General Information


What types of research institutions may apply?

Eligible research institutions include tax-exempt university-based research institutes, schools, or centers. Research organizations, think tanks, and other institutions based outside of the academy are not eligible to apply.

Can a public agency or nonprofit organization serve as the lead applicant?

The lead applicant must be the research organization. This is because of the emphasis in the Institutional Challenge Grant on changing structures and incentives within the university to encourage and support partnership-oriented, engaged scholarship.

Can the research institution or nonprofit/public agency partner be based outside of the United States?

Yes, but the research proposed by both partners must address an issue or question with clear and compelling policy and practice implications for youth ages 5 to 25 in the United States. In the case that the research institution is based outside the US, the institution must also provide evidence of its tax-exempt status.


Are letters of inquiry required?

No. Letters of inquiry are not required. Full proposals are due on September 14 at 3 pm EST.

Can a research institution submit more than one application?

Yes. Please note, however, that there will be only one award per cycle, so an institution that submits two applications is competing against itself. But the decision to submit is up to the applicants.

The Research-Practice Partnership

Is a pre-existing relationship between the research center and its public partner(s) required to be competitive?

The competition is open to partnerships at different stages of maturity. Applicants will need to convince reviewers that the proposed activities add significant value to what already exists. They will also need to provide initial evidence that the partners can successfully work together and have the potential to sustain a long-term collaboration.

Can a research institution partner with multiple public agencies or nonprofits?

Yes. The Institutional Challenge Grant is designed to support research institutions’ efforts to build sustained partnerships with institutions from the practice and policy communities. Ultimately, we hope this joint work will reduce inequalities in youth outcomes.

Would the selection committee favor projects that involve larger jurisdictions over projects that involve smaller jurisdictions?

There is value in both approaches, and the selection committee favors projects that provide a strong rationale for partnership, the inequality it will address, and a well-aligned research plan. The design of the research should offer broader lessons even if the activities of the partnership are local.

Are there resources available through the Foundation to connect to literature on research-practice partnerships?

Yes. Please visit the home page of the Institutional Challenge Grant and the Foundation’s microsite on research-practice partnerships, which features resources, work samples, and guiding tips for partnerships, gathered from members of our learning community of partnerships in education .

Staffing and the Fellows

How does the Foundation define the roles of PI and Fellow?

The Principal Investigator (PI) must be a leader at the research institution with sufficient visibility, influence on institutional policies and practices, and access to resources necessary to optimize and implement the award. The PI should also have the ability to cultivate trusting relationships with leaders from the partner organization.

The Fellows are individuals at the mid-career stage. Research Fellows will facilitate the research and support its use and must have received their terminal degree within 8 to 20 years of the date that the application is submitted. Applicants may also appoint a mid-career fellow from the public agency or nonprofit organization to facilitate the use of research. This fellow should have 8 to 20 years of cumulative experience in a position similar to his or her current role.

Can the PI also be a Fellow?

Yes, the PI may be a Fellow. This decision should be well-justified.

Can there be more than one PI at the institution?

No. There needs to be a single PI with overall responsibility for the grant. However, applicants may identify co-PIs to share the work of the PI, such as a Dean with influence at the institution or a faculty member with content expertise.

In addition to support for the Fellows, can funding from the Institutional Challenge Grant cover additional university faculty time, such as the time contributed by the PI or a junior faculty member who assists with the research?

Yes. It is appropriate to apply the funds not used to support the planning period and Fellows toward research activities, investigators’ time, and investments in the public agency or nonprofit organization. The proposed budget should be well-justified and sufficient to carry out the work.

Institutional Shifts

At what level do you expect changes in institutional policy and practice to occur?

Applicants will need to balance ambition toward broad institutional change with an acknowledgement of what is feasible. Shifts may include changes in institution-wide policies to incentivize research-practice partnerships. Alternatively, centers, institutes, or departments may create infrastructure that is capable of training and supporting researchers to engage in partnerships. We welcome your innovations and encourage you to check out a webinar on this topic.

Are nonprofit and public agency partners also expected to propose institutional changes?

Resources from the grant are intended to build a culture of and capacity for research use within the agency. Thus, the application should describe how activities and funds will support the development of positions, skills, tools, and routines that enhance the agency’s ability to use research.

Research Agenda on Reducing Inequality

What does it mean to specify the dimension of inequality to be studied?

Applicants are encouraged to describe the basis of the inequality—the lines along which outcomes are currently unequal. We are interested in inequality on the basis of race, ethnicity, economic standing, and/or immigrant origin status

Will the selection committee consider proposals examining inequality on the basis of gender, sexual orientation, on other areas?

Yes. However, studies focused on reducing inequality on dimensions outside of race, ethnicity, economic standing, or immigrant origin status must make a compelling case that this research will improve youth outcomes. If appropriate, we are also interested in the ways in which dimensions of inequality intersect (e.g. race and gender, income and sexual orientation).

Are there youth outcomes in which you are particularly interested?

Yes. We are particularly interested in academic, behavioral, social, and economic youth outcomes. However, we will consider research on other outcomes.


Can the grant funds be disbursed to the nonprofit or public agency partner?

There is an expectation that at least half of the funds for the planning period will be shared with the nonprofit or public agency partner. Funds are distributed through the research institution, most often via a subcontract. The Foundation does not disburse funds directly to the nonprofit or public agency.

Is the indirect cost allowance based on the project’s total cost or the total direct cost requested?

An indirect cost estimated on the total project costs is allowed.

Would grant funding from another funding agency be acceptable to support the research institution’s in-kind contribution of a mid-career research fellow?

Yes. It is up to the research institution how they support the in-kind fellow.

Can funds to support the nonprofit or public agency partner be used to finance the delivery of the services being studied?

No. These resources are intended to build a culture of and capacity for research use within the agency. Permissible uses of these funds include technical assistance, infrastructure improvement, and staff training.