Expanding the Field of
Cultural Evolution

Key dates    |    Additional opportunities    |    How to apply    |    Capstone Conference    |    Capacity Building    |    Further info

Thanks to the generosity of the John Templeton Foundation, the Cultural Evolution Society is running a major new funding scheme to address big questions in the field of Cultural Evolution. After all, how our cultures evolve (including how information is transmitted, how people make decisions, and the interaction with our biology) is a pressing issue in a world in which our cultural activities are causing rapid, and drastic, social and physical changes.

On this page, you can find general information about the grant scheme and details of the application process. Once the Research Projects and Applied Working Groups are confirmed in late Summer 2022, there will be further information regarding their objectives, including ways in which you may contribute, plus regular updates on upcoming events and networking opportunities. Please let us know if you would like to be notified of future activities by filling in this form.

Two trees: a has branches that are connected only at the trunk (biological evolution), and b has branches that are interrelated (cultural evolution)
Representation of biological evolution (a) versus cultural evolution (b), after Kroeber (1948:216; redrafted by Dean R. Snow) – read more about cultural evolution

Through this funding scheme, we aim to tackle early career obstacles, western-centrism, traditional disciplinary divides, and division of scientists and public policymakers – see here for details. These aims are embedded in the review process and opportunities for mentoring for those invited to the full application stage, as well as the co-produced Capacity-Building Courses and Capstone Conference we will run.

We will fund 16 Research Projects and 5 Applied Working Groups.

The Research Projects will relate to the following thematic areas:

  1. Variation in Creativity and Imagination
  2. Cultural Influences on Access to ‘Reality’
  3. The Impact of Globalization on Cultures
  4. Applying Cultural Evolution to Enhance Global Human Futures

The Applied Working Groups will be designed by the applicants, to implement Cultural Evolution initiatives with real impact on, for example, policy (e.g. public health, education), politics, business, climate change, conservation and welfare. They will be expected to organise an international workshop to engage policymakers in using Cultural Evolution to help solve current and future real-world problems.

Find out more about these themes and the Applied Working Groups here.


Key dates

  • Closing date for the first (outline) stage of the funding competition was Wednesday 5th January 2022 (UK time).
  • Deadline for those invited to the second (full application) stage was 17th June 2022.
  • Funded awards are expected to be announced in August 2022.
  • Funded awards are expected to begin in December 2022-January 2023
  • At the end of 2024, there will be a Capstone Conference in Durham (UK), where the findings from all of the Research Projects and Applied Working Groups will be presented to scientists, policy makers and the general public.

Additional opportunities, and expectations, associated with the funding

  • Use of the Open Science Framework (OSF) to manage the project, including data management plans, ethical approvals, pre-registration of hypotheses, as appropriate. A donation to OSF is made on the awardees’ behalf. To get up to speed with Open Science practices, we recommend the free tutorial written by Helena Miton for Complexity Explorer (Santa Fe Institute).
  • Attendance at the CES 2024 conference (mid-September 2024, Durham, UK) and the associated Capstone Conference, where award holders will present their work and network with others funded by this scheme. Funding will be provided.
  • Creation of public-facing explanatory slide shows/videos in collaboration with Design Science and with the support of our Research Communications Manager (funding provided).
  • Production of an open access article as a contribution to a journal special issue, highlighting the overall scheme findings. Publication charges will be covered, as will copy-editing and translation costs (if appropriate).

How to apply

The scheme is now closed for new applications

The funding scheme involves a two-stage process designed to increase, and support, the diversity of applicants. See here for previously released information on the Outline Application (Stage 1) and the Invited Full Application (Stage 2).

A high-quality proposal is paramount (see specific details for Research Projects and Applied Working Groups), and applicants are not required to meet any of the diversity criteria. However, the extent to which an application addresses the objectives for enhancing diversity in the field of Cultural Evolution may be influential in decisions at each stage.

Details of the requirements for outline proposals are available via these links: Research Project Proforma and Working Group Proforma. Detailed information for invited full proposals was made available to invited applicants and may be requested from the grant team.

Guidance & Assistance
Below you find a video of a pre-application workshop run in September 2021 where Rachel Kendal presents the funding scheme, different call areas, the diversity priorities as well as the application and review process, plus hints and tips.

We are committed to supporting applicants with disabilities. If you require a reasonable adjustment during the application process or have difficulty accessing any of the information on this website, please email us at ces.transformationfund@durham.ac.uk to let us know your needs.

Please see our Frequently Asked Questions if you have a query and contact us if any further clarifications are required.

Keep up to date via our dedicated Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts. Please do use these accounts to help you with building your application, for example to request advice from the field and/or in searching for relevant collaborators to complete your research project/working group team.

For specific questions about the funding scheme, please contact us by emailing ces.transformationfund@durham.ac.uk.


Capstone Conference

At the end of the grant, we will organise a Capstone Conference that will take place after the conference “CES 2024” in Durham (UK). Attendance at the CES conference and the 2-day Capstone Conference is included in the funding for award winners (1 participant per Research Project and 2 per Applied Working Group). The Capstone Conference will provide substantial networking opportunities as well as beneficial feedback. A translation/copy-editing fund to assist in the creation of a high-quality article for a capstone special issue in a journal (for those for whom English is not a first language) has been included in the budget.

The Capstone Conference will highlight the achievements of awardees and the results of the grant as a whole in relation to the intended objectives. On Day 1, the Research Projects of the themes “Variation in Creativity & Imagination”, “Cultural Influences on Access to Reality” and “The Impact of Globalization on Cultures” will present their work, followed by a poster session of grant-independent projects relevant to the grant remit and a networking reception. Day 2 will have an applied focus, including presentations from the Research Project theme “Applying Cultural Evolution to Enhance Global Human Futures” and the five Applied Working Group presentations. This will be followed by a networking dinner before participants depart the next day.

The anticipated audience is ~150 delegates, most of whom will have attended the CES conference (which attracts 300+ delegates). A wider non-attending audience will be facilitated through live-streaming, particularly useful for the more applied day.


Capacity-Building Courses

We will develop and run Capacity-Building Courses for low- to middle-income countries (LMICs). However, as the co-produced courses are expected to take place mainly virtually, anyone interested will be able to attend. We expect to provide in person opportunities in Ethiopia, Colombia, and Thailand. The courses, entitled “Cultural Evolution: Key Theory and Methods”, will include a package of knowledge and skills vital for enabling independent cultural evolution researchers. They will introduce cultural evolutionary theory and explore key methods used in the multi-disciplinary field, and may include multi-level statistics, experimental design, social network analysis, survival analysis, mathematical modelling (supported by existing online modules funded by the John Templeton Foundation), comparative methods, data management, academic writing, and ethics. Courses will have an identical core, with additional local aspects included if beneficial. The intention is that these Capacity-Building Courses enhance the geographical (and disciplinary) reach of CES and the John Templeton Foundation by increasing the future capacity of individuals from LMICs to apply for research funding, one of the Transformation Fund’s legacies.

The courses will be free and are primarily aimed at early-to mid-career researchers in the host institution and surrounding regions of our funded projects. The courses are, however, accessible to all applicants to the grant scheme and any other interested individuals. Courses will be developed by the Durham Research Methods Centre (DRMC) with oversight of Project Lead Rachel Kendal, and will  include approximately 5 days of content, including taught theory as well as practical exercises. A variety of fellows of the DRMC, and others from the cultural evolution field, will deliver each course, ensuring expert tuition in the variety of theory and methods.