Support The PalSIRP Sepkoski Grants!

The Paleontological Society International Research Program, or PalSIRP, is the Paleontological Society’s answer to disparities in funding for basic research in low- and middle-income countries around the world. While the program has expanded in important ways over the past two and a half decades, it has the potential to do more to address global inequities in the funding of paleontological research. Please read on for a description of this vital initiative and, if you are interested in supporting its goals, you can donate at: and choose PalSIRP Sepkoski Grants. 

PalSIRP was established in 1994 through the efforts of J. John (Jack) Sepkoski, Jr., after the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union and demise of the Warsaw Pact saw funding support for paleontological research in those countries all but vanish. As originally conceived, PalSIRP was a small grants program ($500 in most cases) for paleontologists living in Eastern Europe and republics of the former Soviet Union. Seed money for PalSIRP came from internal Society resources. 

The program was an immediate success. By the end of 1995, Sepkoski reported 147 applications were received and 21 grants made mostly at  $500, but $750 for two exceptional ones. Eight countries from eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union countries were represented. After becoming PS President-Elect in 1995, Sepkoski was succeeded by Rodney Feldmann as chair of PalSIRP and then in 1997 by Ronald Parsley, who has remained at the helm since then. 

Jack Sepkoski’s untimely passing occurred in 1999. In his honor, the awards were renamed the PalSIRP Sepkoski Grants. 

Although it was recognized early on that comparable problems existed in Asia, Latin America, and Africa, it was initially decided that expanding it to other geographic areas would be considered only after determining the effectiveness of these grants. It was during the presidency of Arnie Miller that Parsley was given the go-ahead to put the process of expanding the program in motion. As a result, a major enlargement of the program occurred in 2015, when it expanded to Latin America and in 2018, when African nations were added. Currently, the grant program is open to paleontologists living in Eastern Europe and republics of the former Soviet Union; Central and South America and island nations of the Caribbean; the continent of Africa; much of southern Asia and most island nations of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. The size and number of the grants has also increased, currently standing at up to twenty-five grants of US $1,000.00 each year. A complete list of award winners and their projects can be found here.

Former awardees attest to the importance of the program:

  • Evgeny Perkovsky (Ukraine; 2016 awardee) writes that “the program was very effective, especially because all other funds were not available for the palaeoentomologists in Ukraine…the  support by Sepkoski Grants was crucial. Sepkoski Grants strongly enhanced my standing within the academic community.”  
  • According to Andrea Svoboda (Czech Republic; 2019 awardee), “this award is very useful, especially for young scientists/PhD students.” 
  • Roman Croitor (Moldova; 2017 awardee) says that “my Sepkoski Grants were extremely important and helpful for my research...The Sepkoski Grant definitely enhances my standing within my academic community”. 
  • “The Grant helped me both in my field excavations and in trips abroad for scientific research,” says Alexander Bannikov (Russia; 2016-2018 awardee).
  • Paolo Citton (Argentina; 2017 awardee) declares that “In my opinion, Sepkoski Grants are a great opportunity for young scientists.” 

The importance of the PalSIRP Sepkoski Grants and the efforts of Ron Parsley were recognized in 2016 by the awarding to Parsley and the Society of  a special medal by the Palaeontological Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Recent discussions of global inequities in the funding of paleontological research (e.g., Raja et al. 2021, Nature Ecology and Evolution) have pointed out the necessity of providing funding to researchers in low- and middle-income countries, so that scientists in those nations can act as full partners in research. The PalSIRP Sepkoski grants represent an existing mechanism through which the Paleontological Society can play a key role in addressing this issue. Unfortunately, since its inception, the program has relied almost exclusively on the general revenues of the society, which limits its future growth. Again, if you are interested in supporting this important initiative, you can donate here, and choose PalSIRP Sepkoski Grants.

- Roy Plotnick, on behalf of the PS Development Committee (with the invaluable help of Ron Parsley).

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