Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Award

Fulbright Iceland-National Science Foundation Distinguished Scholar Award in Arctic Research


Application Deadline
Monday, September 16, 2024
Award Code
Activity Type
Research includes activities involving scientific research, qualitative research, quantitative research, and practice-based research, including artistic research. Research can take place in locations such as the laboratory, the field, the archives, or an artist residency. It can be experimental, clinical, or applied. It can include examining policies, systems, theories, methods, interactions, and works of art and music, with the objective to evaluate or develop new knowledge or works. Quantifiable (tangible) outcomes can include publications (books, journal articles, scripts, etc.), conference presentations, artistic and musical compositions, exhibitions, performances, films, and patents.
Degree Requirements
Ph.D. (or other terminal degree) required
Career Profile
Senior Academics
Awards are open to those who have been working in the capacity of a teacher or scholar for more than 13 years.

Number of recipients

Award Start Period
August 2025 - May 2026
Award Length
3 months - 5 months
Flex Option
Multi-Country/Area Award
Area Studies (non- U.S.)
Environmental Sciences
Environmental Studies
Gender Studies
International Relations
Political Science
Public Administration
Public Health
Public Policy
Social Work
Urban Planning/Studies
Scholars selected for this award will be required to
Conduct a research project of the applicant’s choosing
Award Activity

Primarily a research grant, the recipient of this award will conduct Arctic-related research in Iceland. The project must be well-defined and completed within the grant period. Research projects should contribute significantly to the chosen field and must also result in peer-review publication and/or paper presented at a major international conference. Scholars may engage in some limited teaching, mentoring, and development activity, as long as the main focus is on the research project.

Location Selection: Applicant may propose an appropriate host
Locations Detail

Affilation with any university, research organization, or other appropriate partner in Iceland.

Award Length and Period

3-5 months

Start date is flexible within the academic year. Grants must be completed by mid-August 2026. Grants starting in May can only be 3 months.

Flex Description

The grant may be split into two segments, but must be concluded within one academic year.

The Flex Award is designed for scholars who require multiple visits to the host country. This option allows grants to be conducted over two or three short segments. Applicants must select Flex in the application form, and clearly describe their plans for Flex in their project statement, including a project timeline. Flex grantees may be asked to give public talks, mentor students, and otherwise engage with the host-country academic community.

Grant segments are allowed to be conducted in summer months (June, July, and August)
Areas of Interest

The grant is open to scholars in social and natural science fields as they relate to the Arctic and the people living there. This includes projects that have significance in the high north, even though the scholar's body of work may not focus solely on the Arctic.

All social sciences are eligible, including but not limited to anthropology, archaeology, economics, environmental humanities, geography, gender studies, governance, linguistics, political science, psychology, public/global health, science and technology studies, sociology, traditional knowledge and related subjects, socioecological systems, resilience, vulnerability, or other appropriate fields.

Eligible natural science fields include glaciology, geology, biology, sustainability science and other applicable fields.

Inter-disciplinary fields and projects are also encouraged.

Special Features

Fulbright Distinguished Scholar Awards are among the most prestigious appointments in the Fulbright Scholar Program.

Local host institutions are expected to assist the U.S. scholar to find suitable housing, settle in, provide social and networking opportunities and, in general, assist the scholar to ensure a productive and enjoyable Fulbright experience.

This grant is offered through a unique partnership between the National Science Foundation and Fulbright Iceland and provides an opportunity to build relations with both organizations.

The grant is a great opportunity for those who wish to conduct NSF-funded research abroad with a strong support system provided by the Fulbright Commission. 

All applicants must meet the Program eligibility requirements (click to review the requirements).

Citizenship/Residency Requirement
Applicants residing in the award country at the time of application or thereafter are not eligible to apply for this award.
Permanent residents of the award country are not eligible to apply for this award.
Invitation Requirement
A letter of invitation is preferred.
Invitation Requirement Additional Information

Scholars are encouraged to reach out to higher education or research institutions in Iceland and develop proposals with input from the prospective host. If assistance is needed in identifying a possible host, the applicant may contact the Fulbright Commission. 

Language Proficiency Requirements
None, English is sufficient
Additional Qualification Information

The applicant must have meaningful and longstanding experience in the chosen field, including significant accomplishments and accolades. 

Additional Comments

The National Science Foundation and the Fulbright Commission in Iceland are partnering to support Fulbright grants for senior U.S. academics working in the field of Arctic studies.

Contact at the Fulbright Commission in Reykjavik, Iceland: fulbright@fulbright.is.

Award Allowances

$6,000 per month or $6,500 per month for grantees with a dependent or dependents, payable monthly. This sum will cover maintenance, housing and research-related expenses. A dependent must stay in Iceland for at least 80% of the grant period to be eligible for a dependent supplement.

The grant is denominated in U.S. dollars but paid in Icelandic krona (ISK), according to the current exchange rate. 

Grantees are responsible for arranging their own housing, but the host institution is expected to assist the grantee in finding housing and settling in. Grantees whose host institution is in a rural setting can in some instances expect that their institution may provide housing.

Estimated Travel and Relocation Allowance for Grantee

Travel allowance is $2,000 for the grantee, payable with the first grant payment.
Baggage allowance is $600, payable at the end of the grant period.

No receipt is needed for travel and baggage allowance. 

Estimated Book and Research Allowance

An additional research stipend $1,000 per month.

Do you offer additional dependent benefits

$500 travel allowance per dependent.

Children can attend primary and lower-secondary public schools at little or no cost, which is a great way to integrate into Icelandic society. The Commission can assist grantees in finding an appropriate local public school.

Dependents must accompany the grantee for at least 80% of the period abroad and a minimum of one semester in order to qualify for additional dependent benefits. Dependent benefits are not provided to Flex grantees.

Estimated Cost of Living

Iceland is considered a high-cost country. Housing is comparable to smaller US cities, with housing most expensive in the capital area and less expensive outside the capital area. Food is relatively expensive compared to the US, but of high quality. Utilities are much less expensive than in the US. Many grantees live centrally and can walk to most destinations, but public transport in the form of buses is widely available.

Special Award Benefits

The scholar will be invited to monthly grantee enrichment events provided by the Fulbright Commission during the academic year, as well as an orientation meeting. Also, the scholar will be taken out to lunch at the beginning and end of the grant period for briefing and debriefing. 

Special funding for disabled grantees
Funding is available for US Fulbright scholars to Iceland with a disability, be it a structural or functional impairment or activity/participation limitation, that entails additional costs that are not covered specifically through the Fulbright Program. Some funding may be available for a wide range of disabilities, including, for example, hearing, vision or movement impairment. The funding could, for example, be used to assist with specialized housing needs, in-country transport or specialized assistance. The extra funding amount will depend on need and will be decided by the Commission after consultation with the scholar. Funding is provided through the Bruce A. Fowler Mobility Fund.


What is life like for Fulbrighters in your country?

Iceland is a small Nordic country, an island republic in the North Atlantic, between the U.S. and the European mainland. Iceland is technologically advanced, English is widely spoken and Americans find Icelandic society and culture relatively easy to navigate.

scholar standing on edge of volcano
Fulbright-NSF Arctic scholar Dr. Christopher Hamilton visiting the Fagradal Volcano in 2021

There has been tremendous growth in academia in Iceland in recent years. On the one hand, the Fulbright Program aims, through teaching grants, to enhance and develop key disciplines at the university level and encourage newer and smaller departments. Being a small country, it is very important to the Icelandic higher education system to have access to Fulbright Scholars who have an important role to play in terms of broadening curricula and offering courses that would otherwise not be available, as well as bringing new perspectives and collaboration in research. Fulbright Scholars make a real difference and have a large role in shaping courses and curricula. The Fulbright Commission has increasingly focused also on bringing research scholars to Iceland. Opportunities for research are many and varied and can easily be conducted in English. U.S. scholars, both in natural and social sciences, have in the past years been very satisfied with the research infrastructure in Iceland. Research collaboration is also highly valued by Icelandic academics, who are eager for opportunities to host and collaborate with U.S. colleagues. Through the Commission's partnership with the National Science Foundation, the goal is to strengthen research in Iceland that has relevance for the Arctic and promote cooperation amongst scientists in a wide variety of Arctic relevant fields. Please note that many research topics can have relevance to the Arctic, even though they may not be strictly categorized as Arctic research, for example topics dealing with climate change, health, conservation, security broadly defined (for example, food or energy security), marine or coastal studies, anthropology and archaeology, just to name a few.

Fulbright Scholars are generally pleased with their stay in Iceland and find it very useful for their careers back home. For those grants where Fulbright Scholars are expected to teach and advise, the program is designed to ensure an opportunity for scholars to do their own research as well, if they so desire. Iceland provides very interesting research opportunities in many fields. As a small, highly technologically advanced country, Iceland is ideal for many types of research. English is widely spoken and much used in academia. Scholars can generally expect good access to people, institutions and information for research purposes. 

Those who receive research grants will have opportunities to engage in some teaching and lecturing, if they so desire. Many find that this enhances their experience and is useful also for their research. Even if not teaching, scholars are required to present some talks while in Iceland.

Teaching awards are for three to five months in the fall or spring semester. The fall semester starts at mid-to-end of August and ends around mid-December. The spring semester is from early January through mid-May. Research awards are more flexible in terms of time frame and length, but must be completed within the allotted time frame.

Iceland has spectacular nature and offers scholars an opportunity for unique outdoor experiences, in addition to a vibrant cultural scene and an exciting local cuisine. There is a good public school system, and scholars with children have had positive experiences.

Since the Fulbright Program in Iceland is relatively small, the Commission is able to maintain close ties with scholars during their stay and provide a sense of community among Fulbright scholars and fellows. There are monthly grantee activities sponsored by the Commission, in addition to access to Fulbright alumni events and other social activities.

Please see below a grantee video profile of a young scholar who talks about her experiences as a researcher in Iceland:

Previous Fulbright Recipients

Visit the Fulbright Iceland website for information about current and previous grantees.