Crafting a Competitive Application

The application, interview, and selection process for the Interdisciplinary Research Leaders (IRL) program is designed to provide reviewers with a thorough understanding of your team, your proposed research, and the community you will engage in effecting change.

To help you make your application as competitive as possible, we would like to share lessons we have learned from selecting previous IRL cohorts. Please pay careful attention to these key elements:

Build a strong team
  • Your team must consist of three fully eligible team members: one community partner and two research partners. For eligibility details, please see our FAQ page.
  • Conducting rigorous, action-oriented, community-engaged research requires team members with diverse expertise and experiences who are willing to work hard together as equal partners.
  • All three members of your team must be able to answer interview questions and provide accurate details about the community and the proposed research.
  • Your team must have a clear, established relationship with the community.
  • Our Building a Team page provides additional insights and ideas.


Address this year’s theme
  • Your proposed research must address this year’s theme: structural racism and health.
  • Clearly identify the structure/system you will address, the measurement approaches and research methods you will use, and how the project will contribute to systems change.
  • Be sure your project does not focus on documenting experiences of racism or on helping individuals navigate unchanged systems. Your project must address structural barriers.


Craft and submit a complete, timely application
  • In your application, clearly articulate how the community was engaged in developing the application and will be included in the proposed work.
  • Make sure your application addresses questions specific to the proposed research and team members. Do not submit a proposal that is responsive to another organization’s requirements and program design, or a proposal that was previously submitted to IRL.
  • Allow yourself ample time to register through the MYRWJF portal and to submit your proposal well ahead of the deadline.
  • Be sure your application is free of grammar, spelling, and other errors.
  • Take time to review all application materials and documents prior to your final submission. Though glitches are rare, sometimes documents are not uploaded correctly, text boxes do not save all information, or other errors occur.


Confirm organizational support
  • Each member of your team must be supported by their institution or organization in applying to be an IRL fellow. To participate in IRL, applicants from some organizations and non-profit institutions require approval (e.g., from the Executive Director). Please obtain such approvals prior to applying.
  • The IRL program provides funding both for participating in the fellowship and for conducting the research project. Because this model is different from many programs—including others funded by RWJF—grants managers, administrators, or research offices may require additional clearances. Please ensure that you have obtained all clearances before you apply.
  • Please note that RWJF does not allow more than 12 percent of funds to go to institutional indirect costs.

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