University of Wisconsin–Madison

National Dissertation Award for Research on Poverty and Economic Mobility 2023–2024: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

If you still have clarifying questions regarding the submission of proposals after consulting our website, please contact us at irpapply@ssc.wisc.edu.

What is IRP?
The Institute for Research on Poverty is a center for interdisciplinary research into the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in the United States and the impacts of related policies and programs.

As the National Research Center on Poverty & Economic Mobility, IRP is sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE). IRP coordinates the U.S. Collaborative of Poverty Centers (CPC). IRP and its partner centers support and train poverty and economic mobility scholars with a special focus on expanding opportunities for scholars from historically underrepresented groups. In addition, IRP and its partner centers provide relevant, cutting-edge research on a wide range of topics with the ultimate goal of improving the effectiveness of public policies to reduce poverty and its consequences.
What is ASPE?
The Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) is the principal advisor to the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on policy development. ASPE is responsible for major activities in policy coordination, legislation development, strategic planning, policy research, evaluation, and economic analysis. Within ASPE, the Office of Human Services Policy (HSP) conducts policy research, analysis, evaluation, and coordination on various issues across the Department, including but not limited to, poverty and measurement, marginalized communities, early childhood education and child welfare, family strengthening, economic support for families, and youth development. HSP serves as a liaison with other agencies on broad economic matters and is the Department’s lead on poverty research and analysis.

To learn more about ASPE and the work they do, check out this video.

What are IRP’s goals for this grant?
IRP has established this award to support an outstanding dissertation project that explores issues of poverty, economic mobility, equity, inclusion, diversity, and access in human services.
What topics does IRP primarily support?
IRP is interested in supporting work that explores issues of poverty, economic mobility, equity, inclusion, diversity, and access in human services. Competitive dissertation proposals will produce actionable policy research on reducing inequalities in human services administered by HHS (e.g., child welfare, child support, child care, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, youth homeless services, and Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program). Research on the broader social safety net programs (e.g., Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, subsidized housing programs, employment and training programs, and tax credits) will also be considered, especially when those programs interact with the human services administered by HHS.
Do you fund international research interests?
No. This grant is targeted towards scholars studying issues of poverty, economic mobility, equity, inclusion, diversity, and access in human services in the U.S.
What do you mean by “policy-relevant research”?
Research is “policy-relevant” when it informs local, state, or federal law, regulation, procedure, administrative action, or program adoption and implementation in a way that is targeted, timely and actionable. Policy-relevant research may inform knowledge and understanding of the nature, causes, correlates, and effects of policy issues such as income dynamics, poverty, individual and family functioning, and child well-being with the goal of improving the effectiveness of public policies.
What does it mean to meaningfully engage affected communities in research?
Competitive applications will meaningfully engage affected communities in the research and/or dissemination process. Engaging affected communities may look different for each proposal but may include collaboratively developing research questions, potential methods, and plans for data collection, working with community members to interpret findings and put them into context, and sharing results in ways that are accessible to impacted individuals such as through visuals, blogs, and videos.

To learn more about engaging communities, see Strategies to Center Community Voices in Research.

Who can apply for the national dissertation award?
Proposals are invited from doctoral students at U.S. universities, other than UW–Madison, who are individuals belonging to groups that are underrepresented in academia and whose dissertation is focused on issues related to poverty, economic mobility, equity, inclusion, diversity, and access in human services. IRP is using the definition of underrepresented as outlined by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). Underrepresentation can exist in various forms, from one’s race or ethnicity, to ability status, gender identity or sexual orientation, or current or past economic disadvantage. Applicants will be asked to share relevant demographic data in their application and describe how they meet the NIH definition of underrepresented in their field of study.
I am a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin–Madison. Am I eligible?
No, University of Wisconsin–Madison dissertators are ineligible for funding under this award.
When do I need to expect to complete my Ph.D. to be eligible for this award?
Applicants should expect to complete their required coursework by September 2023 and can reasonably expect to complete their Ph.D. by the 2024–2025 academic year or earlier.
Are there deadlines for submitting my application?
Yes, applicants should submit proposals by January 25, 2023.
How do I submit my application?
Complete applications must include both (1) applicant-provided proposal using online Application Form; and (2) letter of sponsorship provided by dissertation chair using the online Sponsor Submission Form.
When does the grant start and end?
The award contract period is flexible depending on needs of the applicant, but funding must be spent by September 29, 2024. Funding can be used during summer 2023, fall semester 2023, spring semester 2024, summer 2024 or any combination of the preceding times.
How many grants are funded?
IRP anticipates supporting one dissertation research project.
How much funding is awarded per person?
The fellowship provides $25,000 awarded to a dissertator’s home institution.
What can funds be used for?
Funding can be used to cover items including tuition, stipend, data acquisition (e.g., data access fees, purchase of data sets, collection of qualitative data, etc.), research assistance, subject payments (including compensating community members or others with lived experience who consult on the project), travel (for data collection or access or to attend a research conference), and supplies. Other research expenses will be considered on a case-by-case basis. University indirect costs may also be billed but IRP encourages home institutions to waive this cost.
What should I include in my application?
Your application should include:

  • Cover page listing the following:
    • Dissertator’s name, department, university, contact information;
    • Sponsoring dissertation chair’s name, department, university, contact information;
    • Project title and abstract; and
    • Anticipated timeline for dissertation completion and defense.
  • Description of proposed work, no more than 10 double-spaced pages, to include:
    • Research question, original contribution to literature on issues related to poverty, economic mobility, equity, inclusion, diversity, and/or access in human services;
    • Research design, methodology, and data sources;
    • Anticipated results of research, including potential implications for public policy;
    • How the research process or dissemination process will engage affected communities, including a plan for compensating those who consult on the project;
    • Brief description of proposed public-facing project;
    • Draft budget narrative outlining when and how $25,000 will be used; and
    • Current status of dissertation, preliminary work completed to date, and expected dissertation completion date.
  • Current curriculum vitae.
What should I include in my proposed budget?
Applicants should provide a draft budget narrative outlining when and how they plan to use the $25,000. Note that home institutions may have restrictions on how the funding is spent and awardees may have to pay taxes on all or part of the funding depending on how it is used. After the award is announced, IRP will work with the awardee and their home institution to develop a detailed budget including determining the amount of indirect costs applied.
What should the letter of sponsorship include?
Have your dissertation chair submit a letter of sponsorship. The letter should include:

  • The merits of the dissertation project including its potential to advance the field of study in which it is proposed and make an original and significant contribution to knowledge on issues related to poverty, economic mobility, equity, inclusion, diversity, and/or access in human services;
  • Expected dissertation completion date; and
  • The applicant’s record of scholarly engagement and potential for scholarly achievement, taking into account the relative advantages and constraints on resources for the proposed project and over the course of the applicant’s doctoral training.
If awarded, what are the requirements of the grant?
Receipt of this dissertation award from IRP will require a commitment to:

  • Within the first 6 weeks of the award begin date, participate via video conferencing in a meeting with IRP to discuss plans for a public-facing project and how to maximize its policy relevance.
  • Submit brief quarterly progress reports (< 150 words) of work accomplished during the preceding three months every quarter in the established award period.
  • Submit a draft of the final public-facing project for review and comments to three months before the end of the established award period.
  • Within two weeks of submitting the draft, participate via video conferencing in a meeting with IRP to discuss how to maximize its policy relevance.
  • Submit a revised final draft by end of established award period.
  • Acknowledge the support of IRP and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE) on all publications associated with the award.
In addition, the funded dissertator will be invited to attend quarterly professional development trainings provided virtually.
What is the public-facing project?
The public-facing project could be a targeted fact sheet, infographic, brief video or other formats intended for a wide audience of policymakers. This end project, as well as the quarterly progress reports, will be shared with the ASPE Program Officer.
What are the quarterly professional development trainings?
These trainings are developed primarily for in-residence fellows (both post-doctoral Ph.D.s and Masters in Public Administration/Policy graduates) working at HHS through grants from IRP. Additional IRP grantees will also be invited to attend. These sessions are voluntary but will expose the awardee to a broad range of research and methods topics as well as provide the opportunity to engage with a cohort of early-career researchers focused on policy-relevant research on themes tied to poverty and economic development.

To learn more, visit our Professional Development Training Series webpage.

How will my proposal be reviewed?
Applications will be reviewed in a three-stage process.

  1. Applications will be screened for completeness, including:
    • online application completed;
    • application materials uploaded; and
    • letter of sponsorship uploaded.
  2. Complete applications will be reviewed by an internal IRP panel to assess whether applicant meets the following eligibility requirements:
    • is a member of a group unrepresented in academia;
    • has a dissertation topic focused on issues related to poverty, economic mobility, equity, inclusion, diversity, and/or access in human services; and
    • application materials, including letter of support, show that applicant is expected to complete their required coursework by September 2022 and can reasonably expect to complete their Ph.D. by the 2023–2024 academic year or earlier.
  3. Qualifying applications will be evaluated by a panel of distinguished scholars selected by IRP. The panels will use the application and letter of recommendation as the basis for scoring the following:
    • The potential of the dissertation to advance the field of study in which it is proposed and make an original and significant contribution to knowledge on issues related to poverty, economic mobility, equity, inclusion, diversity, and access in human services;
    • The quality of the dissertation proposal with regard to its methodology, scope, theoretical framework, and grounding in the relevant scholarly literature (Please note: IRP welcomes applications that challenge scholarly convention);
    • The potential for the dissertation to influence the policymaking process, especially related to programs administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services;
    • The quality of proposed public-facing project;
    • The quality and feasibility of the plan for engaging affected communities in research or the dissemination process;
    • The feasibility of the dissertation proposal and the likelihood that the applicant will execute the work within the proposed time frame; and
    • The applicant’s record of scholarly engagement and potential for scholarly achievement, taking into account the relative advantages and constraints on resources for the proposed project and over the course of the applicant’s doctoral training.
How should applicants handle citations in their application materials?
Applicants can use either in-text citations or have a reference section. If the applicant chooses to have a list of references, the reference list does not count against the page limit. 
I forgot to submit part of my proposal with my application. Can I go back and edit?
Please resend your application file to irpapply@ssc.wisc.edu as a single PDF and we will update your information with the correct file.