Who can apply for a Mercury Project grant?

We welcome applications from researchers from around the globe, unless you or anyone in your team is linked to countries and/or entities currently under sanctions or embargoes by the United States’ Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Citizens and residents of countries under (i) comprehensive OFAC sanctions/embargoes or (ii) non-comprehensive sanctions/embargoes that otherwise prohibit activities related to receiving a grant from a US-based institution (such as the transfer of funds), as well as entities and/or individuals (either directly or by association with an entity) who are subject to targeted OFAC sanctions/embargoes are ineligible to apply to a Mercury Project grant. Other than these exceptions, there are no citizenship requirements. 

How can I know if my country and/or institution is under sanctions? Can you confirm if my application is eligible before I apply?

OFAC does not keep a consolidated list of countries under sanction, so candidates must review the “Sanctions Programs and Country Information” page for information on specific OFAC sanctions and embargo programs as they might change over time. In addition, OFAC maintains a Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List and other sanctions lists that can be consulted by anyone. If, after reviewing these resources, you believe you’re a citizen/resident of a country under comprehensive sanctions/embargoes, or you or your institution is listed in one of the lists above, you should not apply to a Mercury Project grant – this is also the case if anyone in your research team is affected by these restrictions. Unfortunately, Mercury Project staff cannot preemptively guarantee that your application will be eligible, so you should review these resources carefully before applying to avoid working on an application that will be deemed ineligible.

If the primary applicant is a tax-exempt organization, are additional partners in a consortium allowed to be not tax exempt, i.e., for-profit enterprises?


Will each member of the team be responsible for grant reporting?

The primary investigator will be responsible for coordination and reporting across all team members.

Do all (or any) members of the research team need to have doctoral degrees?

No. We are interested in the ability to produce high-quality work rather than in specific degrees.

Am I eligible if I have previously received or currently have a grant with the SSRC?


Am I eligible if I have previously or currently been part of the Mercury Project?


Can an individual be on more than one proposal (team)?


Can a single organization or institution submit more than one proposal?

Yes. There is no limit on the number of proposals that a single organization can submit.

Research Projects

What do you mean by “causal impact”?

By causal impact, we mean estimates of treatment effects that can be derived from experimental or quasi-experimental research designs.

Are you interested in survey experiments that measure outcomes such as intentions or self-reports of behaviors?

We will give strong preference to studies that are able to capture causal impacts on observable online and offline behaviors, not just intentions or self-reports of behaviors.

What countries are considered low- and lower-middle income countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean?

We are following the World Bank’s 2021 classifications for low and lower-middle income countries.

Research Process

What are the requirements for ethics approvals?

The SSRC takes ethical research, including privacy-protection and dignity-promotion, seriously. It will be the researcher’s responsibility to obtain all necessary clearances for conducting research involving human subjects in a manner consistent with ethics and equity. Funded projects that include research involving human subjects will need to secure approval from human subjects committees of the sponsoring institutions before research commences. We encourage teams to think of IRB clearance and the protection of human subjects as a minimum of ethical, inclusive research practice.

Is there a fixed start date for the funding, or are PIs able to determine their start date?

Your grant can commence only when program staff have received the proper documentation, i.e., signed copies of the formal award letter, the payment schedule, and the taxability questionnaire. Once these documents have been signed, a Mercury Project grant’s budget and activity schedule are final. Any changes, including acceptance of additional sources of funding that would be concurrent with your grant, must be approved by the program director. The signed award letter serves as an official contract between your institution and the Social Science Research Council.


In what currency should we submit the budget?

United States dollars.

Are projects allowed to have other sources of funding?

Yes. We encourage teams to leverage additional funding in order to fully answer the research questions targeted by the Mercury Project, as well as related components that go beyond the scope of the Mercury Project.

Is there truly no budget limit on proposals?

There is no budget cap–we want teams to be ambitious and to fully answer the Mercury Project challenge. However, you may wish to demonstrate what can be achieved at different price points. For context, the average grant size in our first cohort is US$ 650k, with a wide spread around the average.

Are there any rules I should know about the budget?

Proposed budgets should be appropriate to cover project costs, with indirect costs not exceeding 15% of direct costs. Projects with subawardees can distribute direct and indirect costs across institutional partners; the 15% cap on indirect costs applies to the overall budget.

Teams are encouraged to include money for technical editors in their budget and to plan to translate key products into the main languages (official or no) in the context in which the research was conducted.

Are there any exclusions to the amount of indirect costs that a lead institution can incur on the subawards?


Can I write in PI summer salaries into the grant?


What approach do you take for 501(c)(f) compliance for non-US-based lead organizations?

The Mercury Project takes a stance of “expenditure responsibility,” whereby funds must be used exclusively for the research purposes stated in the submitted application and the approved budget. SSRC grants are subject to taxability. Grantees should refer to the IRS website (www.irs.gov) or analogous agency outside the United States for specifics on taxability of awards.

What governing law / jurisdiction will apply?

New York State jurisdiction will apply.

Who is the primary sponsor of this award?

The Social Science Research Council is the prime sponsor.

Application Process and Timeline

When does the call for proposals close?

The SSRC announced a new call for proposals for the Mercury Project on January 23, 2023. We will not review proposals received after May 1, 2023. Proposals will be reviewed on a rolling basis; we encourage applicants to submit proposals earlier rather than later.

How many project teams will you fund?

The total number of teams funded will be determined by the number and kinds of applications that are submitted.

Can I apply as individual?

Given the scope of projects required to answer the challenge posed by the Mercury Project, and our desire to support diverse teams of social and behavioral scientists and practitioners, we strongly encourage applications by teams rather than by individuals. Unfortunately, we are unable to assist with matchmaking.

Do applications need to be submitted in English?


Are there any formatting requirements for the 6-page proposal?

There are no formatting requirements.

Does the 6-page proposal limit include references?


Can you connect me with partnering organizations, other researchers, or a mentor?

Unfortunately, we cannot provide this matchmaking function.

May I submit my application by email or fax?

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, but you may email mercury@ssrc.org with queries. In addition, we encourage you to consult the Mercury Project’s Research Framework.

Can I speak with an SSRC staff member about my proposal idea?

Unfortunately, no, we do not have time to speak with all our enthusiastic potential applicants.