Competitive Research Fund

Spring 2019 Details

Award notices will be made in May!

Deadline: March 5, 2019 by 5:00 PM EST
Award Amount: $5,000-$50,000 for one year
Eligible Applicants: FAS/SEAS ladder faculty (assistant, associate, or full) as well as Professors in Residence and Professors of the Practice; also, faculty from other Harvard schools who hold more than a 0 FTE appointment in FAS/SEAS. Faculty from other Harvard schools without a greater-than-zero FAS/SEAS appointment are welcome to participate as collaborators on funded projects.
Conditions: Successful applicants will be expected to give a short presentation of the funded project at a symposium at the end of the grant year, and submit a short description of project results.
Applyonline here


The goal of the IAI Competitive Research Fund is to support new research that will advance our understanding of the causes and consequences of inequality, including its implications for a range of outcomes from economic growth and political stability to crime, public health, family wellbeing, and social trust; or that will test interventions or result in the development and dissemination of data, educational resources and/or policy guides. This call invites innovative ideas from the full range of academic disciplines with a particular emphasis on research that engages with the core themes of the FAS Inequality in America Initiative: Work, Family and Opportunity; Mobility and Migration; Governance, Citizenship and Social Justice; Science, Technology, Education and Health; American Inequality, Globally.

The Inequality in America Initiative Competitive Research Fund will provide funding in the following categories:

  • Seed funding, to encourage investigators to pursue exciting new research directions that might not yet be ready to compete in traditional funding programs.
  • Bridge funding, to allow investigators to continue work on previously funded research that does not currently have external funding. Investigators who apply in this category must demonstrate that efforts have been made or will be made to obtain external funding.

Please apply only if your funding needs fit into one of these categories. Project budgets of $5,000-$50,000 may be requested for one year, though it should be noted that funded proposals may receive below the award ceiling.

The IAI Competitive Research Fund is especially interested in supporting research projects that involve any of the following: interdisciplinary collaboration among departments or Harvard schools; new and early-career investigators; training opportunities for undergraduates and graduate students.


This program is open to FAS and SEAS ladder faculty (assistant, associate and full professors), FAS/SEAS Professors in Residence and Professors of the Practice, and faculty from other Harvard schools who hold more than a 0 FTE appointment in FAS or SEAS. (Faculty from other Harvard schools without a greater-than-zero FTE appointment in FAS/SEAS are welcome to participate as collaborators on funded projects.) Applications from tenure-track faculty are especially encouraged.

Faculty may only submit one application in this funding cycle.

It is expected that awarded funds will be used as quickly as is feasible to advance the work described.

Successful applicants will be expected to give a short presentation of the funded project at a symposium at the end of the grant year, and submit a short description of project results.

Application and Review Process

Applications must be submitted through the portal for the Dean's Competitive Fund for Promising Scholarship. Proposals will be read and evaluated by a multidisciplinary committee that includes faculty with expertise in the study of inequality. Please ensure that your proposal makes sense to someone outside of your discipline.

Applicants will be asked to provide the following:

  • Contact information
  • Project description (1 page) that is accessible to those outside your discipline. The project description should include:
    • The question or problem, and why it is important.
    • The approach to be taken.
    • The potential impact of proposed work.
  • 1-3 sentence synopsis of the project (for public dissemination if awarded).
  • One paragraph explaining why this funding source is essential to the launch or success of the proposed project.
  • Abridged CV or biosketch (2 pages).
  • A list of all current or pending external sources of grant support, and a description of what efforts have been made or will be made to obtain external funding for the proposed project.
  • Budget and budget justification (1 page). Budgets should provide enough information to convey the alignment of costs with the project. Faculty are encouraged to work closely with their grants administrator when including personnel and fringe benefits. Faculty in Social Science and Arts & Humanities departments without a designated grant administrator may contact Jimmy Matejek (
  • Eligible expenses may include but are not limited to personnel (e.g. postdocs, graduate students, undergraduate students, consultants, translators); fringe benefits; domestic and international travel; equipment user fees; archive fees; data acquisition fees; training to acquire a new skill or area of expertise that will enable the proposed project.
  • The following expenses are not eligible for funding: overhead, faculty salary, graduate student tuition, educational/course use, equipment, space.

With a budget for this cycle of $250,000, the review committee will make awards to only the most promising applications, and will stay within the budget of the Fund. Awardees will be notified of funding decisions in May 2019.


If you have questions about the IAI Competitive Research Fund, please contact Jennifer Shephard (

Jason Beckfield, Professor of Sociology
Visualizing the Social and Historical Causes of Immigration to the United States
This web-based project aims to visually represent the ways in which the United States’ diplomatic, military, and economic history has conditioned and even determined the history of migration from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia to the United States. This project will produce a visual tool for scholars, activists, organizers, educators, students, and American citizens, more broadly, to learn about and combat myths and stereotypes about the reasons people come to the US. By reconsidering the way we teach the history of immigration, this project hopes to contextualize the experiences of migrants and refugees as well as encourage concrete strategies to critique the exploitative intertwinement of US economic and military interests.

Benjamin Enke, Assistant Professor of Economics
The Gradient of Americans’ Prosociality
This project uses a large-scale survey to study how Americans' prosociality varies as subjective social distance increases. It is conceivable that people exhibit large heterogeneity in the extent to which they favor various in-groups, and that these basic preferences have direct implications for political attitudes regarding redistribution, social mobility, and public goods provision. The project studies these issues empirically by mapping the distribution of prosociality towards a large number of groups in a representative sample of Americans.

Ryan Enos, Professor of Government
Long-Term Effects of Racial Diversity: Evidence from Linked Census and Voter File Data
We can look at individuals who are now in their late 70's or older and, using newly available data, know exactly what their residential life looked like in the 1940's. We can even know if they had a neighbor of a different race who was around the same age. Using their current address from the contemporary files we can then contact these people for a survey and understand how their context from the 1940's affects their lives, behavior, and attitudes now.

Elizabeth Hinton, Assistant Professor of History
Incarcerated Scholars Project: Norfolk and Framingham Prisons
Mass incarceration is inextricably linked to mass undereducation. This project will address the magnitude of mass incarceration with the tools best fitted to change it: education and research in the hands of those under criminal justice supervision. Driven by the questions of incarcerated students (who will receive college credit for participating in the research seminar), a team of graduate students supervised by a faculty member and postdoctoral advisor will collect sources and archival materials to produce scholarly historical research on the history of Massachusetts prisons for public presentation and academic publication. This project has the potential to transform institutions of higher education such as Harvard to better realize their stated goals of diversity, inclusion, and belonging by creating a collective learning environment with the most marginalized and historically undereducated group in the United States today.