Open Research Laboratory


January 25 – May 5, 2021

Priority Application Deadline: December 9, 2020


REEEC and the Slavic Reference Service (SRS) at the University of Illinois are happy to announce a new Call for Applications to our Virtual Open Research Laboratory (VORL) program. The VORL provides research stipends and long-distance library support for graduate and post-graduate level research on Central and East Europe and the Independent States of the former Soviet Union. The VORL is funded in part by the US Department of State through its Title VIII Program, which aims to strengthen US expertise and policy-relevant knowledge about the REEES region. Specialists including advanced graduate students, faculty, independent scholars, professionals in government and non-governmental organizations as well as library science are encouraged to apply. 

This year's VORL will take place January 21 - May 5, 2021. VORL Associates will have online access to the extensive holdings of the Slavic, East European, and Eurasian Collection at the International and Area Studies Library and are eligible for one-on-one research assistance from the librarians of the Slavic Reference Service (SRS); these consultations help ensure that Associates not only locate all sources pertinent to their topic at Illinois, but those housed elsewhere, as well.

In addition, US scholars are eligible for research stipends of not less than $500 in support of their work. 

At this point in time, in-person research trips to our Library are not possible, due to the pandemic. Should conditions change, however, VORL Associates may be eligible for additional housing and travel grants for such visits.

Applicants must propose a viable research project, demonstrate a clear commitment to the field, and indicate how they will benefit from VORL participation and the resources of the SRS and Illinois library collections. Researchers conducting policy-relevant research projects will be prioritized for Title VIII grant support.


  • Designation as a REEEC Virtual Open Research Laboratory Associate.
  • A personalized bibliographic session with the Slavic Reference Service through Zoom.
  • Virtual research support for general queries throughout the year.
  • Access to digital and database collections of our Library for an extended period.
  • A free of charge duplication service for University of Illinois Library materials. Restricted to 15 pages per request and subject to copyright restrictions.
  • US citizens are eligible for a research stipend of a minimum of $500 in support of their work.


All applicants are required to submit an online application, a short-form CV, a research proposal and, if applying for funding, a clearly formulated statement of policy relevance, as described below.

Spring 2021 ORL Application 


US citizens applying for Title VIII financial support must also upload a Statement of Policy Relevance. This statement should comprise a brief project abstract (up to 500 words) that draws a connection between your research topic and any aspect of US foreign policy issues, strategies, emphases, or concerns. The extent to which a project is policy-relevant will vary with the field of study, but most research pertaining to the region informs our understanding of, helps contextualize, or otherwise holds implications for the history, nature, or legacy of policy considerations. A partial list of contemporary policy-related topics might include security issues of all sorts (e.g., border, military, energy, food, and water security); conflict, extremism, terrorism, trafficking, violence, and international criminal syndicates; government, politics, sociopolitical movements, state building, elections, populism, and the cult of political personalities; Cold War studies and the  legacies of state socialism; environmental policy, degradation, and climate change; displaced populations and demographic movement (political, economic, and climate-change refugees, migrants, and immigrants); studies of social identity and difference (gender, sexualities, ethnicity, nationalism, class, religion and belief); information access and dissemination (freedom of the press, communications, education, journalism, social media); international and supranational alliances; technological advances and artificial intelligence (e.g, aeronautical, bio-, communications, computer, information, medical, nano-, and military technology); and artistic and popular culture engagement with or commentaries on any of these topics, whether through literature, film, music, visual art, dance, or other expressive culture media. In short, applicants are asked to indicate how their research might inform, resonate with, or otherwise contribute to the understanding of regional topics of concern to policy makers as well as the scholarly community.


  1. When can I participate in the program?
    Participation in the Virtual Open Research Lab is flexible. You may participate at any time between January 25 and May 5, 2021.
  2. How are VORL Associates selected?
    Funding for the VORL is competitive. Eligible applicants with strong proposals are more likely to receive funding for their research. VORL awards are made by a committee of scholars derived from the Research Laboratory Advisory Board and University of Illinois faculty.
  3. What kind of funding is available?
    U.S. citizens who are applying to the VORL are eligible for research stipends, funded by the Title VIII program. Successful applications will receive a stipend in support of their work ($500 minimum).
  4. Can I access any of the resources after my time at the VORL?
    Yes! The Slavic Reference Service librarians are very adept at loaning circulating items through Inter-Library Loan (ILL).
  5. Why should I participate in the VORL, if SRS is willing to loan so much material via ILL?
    VORL is a great opportunity to develop good relationships with the librarians at the Slavic Reference Service. They are ready to use their specialized knowledge to help you do research on your dissertation or research project. SRS librarians will work with VORL Associates long after they leave the VORL. Additionally, a virtual visit gives scholars the opportunity to access specialized materials that carry constraints due to particular governmental and copyright restrictions. Scholars who utilize the VORL also receive electronic access to the materials (including scans of the materials) in the main stacks at the University Library.
  6. Am I allowed to make digital copies of materials that I receive from the VORL?
    Absolutely! You can create your own digital library of the resources acquired during the VORL.
  7. Is the VORL only for preliminary research, or does the VORL have more in-depth resources that would cater to more specialized research?
    The VORL can assist both preliminary and advanced stages of research. The VORL also facilitates access to hard-to-find materials that are not located anywhere else in the US. This can be especially helpful to scholars who have done their preliminary work using more available resources.
  8. What are the library hours for the Slavic Reference Service?
    Slavic Reference Service hours correspond to the Main Library hours of operations. Please check the Library website for a full schedule of Library hours. Please be aware that the library maintains limited hours on weekends.

If you have any additional questions or concerns, please contact the Russian, East European, and Eurasian Center (REEEC) at