality, accountability, prosperity, and resilience in the face of contemporary and past challenges.

Given the events of August 11 and 12, we have decided to jump-start the research, teaching, and public engagement activities process. We plan to issue a call for additional Democracy Lab proposals later this academic year.

Proposals for an Immediate-Launch Democracy Lab should include:

  • A statement of the issue or problem the project will address through research, teaching, and public engagement activities, making it clear how the proposed activities relate to the events of August 11 and 12.
  • A list of current UVA participants (e.g. faculty “fellows,” post-docs, and graduate students who may be involved in the project, and their potential roles).
  • A research/teaching/public engagement plan that lays out what activities will take place in 17-18, and which ones will continue in 18-19 and (optional) extend into 19-20.  Please note that the “immediate launch” lab must be ready to begin initial activities this fall, as soon as the proposal is approved.
  • A short description of a co-taught “Forum” that will bring the issues explored in the project to first- and second-year undergraduates in 2018-19 (To learn more about the Forums, visit
  • A statement explaining how the project draws on contributions from more than one department or school and contributes to the strength of research and teaching programs in more than one unit.
  • Letters of support from the chair or dean of all units contributing to the project.
  • Short (2-3 page) CV’s of all current UVA faculty.
  • A budget outline.

Please limit proposals to 2 to 5 pages, plus the budget, letters, and CV’s. Proposals not funded in this first round of applications may be revised and re-submitted in subsequent years. If you have a concept in mind for a lab but are unsure if it meets the criteria above, please be proactive and ask for assistance. The goal is to bring as many ideas to the fore as possible.

Budget Notes:

We intend to support a total of $1 million to $3 million expended over a 2- to 3-year period, starting this fall.  The Dean’s Office will provide assistance in preparing budgets and offers the following guidelines:

  • Partial teaching buyouts to provide faculty leaders and faculty fellows with the time to devote to this project.
  • Summer wages for nine-month faculty who will organize activities that extend into the summer.
  • Post-doc(s).
  • Graduate fellowship(s) for current PhD students who will work in this lab in lieu of serving as a TA for one or two years.
  • Wages for undergraduate students who work in the lab.
  • Wages for a graduate student who provides admin support.
  • Visiting scholar(s)
  • The costs of supporting a co-taught Forum, including backfill funds for departments that lose teaching.
  • Research expenses.
  • Visiting speakers, conferences, and/or other events.

The successful proposal will be selected from among those submitted based on: 1) how the lab addresses the events and issues of August 11th and 12th; 2) how it addresses the challenges facing democracies in our local community and beyond; 3) how it leverages existing faculty expertise; 4) how the activities help train graduate students and serve our undergraduate students; and 5) how the lab can lead to opportunities for public engagement.

Information Meeting for all interested faculty, department chairs and programs directors: WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2017, 12:00 noon, New Cabell Hall (Room 504).

Proposal Deadline: September 28, 2017.

Please submit proposals to Mieke Zylstra.

Questions may be addressed to Associate Deans Len Schoppa and Francesca Fiorani.