Racial and Social Justice (RSJ) Grants Program

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  • Application opens: early February 2021
  • Application due date: March 31, 2021, 11:59 PM
  • Announcement of Awards: early-May, 2021
  • Project Start/Funding Date: June 2021


  • Lorrie Frasure (Chair)
  • Terence Keel (Bunche Center)
  • Robert Chao Romero (AASC)
  • Shannon Speed  (AISC)
  • Arturo Vargas Bustamente (CSRC)



The Institute for American Cultures (IAC) in collaboration with the Office of Research and Creative Activities (ORCA) is pleased to announce a call for proposals for the Racial and Social Justice (RSJ) Grants Program. These RSJ grants are designed to help launch and support research projects demonstrably centered on exploring the sources and consequences of racial inequities and social justice. The goal of the Racial and Social Justice Grants is to facilitate investigators’ preparedness for attaining extramural funding. Grants must be used to design and launch work-in-progress where the PI has not previously been awarded major research funding for the proposed project. RSJ Grants can be used for the development of proof-of-concepts, the collection of pilot data and archival research, drafting of white papers, creation of functional prototypes, development of preliminary art and multimedia work, training programs that allow the research team to be competitive for future funding, the study of campus climate issues, and other deliverables. As a multi-year commitment, RSJ Grants are a part of the Rising to the Challenge (RTC) initiative announced by Chancellor Block and EVC&P Carter in June 2020. Successful RSJ projects are expected to advance the goals of RTC initiative by enhancing UCLA’s commitment to studying Black life, racial equity, and social justice. 

In addition to RSJ grant funding, it is anticipated that the lead principal investigator (PI) will participate, along with other members of their cohort, in grants development workshops/activities hosted by ORCA and IAC during the grant period. This includes meeting with national and local foundation and philanthropic representatives.  The goal is to advance academic research by providing grantees with greater access and tools to build and broaden their exposure to major grants development resources. 


Eligibility Criteria

Projects must have one lead principal investigator (PI) and may have at least one co-PI from a school or division at UCLA. Both PIs must hold UCLA academic faculty or academic administrator appointments as of 7/1/2021 (individuals in the senate, lecturer, adjunct, other non-senate, or academic administrator series are all eligible). Visiting faculty, postdoctoral fellows, and individuals without UCLA appointments are not eligible to serve as the PI, although they may serve as co-investigators or team members. [NOTE: These criteria have been updated as of 2/28/2021]

The proposal must represent a research or creative collaboration that substantively engages racial equity and social justice. Each collaborator’s expertise should clearly contribute to developing a racial equity and social justice oriented project competitive enough to be funded through extramural support beyond the RSJ Grant. 

Activities currently funded by major research awards (over $30,000) are not eligible for consideration. Should any aspect of a proposal receive alternative funding, the primary applicant must notify the RSJ grant program coordinator within 5 business days. Proposals that build off other funded work are eligible, but the application should describe how the proposal is distinct from existing funded work. The same project cannot receive both a Transdisciplinary Research Acceleration Grant (TRAG) and RSJ funding in the same year.

The following activities are not eligible for funding under this mechanism:

  • Seminars, courses, or curricular development
  • Conferences or conference support and workshops 
  • Publishing subventions


Program Guidelines & Preferences

Project descriptions should be understandable by reviewers from a variety of disciplines.

Projects are expected to be sufficiently developed to demonstrate competitiveness for extramural funding after completion of a RSJ grant (although we recognize project development cycles may require additional time beyond one year).

Preference will be given to projects involving multi-rank faculty teams and that include UCLA  students. The lead PI and any co-PI must meet the eligibility criteria listed above, and teams can include non-UCLA faculty. We expect for applicants to provide evidence of fair collaboration practices in terms of gender, rank (especially with regard to junior faculty), and, as appropriate, the participation of students and community partners.


Available Funds

It is anticipated that 8-10 projects will be funded, with a maximum award of up to $30,000 per project. The funding envelope is $250,000, each year for five years. Applicants that are unsuccessful in this year's competition are encouraged to reapply in future years


Period of Funding

Funds will be available for distribution approximately 6 weeks following the announcement of the awards, so long as the research team provides all requested information including IRB approvals, if applicable, in a timely fashion. All funds should be expended within approximately 12 months of the fund transfer. PIs/Project Directors will be permitted to apply for one no-cost extension of an additional 12 months.


Funding Restrictions

Funds must be used for direct research costs such as materials, supplies, personnel (including staff, student salaries, and fee remissions, if applicable), and travel to the extent that such expenses are directly related to the proposed project. Funds may not be used for UCLA-based faculty/investigator salaries or support including teaching buy-outs or summer ninths, or departmental overhead costs (indirect costs). Proposed activities and expenditures must comply with all applicable university policies and procedures. If proposals involve compensating non-UCLA affiliated personnel, then an explanation of why this expertise or service is critical for the success of the project must be included in the project narrative.


Proposal Elements

All proposals must be submitted through the application portal and include the following elements:

  • NOTE: The application portal is under development and this page will be updated with the application portal link in the coming weeks.

To be entered in the appropriate fields in the application form in the portal:

  • Proposal Title
  • Name, academic rank/title, School/Division affiliation and Departmental affiliation of the PI, co-PI, and key co-investigators
  • A project abstract (150-word maximum), which may be used in announcing recipients of the grants.
  • NOTE: The information above does not need to be included in the Project Narrative document.

To be uploaded in the application form in the portal:

  • I. Project Narrative (6-page maximum, double-spaced, one-inch margins, 12 pt. font minimum, excluding references). Please address the following elements and indicate each topic section with a header.
    • a. Research Questions/Creative Activities: Statement of question/issue to be addressed, current state of knowledge and general research approach to be used
    • b. Social Justice, Public Impact, Racial Equity: Statement on how the aims of the project are squarely concerned with social justice and racial equity, and have the potential to impact public life. 
    • c. Current Progress and Funding Potential: Summary of existing work by the PIs to date and potential for extramural funding, including identification of specific funding agencies or calls for proposals 
    • e. Timeline and Outcomes: Timeline of activities and anticipated outcomes 
  • II. Budget. Please provide a listing of the projected expenses, along with written justifications, using this budget template form
  • III. Biosketch for key personnel (2 pages maximum each, including professional appointments/affiliations, awards/honors, and publications). 
  • IV. Statement of other project support/funding for all key personnel. Please include all support, not just any that is related to the proposed project. This section can be in a list format; it does not need to be a narrative.
  • V.  Timeline of projected/targeted opportunities for extramural funding.
  • VI. Proposed plan to ensure fair collaboration practices in cases involving women, junior faculty, and students (250 words).


Human Subject Review

Projects involving animal or human subjects require appropriate review board(s) approval prior to the release of funds. The approvals or waivers will need to reference the applicable funding mechanism. 

Human Subjects – Please be sure to determine whether human subjects are involved in your project, and hence the need for Institutional Review Board (IRB) review. For information about submission requirements, available training, and applicable policies and procedures, please refer to the Office of the Human Research Protection Program website. However, do not seek IRB approval for any work to be funded by the RSJ seed grants program until after award notification. A period of 4 weeks should be allocated for the IRB review process, and approval must be granted before funding is distributed.


Submission Process

All submissions are due March 31st, 11:59pm.  Each proposal and all corresponding information must be submitted through the application portal.


Review Process

Each proposal will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • How the project advances social justice, racial equity, public life, and the goals of the RTC initiative on campus
  • Novelty, significance, and potential public impact of the project 
  • The composition of multi-rank research teams (that also include students) and fair collaboration practices 
  • Qualifications of the lead PI, co-PIs, and co-Investigators
  • Potential for external funding and further scholarship
  • Project feasibility
  • The proposed use of funds. The review panel may elect to disallow certain proposed expenditures.


Obligations of Recipients of RSJ Grants

As a condition of funding research teams should be prepared and willing to meet with ORCA and IAC over the course of the award term to learn about extramural opportunities and gain support for future grant development. Within one month of completion of the project or within 13 months following the transfer of funds (whichever is sooner), PIs must submit a project report including the following information:

  • I. Progress report – status of research and progress to date
  • II. Primary outcomes including any publications, presentations, or portfolios made possible by the award
  • III. A list of external funding applied for/received as a result of the project and/or new directions developed for the project after RSJ support.
  • IV. Financial report accounting for how funds were spent

The Office for Research and Creative Activities and the Racial and Social Justice seed grant program must be credited in any work product resulting from this funding.


For questions regarding the program, please email [email protected]