Scholarly research is an important—perhaps the most important—part of the humanities infrastructure. It is critical to the vitality of this field in both educational settings and society at large, and scholarship in specific humanities disciplines can have significant bearing on national and international issues. In the 1990s, for instance, few predicted how crucial research on the languages, the societies, and the historic tensions of the Middle East would become in the early 21st century. Humanities research that inquires into other cultures, such as those of China, for example, is equally critical in the context of a global economy and in the creation of an educated American citizenry. Meanwhile, such research and its dissemination have also always been indispensable elements in the civic culture of the United States and to the fostering of a well-informed and participatory electorate.

For all of its importance, however, scholarly research in the humanities does not usually make the front pages of newspapers, and while research in the natural and social sciences can often have direct and immediate relevance to public policy, applications for humanities research tend to be less obvious and less specific. As a result, the humanities can be overlooked in the competition for funding. Such funding as humanities research and other humanities-related activities do receive is, in turn, difficult to quantify. Equally challenging is any attempt to arrive at a comprehensive and detailed assessment of the sources of this funding, partly because they are so varied and dispersed. Government funding for humanities research and other activities flows from myriad agencies and programs at the federal, state, and local levels, while private funding is distributed by thousands of foundations and other not-for-profit organizations that play a crucial role in sustaining important areas of humanities research and ensuring the dissemination of humanities knowledge.

This part of the Humanities Indicators begins by describing public funding for humanities agencies and higher education and then goes on to estimate the extent of private investment in the humanities. The final section seeks to give some indication of the funding and other resources dedicated to supporting scholarly research in the humanities, as well as providing some gauge of the extent of scholarly publication in this field.