• Have there been changes to the program due to COVID-19?

    Events normally held in-person will be virtual until it is safe to conduct them in person. However, much of the curriculum is intended to be completed in your own community. Any and all changes to the program curriculum, timeline, or experience will be communicated frequently and clearly.

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

    Successful IRL teams have these top three qualities: 1) the capacity and desire to become a research leader advancing population health and health equity; 2) a compelling vision for how research and community partners will collaborate and be accountable to and engage with the community; and 3) the ability to conduct credible and transparent research with a strong potential to inform policy or action at the local and/or national level, properly scaled, and not too ambitious. To learn more, please see our Crafting a Competitive Application and Building a Team pages

  • What are the specific learning objectives of the IRL program?

    Learning objectives for all team members include:

    • Increase expertise in interdisciplinary research.
    • Engage in team leadership for the promotion of health equity.
    • Understand how to use leadership and network skills to drive change in academic and community settings.
    • Improve the facilitation of compelling, action-oriented research that improves health and advances health equity goals in all manner of communities.
    • Increase understanding of how structural racism and other “isms” constrain health and opportunity, in both the historical and contemporary contexts.
    • Determine how to apply anti-racist practices into research and leadership.
    • Enhance skills to ensure that ethical research and community standards are equal priorities.
    • Build skills for the dissemination of research findings to improve community health.
    • Understand the process to effectively communicate health research evidence to inform policy and change.


    Additional learning objectives for community partners include:

    • Develop skills for partnering with researchers to answer critical community-oriented questions.
    • Develop skills to lead, guide, and utilize research for action and improvement in community health.


    Additional learning objectives for research partners include:

    • Develop skills and understanding to create equitable partnerships with community members and leaders.
    • Develop skills to create research that is responsive to community concerns.
  • The Call for Applications references RWJF’s Policy on Open Access. Where can I find more information?

    The policy and frequently asked questions on the policy can be found at

Community partner

  • For the community partner, do you have a preference for the type of organization or sector in which they work?

    Community partners may work in a variety of organizational settings, as long as their experience and expertise are relevant to the proposed research project. The community partner can work in any area, including community organizing, education, health care, local government, or any range of nonprofit and private sectors, whether health care-related or not. 

    For the purposes of this program, community partners are deeply engaged with the community of interest. Individuals must have the potential to take action on the issue themselves or have relationships with entities that can take action. We aim to help develop community partners as research leaders, too. So while not professional researchers, community partners should be interested in using and helping to execute credible and transparent research for action.

  • Are there opportunities for additional support for the community partner’s organization?

    Community Partners in Cohort 7 will be eligible to work with an organization to apply for mini grants from the National Program Center to provide additional financial support for the community partner’s employer, sponsoring institution, or another community organization directly involved in the research to help build the research capacity and infrastructure within the community organization. One example of how this additional support can be used is to support other staff and personnel at the community organization to help advance the IRL research project so the burden of work doesn’t fall exclusively on the community partner. This opportunity will generally be limited to Section 501(c)(3) public charities and government entities.

Research Partner

  • What if I do not have prior experience in health research?

    We encourage researchers who do not have prior experience in health research to apply.

  • Can you define mid-career researcher?

    We are looking for applicants who are mid-career, rather than early-career or late-career. While we don’t have a set definition for “mid-career,” generally speaking, a researcher would be considered “mid-career” if they are more than three years out from their PhD (or another terminal degree) or have extensive (e.g., 10+ years) rigorous research or evaluation experience. Importantly, the determination of mid-career need not be based on rank. We want team members 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 being included as team members are invited to make their case for their mid-career status in the application materials. We focus on “mid-career” because these individuals are in a unique position where they have gained the skills and experience to lead but also have time to implement their learning and influence their peers and organizations as they continue to work formally for a significant time beyond the IRL program.

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

    No, researchers do not need to be based at an academic institution. Researchers may hold appointments or positions in applied research firms or community organizations. We encourage you to browse through our website to get a sense of our IRL fellows, teams, and their research projects. For applications to the IRL program, the institution or organization where the researchers are employed must have the capacity to support the proposed research and fellowship participation.

  • Do you have to have a PhD to be included on an application as a research partner?

    A PhD or related degree is not required for the IRL program, although many researchers in the IRL program have earned a PhD or related degree. Each research applicant should state their relevant experience in the application. We select teams who demonstrate a strong record of excellence in research or evaluation. Researchers from diverse disciplinary and demographic backgrounds are strongly encouraged to apply.

  • How do you gauge demonstrated expertise in research?

    We assess the research experience of the team as a collective. This includes the team having some past experience working on the theme in the application. For some, teams can show a clear record of quality peer-reviewed publications. For others, white-paper reports, policy briefs, community reports, a model policy language, Op-Eds, public advocacy documents, books, or other documents that illustrate past experience with action-oriented research. Overall, there is no one metric. Applicants and team members must make their case. Again, we are interested in researchers interested in creating credible and transparent evidence for action.

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

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

  • If I am currently a doctoral student or in a post-doc position, can I be included on an application 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., K awards) are ineligible for this program. You must have completed any such program before the start of the IRL program. 


Research projects


  • What is the total amount of the IRL award/grant, and are there different components?

    Total awards will be up to $395,000 per team for the duration of the three-year fellowship program. This amount includes the annual stipends for all three participants, a one-time team research project award, and annual mini grants for the community partner’s organization.

    The first component of the award is a stipend of $25,000 per fellow for each year of the three-year program. These funds are meant to support time for participation in the IRL program. These funds will be paid directly to each team member’s sponsoring organization. In most cases, an individual’s sponsoring organization is their employer.

    The second component of the award is for the team research project. We anticipate that the total 2.5-year research project budget, including indirect costs/overhead, will be $125,000. Each team will select an organization/institution (in almost all cases, this will be one of the team member’s employers) that will receive and manage the team research project grant. The recipient organization must be based in the U.S. or its territories.

    The third component of the award is the annual mini grants for the community partner’s organization. Each year, community partners are eligible to apply for up to $15,000 to offset expenses related to IRL.

  • What is the time commitment for fellows in this program?

    The time commitment for the program is estimated to be one day per week—approximately 20% FTE—for three years. To support the fellows’ time to participate in the program, the grantee organization will receive financial support of $25,000 per team member for each year of the three-year program. It is the expectation of the program that the fellows will fully participate in all program activities.

  • Is there guidance regarding indirect cost rates for RWJF grants/awards?

    Yes. For the stipend portion, an optional administrative fee of $1,000 per year, $3,000 in total, may be provided to cover the sponsoring organization’s administrative costs of managing the grant. No other indirect costs will be allowed. For the research project, RWJF’s Indirect Cost Rate Policy will apply and can be found here.

  • Is there funding to assist the team members in attending the in-person meetings?

    Yes, all travel expenses for all required program meetings will be paid directly by the IRL national program center or RWJF. This will not come out of your grant budget or your fellow support funds.

  • Will you fund programs in the same city/county?

    Yes, it is possible that we would fund more than one team in the same city or county.


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

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

Previous IRL applicants

  • What if I have applied before?

    If you were not successful in being selected for the IRL program, you are eligible to apply again. If you have previously been part of an IRL funded team, you are not eligible to apply.

  • If I apply again, should I apply with the same team or project?

    Each year, IRL has a specific theme that applicants are requested to address in their proposal. Please make sure any new application has a focus that is aligned with the theme for the cohort to which you are applying.

    If you or members of your team apply after not being selected, you will want to consider revising your application in scope, focus, or team composition for a new application. Please see the Crafting a Competitive Application page.

    All members of the team must not have previously been selected with a previous IRL team.



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