Frequently Asked Questions: Visiting Scholars Program


General/Application Questions

Fellowship Questions 


I want to write the best proposal possible. What should I include?

The proposal should clearly explain the project to be undertaken while in residence – it should (1) indicate the importance of the project, (2) cite the appropriate literature where relevant, (3) highlight the major questions or hypotheses to be addressed, (4) indicate the data sources to be used, (5) describe the general research methodology or analytic strategy, and (5) describe what outcome(s) will be produced during your time in residence (e.g., journal articles, book manuscript, etc.).

How long should my proposal be?

Your proposal must be no more than 5 pages (single spaced, with standard 11 or 12-point font and 1 inch margins - excluding up to 2 pages of references and figures/tables). Your submission must also include an abbreviated CV of no more than 5 pages.

The Foundation asks for a 5-page proposal. How important is the proposal in the selection process?

The brevity of the proposal should not detract from its importance in our selection process. Eligible proposals are read by an external panel of peer reviewers recruited specifically for their relevant expertise. Their evaluations of the proposed research project are a critical component of the selection process.

Do I have to submit my application online?

Yes, you must use the online application system. If you have problems doing so, please contact us at In extraordinary circumstances, we may consider alternative submission options.

I am applying as a member of a working group. Should I submit my own application?

Yes. Each working group member is required to submit her/his own application. However, working group applications often include the same project proposal. In cases where individual members plan to carry out research independent of the working group during their time in residence, working group members should also briefly describe that research as part of their proposal.

I have already been a Visiting Scholar at RSF. Can I apply again?

Individuals are allowed a maximum of two visits to the Foundation as a Visiting Scholar. A former visiting scholar may apply for a second fellowship that would begin no earlier than seven years after their first visit. However, because of the limited number of scholars that we select each year and the impressive application pool, first-time applicants receive priority.

I will still be conducting field research and collecting data for my project next year. Can I still apply?

No. Scholars must spend their fellowship period in residence at the Foundation – the fellowship year is designed to give scholars time to analyze data and write up the results of their research. It is not intended as an opportunity to carry out fieldwork or engage in new data collection.

Does my project need to be related to the current Russell Sage program areas?

While the Foundation gives very strong preference to applications that are related to the current program areas, Visiting Scholar applications are not restricted to these areas. The Foundation will consider projects that are especially innovative and could potentially lead us to consider new and promising research directions in the future.

Are there limitations to the types of projects that the Foundation will consider for Visiting Scholar fellowships?

The Foundation’s declared mission to contribute to “the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States” means that we generally do not consider studies of other countries unless they are part of an explicitly comparative project aimed at elucidating conditions in the U.S. In addition, the Foundation now dedicates itself exclusively to social science research as a means of diagnosing social problems and improving social policies in the US.

Does the Foundation consider junior scholars for its program?

Yes. The Foundation encourages applications from junior-level scholars who are several years beyond the Ph.D. The Foundation makes a special effort to ensure that each Visiting Scholar class has a balanced mix of both junior and senior fellows.

What does the Foundation provide in terms of support if a fellowship is awarded?

Scholars are provided with an office at the Foundation, computer and library facilities, and supplemental salary support of up to 50 percent of their academic year salary when unavailable from other sources (up to a maximum of $125,000 for the full academic year, or up to a maximum of $62,500 for a half year). Only tenure track faculty within 7 years of having completed a PhD (excluding time off for parental leave), scholars in non-tenure track research positions (excluding post-doctoral fellows), and researchers at non-profit organizations/government agencies may request more than 50% of their current academic salary (up to a maximum of $125,000) when their employer does not provide sabbaticals to employees and when funds from research grants or other sources are not available. For scholars earning less than $90,000/year, RSF may provide a salary supplement under certain circumstances to help mitigate the high cost of living in New York City. Scholars who reside outside the greater New York City area are also provided with a partially-subsidized apartment near the Foundation offices. Childcare subsidies are also available for children below the age of 13.

Can I submit letters of recommendation and other supporting materials?

No. The Foundation does not accept letters of recommendation or other supporting materials for scholar applicants. The Foundation selects external reviewers with substantive research expertise who consider the individual’s demonstrated record of research accomplishment and the merit of the applicant’s proposed project.

I expect to be traveling a great deal during my sabbatical year. Is this a problem?

Yes. Because this is a residential fellowship in which the Foundation invests significant time and resources, and is one of the preeminent programs of its kind within the social science community for carrying out scholarly research, scholars must be in residence at the Foundation for a minimum of 75% of the Foundation’s working days during the scholar year.

Can a doctoral student apply for a fellowship?

No. All scholar applicants must have a Ph.D. or comparable terminal degree at the time of application, or a career background that establishes their ability to conduct scholarly research.

When can I expect to hear a decision about my application?

The Foundation makes every effort to notify the applicants as soon as possible. Applicants are typically notified of the decisions of the Trustees by early December.

How long is the fellowship term?

Fellowships run from September 1 to June 30; selected applicants are expected to spend their whole fellowship term at the Foundation.

Do I need to submit a letter of inquiry prior to applying to the Visiting Scholars program?

No. Letters of inquiry are not required.

How do I know that I have successfully submitted my application online?

Once you create an account and start an application in our online system, your application status is listed as “IN PROGRESS”. Once you complete and review the application and formally submit the materials, that status will change to “SUBMITTED.” At that time, you will receive a confirmation email.

I have completed the online questionnaire, uploaded my proposal and my CV. Is there anything else I need to do before I submit?

Yes. We strongly encourage you to generate the entire submission file and check it over. Our online system converts your documents to a PDF format. Depending on the particulars of the documents you have uploaded, the conversion process may change the formatting of your document, especially if there are embedded objects in your proposal.

Does the Foundation prefer book manuscripts over journal articles when submitting a Visiting Scholar proposal?

Not at all. The type of publication (journal articles, book manuscript) to be produced during the residency is up to the investigator and is not considered as part of the selection decision. However, RSF does publish books and if a book is proposed, IT reserves the right of first refusal.

Whom should I contact if I have questions about my application after submitting the final version?

You can email at any time with questions about the Visiting Scholar application process or other questions. One of the RSF program staff will contact and assist you.

Am I allowed to apply for a research award from the Foundation while I’m a Visiting Scholar at Russell Sage?

No. Foundation rules prohibit current scholars from applying for research awards during their fellowship term.

What are the expectations for a Visiting Scholar, Visiting Journalist or Visiting Researcher during the fellowship year?

RSF’s fellowships support the research and writing of individuals who are in residence at the foundation.  Through these programs, RSF seeks to promote interdisciplinary dialogue among social scientists, journalists and the foundation staff and foster professional research collaborations. Fellows often remark on the professional benefits of daily lunch discussions, weekly seminars, and informal socializing with an interdisciplinary cohort. Scholars are also encouraged to form small writing and discussion groups which can meet over lunch or in our conference rooms. The RSF Visiting Journalist program was created to increase dialogue and foster collaboration between scholars and journalists whose work addresses social issues related to our core program areas.

To foster this engagement and community building, RSF expects that scholars will actively engage with their class and the RSF staff by attending all weekly seminars, being available for discussion at lunch, and interacting with journalists, visiting researchers, and Margaret Olivia Sage scholars, whose residencies are limited. Scholars are expected to spend at least 75% of their fellowship period at work at the Foundation’s offices.  Limited travel for scholarly purposes is naturally anticipated, but scholars are not allowed to take extended trips (more than one week) during periods when the foundation is open. If you have any questions about this policy, please let us know. Absence from the Foundation for more than a quarter of the fellowship year, including time away for academic pursuits and vacation, may lead to review and possible reduction of the award. 

Are pets allowed at the Foundation’s apartments?

The apartment building only allows service animals consistent with guidelines under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). A service animal under the ADA means any dog that is individually trained to do work or perform tasks for the benefit of an individual with a disability, including a physical, sensory, psychiatric, intellectual, or other mental disability. Emotional support animals, comfort animals, and therapy dogs are not service animals under Title II and Title III of the ADA and are not permitted at the residences. If you qualify under the ADA, please contact the Foundation’s Director of Administration to discuss the issue. For more information on the ADA, and guidelines on service animals, please see, or

Click here for eligibility requirements and guidelines.


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.


Join our mailing list for email updates.