Frequently Asked Questions: Visiting Scholars Program


General/Application Questions

Fellowship Questions 


How long should my proposal be?

Proposals 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). Submissions must also include an abbreviated CV of no more than 5 pages.

What should the proposal include?

The proposal should clearly explain the project to be undertaken while in residence – in 5 pages, it should (1) succinctly indicate the importance of the project, citing the appropriate literature where relevant, (2) highlight the major questions or hypotheses to be addressed, (3) describe the data sources to be used, (4) describe the research methodology or analytic strategy, and (5) briefly outline the kinds of publications that will result from the project (e.g., journal articles, book manuscript, etc.). The application should emphasize items (3) and (4), providing sufficient detail to allow reviewers to assess whether the data, methods and research design will allow investigators to answer the questions posed.

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

The brevity of the project proposal should not detract from its importance. RSF’s primary criterion during the external review and selection process is the quality of the proposed research project. Eligible proposals are read by external reviewers recruited specifically for their expertise in the topics or methods being proposed. The proposal and the reviewer evaluations 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, please contact us at

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

Yes. Each working group member must submit their own application, although working group applications include the same project proposal. In cases where individuals plan to carry out research independent of the working group during residence, working group members should also briefly describe that research in their proposal.

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

Individuals are allowed a maximum of two visits to RSF 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 selected each year and the high-quality of the applications, first-time applicants, all else equal, receive priority.

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

No. Scholars must spend their fellowship period in residence at RSF – the fellowship provides scholars with extensive time to prepare and 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 or continuing data collection.

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

The Foundation gives very strong preference to applications that are related to our program areas and initiatives but applications are not restricted to these areas. In limited cases, 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 considered for Visiting Scholar fellowships?

RSF’s declared mission is to contribute to “the improvement of social and living conditions in the United States.”  Thus, we generally do not select studies of other countries unless they are part of an explicitly comparative project aimed at elucidating conditions in the U.S. In addition, RSF dedicates itself exclusively to supporting social science research as a means of diagnosing social problems and improving social policies in the US, and applications should be clear about their contribution to extending knowledge in the social sciences.

Does RSF consider early-career scholars for its program?

Yes. The Foundation encourages applications from early-career scholars who are at least two years beyond the Ph.D. at the time of application. RSF makes a special effort to ensure that each Visiting Scholar class has a mix of both junior and senior fellows.

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

Scholars are provided with an office at the Foundation, computer and software, access to academic journals and databases, 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 who earn less than $90,000/year, RSF will 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. RSF does not accept letters of recommendation or other supporting materials. It selects external reviewers with substantive expertise who consider the individual’s demonstrated record of research accomplishment and the merit of the proposed project.

I expect to travel 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, scholars must be in residence for a minimum of 75% of the Foundation’s working days during the scholar year.

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

The Foundation makes every effort to notify applicants as soon as possible. Final decisions are made at the Foundation’s November Board meeting and applicants are typically notified of the decisions by mid-December.

How long is the fellowship term?

The 10-month fellowship runs from September 1 to June 30; selected scholars are expected to spend their whole fellowship term at the Foundation. The Foundation also welcomes applications for half-year visits, either the 5-month period from September through January, or February through June.

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 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 documents you have uploaded, the conversion process may change the formatting of your documents, especially if they include embedded objects.

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

No. The type of publication (e.g., 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, RSF reserves the right to publish.

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.

If I am selected as a Visiting Scholar, am I allowed to apply for a research award from the Foundation during my fellowship year at Russell Sage?

From the time a scholar accepts the fellowship, they may not apply for a foundation grant that will be considered for funding by the Board while they are in residence. Applications that are submitted for a deadline before accepting the fellowship are eligible for consideration. Likewise, fellows may apply towards the end of their fellowship as long as the application is considered for funding after the fellowship period ends.

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

RSF’s fellowship supports the preparation and analysis of data and writing up results of scholars who are in residence, promotes interdisciplinary dialogue among social scientists, journalists and RSF staff, and fosters 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 encouraged to form small writing and discussion groups which meet over lunch or in conference rooms. The Visiting Journalist program seeks to increase dialogue and foster collaboration between social scientists and journalists whose work addresses social issues related to our priority areas.

To foster engagement and community building, RSF expects that scholars actively engage with their class and the RSF staff by attending weekly seminars, being available for discussion at lunch, and interacting with journalists, visiting researchers, and Margaret Olivia Sage scholars.

Scholars are expected to spend at least 75% of their fellowship period at work at RSF’s offices. Limited travel for scholarly purposes is naturally anticipated, but scholars should not plan extended trips (more than one week) when the foundation is open. If you have questions about this policy, please let us know. Absence 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 Foundation 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. 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

If I am selected for a fellowship, can I defer to a subsequent year?

No. If an applicant is selected as a Visiting Scholar, Foundation policy does not allow the applicant to defer their visit. If the applicant is not able to come for the fellowship year for which they are selected, they will need to reapply for a subsequent fellowship year.

Click here for application requirements and eligibility



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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