Graduate Research Fellowship Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences
Spotlight: Past Fellows
Select picture for their story.
NIJ’s Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program supports doctoral students engaged in research that advances
The Graduate Research Fellowship in the Social and Behavioral Sciences track is open to doctoral students in all social and behavioral science disciplines. The fellowship awards provide support for 12 months to accredited universities for research on crime, violence and other criminal justice-related topics.
Awards made under the Social and Behavioral Sciences Fellowship Program are up to $32,000 for the period of performance. NIJ encourages doctoral students in the final stages of graduate study who are conducting research that has direct implications for criminal justice policy and practice in the U.S. to apply to this exciting program.
Frequently Asked Questions
These questions and answers will help you prepare your application for grant funds:
- Whom should I call with questions about the GRF Program?
- Because NIJ solicitations and challenges are competitive, we cannot have individual conversations concerning the solicitation with prospective applicants. Any questions concerning the solicitation should be submitted to the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Response Center: toll-free at 1-800-851-3420; via TTY at 301-240-6310 (hearing impaired only); email firstname.lastname@example.org; fax to 301-240-5830; or web chat at
For technical assistance with submitting an application, call the Grants.gov Customer Support Hot Line at 800-518-4726.
Successful applicants must agree to comply with additional requirements prior to receiving grant funding. Find out more about these requirements in the
solicitation under which the application is being submitted.
- What is the GRF program?
- The NIJ GRF program supports doctoral students engaged in research of interest to NIJ. The GRF program has two tracks, grouped by academic area of study: the Social and Behavioral Sciences program and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program. Each track issues its own solicitation once per year. The FAQs on this page are specific to the Social and Behavioral Sciences Program.
Read about the STEM GRF.
- When will a new solicitation for the Social and Behavioral Sciences Program be announced?
- The solicitation for the GRF in the Social and Behavioral Sciences track is posted annually, usually in the fall or early winter. Potential applicants should check NIJ’s funding page or register for updates on Grants.gov to be notified when the solicitation is released. Requirements of the solicitation will be provided at the time of release.
- Who is eligible for a GRF award in the Social and Behavioral Sciences?
- For the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences, NIJ seeks applications from accredited universities in the U.S. that support doctoral students who have completed, or are near completion of, all Ph.D. degree requirements except the research, writing and final defense of a dissertation. The institution must be fully accredited by one of the regional institutional accreditation commissions recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Universities are encouraged to sponsor doctoral students who are in the final stages of graduate study. There are three requirements for the NIJ GRF Social and Behavioral Sciences Program that must be completed before an award can be made:
NIJ requires successful applicant institutions to provide documentation of their doctoral student’s completion of these requirements. NIJ encourages applicant institutions whose doctoral students have completed the three requirements to provide documentation of completion in the application. Documentation must be received and approved by the program office before award funds are distributed. Access to funds will be withheld in the absence of documentation.
- The doctoral student must have completed all required course work.
- The doctoral student must have passed qualifying comprehensive exams.
- The doctoral student must be advanced to candidacy by the university.
- Does a doctoral student's non-U.S. citizenship affect eligibility?
- No. The official applicant is the university, not the student. Therefore, a Ph.D. student's foreign citizenship does not affect eligibility. GRF awards in the Social and Behavioral Sciences are made only to degree-granting academic institutions in the U.S. and its territories. The sponsoring academic institution must be fully accredited by one of the regional institutional accreditation commissions recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
- What type of research does NIJ fund under the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences?
- Successful applicants to the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences must demonstrate how their proposed dissertation research advances basic criminal justice knowledge, practice or policy in the U.S. Quantitative, qualitative, and primary and secondary data analysis studies are encouraged. Special consideration will be given to applicants who use the most rigorous research methods applicable to their proposed research topic — such as experimental or randomized designs — to maximize the validity and reliability of findings.
- How do I register to apply?
- The official applicant to the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences is the U.S. degree-granting educational institution. Students must contact and seek the assistance of their university’s office of sponsored research or office of research, grants and contracts. Working with a qualified doctoral student (candidate) and his or her dissertation chair or advisor, the university or college’s office of sponsored research or research office must complete and submit an application and all required accompanying forms on Grants.gov.
- Can a university submit applications for multiple Ph.D. candidates?
- Who should be listed as the point of contact or principal investigator on the application?
- If permitted by the university, the doctoral student should be listed as the Principal Investigator (PI). If this is not allowed by the university, the student's dissertation chair should be listed as the PI with the student listed as key staff. The official representative for the sponsoring academic institution should be listed as the authorized representative.
- What does the doctoral student need to provide to his/her academic institution?
- The student must work with his/her university to complete an application and ensure all sections of the application (including but not limited to the program narrative and budget) and other required forms are submitted by the due date. Please see the solicitation for the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences for more information about what an application should include.
- What information should the sponsoring academic institution provide?
- The university must upload and submit all documents, including required forms.
Applicants are encouraged to limit the number of application files they upload to Grants.gov. Each file should be named based on the forms it contains (e.g., program narrative, appendices, required forms, or budget worksheet and budget narrative).
- How should a reasonable fellowship start date be selected?
- Applicants should propose an award start date that is no earlier than October 1 of the following calendar year. The start date should be based upon the proposed project timeline.
- May an accredited academic institution apply on behalf of student who is enrolled in a qualifying doctoral program part-time at the time of submission but who will be enrolled full-time beginning the academic term in which fellowship activity was proposed to begin?
- Yes. Under such circumstances, in additional to all other requirements, the institution must submit an official letter stating that it expects that the student will be enrolled full-time in the doctoral degree program beginning the academic term in which fellowship activity is proposed to begin. Be aware that under these circumstances, if an award is made, NIJ will place a condition on the award withholding funds until full-time enrollment is demonstrated for the academic term in which fellowship activity is proposed to begin
About the Program Narrative
- What should be included in the program narrative?
- The program narrative should include a title page, an abstract, a table of contents and the main body.
The main body should include:
If an applicant institution is
resubmitting a proposal previously presented to NIJ, the program narrative should also contain a resubmit response.
See “Can an applicant institution reapply for a candidate who does not receive an award?” under Review and Awarding.
- Statement of the problem (purpose, goals and objectives, and a review of relevant literature).
- Project design and implementation (research design and methods (a minimum 5-page description) and analysis plan).
- Potential impact (implications for criminal justice policy and practice).
- Capabilities and competencies of the doctoral student and dissertation chair.
The program narrative section must not exceed the specified page limit guidelines stated in the solicitation. Title page, abstract, table of contents, charts, figures, appendixes and government forms do not count toward the specified page limit for the narrative section. If the program narrative fails to comply with the requirements and restrictions listed in the solicitation, NIJ may consider such noncompliance in peer review and final award decisions.
- What should be in the appendices?
- The application appendices should include the following documents. Please review the current solicitation for guidance on required documents:
- Any tools/instruments, questionnaires, tables/charts/graphs or maps pertaining to the proposed project that are supplemental to the main text and any tables/charts/graphs or maps included in the main body of the narrative.
- Personal statement from the student discussing his or her academic background, research experience, career goals, and the anticipated role of the fellowship in his or her professional trajectory
- List of names of members of the student's dissertation committee and their contact information, including telephone numbers and email addresses.
- Curriculum vitae, resumes or biographical sketches of the doctoral student and dissertation chair.
- Dissertation chair’s statement of support.
- University’s statement of student progress in the current program of study.
- Doctoral student eligibility documentation.
- A copy of the student's academic transcripts
- Project timeline and research calendar with expected milestones.
- Human Subjects Protection Paperwork including Institutional Review Board documentation and forms.
Read about NIJ’s human subjects protections requirements.
- Privacy Certificate.
Read NIJ’s privacy certificate guidance.
- List of previous and current NIJ awards to the applicant organization and investigator(s). Note: Applicant universities with a history of poor performance may not be considered for funding (e.g., failure to meet grant deadlines and reporting requirements or failure to comply with special conditions of awards).
- Letters of cooperation/support or administrative agreements from organizations collaborating in the project, such as law enforcement and correctional agencies (if applicable).
- List of other agencies, organizations or funding sources to which the proposal has been submitted (if applicable).
About the Budget
- What is the total amount available for this fellowship?
- The expected award amount available under this fellowship program is $32,000.
Award funds are available only while the doctoral student is enrolled in a full-time program leading to the doctoral degree.
- How much detail is required in the Budget Detail Worksheet?
- The Budget Detail Worksheet is a required element of the GRF application. The worksheet should include details of all costs associated with the appropriate budget category. All proposed expenses must comply with the
Department of Justice Financial Guide.
In addition, every budget category of expense listed in the Budget Detail Worksheet must be justified and explained in detail in a budget narrative. The required budget narrative should clearly describe every category of expense listed in the Budget Detail Worksheet. The proposed project budget should be complete, cost effective, and allowable. The narrative should be mathematically sound and correspond with the information and figures provided in the Budget Detail Worksheet.
- What are allowable costs that can be included in the project budget?
- Funds awarded under the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences can cover a variety of expenses, including but not limited to, salary and fringe benefits, study respondent incentives, recording or translation services, postage, software/license or hardware purchases, travel expenditures and conference registration. Each budget category must show an itemized listing of expenses and how those expenditures were calculated, and justification must be provided for each expense. For questions pertaining to examples of allowable and unallowable costs,
DOJ Financial Guide.
As a note, expenses incurred prior to 60 days of the grant's start date, cannot be reimbursed. For further information, see the
DOJ Financial Guide.
- What should be the grant's end date?
- The end date of the grant must reflect the successful completion and submission of the doctoral student's dissertation to NIJ.
- Can the university submit an unofficial copy of the candidate’s academic transcripts?
- Yes. Applicants are encouraged to submit either an official or unofficial copy of the candidate’s current academic transcript. The transcript should document current matriculation toward a doctoral degree. Please see the current fiscal year solicitation for additional information on what an application should include.
- Who should write the Statement of Progress letter?
- Applicant universities are encouraged to submit a
signed statement regarding the student's progress in the current doctoral program of study. This letter may be submitted on behalf of the student’s department chair or college dean. This document is not required. If submitted, the statement of progress should not be submitted and/or signed by the doctoral student's dissertation chair.
- What should be in the advisor's letter?
- The applicant's dissertation chair must submit a
signed statement of support. This document is required. The letter of support should:
- Evaluate the student's proposed project.
- Describe the current status of the proposed work.
- Outline any work yet to be completed for the degree.
- State (or demonstrate) the student's potential to complete the dissertation successfully.
- Describe the chair's role in monitoring the project, and present evidence of both the department's and the chair’s ability to mentor doctoral candidates through the completion of their degrees.
- Verify that the dissertation research is ready to begin by the start of the project period.
- Indicate that the student has the full support of the dissertation committee.
- Verify that the chair will review and approve all progress reports before their submission to NIJ.
Review and Awarding
- How many awards does NIJ plan on funding?
- The number of awards made under the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences depends on the availability of funds and the number of high-quality applications. See past GRF recipients.
- How does NIJ decide which applications to the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences should be funded?
- Independent, external peer review panels evaluate all responsive proposals. External peer review panels include technical experts and criminal justice practitioners or policymakers. Panel members review each proposal and assess the technical merits and policy relevance of the proposed research. Reviews are based on the criteria set forth in the solicitation. In addition, NIJ undertakes an internal review of the proposals. The external peer review panel's reviews and the recommendations of NIJ's subject matter experts and methodologists are submitted to the NIJ Director, who has final authority to make awards.
- When will an applicant institution know if its application is selected for funding?
- The application review process (including peer review, decision-making, and other considerations) takes approximately six to nine months. Notices of award and non-awards are sent out at the same time to the official applicant (i.e., the university or college).
- What are the reporting requirements?
- Reporting requirements for the GRF Program in Social and Behavioral Sciences include quarterly financial and semiannual progress reports throughout the life of the grant, a final progress report, and an official signed copy of the student's defended dissertation.
- If funded, can the doctoral student work another job (part-time or full-time employment)?
- NIJ does not prohibit Graduate Research Fellows from obtaining employment. However, students need to check with their university to determine what requirements the university has pertaining to employment while receiving grant funds.
- Can the doctoral student receive multiple awards/stipends?
- Yes, students can receive multiple awards/stipends. However, the student must provide full disclosure regarding supplemental funding and support (e.g., research/teaching assistantship, position held on advisor's grant/project, other private or government fellowships, grants, stipends, etc.)
- What happens if the doctoral student has already started dissertation work prior to an award being made?
- Doctoral students who have already started their dissertation research are encouraged to apply to the GRF Program in the Social and Behavioral Sciences as long as they have met the program requirements and are still enrolled in a full-time doctoral program leading to a doctoral degree.
- Can an applicant institution reapply for a doctoral student who does not receive an award?
- Yes. If an applicant institution is resubmitting a proposal previously presented to NIJ, the applicant should indicate that this in a resubmit response. The statement should address (1) the title, submission date, and NIJ-assigned application number of the previous proposal, and (2) a brief summary of revisions to the proposal, including responses to previous feedback received from NIJ.
Date Modified: March 13, 2018