Owen F Aldis Scholarship


The round for projects commencing in 2017 will be announced shortly.

Owen Aldis Awards The Owen F. Aldis Scholarship Fund was established to support graduate studies in human ethology, defined as the biological study of human behaviour. The goal of the Award is to nurture excellence in human ethology by supporting students who are undertaking empirical research in human behavior, drawing on the repertoire of methods developed in biology and the human behavioral sciences. Observational studies in natural environments are especially encouraged. Studies involving non-human species may be considered, if their relevance to human behavior is made clear. The award program is administered by the Board of Trustees of the International Society for Human Ethology (ISHE) in collaboration with the ISHE Board of Officers.  Applications for the award are considered annually.

Owen Franklin Aldis (1926-2001) Owen Aldis generously bequeathed a large part of his estate to ISHE, and this award is to honour his life and his contribution to the field.  Owen F. Aldis taught economics at Yale and worked for an investment firm in New York, before moving to the San Francisco Bay area to pursue a scholarly interest in Skinnerian behavioural psychology. He received his Ph.D. in 1958 and was associated for more than a decade with the Behaviour Research Fund in Palo Alto, California, and later became a member of ISHE. His most notable publication was his classic book Play Fighting, which may be downloaded from the ISHE website

Aldis award Awards are made for amounts up to US$8000. The award is to pay for documented, legitimate research costs (e.g., equipment, supplies, books, computer software).  It could cover a contribution to accommodation costs, but not food costs. The award also includes full membership of ISHE for 3 years

  •  a certificate recording the award
  • In addition, at the ISHE conference or Summer School where the Aldis award recipient presents their research findings, there are the following benefits:
  •  waiving the conference fee to a subsequent summer school or ISHE conference.
  •  waiving basic accommodation costs (i.e. room in the equivalent of a University dorm ) to that event (either the summer school or conference)
  • free ticket to the banquet at that event
  • contribution to travel costs to the congress or summer school (up to a certain amount)

No funds will be provided for “indirect costs” for institutional expenses.

Aldis Commendation Many applications for an Aldis Award, despite being judged as of high quality close to that of the Aldis award winners, do not receive an award, since the number of awards is limited.  ISHE wanted to recognise this high quality and created an “Aldis Commendation” award. The award carries a number of benefits:

  • waiving the conference fee to either the next summer school or the next ISHE conference
  • free ticket to the banquet at that event
  • a full 3 year membership of ISHE
  • a certificate recording the award

Unlike winning the full Aldis award, a Commendation does not itself bar the winner from entering another Aldis competition. ISHE may not make Aldis Commendation awards every year.

Eligibility Applicants must be students who have not yet formally received their doctorate at the time of the application deadline. They may be from any academic discipline related to human ethology, and their academic advisor or director at a recognized educational or scientific institution must support their application. “Student” includes anyone working toward a degree with a mentor or advisor at a recognized institution. Mentors can be any researcher from a reputable scientific institution. Neither applicants nor their mentors need be members of ISHE. Previous applicants, including previous winners of Aldis Commendations but excluding previous winners of Aldis Awards, are eligible to re-apply for an Aldis Award in a later year. The proposed research must be ethological in nature.  More specifically, the research should:

  • pertain to some naturally occurring behavior as identified through direct observation or through reliable informants or documents.  Studies involving direct observation in natural environments are encouraged.
  • to be set within an ethological paradigm, showing an understanding not just of evolutionary theory but other basic concepts within ethology relevant to the study.

Ethological studies of human behavior pose many challenges.  The Society recognizes this.  There is a paper on the Ethological paradigm applied to Humans which should help candidates understand what the Society is looking for when it seeks Ethological proposals.

Applications All applications must be written in English

The main application document must be submitted as an MS-Word document named: applicant’s surname_Aldis_ year and should consist of the following. This outline must have a maximum length of 3500 words, not including timetable, budget or references.

  • Cover sheet: to include [1] title of the study, [2] the applicant’s name, institutional affiliation, postal address and email address, and [3] the mentor’s name, email address and institutional affiliation.
  • An outline of the planned study should cover the following areas:
  • Aims, concentrating on innovative aspects.
  • Theoretical background.
  • Methodological issues and procedure.
  • Timetable.
  • Itemised budget showing how the award will be spent.

Applicants should also include the following documents as pdf or MSWord files:

  • A letter from the applicant’s institution giving permission for the applicant to conduct the proposed research at that institution.
  • Short C.V.s of the applicant and his/her mentor (with publications).
  • A letter of support from his/her mentor.

Any questions about this should be emailed to the ISHE Secretary (mlfisher.99@gmail.com) or Chair of Trustees (johnricher@oxhs.co.uk). Completed applications should be emailed to both the secretary and the Chair of Trustees at these addresses.

Assessment of submissions Applications will be evaluated anonymously by at least four senior ISHE members and ad hoc specialists if necessary. A major criterion used in judging is the use of an ethological approach.  For instance, a study which looks at naturally occurring behaviour, which offers clear behaviour categories defined in observable terms, which proposes a coherent methodology, and which raises questions related to evolutionary ideas or concepts, is likely to be viewed favourably.  This is not to say that successful applicants must have all of these features.  Similarly, data collected by interview or survey methods may be appropriate, especially if accompanied by comparison with observational data. In addition to studies of humans, projects involving non-human species may be considered, if their relevance to human behaviour is made clear. So to summarise, the proposed research must be ethological in nature:

  • The research should pertain to some naturally occurring properly described behaviour as identified through direct observation or through reliable informants or documents.
  • The proposed research needs to be set within an ethological paradigm, showing an understanding not just of evolutionary theory but other basic concepts within ethology relevant to the study
  •  It may be proposed that the behaviour studied be correlated or associated with other variables (demographic data, test/rating/questionnaire data etc.) that have relevance for that behaviour.

What is the process of judging? When papers are received, they are anonymized and sent to the judges.  There are at least 4 judges, who are members  of the Society, and appointed by Officers and Trustees. Each judge rates each paper on two dimensions, according to these instructions: 1.   Scientific Quality: Are appropriate questions asked?   Are the means described to answer the questions likely to produce clear answers to them?  Are the proposed methodologies, instruments if any, observers / raters, and statistics appropriate? Judges write comments on proposals and rate each out of 10: A 10 rating means that it could not be improved on; a 1 rating means abysmal quality with complete lack of research sophistication. 2.  Ethological Relevance: Does this research involve gathering observational data in an ethological / evolutionary context, or adding to our understanding of such data?.  To have ethological relevance, the proposal should involve gathering data by direct observation or be based on ideas that are  grounded in such naturalistic  observation. This is to be contrasted with what is somewhat common in evolutionary psychology where an evolutionary explanation is offered for a set of ideas largely without reference to  observed behaviors. Again each judge writes comments and rates the proposal on a 10-point scale where a 10 means that it represents the best of the ethology approach and a 1 means that it little or no ethological relevance  even though it may contribute to another scientific approach. The organiser collates these scores, corrects them for any tendency of a judge to rate everything higher or lower, and computes a final ranking.  This is then fed back to judges for their comments.  This is especially useful when there have been divergent ratings; issues are discussed and a final ranking is agreed.  This ranking, plus recommendations for how many of these studies might qualify for an Aldis award, is then sent to the Officers of ISHE who decide how many awards to make. All applicants are told the results and given some feedback on the judges views.  No appeals against the judges decisions are accepted and by entering the competition for an award applicants are accepting this.

After the award Winners of awards contact the Treasurer of ISHE to arrange payment of the award. Winners of awards are required to present a brief progress report including brief but adequate financial accounts to be sent to the ISHE secretary by the end of June annually until the project is completed. They are required to submit their results for presentation to an ISHE congress or Summer School.  Their paper or poster will be considered with all other submissions. It is expected that the winner presents her/his work at the ISHE congress or Summer School directly following the completion of the work. However, the winner can decide to optimize the value of the travel award in order to participate to an ISHE congress or Summer School in which she/he would not have the chance to participate otherwise. The limit to use up the travel award is 5 years from the time the payment has been issued. ISHE also requires a copy of any publications arising out of this research be sent to the ISHE secretary. ISHE also expects some aspect of the research to be submitted to the Society’s Online Journal, The Human Ethology Bulletin.