NIJ’s Graduate Research Fellowship (GRF) program supports doctoral students engaged in research that advances NIJ’s mission.
The Graduate Research Fellowship in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (GRF-STEM) track is open to doctoral students in STEM fields of study, which include the following disciplines, among others:
- Anthropology (Physical)
- Cognitive Science
- Computer Science
- Geographical Information Systems (GIS)
- Information Sciences
- Materials Science
To learn about future GRF-STEM solicitations, you can sign up to receive an email whenever NIJ releases a solicitation or follow us on our Facebook page or Twitter.
NIJ awards up to $2,000,000 annually in new GRF-STEM fellowships.
Frequently Asked Questions
The following questions and answers should help you prepare your GRF-STEM application:
- Before Applying
- Application Submission
- About the Program Narrative
- About the Budget
- Required Documents
- Review and Awarding
- Whom do I contact if I have questions?
- For substantive questions, e-mail [email protected].For program questions during the open solicitation period, contact the National Criminal Justice Reference Service (NCJRS) Response Center: toll-free at 1-800-851-3420; via TTY at 301-240-6310 (hearing impaired only); email [email protected]; fax to 301-240-5830; or web chat at https://webcontact.ncjrs.gov/ncjchat/chat.jsp.
For technical assistance with submitting an application, call the Grants.gov Customer Support Hot Line at 800-518-4726.
Successful institutional applicants must agree to comply with additional requirements prior to receiving grant funding. Learn more about these requirements (pdf, 23 pages).
- What is the GRF program?
- The NIJ GRF program supports doctoral students engaged in research relevant to NIJ's criminal justice mission. The GRF program has two tracks, grouped by academic area of study: the Social and Behavioral Sciences program and the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) program. Each track issues its own solicitation once per year. The FAQs on this page are specific to the GRF-STEM program.
Read about the Social and Behavioral Sciences GRF.
- When will a new solicitation for the GRF-STEM program be announced?
- The solicitation for the fiscal year 2019 fellowship cycle opened January 17, 2019, and will close on April 17, 2019. NIJ intends to continue to open the GRF-STEM solicitation for applications each spring, depending on the availability of appropriated funds. Potential applicants should register for updates on the Grants.gov website to be notified when the solicitation is released. Because the specific application requirements may change slightly from year to year, be sure to check the requirements in the current solicitation.
- Who is eligible for a GRF-STEM award?
- Students enrolled full-time in a doctoral program in a STEM discipline, who propose a dissertation project relevant to criminal justice. Students in Social and Behavioral Sciences Ph.D. programs are encouraged to apply to NIJ’s GRF-SBS program. See the National Academies Taxonomy of Fields for Research Doctorate Programs for guidance on what could be considered SBS vs. STEM programs. The applicant academic institution must be fully accredited by one of the regional institutional accreditation commissions recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Failure to provide verification of current enrollment at the time of application will disqualify an applicant.
Before an awarded fellow can receive GRF-STEM funds, the following must have occurred and be documented in a statement of support from the doctoral student's dissertation committee chair:
- The doctoral student must have a formal dissertation committee.
- The dissertation committee must have accepted the dissertation topic. If the committee is formed and the topic approved after the fellowship is awarded, the dissertation topic must be substantively similar to the fellowship application proposal.
See the Required Documents section for details.
If the doctoral student has not accomplished these milestones at the time of application, then the student’s project timeline should clearly indicate the expected dates by which these milestones will be met, and the student’s faculty advisor, department chair, departmental director of graduate studies or individual with similar responsibilities will be required to submit the statement of support with the application. This statement of support should also explicitly identify the dates by which the doctoral student expects to meet both requirements. Although an award may be made in such cases, access to award funds will be withheld until NIJ receives documentation that the doctoral student has met both milestones.
- Does a doctoral student's non-U.S. citizenship affect eligibility?
- No. The official applicant is the academic institution, not the student. Therefore, the student's citizenship does not affect eligibility. GRF-STEM awards are made only to degree-granting academic institutions in the U.S. and its territories. The sponsoring academic institution must be fully accredited by one of the regional institutional accreditation commissions recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
- What types of research does the GRF-STEM program fund?
- The GRF-STEM program funds dissertation research across a wide range of topics to criminal justice, including the forensic sciences. To apply, students must be enrolled in a doctoral program in a STEM discipline. See the National Academies Taxonomy of Fields for Research Doctorate Programs for guidance on the classification of graduate programs. For programs that could be considered Social and Behavioral Science fields, students are encouraged to apply to NIJ’s GRF-SBS program, instead. Some newly emerging interdisciplinary programs may not be listed or may be difficult to classify—use your judgement to apply to the more appropriate program, GRF-STEM or GRF-SBS, but not both. The same application will not be independently considered under both programs.
Successful GRF-STEM applicants must demonstrate how their proposed dissertation research advances criminal justice knowledge, practice or policy in the United States.
- How do I apply?
- The official applicant to the GRF-STEM program is the sponsoring academic institution. Students must contact and seek the assistance of their academic institution’s office of sponsored research (or equivalent office). Working with a qualified doctoral student and his or her dissertation committee chair (or intended dissertation committee chair), a representative from the academic institution’s office of sponsored research (or equivalent) must complete and submit the full application package online at Grants.gov. Refer to the solicitation for a full list of required documents.
See the Required Documents section for details.
- Can a university submit applications for multiple Ph.D. candidates under the same solicitation?
- Yes, but a separate application must be submitted for each student.
- Who should be listed as the point of contact or principal investigator on the application?
- If permitted by the academic institution, the doctoral student should be listed as the Principal Investigator (PI). If this is not allowed by the academic institution, the student's dissertation committee chair (i.e., the individual submitting a statement of support) should be listed as the PI, with the student listed as key personnel. An official with signing authority for the sponsoring academic institution should be listed as the authorized representative.
- What does the doctoral student need to provide to his or her academic institution?
- The student must work with a representative in the academic institution’s office of sponsored research (or equivalent) to complete an application and ensure that all forms are submitted by the deadline specified in the solicitation. The student must author the program narrative and complete any necessary appendices, as specified in the solicitation.
The student should provide these files to the representative in the academic institution’s office of sponsored research (or equivalent) early enough to ensure that the submission is complete before the deadline specified in the solicitation.
- What must the dissertation committee chair provide?
- The dissertation committee chair (or faculty advisor, department chair, departmental director of graduate studies, or individual with similar responsibilities, as applicable) should provide a statement of support to be included with the application package.
See the Required Documents section for details.
Failure to provide the statement of support at the time of application will disqualify an applicant.
- What must the sponsoring academic institution provide?
- The sponsoring academic institution must upload all documents, including the Required Documents.
See the Required Documents section for details.
Each file should be descriptively named according to what it contains (e.g., program narrative, appendices, required forms, or budget worksheet and budget narrative). The sponsoring institution must provide verification of current full-time enrollment in a qualifying doctoral program.
- How should a reasonable fellowship start date be selected?
- The proposed start date should be the estimated date on which the student could reasonably begin work under the fellowship, subject to the availability of funds and demonstration both that the student has established a formal dissertation committee chair and that the chair has accepted the doctoral student’s proposed dissertation topic.
As an example, if NIJ expects that all awards will be announced in the fall, the proposed fellowship start date should be no earlier than January 1 of the following year. However, the practical availability of funds may be delayed pending the fulfillment of administrative award conditions. NIJ cautions the doctoral student and academic institution not to depend on any GRF-STEM funds until these requirements have been met.
- May an accredited academic institution apply on behalf of student who is enrolled in a qualifying doctoral program part-time at the time of submission but who will be enrolled full-time beginning the academic term in which fellowship activity was proposed to begin?
- Yes. Under such circumstances, in additional to all other requirements, the institution must submit an official letter stating that it expects that the student will be enrolled full-time in the doctoral degree program beginning the academic term in which fellowship activity is proposed to begin. Be aware that under these circumstances, if an award is made, NIJ will place a condition on the award withholding funds until full-time enrollment is demonstrated for the academic term in which fellowship activity is proposed to begin.
About the Program Narrative
The program narrative is a research proposal outlined as follows. The narrative should include a title page, resubmit response (if applicable), a table of contents, and the main proposal body, and any necessary appendices.
The main body of the program narrative is the heart of the research proposal, and should include:
- Statement of the problem and research questions.
- Project design and implementation.
- Capabilities and competencies of the student, advisor, and academic institution.
The program narrative is expected to be the intellectual product of the student. While the involvement of graduate advisors and others is encouraged in the development of research ideas and in the revision of manuscripts, the student should be the primary author of the research proposal.
If an applicant is resubmitting a proposal previously presented to NIJ, the program narrative should contain a resubmit response.
Please review the format guidelines specified in the solicitation. The program narrative section should not exceed the specified page limit guidelines as stated in the solicitation.
- Any tools/instruments, questionnaires, tables/charts/graphs or maps pertaining to the proposed project that are supplemental to the main text and any tables/charts/graphs or maps included in the main body of the narrative.
- Curriculum vitae or resumes of the doctoral student and the dissertation committee chair.
- Personal statement from the doctoral student discussing his or her academic background, research experience, career goals and the anticipated role of the fellowship in his or her professional trajectory.
- List of the student’s dissertation committee (if known) and their contact information. The dissertation committee chair should be clearly identified.
- Proposed project timeline and expected milestones.
- List of all people who will be involved with the project.
- Human Subjects Protection paperwork (documentation and forms related to Institutional Review Board (IRB) review, if applicable). Note: Final IRB approval is not required at the time an application is submitted. Read about NIJ’s human subjects protections requirements.
- Privacy Certificate. Read NIJ’s privacy certificate guidance.
- A list of any previous and current NIJ awards to applicant organization and investigator(s).
- List of other agencies, organizations or funding sources to which this proposal has been submitted or other fellowships/scholarships to which the doctoral student has applied or from whom the doctoral student expects to receive support during the proposed fellowship tenure (if applicable).
- Applicants proposing to use incentives or stipends payments as part of their research project design, must submit an incentive or stipend approval request, as a separate document. Read NIJ’s research subjects incentives policy.
- Letters of cooperation/support or administrative agreements from organizations collaborating in the project, such as law enforcement and correctional agencies (if applicable).
- What should be in the appendices?
- The application appendices should contain:
About the Budget
- What is the total amount available for this fellowship?
- Each successful applicant (i.e., the host academic institution) will be awarded up to $50,000 per year for up to three years of support (for a maximum total of $150,000). Each year of support includes an allowance of $35,000 for the fellow’s salary/stipend and related costs (e.g., fringe benefits or health insurance). Where possible in accordance with institutional policy, the university should account for the full $35,000 when requesting the personnel expenses of the doctoral student. Only salary/stipend, fringe benefits, and health insurance costs are allowable under the $35,000/yr. programmatic budget category.
Additionally, up to $15,000 annually may be requested to cover the student’s tuition and fees, research expenses, and related costs. Such costs may include any combination of the doctoral student’s tuition and associated fees, university administrative or indirect costs, project costs, professional society membership fees, or conference travel, among other allowable expenses.
- How much detail is required in the Budget Detail Worksheet?
- Students should work with their representative in the academic institution’s office of sponsored research (or equivalent) to complete the Budget Detail Worksheet and budget narrative. Students are encouraged to consult the OJP Budget Detail Worksheet template.
The Budget Detail Worksheet must be submitted with the application and must clearly show a breakdown of all costs associated with every allowable budget category. All proposed expenses must comply with the DOJ Financial Guide.
In addition, every budget category listed in the Budget Detail Worksheet must be justified and explained in a budget narrative. The narrative should be easy to follow and understand, be mathematically correct, and correspond with the information and figures in the Budget Detail Worksheet. The narrative should explain how costs were estimated and calculated. The narrative may include tables for clarification purposes and can be provided in a Word document. The Budget Detail Worksheet and budget narrative may be submitted as a single document.
- What are allowable costs that can be included in the project budget?
- GRF-STEM grants include $35,000 annually to cover the student’s salary/stipend and related costs (i.e., fringe benefits or health insurance). These expenses should be explicitly identified in the Budget Detail Worksheet and budget narrative. Each award may also cover up to $15,000 annually for the doctoral student’s tuition and associated fees, project costs, professional society membership fees, university administrative or indirect costs, or conference travel, among other related expenses. Regardless of the expense, each category must show an itemized listing of expenses, how those expenditures were calculated, and justification for the expense.
Note: the fellowship recipient is eligible for funding only during months of full-time enrollment in the initially identified program leading to a doctoral degree. The budget narrative and budget detail worksheet should reflect the entire proposed project timeline of up to three years, in discrete 12-month increments. After the first year, release of each subsequent annual funding increment will require demonstration of continued enrollment and a letter from the dissertation committee chair verifying satisfactory progress.
For more information, see the DOJ Financial Guide.
- Is there a cap on indirect costs?
- Direct or indirect administrative or management costs of the applicant university are not allowed under the GRF-STEM program.
- What should be the grant's end date?
- The end date of the project should be a reasonable estimate for the date of submission of the student's successfully defended dissertation to NIJ. The end date may assume a total period of up to five years, but only three full years of GRF-STEM funding will be possible during that period.
- Can the applicant institution submit an unofficial copy of the doctoral student’s academic transcripts?
- Yes. The applicant institution must submit a copy of the student’s graduate academic transcript, which should document current matriculation toward a doctoral degree. Complete undergraduate transcripts must also be submitted. The submission of official transcripts is not required. Please see the current GRF-STEM solicitation for additional information on what an application should include.
- Who should write the Statement of Progress letter?
- The statement of support should be written and signed by the doctoral student's dissertation committee chair (or faculty advisor, department chair, departmental director of graduate studies or individual with similar responsibilities, as applicable).
- What should be included in the statement of support?
- The applicant's dissertation chair (or other appropriate person) must submit a signed statement of support. The letter should:
- Evaluate the doctoral student’s proposed project.
- Describe the current status of the proposed work.
- Outline any pending work, academic or otherwise, toward completion of the degree.
- Comment on the student’s potential to complete the dissertation.
- Indicate whether the student has his/her full support.
- Comment on the department's and their dissertation committee chair's abilities to mentor doctoral candidates through to completion of their degrees.
- Describe the committee chair's role in monitoring the project and verify that the committee chair will review and approve all progress reports prior to their submission to NIJ.
Review and Awarding
- How many GRF-STEM awards does NIJ plan to fund?
- The number of GRF-STEM awards will depend on the availability of funds and quality of applications. NIJ anticipates that up to $2,000,000 will be available annually for approximately 14 new fellows. See past GRF recipients.
- How does NIJ decide which GRF-STEM applications to fund?
- Independent, external peer review panels evaluate all responsive GRF-STEM proposals. Reviewers from across the STEM disciplines are chosen for their expertise in advising graduate student research. These external reviewers read each application and assess the merits of the proposed research against the specific criteria outlined in the solicitation.
An additional internal review process takes place within NIJ. Both the external peer review results and the recommendations of NIJ's program staff are then presented to the NIJ Director, who has the final authority to make awards.
- When will an applicant institution know if its application is selected for funding?
- The application review process (including peer review, decision-making and other considerations) may take up to six months. Notices of award and non-award are sent to the official applicant (i.e., the university).
- What are the reporting requirements?
- The reporting requirements for the GRF-STEM program include:
- Quarterly financial reports.
- Annual progress reports.
- A list of citation(s) to all scholarly products that resulted in whole or in part from work funded under the award.
- An official signed copy of the student's dissertation.
- If funded, can the doctoral student work another job (part-time or full-time employment)?
- NIJ does not prohibit fellows from obtaining additional employment. Nevertheless, it is the intent of the program that fellowship support should allow primary efforts to be devoted to dissertation research. Students should check with their university to determine what requirements the university has pertaining to employment while receiving fellowship funds.
- Can the doctoral student accept other awards or stipends?
- Yes, students can receive multiple awards or stipends. However, the student must fully disclose any supplemental funding and support (e.g., research/teaching assistantship, position held under the advisor's grant/project, other private or government fellowships, grants, stipends). NIJ may seek to avoid duplicative funding, if appropriate.
- What happens if the doctoral student has already started dissertation work prior to an award being made?
- Doctoral students who have already started their dissertation research are encouraged to apply. All students enrolled full-time in a qualifying Ph.D. programs and proposing a dissertation topic with relevance to criminal justice may apply at any stage in their graduate careers.
If a student’s dissertation committee has already accepted the dissertation topic (which is substantively similar to that proposed in the GRF-STEM application), the student would be eligible for release of fellowship funds as soon as all other administrative requirements are met. Commencing research either before submitting an application for the GRF-STEM or while the application is under review does not necessarily impact the student’s likelihood for receiving an award.
- Can an applicant institution reapply for a doctoral student who does not receive an award?
- Yes. However, a statement must be submitted with the application indicating that it is a resubmission. This statement should describe what changes were made to the application in response to prior peer review feedback.