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

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 2023. Recent PhD recipients are eligible if they were granted their PhD during or after Spring 2018. Applicants working as professional researchers or university faculty without the PhD outside of the U.S. may be eligible, if they are not concurrently enrolled in an MA program, and are within five years of the commencement of their professional position, as demonstrated by their curriculum vitae.

What disciplines are eligible?

The program 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, as described in the call for proposals. Please note, although the SSRC can provide verification of funding for successful applicants, we cannot sponsor visas for research-related travel.

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

Eligible applicants who are not enrolled in PhD programs need not be affiliated with an academic institution.

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

Yes. Any scholar who completed their PhD during or after Spring 2018 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 Monday, March 20, 2023. Notification of award status will occur on or before June 17, 2023. Grants will provide support for research beginning as early as August 15, 2023, ending no later than August 31, 2024.

What does an application consist of?

A completed application consists of an application form, a five-page research proposal (see detail below) and bibliography, a detailed budget, your Curriculum Vitae, and one letter of reference (dissertators only, see below). The research proposal must address the following questions. Applications that do not speak explicitly to each of these 5 components will be considered ineligible:

  • What research question(s) will be addressed by the proposed research? How does your proposed research address the goals of the program as stated in the call for proposals?
  • In what social science or other literature is/are the research 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? Do you anticipate any difficulties in carrying out your research?
  • 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.
  • What will the impact of your research be? What communities of practice can benefit from your work (beyond scholarly research communities)?

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

The research proposal should be no more than 5 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, and the application is otherwise deemed eligible, selection committee members will only review the first five pages.

Who can write my letter of reference (for dissertators only)?

Dissertators are required to submit a letter of reference that stipulates their ABD (“advanced to candidacy”) status. This brief letter should be written on letterhead by an advisor or a committee member and submitted with the application.

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.

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. Program staff will hold an informational webinar about the application process. Please register here to receive information about this webinar.

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 Program” 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 grant start date and ending no later than August 31, 2024.

What may grant funds be used for?

Grant funds should be used for direct costs 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. Indirect costs for individual grants are not permitted.

If travel or in-person research is proposed, applicants should address any likely considerations that could impact the feasibility of their plans.

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

Awards can be paid directly to the grantee or disbursed through the grantee’s home institution. SSRC awards are subject to taxability. If paid directly to the grantee, the grantee is responsible for all tax reporting on their award. If disbursed through the grantee’s home institution, the university will handle all taxability issues associated with the award.

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