Social Policy Research Initiative Request for Proposals

Overview

 The J-PAL North America Social Policy Research Initiative (SPRI), is calling for randomized evaluations that contribute to J-PAL’s mission to reduce poverty by ensuring policy is informed by rigorous evidence. This could include randomized evaluations across a broad range of sectors including but not limited to consumer finance, children and families, crime, education, employment, energy and environment, household finance, housing and homelessness, labor, employment and training, etc. with the exception of proposals related to health. 

We particularly welcome proposals that incorporate research questions involving racial equity. For proposals focusing on racial equity please refer to the “Advancing Racial and Ethnic Equity” section in the “Evaluation Criteria Document.”

Types of Proposals

Full Research Projects

Full research projects are typically awarded $150,000 to $250,000, with a maximum budget of $400,000. The award period may be up to three years. A full project proposal is one where applicants: 

  • Can propose a clear and well-developed research question, with references to previous literature 
  • Can provide detailed randomization design, power calculations, and can indicate outcomes of interest

Full project proposals may be submitted for an ongoing study that has already begun without J-PAL North America funding.

Pilot Studies 

Pilot studies may be awarded a maximum of $50,000. The award period may be up to three years.  A pilot proposal is one where applicants: 

  • Seek to answer a particular research question but the design and implementation require further testing and development before a full project launches
  • Can clearly explain how the pilot will lead to a randomized evaluation in the future, although random assignment does not necessarily need to occur during the pilot
  • Pilot funds may also be used for activities intended to facilitate access to administrative data for designing or conducting an RCT.

Research Management Support

Researchers are strongly encouraged to apply for Research Management Support (RMS) when submitting their proposals. This program provides strategic and customized Research Management Support (RMS) to researchers in the J-PAL network to navigate early-stage complexities in the design and implementation of randomized evaluations. Support may include activities such as project management, stakeholder management, technical support, and staff recruitment. More information can be found on the website, or by contacting [email protected].  

Travel/proposal development grants

Researchers may be awarded a maximum of $5,000 for one year. Grants are to be used for early-stage research activities which may include travel, exploring access to administrative data, or other costs incurred while conducting fieldwork. Travel/proposal development grants are paid by direct reimbursement to the PI and cannot cover any activity that requires review by an IRB. Please review the instructions under the "Application Documents" section, and submit materials to [email protected].

Add-on funding

Add-on-funding may be awarded to projects previously funded by any J-PAL North America initiative. Funding requests are capped at $400,000 minus the amount of all funding previously awarded to the evaluation (i.e. if a proposal previously received $150,000 from J-PAL North America, add-on-funding is capped at $250,000). The award period may be up to three years. Add-on-funding proposals may seek to:

  • Add additional sites or treatment arms to an implemented evaluation
  • Support additional activities on ongoing or past RCTs, such as follow-ups to measure long-term effects.
  • Extend the project timeline or cover additional costs due to implementation challenges

Eligibility Criteria 

Proposal Eligibility

J-PAL North America funds randomized evaluations, or randomized controlled trials (RCTs), in the United States. These include: 

J-PAL North America will fund non-randomized work under pilot and travel/development funding (see grant criteria below) if there is a clear link to how it will lead to an RCT  

The same proposal (or different versions of the same proposal) may not be submitted to multiple J-PAL North America RFPs simultaneously unless given explicit permission to do so.

Researcher Eligibility  

J-PAL affiliates, J-PAL post-doctoral fellows, and researchers invited by J-PAL North America to participate in the initiative (invited researchers) are eligible to apply for funding of any type. Applicants may submit a maximum of three proposals per 12-month period to a single initiative. PI and co-PI status are counted towards this limit.

Graduate Students

To apply, graduate students must meet the following criteria: 

  • Pre-thesis PhD students may apply if they anticipate an affiliate or invited researcher will be on their thesis committee and the affiliate will supervise the proposed project. 
  • To apply for full funding, graduate students must have previously received a grant from J-PAL for the same evaluation or have documented evidence of successful piloting activities. Note, for graduate students the total amount of funding they may receive across time is capped at $50,000 per initiative, regardless of the number of projects funded.

Timeline

September 27, 2023 – RFP is issued
January 17, 2024 – Proposal Submission Deadline
Week of March 18, 2024 – Awards Announced

Future rounds are expected to occur twice a year. In rare instances, J-PAL North America will consider off-cycle proposals for projects, including pilots, facing time constraints due to factors outside of their control. Off-cycle proposals will face the same scrutiny as proposals submitted during the RFP round, and must include a justification for off-cycle submission. Decisions on these applications are typically made in about two weeks. We accept travel/proposal development grants at any time of the year.

Relevance to Public Policy and Issues of Poverty

  • Does the proposal make the case for how answering the proposed research question and/or evaluating the proposed intervention has the potential to generate benefits for the following populations? 
    • People who are low-income or living in poverty
    • People who have risk factors associated with falling into poverty
    • People who identify as members of racial/ethnic groups who are at greater risk of living in or falling into poverty due to economic marginalization produced through structural racism in North America, such as Black, Indigenous, and Latinx populations. 
  • Is the proposal addressing a pressing public policy issue in North America? How is this policy issue relevant to one or more of the populations described above?
    • Policy issue has a significant or disproportionate impact on low-income and/or economically marginalized populations
  • Is the intervention designed to improve or increase access to resources and choices for low-income and/or economically marginalized populations
  • Policy issue is one that, if unaddressed, could lead people to fall into poverty
  • Policy issue relates to issues of structural racism that economically marginalized specific racial/ethnic groups in the North America context. 
  • Will lessons learned from this study have broader relevance or applications for policy or decision-making beyond this test case? 

You may find examples of evaluations previously funded by the Social Policy Research Initiative here.

FAQ

Who will review applications?

The Review Board is composed of J-PAL affiliates Matthew NotowidigdoAlicia Sasser Modestino and Judd Kessler. Each proposal will be peer reviewed by one member of the Review Board and two researchers and/or policy experts not on the Review Board. The Review Board will meet to agree on final funding decisions.

Who can I contact?

For questions about the NA SPRI RFP, please email [email protected]

Application Documents

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