Press Release

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Grant Will Help Create Humanities Indicators


CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is developing a model set of Humanities Indicators supported by a new three-year, $701,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The Academy, in conjunction with a consortium of national humanities organizations, will create a prototype set of indicators – statistical data about the people who work in the humanities and about the work they do – to provide a comprehensive picture of the state of the humanities in the United States, from primary to higher education to public humanities activities. The collection of empirical data, modeled after the Science and Engineering Indicators produced by the National Science Foundation, will be made available to scholars, policymakers and the public on the Academy website.

"In comparison with science and engineering, the humanities lack both funding and statistical information," according to Humanities Indicators Project co-chair Patricia Meyer Spacks of the University of Virginia, who is also president of the Academy. "Public support of the humanities lags when no accurate data buttresses the need and importance of support. The Humanities Indicators Project begins to provide such data."

Dr. Norman Bradburn, a nationally recognized researcher on survey methodology at the National Opinion Research Center and the University of Chicago, will oversee the collection and analysis of data from existing sources, as well as data generated from cooperative efforts with learned societies, public humanities groups, and other agencies. Bradburn noted that in addition to creating reliable benchmarks to guide future analysis of the humanities, a goal of the project is to develop a consistent and sustainable means of updating the data. He is co-directing the project with Spacks.

"The nation lacks a broad-based, quantitative analysis of the status of the humanities in the United States," noted Leslie Berlowitz, Chief Executive Officer of the American Academy. "The field and the country need more reliable empirical data about what is being taught in the humanities, how they're funded, the size of the work force and public attitudes toward the field. This is a key goal of the Academy's humanities program. The Indicators Project will be an important step in closing that fundamental knowledge gap for the benefit of scholars, policymakers and the public at large."

The Humanities Indicators Project, part of the Academy's Initiative for the Humanities and Culture, follows its groundbreaking 2002 report, Making the Humanities Count: The Importance of Data. The Initiative is co-chaired by Spacks, Steven Marcus of Columbia University, Denis Donoghue of New York University, and Francis C. Oakley of Williams College.

The Academy began the Initiative for the Humanities and Culture to improve knowledge of the state of humanities, to provide a framework to examine the significance of humanities in our national culture and to develop resources and policies that will ensure the continued growth and health of the humanities. The Humanities Indicators Project marks an initial effort toward creating an infrastructure that will broadly support policy research in the humanities.

Central to education at all levels, the humanities provide historical, comparative, and critical analyses of human thought and culture. As academic fields, they include history, literature, languages, art history, philosophy and law.

Organizations partnering with the Academy in the Indicators Project include the American Council of Learned Societies, the Association of American Universities, the Modern Language Association, the American Historical Association, and the National Humanities Alliance.

As part of its Initiative for the Humanities and Culture, the Academy is completing three volumes to be published this year: The Humanities and the Dynamics of Inclusion, edited by David Hollinger, (Johns Hopkins Press); The Humanities Disciplines in the Twentieth Century, edited by Patricia Meyers Spacks, (Dædalus); and Tracking Changes in the Humanities (American Academy Occasional Paper). The larger initiative was made possible by support from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, and the Sara Lee Foundation.

Founded in 1780, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. Beyond its work in humanities and culture, current Academy research focuses on: science and global security; social policy; and education. With headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the Academy's work is advanced by its 4,600 elected members, who are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business and public affairs from around the world. (




Humanities Indicators

Norman Marshall Bradburn and Robert B. Townsend