Investigator-initiated Research Project Awards

All potential projects must be preceded by a letter of inquiry. RSF has 3 funding cycles per year and only considers proposals that are invited following review of an initial letter of inquiry. Applications should limit budget requests to no more than a two-year period.

Any requests above $50,000, up to a maximum of $175,000 (including overhead) are processed as Project Award applications. Successful applications are externally reviewed and must be approved by the Foundation's Board of Trustees.

Any requests up to $35,000 are processed as Presidential Award applications and cannot include any overhead/indirect costs. Successful applications are externally reviewed and then approved by the President. RSF is particularly interested in supporting research projects by early career scholars and encourages them to apply for these grants. In rare circumstances, investigators may apply for a Presidential Award of up to $50,000 (no overhead) when the proposed research project has special needs for gathering data (e.g.: qualitative research) or gaining access to restricted-use data.

RSF encourages methodological variety and inter-disciplinary collaboration, but all proposals must have well-developed conceptual frameworks and research designs. Analytical models must be well-specified and research questions and hypotheses (where applicable) must be clearly stated. Awards are available for research assistance, data acquisition, data analysis, and investigator time for conducting research and writing up results.

We are especially interested in novel uses of existing data to answer emerging or long-standing questions of interest in the Foundation’s program areas, as well as analyses of new or under-utilized data. Proposals to conduct laboratory or field experiments, in-depth qualitative interviews, and ethnographies are also encouraged. Smaller projects might consist of exploratory fieldwork, a pilot study, or the analysis of existing data.

Projects that use newly-available data or make new linkages across data sources have a higher priority than projects that analyze only public use data from widely available data sets. For projects that use publicly available data from any Census or Current Population Survey or American Community Survey, the Panel Study of Income Dynamics, the Early Childhood Longitudinal Survey and many other publicly available data sets, the budget request should total no more than $75,000 (including overhead). However, RSF will consider budget requests that exceed this amount if the investigator fully explains why the project requires a higher amount.  

To apply, an eligible PI or co-PI must:

  1. Visit our online application portal, create an account, and start a new "Letter of Inquiry" application
  2. Submit a letter of inquiry through the portal (Note: No more than 4 pages, excluding references, describing the project, single-spaced, with standard 11 or 12-point font, and 1 inch margins)
  3. Submit an up-to-date abbreviated CV (maximum of 5 pages) through the portal

Further Information:

The Russell Sage Foundation
Journal of the Social Sciences

The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences is a peer-reviewed, open-access journal of original empirical research articles by both established and emerging scholars.


The Russell Sage Foundation offers grants and positions in our Visiting Scholars program for research.


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