• Can you share some qualities that you are looking for in IRL applicants?

    Our successful applicants have these top three qualities:

    1. The capacity and desire to become leaders in advancing population health and health equity at the local and national levels;
    2. A compelling vision for how the research and community partners will work together collaboratively and be accountable to the community;
    3. Research with a strong potential to inform policy or action at the local and/or national level, properly scaled, and not too ambitious.

Community partner


Future IRL CFAs

Research projects


  • If I am currently a doctoral student or in a post-doc position, can I apply as a research partner?

    No, doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows are not considered “mid-career researchers.” In addition, persons on NIH or NSF training fellowships (e.g. Kawards) are ineligible for this program.

  • Can the researchers be from the same organization/institution?

    Yes, the two researchers can be from the same organization/institution.

  • How do you gauge demonstrated expertise in research?

    We take a holistic approach. For some, it will be a clear record of quality peer-reviewed publications. For others, white-paper reports. And for others, research-based policy briefs. Overall, there is no one metric. Applicants must make their case.

  • Do you have to have a PhD in order to apply as a research partner?

    While we expect that many applicant researchers will have earned a PhD or related degree, this is not necessary provided the applicant can demonstrate a strong record of excellence in research or evaluation. With that said, researchers from diverse disciplinary and demographic backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

  • Do the researchers have to be at an academic institution?

    No, the researcher does not need to be based at an academic institution. Researchers may hold academic appointments or positions in applied research firms or community organizations. We encourage you to browse through our IRL team profiles to get a sense of our previous cohort team members and their research projects.

  • Can you define mid-career researcher?

    We are looking for applicants who are mid-career, rather than junior career or late career. While we don’t have a set definition for “mid-career,” generally speaking, researchers would be considered “mid-career” if they are more than five years out from their PhD (or other terminal degree) or have extensive research or evaluation experience and not within ten years of retirement. However, the determination of mid-career need not be based on rank.
    We want people who are skilled and experienced in doing research and past the initial phase of their career, but not at the end. Researchers and community leaders who are interested in applying are invited to make their case for their mid-career status in the application materials.


  • Will applications be scored and reviewer comments provided to applicants?

    Applications will undergo a rigorous, multi-stage review process. Per RWJF policy, reviewers’ written comments will not be provided to applicants. While we can’t provide applicant teams with specific reviewer information, we can share some of the qualities of applications that were selected to be part of the program.