Special Call: Bass Connections Invites Proposals for Projects Related to Democracy
January 13, 2022
Bass Connections is now accepting proposals for new year-long projects addressing issues related to democracy and the challenges of sustaining strong democratic institutions in a polarized world. Faculty interested in proposing a project should read the full submission guidelines and submit a proposal by Thursday, March 31 at 5:00 p.m.
Proposed projects may begin in Summer or Fall 2022. Funding for project teams is between $5,000 and $25,000.
Please note: This RFP is only for 2022-2023 projects related to democracy. Our next general call for Bass Connections project proposals will be in August 2022.
Bass Connections brings together faculty, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates and community partners to tackle complex societal challenges in interdisciplinary research teams. The five interdisciplinary themes of Bass Connections support research related to persistent societal challenges such as health inequities, race and social justice, environmental sustainability, the intersection of technology and society and the brain’s role in making us human.
As broad as these themes are, they are not all-encompassing, and we recognize the need to respond nimbly to new challenges confronting society. As a result, since 2018, Bass Connections has launched three “pop-up themes,” the first focused on hurricane recovery and resilience; the second on research related to immigration; and the third on issues related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This call is for project proposals related to a new pop-up theme around research related to democracy and governance in a polarized world.
Recent Threats to Democracy
By many measures – including freedom of the press, free and fair elections, and government transparency – democracy is declining in much of the world. Indeed, the nonprofit Freedom House’s 2021 report concludes that nearly 75 percent of the world’s population lived in a country that faced deteriorating conditions for democracy last year. Here in the U.S., 2021 began with an insurrection on the Capitol, to be followed by many states passing new laws restricting voting access and reconfiguring election oversight. A CNN poll from September 2021 found that 93% of Americans say that democracy is either under attack (56%) or being tested (37%). A November 2021 NPR poll found that just 62% of Americans say they will trust the 2024 election, regardless of who wins.
Bass Connections issues this special call for proposals for teams interested in tackling solutions aimed at strengthening democracy, at home or abroad, through a Bass Connections project in 2022-2023. Research questions may include, but are not limited to:
- Why is democracy worth defending? Where has democracy proven effective, and in what contexts has it failed? What reforms might help democratic institutions live up to their ideals?
- What has contributed to the increase in authoritarianism worldwide? What are the historical roots of these contemporary challenges, and how might the past offer critical perspective and lessons for the future of democratic ideals, institutions and practices?
- How important are the concepts of the rule of law and the existence of an independent judiciary to democracy? How have societies effectively negotiated the trade-offs between democratic decision-making and the protection of individual and minority rights?
- How have other emerging issues, including climate change, rising inequality and inflation, and the COVID-19 pandemic, impacted democracy in the U.S. and internationally? What interventions might seek to strengthen democratic resiliency in the face of social crises and economic inequality?
- Access to strong local media has been linked to political engagement and increased transparency. What new models might shore up and/or invigorate local media and journalism?
- How are the arts and humanities inspiring new conversations about democracy and polarization? How do the arts push us to think differently about democracy or inspire new and innovative forms of political organization?
- How should technology platforms be governed to ensure accountability and promote democracy?
- How might we restore trust in the media and voting systems, reinvigorate popular engagement in civic life, and/or fashion new institutions for popular participation in democratic processes?
- What solutions might bridge growing levels of political polarization, or what policy changes might allow government to operate more effectively in a continuing polarized environment?
In partnership with the Digital Humanities Initiative at the John Hope Franklin Humanities Institute, we also strongly encourage projects with a substantial digital or computational humanities dimension.
The deadline for proposals is Thursday, March 31, 2022 at 5:00 p.m.
Please read the full submission guidelines and use the online proposal form to submit your proposal. You may work directly within the online form and save and return to the form as you work. You may also preview the proposal questions and draft your responses using the following Word template.
Interested faculty, particularly those who have never led a Bass Connections team, are also encouraged to contact a Bass Connections theme leader or Laura Howes, Director of Bass Connections, at email@example.com with questions or to discuss potential ideas. Faculty may also drop in at any time to one of our informal Zoom office hours (https://duke.zoom.us/j/6666010362):
- Friday, February 11, 10:00-11:00
- Thursday, March 17, 12:00-1:00
Faculty are also welcome to reach out to members of the Bass Connections Faculty Advisory Council to discuss project ideas or possible collaborators within their school.