Global Religion Research Initiative to invigorate study of religions around the world

Author: Olivia Hall

Global Religion Research Initiative

Religion as a subject of study in the social sciences is a relatively neglected topic in universities and institutes around the United States, as is the study of religions outside the North Atlantic region. But the Global Religion Research Initiative at the University of Notre Dame seeks to change that.

The GRRI, directed by Christian Smith, director of the Center for the Study of Religion and Society and William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Sociology, is a newly launched initiative in the center that aims to advance the empirical study of global religion in mainstream academia.

Smith was awarded $4.9 million from the Templeton Religion Trust in Nassau, Bahamas, to fill that hole by launching the GRRI. The initiative will fund more than 150 research proposals by distributing $3.1 million to scholars of global religion through three rounds of applications over the next three years.

“The premise of the GRRI is that, as religion persists in significance in the contemporary, globalizing world, the social sciences in North America need much better to understand the diversity of religions and to integrate that enhanced understanding into research, theory and teaching,” said Smith.

The initiative offers six distinct research and writing grants and fellowships programs that each aim to significantly advance the social scientific study of religions around the globe: dissertation fellowships, postdoctoral research fellowships at Notre Dame, curriculum development grants, international collaboration grants, project launch grants and book-writing leave fellowships.

The variety of these opportunities is intentional and seeks to provide promising scholars at all stages of their careers with funding: not only scholars who already study religion, but also those for whom the study of religion is a new but genuine interest.

“Grants and fellowships like those we are awarding through the GRRI can make the crucial difference in propelling forward the research and careers of the most promising young scholars,” said Smith. “Such carefully targeted injections of resources can change research agendas, produce important scholarly publications and make the difference in scholars’ promotion and tenure prospects.”

The GRRI received more than 150 research proposals from scholars at 100 colleges and universities around the world in the first round of competition, which closed in mid-October. The submissions will be reviewed by leading social science scholars and approximately 50 of the proposals will be awarded funding this round. Applications for the second round will open in fall of 2017.

Notre Dame undergraduates can apply for GRRI Undergraduate Research Fellowships in the spring. More information about the Global Religion Research Initiative and the programs offered can be found at

Contact: Olivia Hall, Center for the Study of Religion and Society,

Originally published by Olivia Hall at on November 03, 2016.