Research Grants: Eligibility and Application Requirements

Eligibility:
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. 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.

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 be treated as "mini proposals." The LOI should reflect the key elements of a complete proposal, with the majority of the space dedicated to hypothesis, data, power calculations, preliminary or pilot findings if available, and research design. 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 paragraph about the qualifications and responsibilities of all key investigators and a brief paragraph outlining the major budget categories. Letters of inquiry should also be clear as to how the proposed project fits within RSF’s core interests. 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).

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.)
  • 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)

    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.

    Transparency & Reproducibility:

    • Data Release Plan: Publishing data and all associated materials from research projects is valuable because it allows others to examine the robustness of reported results and facilitates fuller re-use of collected data in general. As a condition for providing substantial support for new data collection, RSF requires that the investigators make their data sets publicly available to the social science research community. Investigators must include as part of their proposal a plan for public release of the data and documentation. RSF will consider exceptions for proprietary data and qualitative data.
    • Pre-registration: Pre-registration is important for various reasons: to ameliorate “publication bias,” as a source of results for meta-analysis, to find out about available survey instruments, and to access and download data. As a condition for providing substantial support for randomized controlled trials (RCTs), RSF requires RCTs to be pre-registered. Investigators must include as part of their application where and when they plan to pre-register the trials. In other cases, RSF may strongly recommend pre-registration as a funding condition. Some existing registries include:

    Publishing Funded Work:
    RSF does not consider or prioritize the type of publications proposed by investigators (e.g., journal articles, book manuscript) in its evaluation and selection of projects for funding. However, RSF does have an active publishing program and if a book is proposed, the foundation reserves the right to publish. With the launch of our new journal, RSF: The Russell Sage Foundation Journal of the Social Sciences, RSF no longer funds or publishes edited volumes.

    Intellectual Property Rights:
    With the exception of book-length manuscripts (covered in the preceding paragraph), RSF may reserve usage rights over intellectual property produced with foundation support. RSF will negotiate intellectual property agreements with principal investigators (and their host institutions) when it has made a substantial investment in the research underlying the product and has a substantial interest in the widespread distribution of the product to advance RSF's mission and/or its own future initiatives. RSF will not require such an agreement if the investigators (and host institution) agree to distribute the product on principles consistent with those of RSF.

    Click here for budget guidelines.
    Click here for a list of frequently asked questions about applying for a grant

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