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University of Wisconsin–Madison

Understanding and Reducing Inequalities Initiative

This competition is now closed.

Pervasive inequalities exist in all realms of contemporary society, manifesting in widespread disparities in social, educational, economic, health, wealth, and political opportunities and outcomes across population groups. These include differential access to and returns from modern technologies, educational institutions, labor markets, housing markets, neighborhoods, and financial markets, as well as exposure to stress, trauma, and environmental toxins. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education (OVCRGE) seeks proposals for innovative research to better understand the factors and processes that cause or contribute to such inequalities in the United States, the impact of these inequalities on opportunities and outcomes for diverse population groups, and promising policies, programs, and interventions for reducing such inequalities and their adverse effects.

This initiative is designed to support research to build stronger bodies of knowledge on how to reduce inequalities; that is, it seeks to move beyond scholarship pertaining only to describing the causes and consequences of inequalities with the aim of identifying actionable pathways for reducing inequalities on the basis of race, ethnicity, gender, disability, economic standing, language, minority status, country of origin, and/or immigration status.

We are particularly interested in research on how inequalities are socially constructed and perpetuated in America; how historic and contemporary social structures, policies, systems, and institutions perpetuate racial and other inequalities; the physical, social, economic, public health, and political impacts of racism and other ‘isms’ on individuals, families, communities, and the broader society; and promising scalable approaches to ameliorating inequalities and their adverse effects.

Proposals may focus on documenting specific forms of inequality and the domains in which they occur, understanding core causes of inequalities, identifying micro- and macro-level consequences of inequalities, or evaluating the impacts of initiatives intended to reduce inequalities or their effects.

Proposed studies may consist of:

  • analyses that use newly available data or demonstrate innovative use of existing data, including population surveys, administrative records, proprietary data, and environmental data;
  • original data collection, including surveys, field experiments, in-depth interviews, and ethnographies; and
  • textual and archival analyses.

Interdisciplinary collaborations are strongly encouraged.

Criteria for evaluation include:

  • significance of the research question(s);
  • innovation in study focus, design, data, and analytic methods;
  • methodological rigor for addressing the research question(s);
  • strength of collaborations and interdisciplinarity; and
  • potential to generate real-world implications to inform programs, policies, and/or practices to reduce the specific inequality of focus.

All applicants must provide:

1. A cover sheet that includes:

a. PI information (name, email address, departmental affiliation)

b. A list of anticipated co-Principal Investigators and co-investigators

c. A project title

d. A 300-word research abstract that addresses the following topics (in accessible language):

  • What is the inequality being addressed? Why is it a significant problem in the United States?
  • What are the major aims of the study?
  • How will you approach achieving these major aims? Describe the research design and methods for achieving the study aims.
  • What are the innovative features of the research project?
  • How will the study results inform programs, policies, and/or practices to reduce the specific inequality of focus?
  • What are the expected outcomes (e.g., grant submission, publications, evaluation of a new intervention/treatment)?


e. The amount of funding requested (Research grants will be available in two categories: projects less than $100,000, and those $100,000 up to a maximum of $250,000.)

Additional items in the research proposal

2. A single PDF file that contains a narrative, not to exceed five pages, that describes:

  • The specific aims, major research questions, and hypotheses being addressed.
  • The innovative features, the potential impact, and the significance of the proposed research for achieving the goals of this initiative.
  • The approach proposed to address these specific aims and research questions. This should include a detailed description of the study design, methods, and analysis planned for achieving the study aims.
  • A statement of the expected outcomes of the proposed activities and an explanation of how these activities will provide the necessary foundation for seeking external funding.
  • A timeline of research activities for the funding period.
  • Plans for external grant submissions.
  • If graduate students will be involved, a statement describing their proposed role in the research project.
  • If other funding has been received for this or a closely related project, a description of the previously funded project.
  • Optional additional material, as appropriate.


a. One page of figures or tables to accompany the narrative (or submit a six-page narrative with figures and tables embedded in   the text);

b. References (citations from the research literature); and

c. Letters of support or commitment to the project.

3. In a PDF file: A detailed budget request, indicating the individual staff to be supported and other categories of funding that will be needed. Although collaborations with faculty outside of UW-Madison maybe beneficial, funds from this initiative cannot be used to cover the expenses of researchers at other institutions. The budget may include faculty salary for summer support only. Faculty with 12-month appointments are not eligible for faculty salary support. Use the budget template, which you will save as a PDF and upload to the on-line submission system.

4. In a PDF file: A brief (no more than one page) budget justification that explains the rationale for each item in your budget. Proposals will not be reviewed if missing an itemized budget justification.

5. In a single PDF file: CVs or Biosketches for the principal investigator, co-principal investigators, co-investigators, and collaborators. Include all current and pending intramural and extramural research support for each investigator.

Submitting the full application:

After completing the five items above, you will be able to select “review and submit” before making your final submission. Please make sure to review the entire document before you select to “submit” it. You will also have the option to download the entire document.

For questions regarding submitting an abstract or eligibility, please contact Associate Vice Chancellor for Research in the Social Sciences, Lonnie Berger (

For technical questions or for general information, please send an email to

Review Process

A faculty committee of subject matter experts will review the proposals to identify those that hold the most promise for meeting the goals of this initiative. The committee will then make recommendations to the Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research and Graduate Education. The OVCRGE will make final selections.

Progress Report and Final Report

A progress report and a final report will be required. The reports will provide a summary of the progress that was accomplished on the project. Second year funding is contingent on having spent down 75% of Year 1 funds and on the receipt of a progress report. The final report should include citations to any published papers or conference presentations that derive from the research undertaken or the equipment purchased and any new grants that were awarded or submitted by the research team.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much is the funding?

Research grants will be available in two categories: projects less than $100,000, and those $100,000 up to a maximum of $250,000.

Can faculty salary support be requested?

For faculty on 9-month appointments, only summer salary support may be requested. Faculty with 12-month appointments are not eligible for faculty salary support.

If I received a UW2020 or Contemporary Social Problems grant, am I eligible to apply for the Understanding and Reducing Inequalities Initiative?

Yes. But, you cannot be awarded an Understanding and Reducing Inequalities grant for the same project that was previously awarded a UW2020 or Contemporary Social Problems grant.

Can I be a PI on more than one proposal?

An individual can be PI on only one Understanding and Reducing Inequalities Initiative proposal. It is not a problem to be PI on one proposal and be a co-PI or collaborator on another.

Is there a matching fund requirement?


When will awards be announced?

Awards will be announced in March 2021. Projects may begin in July. The award period is up to two years with one year of funding awarded at a time.