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Fellowship Program FAQ

A fantastic starting place for getting a feel for the fellowship program is 15 Lessons from the Berkman Fellows Program, a 2015 report written by David Weinberger. And a raft of past fellows are profiled in the collections listed to the right

On what basis are fellows selected through the open call?

Each year, we get far more excellent applicants than we have the capacity for, which is both a testament to the amazing work being conducted around the world and a challenging problem from a review and selection perspective.

The fellowship selection is a mixture of art and science, based on a number of factors considered in the calculus that are specific to the applicant and based on broader context—in particular, the Center's needs and composition of the fellowship class. Applicants are reviewed for achievements that are relevant to them (e.g., we don’t expect practitioners developing a new idea to have numerous publications, although we would expect that of an academic). In addition to this, we look for perhaps less tangible, but equally important traits including intellectual rigor, vision, research skills, curiosity, openness, kindness, commitment to the public interest, and much more.

What can I do to increase the chances of success for my fellowship application?

There is no formula, and if we asked each of the reviewers, we might well get a different answer from them all. There are no shortcuts or guarantees. The straightforward if unsatisfying answer is to develop a strong application, which means reflection on your part as to why you are interested in the fellows program, what you will do given the opportunity, and how it fits with your work and the Berkman Klein Center's direction. Many applicants have found that making the effort to engage members of the Berkman Klein community, whether formally or otherwise, is often helpful in this process—not so much for hints, but to get a sense of where and how they might fit in.

I plan on working on __________. Is the Berkman Klein Center also working on this issue and looking for fellows in this sphere of research?

Most people in the community are interested in a range of issues and are working on them with varying degrees of formality, whether as a primary activity or a sidelight. Fortunately, the technologies we study and the manner in which they are used in ongoing basis give insight into current research interests. We recommend you explore the various Berkman Klein communications platforms to develop your own sense of what the Berkman Klein Center is doing, what people are thinking about, and what isn't yet happening—but would be a great fit. Whether through books and papers, events, videos, and podcasts, the weekly Buzz, the community's individual blogs and sites, our Twitter list, or any of the other reflections of work and focus, we hope you are able to get a sense of our interests, approach, and aims.

It used to be that people could be employed while holding a BKC fellowship, right? Why has this changed this year, and how will that impact the fellowship experience?

For the 2022-2023 year, we expect that fellows will approach their fellowship and its research as a full-time job. We hope that by providing full stipends to some fellows, and expecting other fellows to have external financial resources to support a year on their fellowship research, we will enable fellows to spend more focused time in the BKC fellowship environment and provide a new level of space and capacity for fellows to think deeply about their work, produce scholarship, attend and facilitate discussions, build connections, and more.

How does my funding situation affect the review of my application?


In the Application Tracker you have to indicate if you have external funding and/or if you would like to be considered for a fellowship fully funded by BKC.

If you would like to be considered for a BKC-funded fellowship, then, regardless of whether you also have external funding, your application will be reviewed in the context of all applicants seeking BKC funding. For 2022-2023, we are offering three fully-funded fellowships.

If you indicate only that you have external funding to support your fellowship, then your application will be reviewed separately from those competing for BKC funding. We anticipate making offers to at least three externally funded applicants for 2022-2023.

Who reviews applications during the open call review?

Berkman Klein Center senior staff and faculty directors review applications, and our board of directors make final decisions about Berkman Klein Center fellowship appointments. Other members of the Berkman Klein community are often consulted in the course of the review process based on their knowledge or expertise related to specific applications.

When are chosen fellows notified?

The review and selection of Berkman Klein fellows applying through our yearly open call for fellows typically runs through early spring. The review of applications for other fellowship calls happens as applications are received, and decisions are typically, but not always, made in the 2-3 months following the fellowship announcement (and sometimes sooner). Finalists may be contacted for interviews before the final fellows selection.

Will I receive updates on the status of my application before final decisions are made?

Due to the large number of applications we receive and the dynamic nature of the review process, we are unable to give updates or answer questions about the status of specific applications during the course of our review.

How many fellows are selected each year through the open call?

We determine the size of the class in any given year based on a combination of applicant characteristics, our capacity to support fellows, and the Berkman Klein Center’s needs. Of course, the composition will change over the course of time, as opportunities for project fellowships arise based on new research activities.

My research proposal comprises a multi-year effort. If selected as a fellow through the open call, would my fellowship term span the full length of my proposal?

Fellowships last one year. Application proposals should be based on one-year efforts, or parts or phases of efforts that would be addressed during the time span of one year. Continuation beyond one academic year cannot and will not be offered at the outset of a fellowship.

What if I do not live in the Cambridge area? Are remote fellowships offered?

There are no Berkman Klein fellowships that are exclusively remote, and we expect fellows to live in the Cambridge area. It is the responsibility of each fellow to plan for and arrange their visits to Cambridge.

While we fully anticipate that the 2022-2023 fellowship program will be based in Cambridge, MA, this is contingent on favorable University health guidelines for the COVID-19 pandemic.

How much time are fellows expected to be working from the Berkman Klein Center offices?

In January 2022 we are moving into a new BKC office space on the Harvard Law School campus and will have dedicated space for community members to work from. We expect fellows to spend a significant amount of time in and around the offices during the fellowship year. Full-time daily presence is not required, though we anticipate that, at a minimum, fellows should spend three days working out of the office—and that Tuesdays should be one of those days. This expectation is intended to support community interactions and engagements that can only be developed through co-presence.

I cannot come for a full year but would like to have a fellowship for a 3-4 month period. Am I still eligible?

Unfortunately, we do not typically select fellows who will spend just a short period of time here in Cambridge. Nor do we currently have a formal program or application process for hosting visitors for short periods.

I see you have people who are called faculty associates and affiliates. If I can't do a fellowship, may I be considered for one of these roles?

Faculty associates and affiliates are appointed by invitation from senior staff and faculty directors; there are no independent application processes for these categories of affiliation. These roles include a range of wonderful people, from long-time collaborators to new friends, and are based around common agendas and aspirations. Like fellowships, each relationship is unique, and the modes of engagement with the Berkman Klein community vary. There are times we will consider a fellowship applicant for one of these roles, instead of a fellowship, based on ideas, goals, constraints, and opportunities that are communicated through the application process.

Does the Berkman Klein Center sponsor visas for international fellows?

For fellowships through our open call for applications, we work with the Harvard International Office (HIO) to sponsor visa paperwork for our eligible international fellows. An outline of the visa application process and requirements may be found on the HIO website at: http://hio.harvard.edu/scholar-visa-process.

Will the Berkman Klein Center write a letter of support for my Fulbright/grant/etc. application before I am selected as a Berkman Klein fellow?

Unfortunately, we are not able to accommodate requests to write preliminary letters of support for grant or other scholarship applications.

Are Berkman Klein fellows considered to be employees of Harvard University?

Berkman Klein fellows selected through the open call for applications are not considered Harvard University employees. Some project fellowships, with application procedures run through the Harvard HR office, are employee roles.

This FAQ is so dry. Where's the whimsy!?

The Berkman Klein Center is in fact a special place, and we're saving the whimsy for your arrival!


Journeys to BKC

Incoming Fellows pair off with the Center's 2018 summer interns to share stories of their passions, inspirations, and personal focuses


Publications 01

Sep 30, 2015

Fifteen Lessons from the Berkman Fellows Program

This report explores what makes the Berkman Fellows program successful and aims to derive lessons that can be applied to other institutions.