2020/21 Call for Funding: Catalytic Research Programme

The National Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (NIHSS) is pleased to invite academics based in South African public universities in the faculties of Humanities and Social Sciences as well as research institutes to submit their applications for funding for the Catalytic Research Programme.

The NIHSS reserves the right to extend the closing date or withdraw the call before the closing date based on the volume of applications received.


The Catalytic Research Programme is intended to dynamise the fields of research and teaching in the Humanities and Social Sciences (HSS) in South Africa through a range of catalytic projects. These are research-based projects, which aim to catalyse and open up new avenues of HSS scholarship and assist in the establishment of a network of researchers across universities in South Africa and the Global South. A ‘catalyst’ in this regard has to produce benefits to the research project for the higher education system and indeed for society as a whole, by:

  • dynamising the fields of research, disciplines and interdisciplinary work,
  • increasing the capacity to research further and theorise better, and
  • contributing to the raising of our status in the global academic commons

The Institute will prioritise projects that undertake studies on and around these themes:

  • Colonial and Pre-Colonial Histories (historical construction of South Africa from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries and link this to the broader region of southern Africa);
  • Arts and Sources of Creativity (creative fields from various settings across the HSS, to study cultural formations and social changes);
  • Indigenous Languages (the development of African languages for scientific use);
  • Reconciliation & Transformation;
  • Socio-Economic Alternatives;
  • Ecosystems and Climate Change;
  • Work and Livelihoods;
  • Popular Education and Higher Education for the Future (development and inclusion into mainstream education of methodological innovations found in popular education);
  • Digital Humanities; and
  • Uncovering Hidden Voices (publication of the grey literature, i.e. unpublished works such as university thesis, personal diaries, field-notes, manuscripts).


  • Publication of books, journals and creative outputs;
  • Opportunities for international collaborations within Africa and the BRICS countries;
  • Hosting of conferences, annual general meetings, workshops, seminars, dialogues, colloquia and similar academic events.


  • All applications/proposals must be endorsed by the relevant institutional representative.
  • Applicants must be researchers and academics based in South African public universities in the faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences. Priority will be given to South African citizens.
  • Postgraduate students must be currently registered for either PhD/Doctoral study on a full-time basis.
  • Applications/proposals will be assessed based on collaborations, innovative methodology, capacity building for post-graduate students and quality of outputs/publications.


  • Funding under the Catalytic Research Programme is limited to a maximum grant of R1 000 000.00.


  • Applications will be considered based on the following criteria:
  • Collaboration that would be established by the project with relevant institutions and universities;
  • Interdisciplinarity of the project;
  • Coherency and feasibility of the project;
  • Contribution of the project to the body of knowledge in the field;
  • Innovative use of the thematic rubric and methodologies;
  • Capacity building; and
  • Publications.
  • The proposal should promote equality and capacity-building in the case that the researcher includes training of South African postgraduate students (Master’s and Doctoral).
  • The project must be completed within 12 months from the date of contract signature, and progress and closing reports must submitted to the NIHSS.
  • Only proposals not exceeding R1 000 000.00 will be considered


  1. Application forms can be accessed at: https://gms.nihss.ac.za
  2. Proposal with detailed budget (projected income and expenditure).
  3. A motivation letter (maximum 1 000 words).
  4. Full curriculum vitae of the applicant (principal researcher, team members details to be included in CV).
  5. Letter of endorsement of institution(s), where the project will be based (relevant Dean/s).
  6. Certified South African ID copy of applicant or passport.
  7. In the case of postgraduate student applicants, a letter of recommendation from the supervisor confirming the applicants’ affiliation and capacity to undertake the proposed activity AND proof of registration.

Enquiries may be directed to Mr Katlego (Katlego@nihss.ac.za). For technical queries only, please call 011 480 2328

Closing Date: 30 September 2020

Incomplete or late applications will not be considered.