National Historical Publications & Records Commission

Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives

NHPRC-Mellon Implementation Grants

The deadline for this opportunity has passed. These guidelines may be used for reference, but should NOT be used to prepare an application.

Call for Proposals

The National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation invite implementation grant proposals for Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives. Working together, the Cooperatives will develop technical and human infrastructures to support the digital publication of documentary and scholarly editions and to provide for their long-term preservation, discovery, and use. This initiative responds to the urgent need of scholars and documentary editors for reliable, sustainable, authoritative, and field-driven outlets for publication and discovery of digital editions. At the same time, the Cooperatives will work together to create and sustain one or more federated systems for publishing and sustaining digital editions.

The NHPRC and the Mellon Foundation will evaluate the proposals. We expect to award up to three grants, up to $1 million each, to implement the Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives. The grant period may be between one and three years. Grants will be awarded in December 2019 with a project start date of January 1, 2020.

  • Final Deadline: EXTENDED to May 28, 2019​
  • Notification of selected proposals: August 1, 2019
  • Deadline for revision of selected proposals: September 6, 2019

Background and Context


The NHPRC-Mellon Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives Program seeks to address a unique set of challenges affecting both the documentary editing community and the larger public it serves. After two decades of experimentation, very few outlets for reliable, sustainable, authoritative, and field-driven publication and discovery of digital editions have emerged. Some university presses have discontinued or are rethinking their approach to digital publication of scholarly editions, while most have focused on the publication of ebook formats—inadequate for the kinds of dynamic, interoperable, editions that humanities scholars now produce (or seek to produce). In many cases, this situation imposes artificial constraints on projects’ intellectual horizons and editorial goals. Editors may make limiting choices simply because the opportunity to make use of or participate in a more ambitious approach lies out of reach in practical terms. At the same time, individual scholarly editions find it difficult to build and maintain their own digital infrastructure for creating and disseminating their work, and most producers of digital scholarly editions lack access to predictable, affordable, and sustainable publication channels.

Furthermore, modern digital scholarly editing practice does not take place in isolation. Digital editions could benefit substantially from ways to share information standards, work flows, digital tools, editorial practices, and dissemination mechanisms, and from opportunities to take advantage of shared information resources—such as the Social Networks and Archival Context (SNAC) Research Tool, which is addressing a long-standing research challenge: discovering, locating, and using distributed historical records. A strong network of projects working cooperatively can help overcome the limits of single projects.

This call for proposals for Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives does not seek to create or impose a specific framework or platform. Rather, it proposes a process for project teams to build—from the ground up rather than from the top down—a cooperative infrastructure for publication based on their own needs and capacities. This infrastructure should exploit the synergies among editions and enable them to interact. Infrastructure here means not just technological systems (such as digital repositories or discovery tools) but also shared standards, semantics, practices, and policies. These necessarily entail discussion and compromise, and we envision each of the project teams would identify common frameworks and shared foundations and then expand on these to arrive at negotiated agreements for their collaborative work. Cooperation in this environment needs to be built, not imposed.

Working iteratively and in concert, project teams will also develop ways to operate as a federated system: to build broader connections at the level of technical infrastructure, shared tools and semantics, and cooperative policies. During the implementation grant period, project teams will work together to develop and implement essential connective strands—for example: policies concerning rights and access, common use of linked open data standards, a system of shared governance, and a means of sustaining the work.

This work is timely. Previous collaborative efforts have raised concerns about the difficulties of designing comprehensive platforms that anticipate all needs (and require compliance from all participants). However, the emerging technologies of linked open data make possible more flexible systems for sharing and harmonizing information resources that accommodate local variation and the realities of specific projects and available resources. While this initiative begins with existing projects, the Cooperatives are expected to develop policies and methods for the integration of future editions—with an eye toward opening pathways for what current editions can become over time.

Both the participating edition clusters and their institutional host(s) stand to benefit. For producers of scholarly editions, this initiative offers an opportunity to expand the number of predictable, viable, and sustainable venues for digital publication, discovery, and long-term preservation. Additionally, participating editors will have an opportunity to explore and build practical connections with other editions, and to develop processes for information-sharing and harmonization of practices and work flows across projects in ways that can enhance the value of each edition while creating fruitful synergistic effects no one edition could achieve in isolation.

For institutional hosts—whether a research library, university press or other scholarly publisher, or digital humanities center—the initiative offers an opportunity to explore the economics and feasibility of creating support systems for the publication, discovery, and free use of digital editions. While the work of the Cooperatives is likely to extend beyond host institutions, these same systems would potentially support local needs and would expand the core of unique resources available for discovery and use by a host’s constituencies. Host institutions would not only play an essential role as long-term stewards; they would also make significant contributions to the larger conversation around hybrid and open-access solutions and high-level discussions of how these may play out at the national level. More broadly, participating editions and institutional hosts would be providing an essential public service to a vast array of communities, including subject experts, researchers, teachers, and non-academics, while advancing the field toward a more sustainable digital edition ecosystem.

Creating Project Teams

This initiative is intended as an opportunity to discover and address opportunities and obstacles to collaboration and interoperation. Digital editions can and ought to interact usefully with each other—but that useful interaction across editions must be developed through negotiations and agreements among their creators. We are particularly interested in teams whose source materials, work flows and editorial vision are complementary, offering opportunities to create strong research ecologies if brought together. We also welcome teams whose approaches are not seamless but raise significant and challenging methodological questions.

Each project team should include the necessary editorial, technical, and scholarly expertise to address the challenges of developing a Cooperative at every level, including the development or elaboration of new technology(ies) appropriate to the long-term needs of the Cooperative and its user community(ies). Each should be led by a principal investigator, with training and expertise suited to the vision and goals of this initiative, including the ability to develop and sustain mutually beneficial, interdisciplinary collaborations within and across institutions and subfields, and to manage a complex project over time. Experienced directors of documentary editions, research libraries, university presses, and/or digital history centers who have managed complex digital editions, digital humanities projects, or digital publication pipelines, may be particularly well suited for this role.

Each team should cohere around a common set of concerns, which may be defined in a variety of ways: by historical subject area, research methodology, or common editorial structures. For example, a team with a focus on African American intellectual history could involve several ongoing documentary editions whose resources promise to advance new research and study in that U.S. history subfield. A project focused on advancing research in the comparative and transnational history of slave emancipation might bring together documentary editing projects related to the U.S., Cuba, and Brazil. An interdisciplinary team with a methodological focus on social network analysis might bring together editions drawn from history, literary studies, sociology, and/or anthropology, whose work stands to gain from close interaction. Likewise, projects that cohere around the need for common editorial and/or data structures could include editions based on legal records or documentary editions that allow for geo-spatial analysis. Cooperatives, once established, are expected to expand over time: to develop methods for and administrative capacity to market their products, to engage their user community(ies), and to recruit and integrate new edition projects.

This initiative is not intended to fund the basic editorial work or normal operating costs of participating edition projects. The editorial work of each project team should be well-advanced so that they can focus on cross-project collaboration and negotiation. Project teams will work collaboratively to determine common editorial practices, work flows, encoding schemes, protocols for data sharing and reuse, and underlying systems of data management and curation. To this end, project teams should include experts with appropriate training and experience to guide technical planning and implementation. Project teams may wish to consult experts in project design and publishing. Each team should also include representatives from one or more institutional hosts able to provide guidance on long-term digital preservation and publication support for the edition cluster. To this end, participation of one or more university presses and/or research libraries is strongly encouraged.

Terminology and Concepts

As an initiative intended to generate new collaborative possibilities, this call for proposals necessarily asks applicants to engage a variety of individuals and entities from across the humanities research and publishing ecosystem whose professional vocabularies may differ. The following glossary is offered to help applicants communicate as clearly as possible when writing their narrative proposal.

  • Project Team: The individuals identified to work together on the implementation grant itself, minimally consisting of a principal investigator to spearhead the initiative, and a lead representative from each of the participating editions and the host institution(s). The project team may also include outside consultants, as appropriate.
  • Edition: An edition is an editorial project created to make public (publish) the content of historical documents and sources (such as original manuscripts or audio source materials) that serve a defined area of historical research, using verified transcriptions and following a consistent, well-articulated editorial method. Editions provide well-researched and sourced explanations of historical references and/or context, such as annotations, identifications of people, places, and organizations, and provide reliable metadata about each document or source, such as but not limited to author and date of composition. (The editorial work of each project team must be well-advanced so that all participants can focus on cross-project collaboration and negotiation.)
  • Edition Cluster: The group of editorial projects that will be working together on a particular project team. Edition clusters should cohere around a common set of concerns, which may be defined in a variety of ways—for example, by historical subject area, research methodology, or common editorial and/or data structures.
  • User Community(ies): The anticipated community(ies) of scholars, researchers, and publics who will benefit from access to the published editions and related products that the respective Publishing Cooperatives will develop, host, make discoverable, and sustain. Grantees should consider how best to engage their respective user community(ies) as part of their implementation process, to better understand user needs and evolving research practices, and to achieve long-term disciplinary recognition and “buy in.”
  • Institutional Host: The participating institution or set of institutions working in concert with the editions to create and sustain the digital and human infrastructure necessary for delivering / distributing the content to end users. The host may or may not also be responsible for providing a content management system and interface for editorial work; technology services to transform content from one format to another (e.g., XML to HTML) for all or some of the editions; and long-term digital preservation and access. It is up to each project team to determine what the responsibilities of its host(s) will be, but plans for developing, hosting, and sustaining the necessary technical infrastructure, including long-term preservation and access, should be decided by the time of application. Entities likely to serve as hosts may include (but are not limited to) university libraries or digital centers, independent research libraries, university presses and other scholarly publishers. Editions need not have a preexisting relationship with the proposed host(s).
  • Cooperative / Publishing Cooperative: The establishment of self-governing and self-sustaining publishing cooperatives is a key expected outcome of the implementation process. Each Cooperative will consist of an institutional host and an edition cluster, and should cohere around a common set of concerns.
  • Federated System: Project teams will work together to create one or more federated systems of cooperatives for publishing and sustaining digital editions. Federated system is here understood as the system of technical and human relationships to be defined by participating project teams for the purpose of building broader connections across the Cooperatives at the level of technical infrastructure, shared semantics, and policies.

Award Information

NHPRC and the Mellon Foundation will evaluate the proposals and select up to three for implementation grants. Implementation grants of up to $1 million, for up to three years, are expected to be awarded, for a total of up to $3 million. Implementation grants will be awarded in December 2019, with a start date of no later than January 1, 2020. The requested grant amount should be appropriate to the needs of the project’s institutional collaborators and the overall project scope, including technical requirements.

Grant funds are not intended to support the basic editorial work or normal operating costs of participating edition projects or their host(s). Additionally, grant funds may not be used to pay indirect costs.


Cost Sharing and Eligibility

Cost sharing is not a requirement.

Eligible applicants include nonprofit institutions of higher learning, including colleges, universities, and other academic institutions, as well as other nonprofit organizations or institutions.

All project teams must designate a principal investigator (described above) and an authorized representative responsible for financial reporting. Project teams involving more than one institution or other nonprofit organization must designate one of these institutions as the grantee for administrative purposes. The designated authorized representative must be a representative from the applicant/grantee institution. For a project team involving a collaboration of two or more institutions, the principal investigator must be based at either the applicant institution or a partner institution.

While project teams may include non-U.S. participants, the majority of participants, including the principal investigator, authorized representative, applicant organization, and the primary institutional host (if different) must be located in the U.S.

Application and Submission Information


Drafts and Full Application Submissions

Applicants are strongly encouraged to contact Darrell Meadows, NHPRC Director for Publishing and coordinator for the initiative, who can offer advice about preparing the proposal, including review of draft proposals. He can be reached at 202-357-5321, or by email at Although draft proposals are not required, potential applicants are strongly encouraged to take advantage of this preliminary review. Comments on draft proposals are not part of the formal review process and have no bearing on the final outcome of the application.

Full applications must be submitted in PDF format by email attachment to Darrell Meadows, NHPRC Director for Publishing, at, no later than midnight Eastern Standard Time on May 28, 2019. Applicants will receive confirmation by email upon receipt.


Application Materials

Your application should consist of a Proposal Information Sheet, Cover Letter, Endorsement Letter, Project Narrative, Budget and Financial Report Spreadsheet and Budget Narrative, and an Appendix. Please adhere to the following instructions when preparing your application (links are provided for all required forms).  All application materials should be submitted in PDF format.


  1. Proposal Information Sheet

Applicants must download and complete the Proposal Information Sheetlocated at

  1. Cover Letter

A cover letter on organizational letterhead, signed by the principal investigator, should accompany the final proposal and match the date of the Proposal Information Sheet. It should be addressed to the NHPRC-Mellon Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives Grants Program and include the project title; a clear, concise summary of the project; the amount of funding sought; and the names and contact information of any collaborating institutions and individuals. The cover letter should also include reference to the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s “Grantmaking Policies” and state that the organization understands and will comply with these policies.

  1. Endorsement Letter

A signed endorsement letter from the chief executive officer of the applicant organization is needed when the chief executive officer is not the principal investigator on the proposed project. The endorsement letter, on organizational letterhead and dated the same as, or later than, the cover letter, should be submitted with the final proposal. It should refer to the proposed planning grant and project title, budget and timeframe, and the date and substance of the principal investigator’s cover letter.

  1. Project Narrative

The project narrative should not exceed 30 pages, and should be double-spaced with one-inch margins and 12 pt. type.  The narrative should include the following sections:

  • Abstract and Overview (no more than 3 pages): Provide a clear and concise rationale for the project. Briefly describe your project team, identifying its participants and its proposed activities and expected results. Describe the expected outcomes and benefits of the project. Explain how participation in this initiative will meet the needs of both the participating editions and future digital editions, as well as how your project team will advance the work of the broader initiative. Outline the core opportunities and challenges you foresee in undertaking this work. Also provide a very brief budget summary.


  • Project Team:  Describe your project team in fuller detail. Project teams should elect a principal investigator to lead the initiative, and should also include at a minimum, the lead representative from each of the participating edition projects, as well as the lead representative(s) from the institution(s) or organization(s) committed to serving as an institutional host. List the names, affiliations, job titles, qualifications, and proposed responsibilities of all individuals who have already committed to participating, as well as those who have been invited but have not yet committed to participating, and those who might be invited, including any individuals who will serve as advisors. Describe the expected contributions of both the committed participants and the potential participants to this initiative. List the names, affiliations, qualifications, roles, and responsibilities of any consultants that would be employed. If applicable, provide a description of legal and operational relationships with other organizations, subcontractors, consultants, administering agents, or collaborators on the project (see the Mellon Foundation’s “Guidelines for Grants Involving Consultants and/or Subcontractors”)


  • The Edition Cluster and Its Target User Community: Describe the rationale that guided your selection of participating edition projects. Describe your project team’s anticipated user community and how the envisioned Digital Edition Publishing Cooperative will advance the particular subfield(s) or research area(s) it is intended to support. For each participating edition, provide a summary statement on the subject matter and scope, the amount of materials amassed, and the amount and type of work completed to date and remaining. Explain how the synergies between these editions will benefit the research community and how the potential interconnections between them will make for a set of editions that is more useful than a simple aggregation. (Synergies between editions might emerge in a variety of ways:  for example, thematic connections, shared social networks, geographic or temporal overlap. But they might also come from common editorial structures or principles, a need to represent similar source formats, or other concerns.) Provide letters of support from relevant individuals, institutions, and organizations in the Appendix. Describe your plans for engaging the target user community(ies), marketing the Cooperative’s products, and recruiting and integrating new edition projects into the Cooperative.


  • Expected Products and Services: Describe what products and services the Cooperative will offer, both to new editors / edition projects joining the Cooperative, and to researchers and other end-users. How the Cooperative will account for the related costs and fees should be addressed in the proposed Business Model (as described below).


  • Technology: If the proposed Cooperative will involve the use or development of new technology, provide a description and rationale for the proposed use and/or development. What are the reasons for their selection? Provide a brief outline of the proposed development plan, including any plans for (or results from) user-informed prototyping and beta testing.


  • Expected Challenges: Outline the most pressing issues or challenges (three or four at minimum) that your project team will need to address in forming a successful and sustainable Cooperative, and explain their relevance to the particular needs of your edition cluster, your host institution(s) and your identified user community. These likely include (but are not limited to):
    • Defining or harmonizing encoding methods, work flows, editorial approaches, digital tools, and other information resources that will be shared across the participating editions;
    • Identifying and developing appropriate protocols for the incorporation of linked open data resources, full-text materials, metadata, annotations, and other core informational components;
    • Other aspects of interoperability within the Cooperative and its edition cluster and/or external to the Cooperative (for example, interoperability across various tools created for or adapted to the Cooperative’s workflow);
    • Aggregating or linking to distributed collections of materials;
    • User community input and engagement;
    • Future identification, recruitment, and integration of new editions into the Publishing Cooperative;
    • Identifying, developing, and testing one or more business models that provide free online access to some or all of the Publishing Cooperative’s products, tools and/or other resources;
    • Current sources of technical expertise and/or sharing tools and technical expertise across editions.


  • Risks and Mitigation: This section should include an assessment of the risk factors that could potentially impede the completion of the project’s activities and goals within the proposed grant period. Please outline how the identified risks would be addressed.


  • Sustainability: Provide an account of how the participating organization(s) will ensure persistent, long-term technical, financial, and institutional sustainability for the resulting Cooperative.


  1. Budget Form and Budget Narrative

Applicants must download and complete the NHPRC-Mellon Digital Edition Publishing Cooperatives Program Budget Formlocated at  After saving a copy of this form to your local computer or network, you will be able save and edit your entries. The form itself contains additional instructions. Provide specific budget figures, rounding to the nearest dollar. Cost share is not a requirement of this grant opportunity.

The budget narrative should describe and justify the cost assumptions for each category and line item in the budget form. The budget narrative should not introduce new features of the project beyond what is presented in the project narrative.

  1. Appendix

Please provide the following in an Appendix:

  • Résumés: Two-page résumés for the principal investigator and all other members of the project team who have already agreed to serve, including those serving in an advisory capacity.


  • Position Descriptions: Provide job descriptions for any positions that would be created or filled during the term of the proposed grant.


  • Letters of Commitment: In addition to the required Endorsement Letter (see above), provide letters of commitment from the applicable partner institution(s), project team members, institutional administrators, and other individuals or organizations involved in implementation work and/or related processes.


  • Business Model: Provide a description (with visual representation if helpful) of the business model your team is envisioning for the Cooperative. How, for example, will the Cooperative provide for any expected operational and personnel costs associated with its products and services, including ongoing administration, technical maintenance, marketing, publicity and new acquisitions activities, while allowing for free public access to some or all of its products? This may be derived from an existing cost model, a modification of an existing model, or an innovative new model for consideration. It is understood that this speculation may change substantially over the course of project implementation.


  • Governance Plan: Provide a description of how the Cooperative plans to govern itself, including any plans for: the development and use of governing and/or advisory bodies (and their anticipated responsibilities); the formulation of policies and processes to guide ethical and mutually-beneficial decision-making and shared authority; and day-to-day management and oversight structure. Your governance plan should also indicate a preferred model for a system of shared governance, including policies and processes to enable the Cooperatives to participate together in a larger network of cooperatives. It is understood that this speculation may change substantially over the course of project implementation, especially as project teams work collectively to implement a federated system of governance.


  • Timeline/Work Plan: For the duration of the proposed grant period, provide a quarter-by-quarter schedule of activities, noting the related tasks, the individuals and/or institutions responsible for them, and the expected outcomes of each activity. It may be helpful to present this section in a grid format. Clearly indicate when the project team will meet and explain the expected results of each meeting.


Application and Other Deadlines

  • Submission deadline: EXTENDED to May 28, 2019
  • Notification of selected proposals: August 1, 2019
  • Deadline for revision of selected proposals: September 6, 2019


Application Review

All applications will undergo peer review by 5-7 external reviewers, using the following evaluation criteria:

  1. Significance and feasibility of the ideas animating the implementation process (30 percent): The quality, breadth, and scope of the ideas underlying the implementation plan, the clarity and feasibility of the proposed work plan, and the potential impact: for the creation, publication, discovery, marketing, and use of digital editions, including future acquisitions recruitment plans; for the participating projects and institutional collaborators; and for the advancement of disciplinary goals and scholarship.
  2. Project team (30 percent): The creativity, qualifications, and level of commitment of team members, institutional collaborators, and consultants; their appropriateness to participate in the implementation process; the breadth of representation from all relevant constituencies; and overall potential for a successful and sustained collaboration.
  3. Timeline (20 percent): The likelihood that the applicant will achieve the project’s goals in a timely and efficient manner.
  4. Budget (20 percent): The appropriateness and reasonability of the project’s costs.


The peer review process will be administered by the staff of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. Final selection of awardees will be determined in consultation with staff of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

The peer review process is expected to be completed by June 30, 2019.  Selected applicants will be notified by August 1, 2019, and will have an opportunity to incorporate comments from reviewers and submit their substantive revisions by September 6, 2019.  Proposals are then likely to go through a few rounds of review before the final acceptance; this process generally takes up to a month.  The final selection of recommended proposals will be presented at the November 2019 meeting of the NHPRC and trustees of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation will consider the proposals at their meeting in December 2019. Successful applicants will be notified by December 20, 2019.


Notification and Award Administration

Successful applicants will receive notification by December 20, 2019.

Awards will be administered by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, in consultation with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission.