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Sociology Program - Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Awards (Soc-DDRI)

Grants to USA Colleges and Universities
for Dissertation Research on Sociology

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National Science Foundation (NSF)

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Grants of up to $12,000 to USA universities and colleges on behalf of faculty members for doctoral dissertations within the field of sociology. Funding will support basic research that addresses any form of human social organization, such as institutions, groups, demography, and societies, and processes of institutions and individual change.

The Program encourages theoretically focused empirical investigations aimed at improving the explanation of fundamental social processes. Included is research on organizations and organizational behavior, population dynamics, social movements, social groups, labor force participation, stratification and mobility, family, social networks, socialization, gender roles, and the sociology of science and technology. The Program supports both original data collections and secondary data analysis that use the full range of quantitative and qualitative methodological tools. Theoretically grounded projects that offer methodological innovations and improvements for data collection and analysis are also welcomed.

As part of its effort to encourage and support projects that explicitly integrate education and basic research, the Sociology Program provides support to improve the conduct of doctoral dissertation projects undertaken by doctoral students enrolled in U.S. universities when the dissertation research is conducted in a scientifically sound manner and it offers strong potential for enhancing more general scientific knowledge.

The Sociology Program funds doctoral dissertation research to defray direct costs associated with conducting research, for example, dataset acquisition, additional statistical or methodological training, meeting with scholars associated with original datasets, and fieldwork away from the student's home campus. Projects are evaluated using the two Foundation-wide criteria, intrinsic merit and broader impacts.

In assessing the intrinsic merit of proposed research, four components are key to securing support from the Sociology Program: (1) the issues investigated must be theoretically grounded; (2) the research should be based on empirical observation or be subject to empirical validation or illustration; (3) the research design must be appropriate to the questions asked; and (4) the proposed research must advance our understanding of social processes, structures and methods.

Through its competitive grants competitions, the Sociology Program of the U.S. National Science Foundation seeks to advance basic understanding and methods in Sociology and related fields to enhance fundamental knowledge and practice. The Sociology Program is committed to supporting basic sociological research and wider ranging interdisciplinary research in which sociologists may play critical roles.

In alignment with the NSF Strategic Plan for Fiscal Years 2014 through 2018, Investing in Science, Engineering, and Education for the Nation's Future, the Sociology Program expects that the research it supports will draw upon and enhance fundamental theory in sociology and it will encourage and support potentially transformative research that has potential larger-scale, longer-term significance for both basic understanding and for societal benefit.

The Sociology Program dissertation improvement grants are awarded to support high quality doctoral dissertation research in sociology. A proposal submitted for consideration by the Sociology Program at NSF will be most competitive if the research contributes to sociological theory and knowledge, rather than merely focusing on specific topics of sociological interest. Competitive proposals focus on one or a few core questions that are theoretically derived or framed, and articulate how scientifically sound methods will be used to address questions, but also enhance broader sociological theory.

As a general rule, proposals that review well are those that clearly state a central research question, make an argument that engages and/or debates relevant literatures, specifies the data that will be gathered and the analytic procedures that will apply to those data. Additionally, strong proposals state what the researcher expects to find or show through the research. Projects designed primarily to "expand," "explore," or "develop" our understanding of a phenomenon tend to be too preliminary for NSF support. Likewise, the Sociology Program does not fund evaluation projects or those with a primarily applied focus. NSF-funded sociology proposals tend to be theoretically framed and make clear contributions to sociological theory, and the strongest proposals have a research design that permits falsifiability so that the PI can be wrong as well as right.

The Sociology Program frequently engages in co-review of regular research proposals with other NSF programs, but it does not co- review DDRI proposals. Proposals submitted to the DDRI program in Sociology will only be reviewed by the Sociology Program. It also will not co-review DDRI proposals submitted to other NSF programs. Doctoral dissertation research improvement (DDRI) awards provide support to enhance and improve the conduct of doctoral dissertation projects conducted by doctoral students enrolled in U.S. universities who are conducting scientific research that enhances basic scientific knowledge.

As noted in the title of the awards, DDRI awards are meant to improve the conduct of the dissertation research. All DDRI proposals recommended for funding by the Sociology Program must clearly demonstrate how the proposed research will contribute to the advancement of basic sociological scientific theory and knowledge. The most competitive proposals will be those that also demonstrate how already significant research will be improved with DDRI funding.

Project budgets should be developed at scales appropriate for the work to be conducted and may only include costs directly associated with the conduct of dissertation research. DDRI awards provide funding for research costs not normally covered by the student's university. Examples of the kinds of expenses that may be included in a DDRI proposal budget are the following:

-Costs associated with travel and related expenses to conduct research at field sites, archives, specialized collections, and/or facilities away from the student's campus

-Costs for data-collection activities, including the conduct of surveys, questionnaires, and/or focus groups or the purchase of extant data

-Costs for equipment necessary for the conduct of the project that will be devoted to the project over the duration of the award (Note that any equipment purchased with NSF funds becomes property of the awardee organization.)

-Costs for payments to research subjects and/or informants

-Costs for non-routine materials and supplies required for the conduct of the project

-Costs for data transcription (a letter outlining service and service costs will be required before an award will be recommended) Analysis and research services not otherwise available

-Cost for training in qualitative and quantitative methods required to complete the dissertation

The Sociology Program due to budgetary constraints will not support travel to professional conferences to present research results. Costs that cannot be reimbursed by DDRI awards include the following:

-A stipend or salary for the doctoral student or advisor (Note that salaries or payments for work by other individuals whose assistance may be essential to conduct the project may be permitted when there is sound justification for such expenses.) Costs for tuition, textbooks, or other items not directly related to the conduct of dissertation research

-Publication costs for articles based on the dissertation, except when the university's degree requirements permit the substitution of published research results for a free-standing dissertation

-Costs for travel of the advisor to the field site

GrantWatch ID#:

GrantWatch ID#: 175946

Estimated Total Program Funding:


Number of Grants:

The total estimated number of DDRI awards per fiscal year is 40 to 50.

Estimated Size of Grant:

A DDRI award cannot exceed $12,000 (this amount includes both direct and indirect costs for the entire duration of the award).

Term of Contract:

DDRI awards may be for one or two years in duration. The dissertation does not have to be completed during that time period, but costs associated with research activities to be reimbursed with DDRI funds must be incurred when the award is active.

Additional Eligibility Criteria:

Proposals may only be submitted by:
-Universities and Colleges - Ph.D. granting universities and colleges accredited in, and having a campus located in, the US acting on behalf of their faculty members. Such organizations also are referred to as academic institutions.

Who May Serve as PI:

DDRI proposals must be submitted with a principal investigator (PI) and a co-principal investigator (co-PI).

The PI must be the advisor of the doctoral student or another faculty member at the U.S. university where the doctoral student is enrolled. The doctoral student whose dissertation research will be supported must be designated as a co-PI. There is no limitation on the number of times that an individual may be the principal investigator on a DDRI proposal or proposals submitted to the Sociology Program, either during a specific competition or over the course of her/his career.

There is a not a limitation on the number of times a doctoral student may submit a DDRI proposal to the Sociology Program as long as they meet the eligibility criteria. A student and her/his advisor, however, should carefully consider the times during the student's graduate program that are most appropriate for submission of a DDRI proposal. Proposals will only be accepted in the Sociology Program's Spring DDRI competition if they were submitted to a Fall competition, were declined, and received an invitation to resubmit. The invitation to resubmit will be included in the panel summary.

Pre-Application Information:

Proposers may opt to submit proposals in response to this Program Solicitation via or via the NSF FastLane system.

The current closing date for applications is October 16, 2017.

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Contact Information:

Before starting your grant application, please review the funding source's website listed below for updates/changes/addendums/conferences/LOIs.

Joseph Whitmeyer, Program Director

Fatima J. Touma, Science Assistant
(703) 292-7320

Monique Moore, Program Specialist
(703) 292-4951

CFDA Number:


Funding or Pin Number:

NSF 14-604

URL for Full Text (RFP):

Geographic Focus:

USA: Alabama;   Alaska;   Arizona;   Arkansas;   California;   Colorado;   Connecticut;   Delaware;   Florida;   Georgia;   Hawaii;   Idaho;   Illinois;   Indiana;   Iowa;   Kansas;   Kentucky;   Louisiana;   Maine;   Maryland;   Massachusetts;   Michigan;   Minnesota;   Mississippi;   Missouri;   Montana;   Nebraska;   Nevada;   New Hampshire;   New Jersey;   New Mexico;   New York City;   New York;   North Carolina;   North Dakota;   Ohio;   Oklahoma;   Oregon;   Pennsylvania;   Rhode Island;   South Carolina;   South Dakota;   Tennessee;   Texas;   Utah;   Vermont;   Virginia;   Washington, DC;   Washington;   West Virginia;   Wisconsin;   Wyoming