Discovery funds enable the HSS division chair to initiate seed funding for time-sensitive, high-risk/high-reward research ideas and innovative educational programs that might otherwise not be pursued because of a lack of available funds. Some of the division's most successful programs can trace their origins to a single injection of such well-timed, flexible private support.
Discovery funds, both endowed and expendable use, provide a crucial complement to traditional research funding. One discovery fund can support the early stages of a host of projects, in some cases more than 10 years sooner than traditional grants might. Federal grants most often favor very secure investments: projects with proven potential by scholars who are renowned in the relevant fields. Yet HSS researchers are known for exploring new intellectual frontiers, often transcending departmental boundaries and applying lessons learned in one field to great effect in another. Because they bridge the gap between inspiration and preliminary proof of concept, these relatively small infusions of seed funding can and do lead to groundbreaking outcomes.