Call

Weiss Fund for
Research in Development Economics

Implementation and Policy Grants
Connecting NGO and Government Policymakers with Research 
Applications reviewed on a rolling basis

 

The Weiss Fund for Research in Development Economics supports research by students and ladder faculty at Boston University, Columbia University, Harvard University, MIT, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, San Diego, University of Chicago, and Yale University working in development economics, broadly defined. 

Implementation and Policy Grants

The Weiss Fund is interested in funding proposals to (a) bring research to bear on important policy questions in collaboration with governments or NGOs working at scale; and (b) support research / implementation studies that may be needed to inform immediate, high impact decisions by implementers. This call is open across sectors, although initially we are particularly interested in proposals from researchers working with NGOs and governments to address the impacts of the  COVID-19 crisis. Implementation and Policy Grants are capped at $25,000 and will be reviewed on a rolling basis.

Eligibility

Past Weiss fund grantees (as PhD student, junior faculty or senior faculty, PI or CoPI) and anyone currently eligible to apply for a Weiss Fund grant is eligible to apply.  Please email the Weiss Fund (weiss_fund@fas.harvard.edu) with any questions.

 

Research Grants

Application Process

Eligibility for Implementation and Policy Grants

Undergraduate and graduate students enrolled as degree-seeking students, and junior and senior ladder faculty at the participating institutions (Boston University, Columbia University, Harvard University, MIT, Northwestern University, Princeton University, Stanford University, University of California, Berkeley, University of California, San Diego, University of Chicago, and Yale University) who meet the following criteria are eligible to apply and serve as the corresponding principal investigator (PI) for the project. Visiting or temporary students and faculty are not eligible.

Past Weiss fund grantees (as PhD student, junior faculty or senior faculty, PI or CoPI) and anyone currently eligible to apply for a Weiss Fund grant is eligible to apply.  Please email the Weiss Fund (weiss_fund@fas.harvard.edu) with any questions.

Submitting your Request for Proposal

All applications from Universities other than Harvard must follow the grant application procedures established by their home institutions. The Weiss Fund is unable to provide assistance or extensions to accommodate these internal processes.

This is a rolling application with projects being reviewed continually.

The application process is online using the Harvard University Funding Portal.  All applicants must register a profile.  Members of the Harvard community can follow these instructions to set up a profile.  If you are not a member of the Harvard community, please follow these instructions to register an account and profile.

You will need the following PDF documents to complete your application:

  1. CV(s).  CV(s) for all PI’s and CoPI’s – PDF document with a maximum two pages.
  2. Unofficial transcript(s). Unofficial transcript(s) for all student PI’s and CoPI’s.
  3. Research statement (for student applicants).  Student PI’s must include a statement which includes a description of research background and evidence of ability to complete the project.
  4. Research proposalMaximum 8 pages total, double-spaced, Times New Roman 12-point font, 1-inch margins, using this template. Please use the following naming convention: last name of primary PI, then "_IPG20_RFP" (e.g., Smith_IPG20_RFP.pdf).  The proposal should describe the project in sufficient detail to allow reviewers to determine its feasibility and potential impact on development policy. The background/motivation section is to be extremely concise. The proposal should focus on the nuts and bolts of the study and the proposed budget. For example, if the project includes a survey, description of survey content (and survey questions, if these have already been developed), and detail about the data collection approach should be provided; if the project involves a game, the game design should be described in sufficient detail for reviewers to judge it.
  5. A letter of support from the government/NGO the researcher is collaborating with for Implementation and Policy Grants.
  6. Budget.  Uploaded as Excel file.  The file should use the naming convention "_IPG20_budget" (e.g., Smith_IPG20_budget.xls]
  7. Recommendation letter (for student applicants).  The student's advisor will upload the recommendation into the system. An email will be generated to the advisor to upload the letter. This should include a statement that s/he will supervise the proposed project, support it intellectually, and the expected time commitment (e.g., weekly or monthly meetings.)  Please ask your recommender to use the following naming convention: last name of primary PI, last name of recommender, then "_rec" (e.g., Smith_Doe_rec).
  8. Revise and Resubmit response: If your proposal is a Revise and Resubmit for the Implementation and Policy Grants, you’ll be asked to upload a document with your responses to the committee comments and how the proposal has been changed.

Application Link

Project Guidelines

The Weiss Fund for Research in Development Economics is funded by Child Relief International and aims to sponsor research that will positively affect the lives of poor people in poor countries. The potential impact of research on the poor can be long run, research can duplicate an existing study in a different context, or it can investigate a negative result – showing that something that is widely done has no impact or less impact than is normally believed. The research could seek to discover flaws in past research findings. Research that challenges the conventional wisdom is encouraged. Cross-disciplinary work is welcome. The Program only funds research in countries, regions, or populations with per capita GDP below $10,000 in 2018 USD; and has a preference for supporting work in countries, regions, or populations with per capita GDP below $5,000. The Program does not fund research in developed countries, even on low-income populations within these countries. The program seeks to avoid financing research that should be funded by for profit companies that will directly benefit from the results.

To get a sense of the type of work that the program supports, we encourage potential applicants to look at this list of projects that have received funding from the Weiss Fund in the past: http://projects.iq.harvard.edu/wfrde/weiss-awardees.

The publication and dissemination of well-designed and implemented research on programs affecting the poor is important in helping donors, governments and NGOs improve their policies and programming. However, the prospects for publication in top journals will not directly enter into funding decisions.

In addition to standard research proposals for original research, we are also interested in funding proposals for replication and for connecting NGO and government policymakers with research, as discussed below.

Replication studies

The Weiss Fund is interested in supporting high-quality, policy-relevant replication studies. We recognize that many studies have some elements that are original and others that replicate earlier work, and such hybrid studies are also of interest. Applicants proposing replication studies should outline the current state of the literature and what the proposed replication would add. Replication study proposals should describe both the similarities and differences with the existing studies on the topic. They should also outline how the replication might inform efforts to develop generalizable policy-relevant lessons. In addition to discussing the value of generating estimates in a different context, replication study proposals should also compare the proposed implementation approach with that in existing studies. For example, if they propose to vary the implementation conditions by moving from the equivalent of an efficacy trial to an effectiveness trial, or from small-scale NGO implementation to large-scale government implementation, they should discuss that.

Connecting NGO and government policymakers with research

The Weiss Fund is interested in funding proposals to (a) bring research to bear on important policy questions in collaboration with governments or NGOs working at scale; and (b) support research / implementation studies that may be needed to inform immediate, high impact decisions by implementers. This call is open across sectors, although initially we are particularly interested in proposals from researchers working with NGOs and governments to address the impacts of the  COVID-19 crisis. Implementation and policy grants are capped at $25,000 and will be reviewed on a rolling basis. Past Weiss fund grantees (as PhD student, junior faculty or senior faculty) and anyone currently eligible to apply for a Weiss Fund grant is eligible to apply.

 

Budget Guidelines

Funding amounts:

Implementation and Policy Grants are capped at $25,000 and will be reviewed on a rolling basis.  Funding decisions will be based on the balance of the benefits and cost of the project. 

The RFPs will be judged based on expected return per dollar of funding requested. The Weiss Fund takes value for money very seriously. Budget narratives should include a short explanation about the proposed work’s cost effectiveness.

Eligible costs

Funding is limited to covering the cost of specific projects and is not available for tuition, researcher salary, and/or stipends. Typical expenses covered include travel to collect data or other direct data collection costs, materials, data purchase, and research assistant time. Any equipment purchased with the grant should be donated to a non-profit organization after completion of the study; if the applicant has other plans, these should be described briefly within the proposal. While data entry and data aggregation costs are eligible, undergraduates and graduate students will not normally receive funding to hire research assistants.

Indirect costs (e.g., a percentage for overhead) are not eligible. If appropriate, costs for items such as office rent in the developing country or accounting services are eligible, but only if directly attributable to the project and itemized in the proposed budget. Thus, for example, an applicant who plans to work with an organization like Innovations for Poverty Action must itemize and justify specific expenses. Do not simply include overhead or a “country management fee” as a fixed percentage of other costs.

Budget and budget narrative

The proposal is to include a detailed budget spreadsheet (in Excel) describing the anticipated budget, including project costs and sources of funding obtained or requested. The budgeted costs should be as frugal as possible and clearly justified; budgets that appear to be padded will be viewed negatively by the committee.

The accompanying budget narrative should list the period for which the award is requested, explain the proposed project budget and provide justification for the amount being requested from the Weiss Fund in the context of other funding obtained or to be sought. The narrative should include brief justification/context for the main budget items such as enumerator or RA costs (including appropriateness of the level of compensation).

Submitting multiple proposals

Submission of multiple proposals should not be used to circumvent budget limits. If you submit more than one proposal in a funding round, please indicate your priority ranking, discuss any budget complementarities and potential cost savings, and explain whether and how you will have enough time to implement more than one project in the proposed timeline.

Funding from other sources

Funding should be disaggregated by source and status (e.g., obtained, requested), and the allocation of funds to costs should be specified. Whenever a project submitted to the Weiss Fund is co-funded, applicants should indicate what the marginal contribution of Weiss funding would be (i.e. what a grant from the Weiss Fund would allow the applicant to do that would not be possible otherwise). An example budget submitted by successful applicants from a previous round is provided here.

The budget narrative should also describe the contributions expected of the research partner(s) (e.g., NGO, government, for-profit firm), if any, whether monetary or in-kind. If no contribution is expected of the research partner, this should be stated clearly.

If at any point during or after the application and review process you receive other awards for your proposed project, please email [weiss_fund@fas.harvard.edu] within one week with an explanation of how this affects the proposed overall Weiss budget and how costs shift accordingly.

 

Evaluation Criteria

Projects will be judged by a committee of PhD economists. Expected impact per dollar spent will be the overriding criteria. Projects will be judged based on:

  1. The ability of the applicant(s) to successfully implement the proposal.
  2. Letter of recommendation.
  3. Potential long-run impact on the well-being of people in less developed countries.[1]
  4. Appropriateness of proposed budget, alternative sources of funding being adequately pursued, and catalyzation of additional funding. The budget should be as frugal as possible and clearly justified.

The Weiss Fund will aim to notify applicants of their decision within five to six weeks of the application deadline. The review committee will evaluate each submitted application and either 1) approve project funding, 2) decline the request, or 3) ask the applicant to revise and resubmit a full proposal either in the same round, or the following round.

[1] Proposals led by senior faculty should focus on longer-term projects, and projects designed to capture spillover effects.

Award Rules

Actual receipt of funding cannot take place until procedures at the relevant institution have been completed. Awardees must provide evidence of human subjects’ review approval, or of an exemption.

Winners of awards will be expected to share both interim and final results with the Weiss Fund committee, such as materials used in presentations and draft papers, and the committee may offer advice and feedback. Winners of awards are expected to report their expenditures in a final financial report. Winners of awards are expected to meet with a representative of Child Relief International to discuss the progress of their work and the research design. Award recipients may also be expected to present the results of their research to seminars attended by other award recipients. Once grants have been awarded, researchers will have complete academic freedom, subject to the normal rules of their institution.

All prior award recipients must submit a final report and a final financial report for completed projects before applying for new funding from the Weiss Fund.