The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and The British Academy Knowledge Frontiers Symposium: scheme guidance notes

Thursday 11 – Sunday 14 May 2023

The British Academy

10-11 Carlton House Terrace




The British Academy is inviting applications for early career researchers in the humanities and social sciences to attend a research collaboration symposium on the broad theme of ‘What is a good city?’.

The symposium aims to incentivise and establish international engagement and collaboration between early career researchers based in Germany and the United Kingdom from a broad range of disciplines within the humanities and social sciences, encouraging the exchange of ideas across both disciplinary and national boundaries.

Purpose and focus

The symposium will aim to draw on the insights of the humanities and social sciences to explore varied understandings and experiences of what is a good city.

The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the British Academy are particularly interested in encouraging broad and innovative interpretations of what makes a good city, whether past or present, physical or imaginary from researchers in both the humanities and the social sciences.

Suggested areas of exploration include:

  • Values: What have been and are the criteria by which a ‘good city’ is judged? What social, political, economic, and cultural values are embedded in urban policy making? What value is placed on the non-human environment in a ‘good city’? When different values and modes of valuation are mobilised, how are such conflicts, frictions and complementarities negotiated? Can an integrated planning be imagined or actualised?
  • Preparation: How have cities prepared for the unexpected, and how can they do so in the future? How can cities steer themselves out of disasters and emergencies, including in the context of the climate crisis, and how have they previously done so? What governance, resilience, adaptation, anticipatory intelligence, social inclusion, political processes and health provision should a ‘good city’ have? Can contingency or serendipity be factored into planning? How might cities respond creatively to the opportunities and possibilities of an open future?
  • Space: What positive measures can a city undertake to make it easier for different groups of people to live together? What infrastructural – understood well beyond the physical – decisions can be taken to better the wellbeing of citizens? How will or can the transformation of urban spaces in a decarbonised society of the future transform collective action and democratic processes?
  • Experience: How is the city experienced? How can we engage across the divide of otherness in a city? The ‘good city’ evokes the good life, yet urban citizens often live with ill health, pollution, poor living conditions, fear, anxiety, isolation, crime and helplessness. How can urban life maintain and repair human wellbeing and mental health rather than harm them?
  • Representation: How does a ‘good city’ represent itself? How does the ‘good city’ create a sense of the urban experience? How does it image its past, present and future? How can a ‘good city’ tackle and mediate difficult histories and legacies? How is the imaginary of the ‘good city’ constituted? How does the image of the city inform the experience of the dweller of the city? How can political representation and the institutional organisation of politics come together and be experimented with in the city?

The symposium format will allow for extensive discussion and debate, with considerable time set aside for this and wider networking opportunities.

The Symposium

The symposium will bring together around fifteen early career researchers from the UK and fifteen from Germany (understood as up to ten years after obtaining a PhD) from across the humanities and social sciences to discuss key questions around the theme of ‘What is a good city?’. The symposium is designed specifically to encourage collaboration and networking. In advance of the symposium, participants will be able to discuss their research and exchange ideas among themselves; begin to discuss the session themes; and make connections for possible future activities.

In order to incentivise long-term collaboration and networking, seed funding will be made available for which participants can apply. These collaborations must be international in their makeup, and can be either partnerships or groups. Time will be set aside on the final day of the symposium for a ‘sandpit’ style session in which participants write up their proposed collaboration and submit applications by the end of the session. Over the course of the symposium there are further networking sessions set up to facilitate the development of collaborations and proposals. The application form for seed funding will be circulated in advance of the symposium to ensure participants are fully aware of the opportunity and requirements.

Participants will also be eligible to apply for CONNECT, a follow-up programme for participants of Frontiers of Research Symposia offered by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. It provides allowances for short workings visits in Germany or in the United Kingdom that can be taken up at any time following the symposium.

In addition to funding a number of collaborative proposals, the symposium will aim to provide opportunities for a range of other outputs. Participants, for example, could be invited to contribute to a publication focused on the symposium theme, either through individual papers or in partnership with other symposium participants, record audio outputs or write blog posts that will be compiled into a series dedicated to the symposium. Further information about such opportunities will be provided at the symposium.


For the purpose of this symposium, early career is defined as being within a ten-year period from the award of a doctorate. Participants must be based at research institutions in the UK.

Participants must be able to travel on dates and times, and on trains or other modes of transportation chosen by the British Academy

Attendance is mandatory for the entire symposium. If this is not met, it will result in a participant not being eligible for the seed funding available.

UK-based attendees may only participate in two British Academy Knowledge Frontiers Symposia in any 24-month period.

Selection criteria

Applications will be assessed against the following criteria:

Application process

Applicants should provide:

  • A completed application form
  • A CV (in English) which should not exceed two pages
  1. Applications must be submitted online using the British Academy's Grant Management System (GMS), Flexi-Grant®.
  2. The deadline for submissions is Wednesday 11 January 2023 at 17:00 GMT.
  3. We will seek to notify successful applicants by mid-February 2023.


The symposium will take place in London, the United Kingdom, from 11-14 May with arrival on 11 May 2023. The costs of travel, visas and accommodation for participants will be covered. Participants should attend the entire symposium programme and be available to travel on transport options chosen by the British Academy.

Further information

Further information is available from [email protected]

About The British Academy

The British Academy is the UK’s national body for the humanities and social sciences – the study of peoples, cultures and societies, past, present, and future. The British Academy’s purpose is to inspire and support high achievement in the humanities and social sciences throughout the UK and internationally, and to promote their public value. We have three principal roles:

  • A Fellowship of distinguished scholars from all areas of the humanities and social sciences, elected by their peers, that facilitates the exchange of knowledge and ideas and promotes the work of our subjects.
  • A Funding Body that supports the best ideas, individuals and intellectual resources in the humanities and social sciences, nationally and internationally.
  • A Forum for debate and engagement that stimulates public interest and deepens understandings, that enhances global leadership and policy making, and that acts as a voice for the humanities and social sciences.

About the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

The Alexander von Humboldt (AvH) Foundation promotes academic cooperation between excellent scientists and scholars from abroad and from Germany. To this end it grants more than 700 research fellowships and research awards annually. These allow foreign scientists and scholars to conduct a research stay in Germany and to collaborate closely with their hosts and partners. Scientists or scholars from Germany can carry out a research project abroad as a guest of one of well over 30,000 Humboldt Foundation alumni around the globe – the Humboldtians. Nowadays the foundation’s network embraces scientists and scholars from all disciplines in more than 140 countries - including 59 Nobel Laureates.

Each year, the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation grants

      • Humboldt Research Fellowships to highly qualified foreign scholars and scientists who have either completed their doctorates in the last four years (postdoctoral researchers) or less than twelve years ago (experienced researchers), enabling them to undertake long-term periods of research in Germany;
      • Georg Forster Research Fellowships to postdoctoral and experienced researchers from transition and developing countries;
      • Humboldt Research Awards to internationally recognized foreign scholars and scientists (nominations by German scholars/scientists);
      • Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Awards to outstanding scholars and scientists from abroad who have completed their doctorates less than eighteen years ago;
      • Feodor Lynen Research Fellowships to highly qualified German scholars and scientists who have either completed their doctorates in the last four years (postdoctoral researchers) or less than twelve years ago (experienced researchers), enabling them to spend periods of research abroad;
      • Alexander von Humboldt Professorships to top-rank researchers of all disciplines working abroad who are eligible to be appointed to full professorships in Germany to carry out ground-breaking and long-term research (nominations by German universities);
      • German Chancellor Fellowships for prospective leaders in fields such as politics, public administration and business as well as society and culture from the United States of America, the Russian Federation, the People’s Republic of China, Brazil, India and South Africa.

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