The Innovative Research to Advance Racial Equity Call for Proposals
What We're Looking For
At Evidence for Action (E4A) we fund research that is rigorously designed and conducted, to expand the evidence base needed to advance health and racial equity. We prioritize research evaluating the impact of policies, programs, practices, or other system or structure-level changes in such a way as to establish causal relationships between the interventions and important health and racial equity outcomes.
Who We're Looking For
We are looking for researchers, practitioners, community leaders, advocates, policymakers, and other stakeholders across the many sectors and domains that impact health and well-being, who are committed to developing and disseminating evidence about what works to dismantle or remedy unjust systems and practices and produce more equitable outcomes for people and communities of color.
Through the Innovative Research to Advance Racial Equity Call for Proposals (CFP), E4A funds projects that develop and disseminate evidence about what works to advance racial equity and improve health and well-being in the United States. We understand that the terminology and sociopolitical context surrounding racial equity are ever-evolving. We acknowledge that a history of unequal power and privilege influences how knowledge is created and how research is conducted, and we are committed to critically examining and overcoming these biases.
Frequently Asked Questions
At Evidence for Action (E4A), our thinking around our funding opportunity evolves as our understanding grows and as we learn from interactions with potential applicants, our National Advisory Committee, our grantees, and many other stakeholders. We will do our best to ensure that our Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are kept up to date with our current thinking and share our insights in a timely manner. The below FAQs were most recently updated on January 26, 2022. If you have additional questions or would like clarification on any of the below, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Who may serve as a Principal Investigator?
Anyone may be designated as the Principal Investigator (PI). The PI does not need to hold an advanced degree nor need to be considered a "researcher" for the project. Two PIs may be listed in the letter of intent application, but the team is not limited to these two individuals. For ease of administration, it is preferable, but not required, for the PI to be based at the lead organization.
Can individuals apply or do you require a team?
While individuals may apply, it is our experience that it is very difficult to achieve both the level of rigor and actionability that we expect without engaging multiple different perspectives and expertise in the project. We look for teams that have not only methodological expertise, but subject matter and practical expertise as well, to help ensure that the research is not only theoretically grounded, but also reflects real world conditions and dynamics. Subject matter expertise might include scholarship in or understanding of principles of health equity and structural racism; and practical expertise could include lived personal or professional experiences, training credentials, etc.
What types of organizations are eligible to apply for funding?
Preference will be given to applicant organizations that are either institutes of higher education, public entities, or nonprofit organizations that are tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, but other types of nonprofit and for-profit organizations are eligible to apply. Applicant organizations must be based in the United States or its territories; submissions from teams that include both U.S. and international members are eligible, but the lead applicant must be based in the United States.
Is there a preference for which organization should act as the lead?
No, applicants should determine the lead organization based on which has the capacity to administer the grant.
May I submit more than one letter of intent (LOI)?
Yes. Applicants may submit multiple LOIs, serve as a partner for another organization's LOI, and/or resubmit a refined or new LOI if a previous submission was not accepted. There are no rigid restrictions against multiple submissions from the same applicant. We aim to be inclusive of a wide range of ideas and perspectives; therefore, we encourage you to think critically about the relative strengths of the projects for which you are considering submitting LOIs.
May I receive more than one grant from E4A?
There are no rigid restrictions against multiple awards to the same researcher or applicant organization. However, RWJF values supporting a diverse grantee pool with a wide range of innovative ideas. E4A will prioritize new research over subsequent funding to extend a study after an initial award has ended. In some cases, a compelling rationale might be made for the importance of additional information that could be gained by extending research on a previously funded project, which could warrant successive funding.
May I submit a proposal that is also being considered for funding by other organizations (government funding agency, foundation, etc.)?
Yes, applicants may submit a proposal that is being considered by other organizations. If you receive funding from other sources besides RWJF you will be required to report this to RWJF and adjust or expand the activities and budget as appropriate so there is no duplication of funding. You are allowed to expand your project’s scope of work with funding from other sources, as long as you complete the project that RWJF funded you to conduct.
May I apply for this funding opportunity even if I am already funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF)?
Yes, applicants who have other active RWJF grants may apply.
If I am not chosen for this funding opportunity, will I still be eligible for other RWJF grant opportunities?
Yes, interested applicants may apply to E4A again or to other RWJF funding opportunities. Each funding program of RWJF has distinct objectives, funding guidelines, and criteria. To learn more about other funding programs and initiatives at RWJF, visit https://www.rwjf.org/en/how-we-work/grants-and-grant-programs.html.
How does E4A define racial equity?
Racial equity refers to the conditions in which race or ethnicity no longer predicts a person’s ability to live a healthy life. It requires that society be free of systems and structures that unfairly disadvantage people of color (Black, Latino/a/x, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, and other racial and ethnic minorities), compared to white people.
Why do you have a focus on racial equity?
The United States has a deep history of structural racism, manifested in discriminatory policies and practices embedded across every sector and realm of society. These policies and practices have systematically excluded and marginalized people based on race and/or ethnicity, creating patterns of segregation, disinvestment, and unfair treatment of people and communities of color, with lasting impacts across many social determinants of health (e.g., housing, education, built environment, economic opportunity, law enforcement, and others). Racism also intersects with other forms of marginalization, such as having low income, being an immigrant, having a disability, or identifying as LGBTQ+ or a gender minority, compounding the challenges faced by people of color who belong to one or more of these groups. We cannot achieve a Culture of Health without attention to racial equity.
What types of projects are a good fit for funding under the call for proposals?
E4A funding is dedicated for research projects that will advance racial equity. We anticipate that most of the funding will support evaluations of social interventions, such as programs, policies, and/or practices, that are designed to assess the causal impact(s) of the intervention on health and racial equity outcomes. Research must be rigorously and equitably designed and implemented, and findings must have immediate real-world implications and actionability.
We recognize that there are approaches to disrupting racism that are in early stages of development or trial, so we will also consider other types of research that can inform action to advance racial equity. Such projects might include research to identify viable policy or programmatic responses to community needs and priorities, pilot projects to test the feasibility of novel initiatives, development and validation of racial equity measures, etc.
What is considered an intervention?
At E4A, our definition of intervention is quite broad. An intervention is anything that may change outcomes for those who are exposed to or experience it. This may include, but is not limited to, systems, structures, laws, policies, norms, programs and practices that determine the distribution of resources and opportunities, which in turn influence individuals’ options and behaviors. We are interested in interventions that target "upstream" causes of health inequities, NOT individual behavior-change interventions (e.g., programs that encourage individuals to modify their personal behavior in the absence of greater environmental or structural changes). For examples of interventions that have been a good fit, we recommend reviewing the Funded Projects page.
What types of research designs are a good fit for E4A?
A variety of research designs can help improve the evidence base to advance health and racial equity. These may include randomized trials, quasi- or natural experiments, secondary analyses of existing data, grounded theory approaches, case studies, network or systems analyses, or other study designs and methods.
Regardless of the specific design, RWJF views evaluation as a tool to advance racial equity by applying principles of the Equitable Evaluation Framework, which stresses the importance of attention to historical and structural contexts; differential effects on subgroups; and effects on the underlying drivers of inequity. Moreover, evaluative work should be designed and implemented to reflect multi-cultural validity and participant ownership. Research that is a good fit for E4A will integrate these principles into the research approach and activities.
What research design is most appropriate for my project?
For evaluations of interventions, we strongly prefer designs that attempt to assess causal relationships between interventions and health outcomes. In most cases, this requires an appropriate control or comparison group (e.g., a similar group that does not receive the intervention). While randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are often considered the gold standard for drawing causal inference, we recognize that RCTs are not always feasible. Other methods of comparison such as a wait list control or various matching techniques may also be acceptable. In some cases, qualitative or mixed-methods approaches may be appropriate - for example, to better define the contexts under which an intervention does or does not work.
A wider range of approaches may be suitable for non-evaluative research that is explicitly focused on dismantling racism. For example, we will consider implementation or pilot studies, case studies, or development of new measures needed to monitor and support progress toward racial equity. For these studies, we will consider a variety of research designs and methods, including quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods approaches, as long as corresponding standards of methodological rigor are applied.
Does E4A fund community based participatory research or action-research?
We encourage community participation and ownership in the research design and implementation process, and therefore endorse CBPR approaches. While we do not typically fund the early stages of the CBPR process (e.g., when community members are still determining priorities), we would fund all research-related aspects of a community participatory/action-oriented approach once a specific research question has been agreed upon.
Do you prioritize outcomes at the individual-level or community/population level?
We are most interested in outcomes that indicate community and population health. Sometimes this may be captured by aggregating individual responses or outcomes; other times, it may be best measured using community-level indicators of health or equity.
Why is E4A interested in heterogeneous treatment effects?
Heterogeneous treatment effects (HTEs) are different effects that an intervention may have on different types of individuals. Evaluating whether effects of an intervention differ for subsets of the population is important to E4A because it helps us understand whether the intervention remediates or exacerbates health disparities; anticipate the likely effectiveness of an intervention beyond the study population; focus on a specific population of interest; or determine who is most likely to accrue the greatest benefits of an intervention. This information allows policymakers, practitioners, and other stakeholders to make better decisions about allocating, prioritizing and targeting resources. To learn more about HTEs, read our E4A blog post and associated Methods Note.
What falls under the umbrella of social determinants of health?
Social determinants include any conditions that impact health risks and outcomes. These conditions include, but are not limited to, early childhood factors, education access and quality, social and community cohesion, employment and economic opportunities, discrimination, poverty, civic participation, law enforcement, food security and food systems, housing, physical and built environments, transportation, healthcare access, and health literacy.
To learn more about RWJF's focus on Social Determinants of Health, visit https://www.rwjf.org/en/our-focus-areas/topics/social-determinants-of-health.html.
How does E4A define community?
When we refer to "community" or "communities," we are not referring solely to a place-based concept. We use the term(s) broadly to refer to any group of individuals that share a common history or common social, economic, and political interests, regardless of physical proximity to one another.
How does E4A envision communities and end-users of the findings being involved in the research process?
Applicants should be specific and intentional about who they envision interpreting, using, and applying the research findings. This might include elected officials, public agencies, program administrators, community groups, etc. These individuals or groups don't necessarily need to be formally affiliated with the research team, but ideally the researchers will have relationships with relevant end-users before starting the research project, to ensure that their research questions, approach, outcomes of interest, and other project components align with the type of information that end-users will find useful.
Applicants should demonstrate whether and what level of conversations and collaboration have taken place when responding to the LOI application questions about the context under which the research question and study were developed. This could include anything from a community-led prioritization process and vetting the initial research question(s), to formation of an advisory committee.
What types of projects are NOT a good fit for E4A?
As a research funding program, E4A does not fund activities associated with implementing or carrying out interventions or general organizational operations. We have also identified some examples of research that are not a good fit with the program objectives: projects that focus on describing the existence and/or scope of a problem or disparity; literature reviews; development and validation of screening tools; basic biomedical inquiry; drug therapy or device research; and animal or plant science. Finally, research concerning interventions that are focused on changing individual behaviors - without acknowledging or addressing greater environmental or structural changes - is not a good fit.
What expectations does E4A have of grantees?
The following are expectations of all E4A-funded grantees:
- Pre-register the study—including research questions, hypotheses, main variables, and analysis plan—on Open Science Framework (OSF) at the start of the grant period.
- Publish or disseminate findings, regardless of whether they are positive, negative, or null. When publishing in peer-reviewed journals, ensure open access.
- Participate in periodic progress check-ins throughout the grant period with E4A national program office (NPO) staff; present research findings to E4A leadership; and submit reports annually.
- Attend up to two RWJF meetings annually (dates and locations vary).
- Participate in peer networking activities with other E4A and RWJF grantees. These activities typically take place via virtual or online meetings.
- Build appropriate funds and time into the project budget and time line for stakeholder engagement, conferences, meetings, and other forms of dissemination, including after analyses are complete.
- Collaborate with the E4A team to develop and implement a strategy to disseminate findings to and engage stakeholders both within and outside the research community. Dissemination activities should go beyond publication in academic journals and include outreach to relevant end users (e.g., white papers, policy briefs, op-eds, infographics, etc.).
What selection criteria will be used to evaluate proposals?
Studies will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Relevance—research aims are important to advancing racial equity and building a Culture of Health; research can inform demonstrable policy or implementation priorities.
- Actionability—goes beyond theoretical implications and demonstrates potential for practical and timely application in the real world; conditions (e.g., timing, relationships, windows of opportunity) are favorable for translating findings to action; dissemination plans and tactics are appropriate.
- Methodological rigor—studies designed to support causal inference are powered to detect meaningful and plausible effect sizes, account for relevant context and covariates, and include appropriate comparison groups; qualitative studies adhere to best practices in design, sampling, analysis, and interpretation.
- Inclusion of health outcome measure(s)—outcomes may include diverse dimensions of physical, mental, and socio-emotional health and well-being, or behaviors that are well established as determinants of health and well-being, assessed using validated instruments.
- Feasibility—evidence of timely access to appropriate data and/or study populations; reasonable budgets, and timelines that account for sufficient and equitable engagement of relevant stakeholders.
- Qualifications of team—expertise of academic researchers, practitioners, and individuals or groups with issue-specific knowledge and experiences are integrated at appropriate stages of the project; community members, advocates, policymakers, and/or other stakeholders are engaged equitably and meaningfully.
Will selection criteria be adjusted for projects not evaluating interventions?
The selection criteria are consistent across all applications. We will make exceptions to our overarching focus on funding evaluations of intervention for research that is explicitly focused on dismantling structural racism. While these studies may not be required to apply causal inference designs, they are still expected to adhere to correspondingly rigorous methodological standards.
In terms of selection criteria, do you give priority to projects that are led by BIPOC researchers?
We encourage submission from BIPOC research leaders. However, unlike certain RWJF leadership development programs, E4A is not permitted to ask questions about applicant racial and ethnic backgrounds and demographics during the application process. Therefore, we are not able to make selection priorities based on the demographics of researchers or principal investigators. The E4A application asks for details about the qualifications and expertise of applicant teams, and we prioritize projects led by teams that demonstrate a deep understanding and application of racial equity principles.
What level of support do you provide to applicant teams that do not meet all selection criteria?
Applicants that have proposed research relevant to advancing racial equity, but whose projects do not meet all of our criteria for methodological rigor, actionability, or research team qualifications may be invited to participate in E4A or RWJF Applicant Technical Assistance services. These services include design consultation, where E4A staff work directly with applicants to improve the rigor, feasibility, and impact of their proposed research study while preserving the core aims of their original proposal; and RWJF’s matching service, in which a team from Johns Hopkins University facilitates the formation of partnerships to round out the qualifications and expertise of the team and thereby strengthen the research project.
What elements should a successful LOI include?
Successful LOIs provide a clear, concise, and compelling case for how and why the proposed research will contribute to improving population health and racial equity. Letter of intent narratives should adhere to the template provided in the RWJF Application & Review system, addressing the overarching rationale for the project, describing implications for findings, and providing an overview of the research approach and activities. Applicants must also provided convincing responses to specific questions about the potential contribution of the research to advancing racial equity, the genesis of the study, and the composition of the project team in a designated section of the application.
Detailed guidance for developing a competitive LOI is provided in our Letter of Intent Applicant Guide.
What are primary vs. secondary outcomes?
Primary outcomes are outcomes that are expected to change - either direclty or indirectly, as result of the intervention - and which your evaluation is designed to detect. At least one of the primary outcomes must be a novel or meaningful outcome related to health or racial equity. Secondary outcomes are those more exploratory in nature, or for which effects may be too small to detect from your sample, but which are still of interest and/or valuable to assess. Secondary outcomes may be used to inform hypotheses or theories, or aid in interpretations of findings.
What are acceptable health outcomes?
Health and well-being outcomes refer to physical, mental, socio-emotional, and well-being outcomes that can be objectively measured using validated instruments. We prioritize outcomes that directly reflect these dimensions of health, or behaviors known to influence health and well-being (see separate FAQ for examples of health behaviors). However, we will consider intermediary outcomes as proxies or surrogates for health outcomes on a case-by-case basis. For applicants proposing such outcomes, we encourage you to provide research evidence or other support for their inclusion as a proxy health outcome method.
We do not consider “health care access or utilization” alone to be a sufficient health outcome measure.
What are some examples of behaviors that are acceptable proxies for health outcome measures?
Behaviors may include, but are not limited to, tobacco or alcohol consumption; duration and intensity of physical activity; sleep duration and quality; individual food purchases and/or consumption; etc.
We are open to considering alternatives. Applicants should provide rationale and supporting evidence for the inclusion of behaviors that are not widely accepted proxies for health outcome measures.
What is the deadline for submitting my LOI?
There is no deadline for submission. The program operates on a rolling acceptance basis, so LOIs may be submitted at any time.
What is the general timeline from LOI submission to grant award date?
Typically, it takes approximately 5 to 7 months from the date of the original LOI submission to the release of funds by RWJF. Built into this timeline are the LOI review process, the Full Proposal development and review process, and a formal budget and legal review. There may be circumstances that will result in shorter or longer timelines, such as time sensitive projects or requests for revisions at the LOI or FP stage, but in general we recommend that your anticipated project start date be at least 5 months after submission.
Are there tips or tutorials available regarding the LOI submission process?
Yes, our Applicant Resources page features a Letter of Intent Applicant Guide and links to a How to Apply to E4A video tutorial. We also periodically publish Methods Notes that highlight methodological issues that are commonly encountered by E4A applicants and grantees. These notes typically accompany a corresponding blog post, and together offer insights into how E4A leadership consider important methods challenges and trade-offs. Additional resources will be added in time.
We also offer twice monthly drop-in office hours - consider joining a virtual conversation with our program staff.
Will every applicant who submits an LOI be invited to submit a full proposal?
No. Only LOIs that meet the review criteria are invited to submit full proposals. Approximately 7% of applicants advance to the full proposal stage.
What is the likelihood I will be funded if invited to submit a full proposal?
Currently, between 40-45% of full proposals are recommended for funding.
Who will review my proposal?
We are committed to ensuring a racial equity perspective is applied when reviewing each letter of intent and full proposal that is responsive to the CFP. Letters of intent and full proposals are reviewed by members of the E4A leadership team, RWJF, and external reviewers with expertise in racial equity. Members of our National Advisory Committee also provide full proposal reviews.
Will I receive feedback on my LOI or full proposal?
Applicants generally receive a decision regarding whether they are invited to move on to the next round of the application and review process within six to nine weeks. Applicants who are advanced to the full proposal stage, invited to revise their LOI, or referred to one of our Technical Assistance services will receive feedback about their proposal; other applicants are welcome to contact the program office with specific questions about their proposal.
Why was my LOI turned down?
Due to significant interest in the program, we are only able to advance a small proportion of LOIs we receive to the full proposal stage. LOIs are turned down for a variety of reasons, including (but not limited to):
- The intervention being evaluated was not clearly described;
- The intervention being evaluated did not focus on change at a systems, structural, or environmental level;
- The research question or hypothesis was not clearly stated;
- The research question was not relevant to advancing health and racial equity or immediately applicable to policy or practice changes;
- There were not appropriate health outcomes; and/or
- The research design did not meet E4A standards of rigor.
How much funding is available per grant?
There is no cap for the research budget request. While we have received budget requests ranging from $35k to $1M, typical funding levels are between $300k and $500k over the life of the project.
In our decision making process, E4A weighs the amount of funding requested against the potential value of proposed research gains. You should request the amount of funding you will need to complete your proposed research project, inclusive of dissemination activities after the research is completed, and we will work with you to adjust the budget if necessary.
Past funding amounts and corresponding project sizes can be found on our Funded Projects page.
What are examples of appropriate or non-appropriate uses of grant funds?
E4A funds all research-related aspects of a project, including staff time, travel stipends, support for participant involvement, consultant fees, data collection & analysis, meetings, supplies, and a variety of other costs related to the operations/implementation of the research project itself. In contrast, costs related to the operations/implementation or development of the intervention are typically not appropriate. Additionally, up to 12% in overhead or indirect costs for colleges/universities and hospitals or health systems or up to 20% in indirect costs for non-profit organizations can be covered by the grant.
In general, it is not appropriate to buy office equipment or office software with program funds. However, if office equipment or software essential for conducting research (i.e., for collecting or analyzing data) is needed and justified in the budget narrative, and the cost does not exceed five percent of the total direct costs in the budget, it is acceptable to include such items.
What is the duration of E4A grants?
E4A grant durations range from 12 to 48 months. To encourage timely dissemination and application of findings, we have a strong preference for durations of less than 36 months.
How should I estimate my budget?
You should request the amount of funding you will need to conduct and disseminate your proposed research. In the case of multi-year proposals, budget requests should reflect the entire grant duration as opposed to an annual amount. Please do not provide a detailed budget breakdown at the LOI stage. When entering the budget request at the LOI stage, round up to the nearest $10,000.
Budget requests should be inclusive of both direct and indirect costs. The Foundation’s maximum approved rate for indirect costs is 12% of all project costs (Personnel, Other Direct Costs, and Purchased Services) for colleges/universities and hospitals or health systems and up to 20% in indirect costs for non-profit organizations. More detailed guidance and exceptions are provided in the Budget Preparation Guidelines available at the Full Proposal stage. For further detail about permissible uses of grant funds please see the related FAQ.
What is the difference between research activities and intervention or programmatic activities?
Funding is limited to activities associated with conducting the research, analyzing results, and disseminating findings. We do NOT fund activities related to intervention implementation or operations. For example, for a cash transfer intervention, we would fund activities associated with recruitment, engagement, incentives, data collection, analysis, and dissemination. We would not fund the actual cash payments or their administration.
What if I need more money or time to conduct my study?
We recognize the funding amount and duration could impact the type of studies that may be undertaken. We encourage applicants to consider creative ways for achieving high-impact research within the duration and budget parameters of this program. For example, by breaking research into phases, utilizing funding to supplement an existing project, leveraging funding from multiple sources, etc. Please contact the program office to discuss ideas for research that may fall outside the funding parameters of this program.
Are matching funds, or research funds from other outside sources, required for this funding opportunity?
No, matching funds are not required, but supplemental funding is welcomed and encouraged. The ability to leverage other funding for the proposed research project is not a criterion for awarding grants, but it may be a consideration in the decision-making process.
Where can I learn more about other funding opportunities from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation?
How was the CFP developed?
The Innovative Research to Advance Racial Equity CFP was developed through an iterative and reflective process, integrating feedback from key informants, including E4A and RWJF leadership, current and former E4A grantees, members of the E4A National Advisory Committee, and external experts. The process had multiple steps. Step 1: We scanned academic and gray literature for published guidance, standards, and frameworks related to racial equity and justice. Step 2: Staff and leadership of RWJF and E4A participated in a series of sessions to define and affirm the core principles and objectives of E4A as a funding program. Step 3: We interviewed scholars and experts in racial equity, social justice, and philanthropy, to better understand research and funding gaps and priorities in their respective fields. Step 4: The CFP was drafted by E4A staff and went through multiple rounds of review and revision to integrate feedback from informants. Step 5: Application questions and materials were developed by E4A staff and reviewed by current and former E4A grantees. Step 6: RWJF had final approval of the CFP and all related materials. Step 7: E4A staff developed a bundle of resources, including FAQs, an Applicant Resources Guide, and a webinar, to help prospective applicants better understand the intent of the CFP and develop responsive proposals.
We would like to acknowledge the following individuals for their valuable contributions to this process: Marianne Bitler, Varaxy Yi Borromeo, Doris F. Chang, Alison Cohen, Fabienne Doucet, Jim Krieger, Judy Lubin, James L. Moore III, Xavier Morales, Yusuf Ransome, Adam Reich, Jean Terranova, Katherine Theall, Hannah Thompson, and Bruce Tonn.
How many projects get funded per year? How many projects will be awarded?
The number of funded projects each year depends on the responsiveness and competitiveness of applications received. We do not have a target number of projects we fund each year.
Similarly, the total number of grants funded through this call for proposals will depend on the number of successful applicants over the life of the CFP. Currently, there is not a projected closing date for this solicitation.