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Who can apply for a Religion, Spirituality, and Democratic Renewal Fellowship?

Advanced doctoral candidates and recent PhD recipients from all fields in the social sciences, humanities, and theology are eligible to apply. Doctoral candidates must complete all requirements for the PhD degree except for the dissertation by June 2022. Recent PhD recipients are eligible if they were granted their PhD during or after Spring 2017.

Is there a degree requirement?

Applicants must currently be enrolled in a PhD program and have advanced to candidacy by June 2022 or have completed their PhD during or after Spring 2017. 

What disciplines are eligible?

The fellowship is open to applicants from all fields in the social sciences, humanities, and theology, including but not limited to anthropology, economics, ethics, geography, history, political science, psychology, religious studies, and sociology. Regardless of discipline, the proposal should demonstrate substantive engagement with the relevant literatures on religion (and/or spirituality) and democracy. 

Is there a citizenship requirement?

There is no citizenship requirement as to who can receive funding through this program. However, research must be conducted on a topic relevant to the intersection of religion and spirituality with democracy in the United States.

Must I demonstrate proof of an institutional affiliation in my application for this fellowship?

Recent PhD recipients need not be affiliated with an academic institution to be eligible to apply.

I have a full-time faculty appointment. Am I eligible to apply?

Yes. Any scholar who completed their PhD during or after Spring 2017 is eligible to apply, regardless of institutional affiliation.

I applied last year. Can I apply again?

Yes. If you are still eligible to apply, you can apply again but will need to start a new application in the application portal. Resubmission of a project that has not been substantively revised is unlikely to be successful.

Application Process

What is the application and program timeline?

Applications are due through the online application portal at 5:00 pm Eastern Time on Thursday, April 14, 2022. Notification of award status will occur on or before June 17, 2022. Fellowships will provide support for research beginning as early as August 1, 2022, ending no later than August 31, 2023.

What does an application consist of?

A completed application consists of an application form, a ten-page research proposal (see detail below) and bibliography, a detailed budget, and one letter of reference. The research proposal must address the following questions:

  • What research question(s) will be addressed by the proposed research? How does your proposed research articulate with the goals of the program?
  • In what social science or other literature is/are the question(s) grounded? What existing work, within your discipline or others, will your research address?
  • What evidence will you gather through the proposed research? Where will you conduct this research (location, sources, etc.)? What methods will you use to collect this material? What approaches will you use to analyze it?
  • If your research requires specific skills, e.g., data collection or analysis skills, briefly describe your competence in these approaches, and how you acquired them.

How long can my research proposal be? Does it need to be formatted specifically?

The research proposal should be no more than 10 pages (single-spaced, 12-point font, Times New Roman, 1” margins), not including a focused bibliography that can be up to 2 additional pages. In the event that a longer document is uploaded, selection committee members will only review the first ten pages.

Who can write my letter of reference?

The letter of reference should stipulate the potential contribution and feasibility of the research. For PhD students, this letter should be from an advisor or committee member who is familiar with the proposed project. For recent PhD recipients, this letter may be from any colleague who is familiar with the proposed project and who can comment on how it speaks to both the relevant research field and to broader publics.

May I submit an application in a language other than English?

Proposals must be submitted in English.

May I submit my application by fax or email?

No. Applications sent by fax or email will not be accepted. Applicants must use the SSRC’s Online Application Portal to supply the necessary information.

Can I have a staff member review a draft of my proposal before submission?

No. For suggestions on proposal writing, we encourage you to consult The Art of Writing Proposals.

How can I find out whether the program has received my application?

An acknowledgment of receipt will be sent automatically via email upon successful submission of the application. This acknowledgement will be sent to the email address provided when you registered with the SSRC Online Application Portal. If you do not receive an automatic email confirmation within 24 hours of submitting your application, please contact Please specify “RSDR Fellowship” in the message subject line.

If I submit my application before the deadline, can I change it?

No. No alterations will be accepted after the application has been submitted.

Research Projects

Are there requirements for methodology?

Research projects using any social science methodology, quantitative, qualitative, or mixed, are eligible. If your research requires specific skills, e.g., data collection or analysis skills, please address your experience and training in these skills in your research proposal.

If your research plan includes the use of specific data sets, archival resources, etc., please indicate in your proposal whether or not you have secured access to these resources or what steps might be required to do so.

What is the expected length of time of the proposed research?

Proposed projects may be between three and twelve months in duration, and must be completed within twelve months of the fellowship start date.

What may fellowship funds be used for?

Fellowship funds will typically be used for activities directly related to research, such as travel expenses and accommodations, research equipment and supplies, support for research assistants, and costs for access to publications or proprietary databases. In exceptional cases, and in consultation with program staff, award funds may be used to cover other expenses.

Given the uncertainty with regard to the feasibility of travel and in-person activities due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, applicants are encouraged to consider the potential of virtual research methods. If travel or in-person research is proposed, applicants should account for the potential impact of the pandemic in their plans.

Do the fellowship awards go directly to the fellows or are they channeled through a university?

All awards are paid directly to the RSDR fellows. SSRC awards are subject to taxability. Fellows are responsible for all tax reporting on their awards.

With other questions that are not answered here, contact the Religion and the Public Sphere staff at