Eligibility and Application Requirements

All applicants (both PIs and Co-PIs) must have a doctorate. In rare circumstances, RSF may consider applications from scholars who do not hold a doctorate but can demonstrate a strong career background that establishes their ability to conduct high-level, peer-reviewed scholarly research. Students may not be applicants.

RSF particularly encourages early career scholars to apply for Presidential grants or our Pipeline Competition. For the November deadlines you can apply for either the pipeline grants or our regular research grants but not both. All nationalities are eligible to apply and applicants do not have to reside in the U.S., but the focus of the proposed research project must be on the U.S. as per our mission.

Review Process and Grant Decisions:
RSF employs a rigorous multi-disciplinary review process at every stage of the application process. All letters of inquiry and proposals submitted to RSF are reviewed by program staff, external reviewers from multiple disciplines selected specifically for their expertise, members of one of the standing Advisory Committees, or some combination of these. In the case of Trustee Grants, final funding decisions are made by the Board of Trustees at our March, June and November Board meetings.

Application Requirements:

Letter of Inquiry (LOI): All research grant applications must be preceded by a letter of inquiry (max. 4 pages, excluding references, single-spaced, with standard 11 or 12-point font, and 1-inch margins) to determine whether RSF’s present interests and funds permit consideration of a full proposal. Letters of inquiry should reflect the key elements of a complete proposal, with most of the space dedicated to hypothesis, the appropriateness of the data, sample size and power calculations for quantitative studies, preliminary or pilot findings if available, and research design. It is best to submit an LOI after you have developed and pre-tested survey instruments, completed preliminary data analyses if the data are publicly-available or conducted some preliminary interviews for qualitative studies. LOIs are expected to have well-developed conceptual frameworks and research designs, analytical models must be specified, and research questions and hypotheses (where applicable) must be clearly stated. The LOI should also include a short paragraph about the qualifications and responsibilities of all key investigators and a brief paragraph outlining the major budget categories and expected amounts. Applicants should have a solid understanding of the amount of funds they will need to carry out the project; if a proposal is invited, the proposal budget cannot deviate significantly from the amount requested in the LOI. An LOI should contain only one research project; you may submit additional LOIs with other (potentially related) projects. LOIs must be submitted through our online portal directly by an eligible principal investigator or co-principal investigator.

Proposal: Only invited proposals will be considered. Proposals can be a maximum of 20 double-spaced pages (with standard 11 or 12-point font and 1-inch margins), excluding (1) references, (2) supporting tables and figures, and (3) appendices like draft survey instruments and interview protocols. Within the 20 pages, applicants must substantively answer the following questions:

  • What is the problem under study and why is it important?
  • What does the literature (across disciplines) say about this problem and what unique contribution(s) does this study make?
  • What are the principal hypotheses or questions that will be examined?
  • What kinds of data will be used in the study and how will the data be acquired? Please include power calculations if appropriate.
  • How will the data be analyzed to inform the questions under study: what research methods, analytic models, or interpretive strategies will be used?
  • What is the project work-plan? The work-plan should specify the timeline and important milestones and goals during the course of the project.
  • What are the qualifications and responsibilities of the person(s) engaged in the research?
  • How will the results be reported (e.g., conference presentations, articles, books, policy reports, blogs, opinion pieces, summary reports)?
  • If data collection is proposed, we require that you send a copy of your (draft) data collection instrument as an appendix to the proposal. Investigators must also include a plan for public release of the data and documentation (see Transparency & Reproducibility below).
  • Data collection projects should include details on the sampling strategy, sample characteristics (including whether participants are habitual survey respondents), and participant compensation structure (see additional requirements under RSF’s budget guidelines). This information can be provided by the survey firm if the selection of participants is not designed by the applicant.
  • If data collection will be performed by a survey firm, please obtain a quote from at least two firms. The budget narrative should include a discussion of the two quotes and justify the decision to use one of the firms—there is no requirement that the applicant engage the firm with the lowest quote if there is a good reason for choosing the higher quote.

In addition to the proposal, you will need to submit the following:

  • Budget – See Budget Requirements and Budget Template.
  • Budget Justification: succinctly explain and clarify the requested budget.
    • In addition to describing the budget categories, the budget narrative must also include a section on current and pending support from other internal or external sources relevant to this proposal. Please describe the total amount of funds you currently have from other sources and the amount of funds that are pending in requests to other sources that are related to the proposed project. The start and end dates of these existing or pending grants must also be noted. Please also specify the number of months of salary support that the PI (and co-PIs) have from current and pending requests. Finally, describe how the resources you are requesting from the Russell Sage Foundation are related to these other grants.
    • When salary support is requested, applicants must provide a detailed justification for the tasks and time efforts of all investigators. When more than 3 investigators are requesting funding, the budget narrative must explain the expertise those additional individuals bring to the project. 
  • CVs (abbreviated – 5 pages max. per CV)
  • Point-by-point response memo to previous reviewer comments.
  • Organization Confirmation Letter (may be submitted later)
  • Proof of IRB Approval (if applicable; may be submitted later)

Click here for budget requirements
Click here for eligibility and policies
Click here for a list of frequently asked questions (FAQs)


RSF: 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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