Overview

The William T. Grant Scholars Program supports career development for promising early-career researchers. The program funds five-year research and mentoring plans that significantly expand researchers’ expertise in new disciplines, methods, and content areas.

Applicants should have a track record of conducting high-quality research and an interest in pursuing a significant shift in their trajectories as researchers. We recognize that early-career researchers are rarely given incentives or support to take measured risks in their work, so this award includes a mentoring component, as well as a supportive academic community.

Awards are based on applicants’ potential to become influential researchers, as well as their plans to expand their expertise in new and significant ways. The application should make a cohesive argument for how the applicant will expand his or her expertise. The research plan should evolve in conjunction with the development of new expertise, and the mentoring plan should describe how the proposed mentors will support applicants in acquiring that expertise. Proposed research plans must address questions that are relevant to policy and practice in the Foundation’s focus areas.

The online application will open on April 30, 2019. The next application deadline is July 2, 2019 at 3:00 PM EST.


Focus Areas

The Foundation’s mission is to support research to improve the lives of young people ages 5-25 in the United States. We pursue this mission by supporting research within two focus areas. Researchers interested in applying for a William T. Grant Scholars Award must select one focus area:

In this focus area, we support research to build, test, and increase understanding of approaches to reducing inequality in youth outcomes, especially on the basis of race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, or immigrant origins. We are interested in research on programs, policies, and practices to reduce inequality in academic, social, behavioral, and economic outcomes.

The primary line of inquiry in this focus area is building, testing, and increasing understanding of responses to inequality in youth outcomes. We welcome descriptive studies that clarify mechanisms for reducing inequality or elucidate how or why a specific program, policy, or practice operates to reduce inequality. We also welcome intervention studies that examine attempts to reduce inequality. In addition, we seek studies that improve the measurement of inequality in ways that can enhance the work of researchers, practitioners, or policymakers. The common thread across all of this work, however, is a distinct and explicit focus on reducing inequality—one that goes beyond describing the causes or consequences of unequal outcomes and, instead, aims to build, test, or understand policy, program, or practice responses.

Applications for research in this focus area must:

  • Identify a specific inequality in youth outcomes, and show that the outcomes are currently unequal. We are especially interested in supporting research to reduce inequality in academic, social, behavioral, or economic outcomes.
  • Clearly identify the basis on which these outcomes are unequal, and articulate its importance. We are especially interested in research to reduce inequality on the basis of race, ethnicity, economic standing, language minority status, or immigrant origin status. Proposals for research on reducing inequality on a basis not listed here, or on ways in which a basis of inequality intersects with another, must make a compelling case that this research will improve youth outcomes.
  • Articulate how findings from your research will help build, test, or increase understanding of a specific program, policy, or practice to reduce the specific inequality that you have identified.

In sum, proposals for research on reducing inequality should make a compelling case that the inequality exists, why the inequality exists, and why the study’s findings will be crucial to informing a policy, program, or practice to reduce it.

We know that tackling a problem as large as inequality will require fresh, innovative ideas, and we welcome creative studies that have potential to advance or even transform the field.

In this focus area, we support research to identify, build, and test strategies to ensure that research evidence is used in ways that benefit youth. We are particularly interested in research on improving the use of research evidence by state and local decision makers, mid-level managers, and intermediaries.


Proposed research in this focus area must pursue one of the following lines of inquiry:

Identify or test strategies to improve the use of existing research.

This work may investigate strategies, mechanisms, or conditions for improving research use. Alternatively, studies may measure the effects of deliberate efforts to improve routine and beneficial uses of research in deliberations and decisions that affect young people. For example, prior work suggests that decision makers often lack the institutional resources and requisite skills to seek out and apply research, and certain organizational norms and routines can help overcome those barriers (Honig, Venkateswaran, & Twitchell, 2014; Mosley & Courtney, 2012; Nicholson, 2014). Future projects might study efforts to alter conditions in the decision making environment. For example, studies might compare the effectiveness of different ways (e.g., technical assistance, research-practice partnerships, cross-agency teams, etc.) to connect existing research with decision makers or exploit natural variation across decision making environments to identify the conditions that improve research use.

Identify or test strategies for producing more useful research evidence.

This includes examining ways to create incentives, structures, or relationships that facilitate the production of research that responds to decision makers’ needs. Applicants might identify strategies for altering the incentive structures or organizational cultures of research institutions so that researchers conduct more practice or policy relevant studies and are rewarded for research products that are considered useful by decision makers. Other applicants might identify the relationships and organizational structures that lead to the prioritization of decision makers’ research needs.

Studies may also examine ways to optimize researchers’, decision makers’, and intermediaries’ joint work to benefit youth. For example, one might investigate the effectiveness of funders’ efforts to incentivize joint work between researchers and decision makers. Other projects might develop and test effective curriculum and training experiences that develop researchers’ capacity to conduct collaborative work with practitioners.

Test the assumption that using high-quality research improves decision making and youth outcomes.

This is a long-standing implicit assumption, but the case for using research would be more compelling if there were a body of evidence showing that using research benefits youth. We want to know the conditions under which using research evidence improves decision making and youth outcomes.

We suspect that simply using research will not be sufficient to yield positive outcomes. The relationship between the use of research evidence and youth outcomes will be affected by a number of conditions. One hypothesis is that the quality of the research and the quality of the decision making will work synergistically to yield strong outcomes for youth. For the purpose of this example, we represented high-quality research as rigorous, relevant, and designed for use. High-quality use is represented as critical consideration and appropriate application of research.

Applicants are encouraged to identify other conditions under which using research evidence improves youth outcomes. For example, recent federal policies have instituted mandates and incentives to increase the adoption of programs with evidence of effectiveness from randomized controlled trials. Did these policies actually increase the use of those programs and improve child and youth outcomes?

Awards

Award recipients are designated as William T. Grant Scholars. Each year, four to six Scholars are selected and each receives up to $350,000, distributed over five years. Awards begin July 1 and are made to the applicant’s institution. The award must not replace the institution’s current support of the applicant’s research.

Capacity Building

The Foundation holds annual meetings during the summer to support the Scholars’ career development. These summer retreats are designed to foster a supportive environment in which Scholars can improve their skills and work. Scholars discuss works-in-progress and receive constructive feedback on the challenges they face in conducting their projects. The retreat consists of workshops centered on Scholars’ projects, research design and methods issues, and professional development. The meeting is attended by Scholars, Scholars Selection Committee members, and Foundation staff and Board members. Scholars are also invited to attend other Foundation-sponsored workshops on topics relevant to their work, such as mixed methods, reducing inequality, and the use of research evidence in policy and practice.

In years one through three of their awards, Scholars may apply for additional awards to mentor junior researchers of color. The announcement and criteria for funding are distributed annually to Scholars. Our goals for the grant program are two-fold. First, we seek to strengthen the mentoring received by junior researchers of color and to position them for professional success. Second, we want to support William T. Grant Scholars and principal investigators in developing a stronger understanding of the career development issues facing their junior colleagues of color and to strengthen their mentoring relationships with them. In the longer term, we hope this grant program will increase the number of strong, well-networked researchers of color doing research on the Foundation’s interests and help foster more diverse, equitable, and inclusive academic environments. 

Eligibility

Eligible Organizations

Grants are made to organizations, not individuals. Grants are limited, without exception, to tax-exempt organizations. A copy of the Internal Revenue Service tax-exempt status determination letter is required from each applying organization.

Eligible Applicants

Applicants must be nominated by their institutions. Major divisions (e.g., College of Arts and Sciences, Medical School) of an institution may nominate only one applicant each year. In addition to the eligibility criteria below, deans and directors of those divisions should refer to the Selection Criteria on pages 12-14 to aid them in choosing their nominees.

Applicants must have received their terminal degree within seven years of submitting their application. We calculate this by adding seven years to the date the doctoral degree was conferred. In medicine, the seven-year maximum is dated from the completion of the first residency.

Applicants must be employed in career-ladder positions. For many applicants, this means holding a tenure-track position in a university. Applicants in other types of organizations should be in positions in which there is a pathway to advancement in a research career at the organization and the organization is fiscally responsible for the applicant’s position. The award may not be used as a post-doctoral fellowship.

Applicants outside the United States are eligible. As with U.S. applicants, they must pursue research that has compelling policy or practice implications for youth in the United States.

Applicants of any discipline are eligible.

Selection Criteria

Selection is based on applicants’ potential to become influential researchers, as well as their plans to expand their expertise in new and significant ways. The application should make a cohesive argument for how the applicant will expand his or her expertise. The research plan should evolve in conjunction with the development of new expertise, and the mentoring plan should describe how the proposed mentors will support applicants in acquiring that expertise.

  • Applicant demonstrates potential to become an influential researcher. An ability to conduct and communicate creative, sophisticated research is proven through prior training and publications. Competitive applicants have a promising track record of first authored, high-quality empirical publications in peer-reviewed outlets. The quality of publications is more important than the quantity.
  • Applicant will significantly expand his or her expertise through this award. The applicant should identify area(s) in which the award will appreciably expand his or her expertise, and specific details should be provided in the research and mentoring plans. Expansion of expertise can involve a different discipline, method, and/or content area than the applicants’ prior research and training.
  • Research area is a strong fit with one of the Foundation’s current focus areas. Proposed research on reducing inequality should aim to build, test, and increase understanding of a program, policy, or practice to reduce inequality in the academic, social, behavioral, or economic outcomes of young people ages 5–25 in the United States. Proposed research on improving the use of research evidence should inform strategies to improve the use of research evidence in ways that benefit young people ages 5–25 in the United States.
  • Proposals reflect a mastery of relevant theory and empirical findings, and clearly state the theoretical and empirical contributions they will make to the existing research base. Projects may focus on either generating or testing theory, depending on the state of knowledge about a topic.
  • Although we do not expect that any one project will or should impact policy or practice, the findings should have relevance for policy or practice.
  • Research plan reflects high standards of evidence and rigorous methods, commensurate with the proposal’s goals. The latter years or projects of the research plan may, by necessity, be described in less detail than those of the first few, but successful applicants provide enough specificity for reviewers to be assured of the rigor and feasibility of the plan:
    1. Research designs, methods, and analysis plans clearly fit the research questions under study.
    2. Discussions of case selection, sampling, and measurement include a compelling rationale that they are well-suited to address the research questions or hypotheses. For example, samples are appropriate in size and composition to answer the study’s questions. Qualitative case selection—whether critical, comparative, or otherwise—are appropriate to answer the proposed questions.
    3. The quantitative and/or qualitative analysis plan demonstrate awareness of the strengths and limits of the specific analytic techniques and how they will be applied in the current project.
    4. If proposing mixed methods, plans for integrating the methods and data are clear and compelling.
    5. Where relevant, there is attention to generalizability of findings and to statistical power to detect meaningful effects.
    • Research plan demonstrates adequate consideration of the gender, ethnic, and cultural appropriateness of concepts, methods, and measures.
    • Research plan is feasible. The work can be successfully completed given the resources and time frame. Some research plans require additional funding, and in those cases, applicants have viable plans for acquiring that support.
    • Research plan is cohesive and multiple studies (if proposed) are well-integrated.
    • Research plan will significantly extend the applicant’s expertise in new and significant ways. Applicant provides specific details about how the research activities will stretch his or her expertise.
  • Applicant proposes one to two mentors for the first two years of the award. Two is typical and recommended. (The mentoring plan for the latter years will be developed in consultation with Foundation staff after the second year of the program.)
  • The mentoring plan and mentor letters demonstrate that all parties have identified and agreed on specific goals that expand the applicant’s expertise in the ways outlined in the research plan.
  • Each mentor has appropriate credentials, expertise, and resources to aid the applicant’s acquisition of the new expertise; has a strong track record of mentorship; and demonstrates a commitment to mentoring the applicant.
  • The mentoring plan and mentor letters convincingly detail how the mentor will aid the applicant in acquiring the new expertise. A compelling rationale and specific details about the mentoring activities are provided. This includes information about how the mentor and applicant will interact, how frequently, and around what substantive issues. Reviewers must be persuaded that the mentoring activities are sufficiently robust to result in the new expertise that has been identified, and that the mentor is making a sufficient time commitment. Careful consideration should be devoted to the types of activities and time that is required to learn different types of skills (e.g., new methods versus disciplinary perspectives). Examples of activities include advising on new disciplinary norms, data collection plans, analytic techniques, and publication; providing feedback on manuscripts; arranging training opportunities; facilitating access to new professional networks; recommending readings; and more general career advising.
  • Award will add significant value to each mentoring relationship beyond what would normally occur. Applicants should propose relationships and activities that are unlikely to occur without the award. Deepening a relationship with a casual colleague, or developing a new relationship, adds greater value to an applicants’ mentoring network than proposing a former advisor or committee chair.
  • The supporting institution nominates the applicant. Each year, only one applicant may be nominated from a major division (e.g., College of Arts and Sciences, Medical School) of an institution.
  • The institution is committed to providing the researcher with sufficient resources to carry out the five-year research plan. This includes computer equipment, colleagues, administrative staff, research facilities, and the balance of his or her salary, absent denial of tenure or dramatic reduction in institutional funding. At least half of the Scholar’s paid time must be spent conducting research.

Application Review Process

Review occurs in the following stages: Staff screen abstracts, brief CVs, and, if warranted, full applications to determine whether they fit our research focus areas and potentially meet other Selection Criteria. Next, the Scholars Selection Committee reviews the remaining applications. Each application receives detailed reviews by two Committee members. The Committee then chooses approximately 10 finalists, who will be invited to New York City for an interview on February 21, 2019. Prior to the interview, finalists’ proposals are reviewed by two external reviewers.

During the interview, finalists have the opportunity to respond to Committee members’ and external experts’ reviews. Following the interviews, the Selection Committee chooses three to six William T. Grant Scholars. Applicants will be notified of the Committee’s decision by the end of March 2019.