Interdisciplinary Research Leaders

2020 Call for Applications

    Release Date: January 10, 2020 | Application Deadline: Fri, 13 Mar 2020

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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) is working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being. We are facing many obstacles that pose challenges to this audacious vision—inequities in life expectancy across communities; high-cost health care but poorer quality of care and health; and more.

That’s why RWJF supports a number of leadership programs that aim to develop a generation of leaders who see that we need new approaches to these pressing problems. These programs support and connect leaders who are caring, curious, collaborative, and committed to taking risks and moving boldly toward real pathways to change—and to achieving greater equity in communities across our country.


Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) is a three-year national leadership development program that aims to foster and support new interdisciplinary, action-oriented research collaborations that will help build the evidence base for effective community interventions to improve health for all. The 2020 cohort will focus on either of these two themes: Community Environment and Health or Families and Child Health. We’ll support teams of mid-career individuals who come from diverse disciplinary backgrounds or scientific perspectives. The community-engaged partner on the team may work in a variety of organizational settings and have relevant expertise in the proposed research project.

For the 2020 cohort, we will select up to 15 teams of three mid-career individuals each (two researchers and a community partner per team). The applicant organization will receive up to $350,000, including $25,000 per year per fellow, and a portion of the $350,000 to the team toward research activities.

Those selected to participate in IRL can expect to:

  • Develop, execute, and disseminate a detailed proposal for the team’s specific research project;
  • Participate in weekly online learning activities, networking, and occasional in-person meetings (2–3 times per year);
  • Increase expertise in interdisciplinary research team-building and authentic community engagement;
  • Enhance competencies in a variety of rigorous qualitative and quantitative research methodologies, and better interpret findings and leverage them for action;
  • Have an understanding of the constraints to action (e.g., structural racism in historical and contemporary contexts);
  • Enhance skills to ensure ethical research and community standards remain a priority;
  • Understand the policy process and how best to communicate research evidence to inform policy.

Do you share our vision to help build a Culture of Health—and do you want to take the next step in your leadership journey? We encourage you to explore complete details about the program at the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders website and in the informational webinar for prospective applicants.

Eligibility and Selection Criteria

What are the requirements for applicant organizations?

The applicant organization must:

  • Be an organization based in the United States or its territories.
  • Have the administrative and financial capacity and experience to accept the award and to be able to distribute funds consistent with the permitted use of funds described herein, and within the approved budget. This includes having proper governance; sufficient staffing; and strong policies, procedures, and internal controls.
  • Be able to sign a grant agreement with RWJF and submit annual financial and narrative reports to the Foundation.

What are the requirements for teams?
Teams must be:

  • comprised of three mid-career individuals:
    • two researchers: people with a terminal degree in their field (e.g., PhD) or extensive research or evaluation experience; and,
    • one community partner: individuals with close ties to a community of interest who do not regularly engage in research as a main function of their job; these individuals must have the potential to take action on the issue themselves or have relationships with entities that can take action;
  • sponsored by an applicant organization.

There are no strict rules for who is or is not mid-career, but we anticipate that mid-career applicants have approximately five years of high-quality experience and are not within 10 years of retirement.
Complete eligibility requirements are included in the call for applications.

Key Dates

  • January 23, 2020 (3–4 p.m. ET)
    Informational webinar for prospective Interdisciplinary Research Leaders applicants; webinar recording is available here.
  • March 13, 2020 (3 p.m. ET)
    Deadline for receipt of fellowship applications from applicant organizations.
  • April 28–May 21, 2020
    Semifinalist team interviews (virtual).
  • Mid-June 2020
    Finalist teams notified of recommendation into fellowship program.
  • July 9, 2020
    Deadline for receipt of finalist supplemental applications.
  • September 15, 2020
    Fellowships begin. Grant funding initiated.
  • October 13–16, 2020
    Interdisciplinary Research Leaders program meeting, Minneapolis, Minn. (on-site attendance required).
  • January, 2021
    Revised research proposals from invited teams are due. 
  • 2020 or 2021 (date TBD by RWJF) 
    RWJF Annual Leadership Institute [date and location TBD (on-site attendance required)].
  • March 2021
    Research grant funding initiated for teams.

Total Awards

  • Number of grants: up to 15 grants (teams of three fellows)
  • Total award: up to $350,000 (plus an optional administrative fee explained below) per applicant organization supporting a team of three fellows for the duration of the three-year program; budget to include:
    • up to $25,000 per year per fellow is to be allocated to support the fellow’s time in the program (approximately one day per week); this represents up to $225,000 of the total award.
    • a portion to be allocated to each team for research purposes; the total 24- to 30-month budget, including indirect costs/overhead for the project, will be up to $125,000 (range $25,000–$125,000). This portion of the grant will support research activities only (e.g., purchasing data or supplies, support staff, IRL fellow research time, travel related to project execution). It is not intended to support intervention/program development or implementation.
    • an optional administrative fee of $3,000 per year, $9,000 in total, to cover the applicant organization’s administrative costs of supporting the fellow’s time in the program.

Application is Now Closed

Application closed as of:
March 13, 2020, 3:00 p.m. ET