1. About the program

The Smithsonian Institution, established in 1846, is a group of museums and research centres administered by the United States of America (USA) government. The Smithsonian Institution is the world’s largest museum and research complex comprising 19 museums and the National Zoo, with research facilities in the USA, Panama and elsewhere. The Smithsonian has close ties with 168 other museums in 39 states, Panama and Puerto Rico. These museums are known as Smithsonian affiliated museums.

A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) currently exists between the Queensland Government and the Smithsonian Institution. A primary objective of this alliance is the exchange of skills and knowledge to grow Queensland’s science, educational and cultural capabilities.

The Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships have been developed through the MOU.

Fellows receive Queensland Government funding to travel to a Smithsonian facility and undertake a project that will facilitate the interchange of knowledge and skills between Queensland and a Smithsonian Institution.

2. Program aims

The Queensland–Smithsonian Fellowship program supports a diverse range of projects, including those in the natural sciences, cultural heritage, education and/or museum management.

The objective of the program is to enable Fellows to: benefit from working within a Smithsonian Institution accessing their expertise, collections and facilities; increase their knowledge and skills in their chosen field; and apply these to benefit their work at the organisations that employ them.

Proposed Fellows must work with the Smithsonian Institution in an area of mutual interest and benefit, and that is aligned with the target investment areas outlined below.

3. Funding

Queensland Government funding of up to $32,600 (excluding GST) is available for the nominated fellow to travel to the USA and/or Panama for a project ranging from 8 to 16 weeks in duration. The fellowship supports one international trip.

Applicants registered for GST will not be provided with funding to account for costs directly associated with GST and are required to provide the GST exclusive amount in their budget. Recipients registered for GST can claim the GST component for any expenditure that they incur back from the Australian Taxation Office (ATO ).

Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships funding is limited to the travel and accommodation allowances. No additional funding is available from the Queensland Government for expenses which may arise for example from complications caused from delays in obtaining the relevant visa. Any additional costs incurred must be borne by the Fellow and/or the applicant organisation.

4. Target investment areas

Fellowship proposals addressing the following target investment areas are sought.

  • Protecting our biodiversity and natural heritage: marine and terrestrial.
  • Expanding our understanding of terrestrial and planetary geology.
  • Expanding our understanding of the evolution of life on earth and what it means for life on earth now  .
  • Expanding our understanding of new and emerging research trends in aerospace.
  • Building resilience and managing climate risk across Queensland’s diverse environments.
  • Developing and applying digitally-enabled technologies, including advanced modelling, for research and public engagement.
  • Application of Artificial Intelligence to scientific and cultural collections and associated research.
  • Protecting and conserving our cultural heritage.
  • Expanding our understanding of cultural diversity and the flux of contemporary society and lived experience in Queensland.
  • Expanding our understanding of the interpretation and dissemination of complex cultural and community practices and histories
  • Growing and strengthening services and access to Queensland cultural and science collections.
  • Strengthening the science and cultural tourism role of museums in attracting visitors to a region.

5. Eligibility criteria

The applicant organisation

Applications are invited from Queensland research, education and cultural agencies (the applicant organisation) that employ staff working in an area of interest to one or more Smithsonian Institution agencies.

The Queensland applicant organisation nominates the proposed Fellow (an employee of the agency) in the application. The applicant organisation must pay the Fellow’s salary while the Fellow undertakes the fellowship.

The Fellow

To be eligible for a Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowship the proposed Fellow must:

  • be an Australian citizen, or have Australian residency
  • reside and work in Queensland
  • be employed by a Queensland-based research, educational or cultural agency—including, but not limited to, universities, schools, museums, galleries, or government research organisations
  • provide evidence that the nominated Smithsonian Institution agency/agencies will accommodate the Fellow and provide basic administrative support for the duration of the Fellow’s visit.

Other conditions

  • The fellowship is awarded for an individual (the proposed Fellow) to travel to a Smithsonian Institution facility. Applications seeking travel for more than one nominee will not be considered.
  • Fellowship funding is not transferrable, including to other employees of the applicant organisation or persons associated with the Fellow.
  • Fellows must complete the fellowship within 12 months of notification of the award.
  • Incomplete applications and ineligible applications will not be considered.
  • Applications to support previous recipients of a Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowship will not be considered.

The Smithsonian Institution

Proposed projects must be of benefit to the Smithsonian Institution.

  • Support for a proposed project must be obtained from the Smithsonian Institution prior to applying for this fellowship.
  • Applicants interested in fellowships should review the Smithsonian Opportunities for Research web page to identify potential advisors and collaborators.

6. Using the Fellowship funds

The Queensland Government will release the fellowship payment to the applicant organisation (the Queensland employer) to administer the grant funding. The fellowship funding is to be used for travel costs and living expenses, and is comprised of:

  • Travel costs of up to $7,000 (excluding GST) for one return international economy airfare and associated travel costs. The applicant organisation will be required to supply a financial acquittal statement for the travel component of the fellowship, and will have to return any unused funds

Note: Associated travel costs includes domestic travel to secure visas, internal flights within the USA, and other travel while overseas (if applicable), with details and receipts included in the final acquittal report.

  • A living allowance of $1,600 per week (excluding GST) to cover cost of living expenses, including accommodation, meals and incidental expenses. Funding is available for a minimum of 8 weeks and a maximum of 16 weeks duration ($25,600 maximum, excluding GST).

No additional funding will be provided. The applicant organisation will have to refund some of the fellowship funding if the duration of the Fellow’s overseas visit is reduced, as there will be a reduction in the living allowance entitlement.

All costs associated with additional time spent at the host institute(s) (that is, any time that exceeds the approved duration of the fellowship) must be borne by the Fellow and/or the applicant organisation. In addition, all costs exceeding the total approved funding must be borne by the Fellow and/or the applicant organisation.

Note: When making bookings and committing to the expense of travel and accommodation the Fellow should consider the flexibility of arrangements in case there is a need to change bookings. For example if there is a delay in receiving your visa. The Queensland Government will not be liable for any losses or additional expenses incurred as a result.

7. The assessment process

Eligible applications will be assessed and rated against the program’s assessment criteria (below) and ranked in order of merit by an assessment panel comprised of members with relevant professional backgrounds.

8. Assessment criteria

The application will be assessed in a competitive process on its merits against the following criteria.

1. The proposed Fellow’s skills and track record (30%)

The application must outline how the proposed Fellow has the relevant skills and professional track record to conduct the fellowship.

2.  A Smithsonian placement that strengthens the proposed Fellow's skills and knowledge (30%)

The application must clearly outline:

  • the proposed project to be undertaken
  • why the nominated Smithsonian Institute(s) is/are critical to the project
  • how the proposed Smithsonian placement(s) will enhance the Fellow’s skills and knowledge.

3. Benefits for Queensland (30%)

The application must outline how the proposed fellowship:

  • will translate into tangible benefits/outcomes for Queensland
  • will benefit the applicant organisation
  • is aligned to one or more of the program target investment areas outlined in this document
  • will foster an ongoing exchange of knowledge and skills between Queensland and the Smithsonian Institution
  • will share knowledge and skills to benefit others within Queensland.

4. Smithsonian Institution (10%)

The application must show:

  • that the proposed project has support from the Smithsonian Institution
  • the extent to which the project is expected to benefit the Smithsonian Institution.

9. Announcement of successful applicants

  • All applicants will be advised of the outcome of their application in writing.
  • The Minister for Environment, Science and Innovation (DESI) will announce successful applicants.
  • Successful recipients are to treat their funding as confidential prior to the official announcement by the Minister. This means no media or public announcements of the project until the Queensland Government has made an announcement.
  • Following the announcement, successful recipients will be listed on the Queensland Government website.

10. Fellowship agreement

If the application for funding is successful, the applicant organisation will enter into a legally binding financial incentive agreement with the Queensland Government. The agreement consists of the application, these Guidelines and the Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships Financial Incentive Agreement Terms and Conditions (PDF, 367.7KB) .

If successful with an application:

  • the applicant organisation must not enter into any legally binding arrangements with other parties which prevent the Fellow from meeting obligations under the Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships financial incentive agreement, and
  • the Fellow will be required to: make every reasonable effort to be present at a fellowship announcement function, if organised; submit a report at the end of the fellowship; and be proactive in sharing knowledge (e.g. public seminars) about the project and its outcomes with interested parties.

Required Documents

Successful applicants will be required to provide evidence of the following prior to release of any grant funding:

  • A valid passport held by the recipient
  • Public liability insurance of at least $20 million that is current and remains current for the duration of the project.
  • Workers’ compensation (or equivalent) insurance for the Recipient’s employees (including the Fellow) as required by law, which, to avoid doubt, includes any applicable law of the place in which the Smithsonian Host Organisation is located.
  • Personal injury/accident, health and travel insurance appropriate and relevant to the Fellow’s overseas travel and visit to the Smithsonian Host Organisation.

11. Privacy

The department will use the information on this form to evaluate applications for the Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships as required by these Guidelines and Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships Financial Incentive Agreement Terms and Conditions.

Applications for the Fellowships are to be lodged on the SmartyGrants website, a third-party cloud-based platform operated by 'Our Community Pty Ltd'. The Our Community Privacy Policy states that they may use third party service providers that may store information outside Australia. By lodging an application, you agree to any overseas transfer of information made in accordance with the Our Community Privacy Policy.

The information contained in the application will be provided to authorised departmental officers and approved grant assessors under the Financial Accountability Act 2009 (Qld) for the purpose of assessing the application.

The Minister will publicly announce details of the successful applicants. Following that announcement, the details of successful applicants will be listed on the Queensland Government website.  Therefore, if your application is successful, the following information will be published on the Queensland Government website:

  • your name, and your organisation's name
  • the total amount of funding allocated
  • the project name, location, description and partnering organisation
  • the project outcomes.

This information may also be used and/or disclosed to promote the Fellowship program and the funded projects.

Information on successful proposals, including the applicant and organisation names, project description and partnering supervisor will be provided to the USA-based Smithsonian Institution for the purpose of administering the fellowship.

Your information will not otherwise be used or disclosed unless authorised or required by law.

For audit purposes, the Queensland Government is required to retain the applications and other supplied support material. The provisions of the Right to Information Act 2009 (Qld) apply to documents in the possession of the Queensland Government.

12. How to apply

Applications for the Queensland-Smithsonian Fellowships close at 2pm AEST, Thursday 25 April 2024.

Applicants are required to submit the application and all supporting documentation in full by the submission deadline.

All applications must be submitted using SmartyGrants, the department’s online grants administration portal. Applications will consist of:

  • a completed online application
  • a signed letter of endorsement from the applicant organisation supporting the proposed fellowship, confirming they will continue to pay the proposed Fellow’s salary while he/she undertakes the fellowship
  • evidence of support from the hosting Smithsonian Institution group(s) clearly stating their support for the proposed fellowship, and their commitment to host the proposed Fellow’s visit (e.g. signed letter or email)
  • a signed Financial Incentive Agreement Terms and Conditions declaration (PDF, 170.7KB) . The form must be printed, signed by the relevant parties, scanned in PDF format, and uploaded with the application form. The declaration must be signed by the nominated Fellow, and an authorised representative from the applicant organisation.

The applicant organisation and/or proposed Fellow:

  • must advise the Queensland Government of changes which are likely to impact on the fellowship
  • may be contacted during the assessment process to clarify information provided in the application and/or to request further information to enable the assessment of the application
  • may be required to attend an (online or in-person) interview.

There is no implicit guarantee of approval at any stage in the process, and the applicant organisation will be notified in writing of the outcome of the application.

13. Further information

Visa requirements – An Exchange Visitor (J-1) visa will be required for entry the USA and to undertake a fellowship with the Smithsonian Institution. This type of visa can only be applied for after being awarded a fellowship and receiving the appropriate approvals and forms from the Smithsonian Institution.


For further information about the Queensland Smithsonian Fellowship, please contact the Grants Administration team.

Phone: (07) 3330 6360


For technical questions about the online application process or form, please contact SmartyGrants.

Phone: (03) 9320 6888 and quote your reference number.