Lyle Spencer Research Awards Program
Frequently Asked Questions


Q: Are there any research topics within education that are excluded from consideration in this program?

A: No research topics are ruled out categorically. It is essential, however, that the proposal articulate clearly how the research is intended to contribute ultimately to improvements in practice. In addition, given the Foundation’s focus on research, there are some types of projects that we typically do not consider for funding. These include 1) requests for time to write a book in which the bulk of the research has been completed; 2) curriculum development projects in which conducting research is not the primary aim; and 3) evaluation projects in which the primary goal is to determine whether or not a given program achieved its desired outcomes, rather than contribute to understanding broader theoretical or empirical questions, such as the mechanisms and conditions that may have enabled (or hindered) the program’s success.

Q: Does this program support research in settings other than K-12 and higher education institutions?

A: Yes, the Foundation funds research projects that span the life course (i.e., from early childhood to adult learning) as well as those that focus on contexts outside of school.

Q: Do you have a preference for certain research methodologies?

A: No, we are open to whatever qualitative and quantitative methods make sense for answering the questions at hand. Historically, the Foundation has supported research across a range of methods and academic disciplines, and we expect this to continue in this program.

Q: I have an idea for a project and would like feedback from a program officer. Is it possible to contact someone?

A: As a matter of course, we do not provide advice or feedback on the development of proposals prior to the LOI submission. However, if after reviewing the Program Statement you have a question about whether or not your projects fits within the program, please email a brief description of it to Annie Brinkman, Grants Manager at

Q: Do you have a preference for research teams vs. individual researchers?

A: No, we do not have a preference. The important thing is to plan the staffing around the aims of the project.

Q: Do you accept proposals from outside the United States?

A: Yes, we accept proposals from outside the U.S. Application materials must be submitted in English and project budgets must be in U.S. dollars.

Q: Do you have a preference for regional, national, or international projects?

A: No, we do not have a preference.

Q: What is the expected duration of projects in this program?

A: We leave the duration of the project up to the PI/research team to determine, with the expectation that it will be appropriate for the work being proposed. (Historically projects have ranged from one year up to five or six years, but the Foundation has no stated limit on the duration.)

Q: How many Lyle Spencer Research Awards does the Foundation expect to make in a typical year?

A: We expect to commit about $10 million annually to new awards in this program. How many awards that amounts to will depend on the size of the projects, but we anticipate that this will translate into roughly 15 awards per year.

Q: Will I be notified about the status of my proposal before final funding decisions are made?

A: Yes, at each stage in the review process, you will receive notification of whether your proposal is continuing or being declined at that stage.

Q: If I am turned down, will I receive feedback explaining the decision?

A: We are more likely to be in a position to provide useful feedback on declined proposals that have made it some distance through the review process. We will typically not provide feedback on proposals that are turned down at the LOI stage.

Q: If I am turned down, is it possible to revise my proposal and reapply in a later cycle?

A: Normally, if the Foundation is interested in receiving a revised version of your proposal, you will be invited to resubmit.

Q: If I have a grant through another Spencer program, can I apply for a grant under this program?

A: You may not hold more than one active research grant at a time from the Spencer Foundation. You may apply for a new grant while you have an active grant at the Spencer Foundation if the active grant will end before the anticipated start date of the new project.

Q: Is it possible to combine a Lyle Spencer Research Award with funding from other sources to support a larger total effort?

A: Circumstances of this type are handled on a case by case basis. Anyone who anticipates such a possibility should alert the Foundation to it as early as possible, either at the LOI stage or through direct communication with the Foundation (contact Annie Brinkman, Grants Manager at