Indian Scholars Program 2021

J-PAL South Asia is invested in creating opportunities for India-based researchers to drive and participate in the development research agenda in India through the use of randomized evaluations. As part of this effort, J-PAL South Asia is launching the Indian Scholars Program, a program that offers funding and capacity building opportunities for Indian researchers who have completed a PhD in Economics, Public Policy, Public Health or a related empirical discipline, and currently hold an academic or research position at an Indian university. 

Registrations of interest were due on June 20, 2021 11:59 PM IST, and are now closed. If you registered for the program before June 20, please see the following sections for next steps.

About the Program

The Indian Scholars Program will provide the following key opportunities:

  • Funding: We invite applications for proposal development grants; scoping studies that are intended to lead to impact evaluations; and rapid randomized evaluations

  • Webinar Series: J-PAL South Asia will host a series of webinars, starting June 14, that will provide interested researchers with information and deeper exposure to the technical and practical aspects of running randomized evaluations.

  • Scholarship: Researchers will be awarded a scholarship to attend J-PAL/MITx MicroMasters course in Data, Economics, and Development Policy.

  • Sponsorship: Researchers will be advised by an assigned “sponsor,” who will be a member of the J-PAL affiliate network. Selected researchers will have the opportunity to exchange ideas and receive inputs on their work from the J-PAL affiliated researcher that they are matched with.

Who can Apply?

This opportunity is available for researchers who:

  • Hold a PhD in Economics, Public Policy, Public Health or related empirical discipline.
  • Are currently holding a research or teaching position at an Indian university. 

Please note that the publication record of the applicants will be considered during the grant-making process. 

What can I apply for?

J-PAL South Asia invites India-based researchers to apply for proposal development grants, pilot/scoping study grants, and applications for rapid randomized evaluations for research related to the following themes:

  • Child and Maternal Health and Family Planning: Studies that seek to address child and maternal health, and family planning outcomes, as well as gender differentials in health care access and outcomes in India. 
  • Women’s Work and Economic Agency: These include studies that address:
    • Workplace arrangements and labor policies to promote formal and informal employment for women.
    • Enhancing women’s labor potential and work readiness.
    • Addressing restrictive gender norms related to women’s work.

Under Child and Maternal Health and Family Planning , researchers can apply for the following types of proposals:

  1. Proposal Development Grants:
    • Proposal development grants enable researchers to visit implementing partners and engage in preparatory research in order to secure support from potential partners for a randomized evaluation. These grants should ideally be aimed towards supporting a pilot study proposal or a full research project proposal in the future.
    • These grants are limited to a maximum of US$5,000.
  2. Pilot and Scoping Studies:
    • Pilots are defined as studies with a clear research question, but require piloting for one or more of the following:
      • The design and implementation of the evaluation requires further testing, pilot data, scoping activities and/or partnership development;
      • The feasibility of some aspects of program design has not yet been demonstrated under “real world” conditions.
    • These grants are limited to a maximum amount of US$25,000
  3. Randomized Evaluations:
    • These grants are for rapid full evaluations that will be completed by February 2022. The proposal should include a clear research question, a robust randomization design and description of the treatment, a theory of change, well-defined research instruments, and sample size estimates.
    • The proposal should also include a description of how the research may be used to inform specific policies and programmes related to child health, maternal health or women’s work and economic agency. 

Projects applying for funding under the Women’s Work and Economic Agency will be capped at US$75,000 and be limited to pilot and scoping studies or randomized evaluations.

Covid-19 Safety Precautions

Given the unprecedented rise of Covid-19 cases in India currently, all proposals submitted during this window should comply with Covid-19-related safety guidelines. J-PAL South Asia has currently stopped all in-person field activities and therefore, proposals submitted must not increase in-person interactions in the near future. All research and technical assistance must take place remotely via phone, email, video calls, etc. and have the necessary IRB approvals for any research components. In-person field work may be allowed at a later date, once Covid-19-related safety precautions have been lifted.

How to apply

To participate in the program, researchers were required to register their interest before June 20, 2021 11:59 PM IST.

Funding under the program will be provided through two windows:

  • The first window will focus on Child health, Maternal Health, and Family Planning. 

    • Based on a review of the expression of interest form, we will write to you to invite you to submit a full proposal, which will be due by July 9, 2021. Please note that you will only be eligible to submit a full proposal if you have submitted your expression of interest before June 20.

    • To review guidelines for submitting the detailed proposal under this window and to access application materials, please visit the website for J-PAL South Asia’s Cash Transfers for Child Health initiative here.  

  • For the second window, focusing on Women’s Work and Women’s Economic Agency, interested applicants must submit a brief letter of interest by July 9, 2021 and full applications are due by Monday, August 2.  For further details about the application process, please visit the website for J-PAL’s Gender and Economic Agency Initiative here.

Webinar Series

J-PAL South Asia will hold four webinar sessions on the following topics to support researchers in the application process:

  • Program Launch Webinar (June 14, 2021): This webinar will provide interested participants information on the types of funding available, the proposal application process, support that J-PAL South Asia will provide to researchers who receive funding, and insight on managing research projects at J-PAL South Asia. Questions about the program will be addressed in an extensive Q&A section. 
  • Writing a research funding proposal (June 21, 2021): This webinar will provide interested participants guidance on writing high-quality research funding proposals, information about the details their proposals should include, and address any questions they may have about their research proposals for the Indian Scholars Program.
  • Introduction to Randomized Evaluations (July 14, 2021): The lecture on randomisation draws on J-PAL SA’s vast experience in running randomised evaluations that involve extensive primary data collection. It clears the concepts on why and how randomised evaluations can be used to rigorously measure impact for better development outcomes. This lecture will also give participants a thorough understanding of why and when researchers and policymakers might choose to conduct randomised evaluations and how randomised evaluations are designed in real-world settings.
  • Sampling and Sample Size (July 21, 2021): The webinar on Sampling and Sample Size will review how to choose an appropriate sample size for a randomised evaluation and the factors that determine the statistical power in an RCT.

To participate in the program and apply for funding, all interested researchers were required to attend the first webinar. A recording was sent to those who registered after the launch webinar took place


This program will award scholarships to researchers to undertake the J-PAL/MITx MicroMasters course in Data, Economics, and Development Policy. Only researchers whose proposals are selected in the first round of funding will be eligible to receive this scholarship.  

The course equips learners with the practical skills and theoretical knowledge to tackle some of the most pressing challenges facing developing countries and the world’s poor. Through a series of five online courses and proctored exams, learners will gain a strong foundation in Microeconomics, Development Economics, and Probability and Statistics, while engaging with cutting-edge research in the field. 

The next round of MicroMasters courses will start from September 7, 2021, and participants should register at least the day before to be able to participate in the course.


Researchers whose proposals are selected for funding will be matched with researchers from the J-PAL affiliate network, who will serve as “sponsors” for the duration of their project. The sponsors will conduct regular calls with researchers to exchange ideas and provide inputs on the their study. J-PAL South Asia will match researchers for the sponsorship component based on their research interests, proposal topic, and previous work.

Further reading on randomised evaluations

Access all of J-PAL’s research resources here.

For further information, reach out to [email protected].

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