RDRC Request for Applications (RFA)
The application period has closed. This content is provided for archival reference only.
The Retirement and Disability Research Consortium (RDRC) is an interdisciplinary extramural policy research program funded by the Social Security Administration (SSA) through a cooperative agreement.
RDRC centers can be universities, other organizations, or collaborations between multiple universities and organizations based in the United States. RDRC research centers enter a 5-year cooperative agreement with SSA and receive annual funding (from October 2023 through September 2028). The centers will develop research, training, and dissemination plans designed to provide Social Security, disability, and retirement policy information to assist policymakers, community stakeholders, and the media in understanding Social Security, retirement, and disability policy issues.
The research funding opportunity was available on Grants.gov under funding opportunity number RDR-RDR-23-001. Applications closed May 12, 2023.
Additional information is available in the slide presentation from our March 8, 2022, webinar.
Frequently Asked Questions
Posted May 9:
Q: Is it allowable to use waived indirect costs (e.g., Facilities & Administrative costs) to make up the amount of the cost share for the RDRC?
A: Yes, these costs are allowed to be used as a part of cost share.
Q: The RFA states that research project descriptions should not exceed 5 double-spaced pages. Is there flexibility in this limit? Could some project descriptions exceed that limit by a few pages as long as the overall narrative does not exceed 150 pages?
A: Please keep each research project proposal within the 5-page limit. As described earlier in a previous question, any references/bibliography do not count towards the page limits.
Posted May 4:
Q: We are not able to locate the Program Budget Summary within the attached Budget Detail Worksheet (Attachment A), as mentioned on page 17 of the Request for Applications (RFA).
A: The attached Budget Detail Worksheet (Attachment A) now includes the Program Budget Summary.
Posted April 28:
Q: Does the 1-page restriction only apply to biosketches or to both biosketches and CVs? Could you clarify if we have the option of either the 1-page biosketch or a full-length CV for investigators/staff?
A: The 1-page restriction applies only to biosketches and not to CVs. For investigators and center staff, you may choose to submit a 1-page biosketch, a CV of any length, or both.
Q: Do you want biosketches and/or CVs for only center staff members who are researchers? Or do you want them for all staff members regardless of whether they are also researchers?
A: Per the RFA, biosketches and/or CVs are required only for center director(s) and senior research staff. They are not required for other center staff who are not researchers.
Q: Is an outside funding appendix required as part of the application?
A: No, an outside funding appendix is not required and will not be considered in scoring.
Posted April 13:
Q: For institutional diversity scoring in the Research, Evaluation, and Data Development Prospectus, does it matter for scoring if Principal Investigators (PIs) are funded through subawards or contracts?
A: No, it does not make a difference for scoring if the PIs are funded through subawards or contracts.
Posted March 30:
Q: Are institutions meeting the criteria for Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP) grants considered for scoring on institutional diversity? They are included in the 2022 Department of Education Eligibility Matrix.
A: The categories of non-R1 institutions considered for institutional diversity scores are: Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander–serving Institutions (AANAPISI), Alaska Native–serving Institutions or Native Hawaiian–serving Institutions (ANNH), Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU), Hispanic-serving Institutions (HSI), Native American–serving Non-tribal Institutions (NASNTI), Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI), and Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCCU). Although institutions that meet the criteria for these categories might also meet the criteria for Strengthening Institution Program (SIP) grants, we do not assign points for institutions specifically because they meet SIP criteria.
Q: Please explain how the institutional diversity score for the Research, Evaluation, and Data Development Prospectus is calculated.
A: Please refer to pages 27–28 of the funding opportunity, where the calculation is explained. We include a copy of this explanation below.
For the Institutional Diversity metric relating to Research, Evaluation, and Data Development, list each first-year research, evaluation, or data development project proposal, the names and institutional affiliations of each PI [Principal Investigator] on the proposal, whether one or more PI on the proposal is based at a non-R1 HBCU [Historically Black College or University]/MSI [Minority Serving Institution], and the percent of the total budget for all first-year project proposals represented by the proposal.
The institutional diversity metric is calculated as the percent of the total budget for all first-year research, evaluation, and data development project proposals represented by proposals in which one or more PI is based at a non-R1 HBCU/MSI. For the calculation, include the total budget for each project proposal, including your cost share. Do not include the budget for quick-turnaround projects in the calculation.
Consider the example in the table below. Information from Columns A–D should be included. Column A shows the project name and Column B lists the names and institutional affiliations of each PI on that project. Column C indicates that two of the five project proposals—Projects 1 and 2—have one or more PIs that are based at a non-R1 HBCU/MSI.
Column D shows the percent of the total budget for all research, evaluation, and data development project proposals represented by that project proposal. Column E shows the total budget for each project proposal; it is for illustrative purposes only. In this example, Project 1 has a total budget of $40 and Project 2 has a total budget of $10. The total budget for all project proposals is $100. Column D shows that Project 1 represents 40 percent of the total budget ($40/$100). Project 2 represents 10 percent of the total budget ($10/$100). Combined, the budget for these two projects equals 50 percent of the total budget. This calculated percentage is the Institutional Diversity metric. Because 50 percent falls into the “15 percent or more” category, the application would receive 10 points for this metric.
The calculated percentage used to score the metric will be rounded to the nearest percent.
|Column A||Column B||Column C||Column D||Column E|
|Project Name||Name and institutional affiliations of PIs on the project proposal||Is one or more PI based at a non-R1 HBCU/MSI?||This proposal represents X percent of the total budget for all research, evaluation, or data development project proposals||Total budget for project|
|Grand total of all project proposals||100%||$100|
|Total for project proposals with one or more PI based at a non-R1 HBCU/MSI (Yes to Column C)||50%||$50|
Posted March 16:
Q: For award, subaward, or subcontract proposals involving institutions with fewer resources for research administration, can the applicant include additional costs or time for proposals involving these institutions?
A: We will evaluate each proposal based on the information provided in the application. Annual research project subawards must be within the fiscal year. SSA may grant no-cost extensions (NCEs) for projects. Applicants may propose additional administrative support for subawards, and SSA will evaluate these proposals on the merits provided.
Q: Do references/bibliography count toward the 150-page limit for the project narrative portion of the application.
A: The references/bibliography will not count toward the 150-page limit.
Q: In terms of center directors, can a center only propose a maximum of 3 scholars to be director/co-directors and must all 3 be at least at the minimum of 25 percent of time level?
A: Per the RFA, there is a maximum of 3 directors/co-directors. Collectively, these directors/co-directors must have a total time commitment of 25 percent to RDRC administrative activities.
Q: Are there any scoring points for individual scholar diversity as opposed to institutional diversity? For example, is a scholar who is part of an under-represented group factored into scoring on a research project even if they are employed at an R1?
A: There is a scoring criterion based on an applicant's plans to include diversity in their center's researcher networks. However, the institutional diversity criterion for the Research, Evaluation, and Data Development Prospectus is based on the proportion of the research budget allocated to scholars based at non-R1 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)/Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs).
Q: Predominantly Black Institutions (PBIs) are included in Executive Order 14050. Are they considered for scoring on institutional diversity? Is a PBI considered based only on receipt of a PBI award from the Department of Education or by being eligible for an award?
A: Yes. The following categories of institutions are considered minority-serving institutions for the institutional diversity scoring metrics:
- Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions (AANAPISI): Included if the institution meets the 2022 Title III AANAPISI definition or had an open AANAPISI grant as of 2022.
- Alaskan Native or Native Hawaiian-Serving Institutions (ANNH): Included if the institution meets the 2022 Title III ANNH definition or had an open ANNH grant as of 2022.
- Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI): Included if the institution meets the 2022 Title V HSI definition or had an open HSI grant as of 2022.
- Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU)
- Native American Non-Tribal Institutions (NANTI): Included if the institution meets the 2022 Title III NANTI definition or had an open NANTI grant as of 2022.
- Predominantly Black Institutions (PBI): Included if the institution meets the 2022 Title III PBI definition or had an open PBI grant as of 2022.
- Tribal Colleges or Universities (TCCU)
Please refer to the 2022 Department of Education Eligibility Matrix for a list of institutions that meet these criteria.
Q: Should community engagement activity be included in the research or dissemination budget?
A: If the community engagement activity applies to a specific research project proposal, please include the costs for these activities under the research budget for that project proposal. If the community engagement activity extends beyond a specific project proposal and applies more broadly to your center's dissemination activities, please include the costs for these activities in the dissemination budget.
Q: Small research grant programs can be a way to develop a pipeline of new researchers in the field, but also require mentoring and training/oversight. Should we include these types of programs in the research or training budget?
A: Please include small research grant programs in the training budget.
Q: Does SSA have a targeted range for cost per participant in undergraduate training programs?
A: SSA does not have a targeted range for cost per participant in undergraduate training programs. We will evaluate all costs associated with these programs for allowability, allocability, and reasonableness.
Posted February 27:
Q: Is the Funding Opportunity with the Retirement and Disability Research Consortium a competition among academic and other non-profit organizations or is it open to for-profit organizations as well?
A: The funding opportunity is open to for-profit organizations. However, like all other awardees and subawardees, for-profit organizations must forgo any profit or management fee.
Q: Should centers submit in Grants.gov or GrantSolutions.gov?
A: All applications must be submitted through Grants.gov.
Q: Will you please confirm whether the maximum page limit for the project narrative, including first-year project proposals, is 150 pages?
A: Yes, please keep the project narrative, including first-year project proposals, within the 150-page limit.
Q: Should the Training and Education Program costs be included within the budget ceiling of $4,750,000? Should the Annual Conference costs be included within the budget ceiling?
A: Please include the Training and Education program costs as well as the Annual Conference costs within the $4,750,000 budget ceiling.
Posted February 13:
Q: The structure and operations of the RDRC are not clear to us.
A: This RFA is soliciting applications for research “centers”—universities, organizations, and associations of universities and organizations in the United States that may include affiliates at other institutions (Section A.1). The centers have the primary and lead responsibility to define research objectives and approaches; organize a network of researchers, not confined to their home institution; plan research, conduct studies, and analyze data; and publish results, interpretations, and conclusions of their work. (Section A.3).
The specific research activities proposed in the center applications are for the first year of the award (Section B.2), although the research and evaluation prospectus should outline the major research themes to be investigated over the next 5 years (Section D.2). The awardee (centers with successful applications from this RFA) must apply annually to continue the cooperative agreement in order to receive funds in subsequent years of the 5-year agreement (noncompeting renewal). For the noncompeting renewal, the awardee will produce a continuation application, subject to review and approval by SSA. (Section B.1)
Q: If I have a research idea, and would like to be part of the RDRC and its research program, how is my application for funding accomplished?
A: The current RFA is soliciting applications for research centers. One element of that application is to organize a network of researchers (Section A.3). The center applications should propose research for the first year of the award (Section B.2). Individual researchers (or teams) with research project proposals must submit their research proposal as part of a center application.
Because this RFA will determine the centers that comprise the RDRC, we cannot currently direct individual researchers to centers. Once centers are determined under this RFA, individual researchers may contact the centers regarding their interest in conducting research through the RDRC. Once centers are determined under this RFA, SSA may provide individual researcher contact information to centers upon request. SSA does not make recommendations regarding individual researchers, and the decision to include individual researchers as part of an RDRC center is at the discretion of the centers.
Q: Would you like a budget amount included in each research project description?
A: Budget amounts should not be included in the project narrative (project proposal descriptions) as described in under Section D.2.b. Budget details should be included in the overall Budget Detail Worksheet and Narrative.
Q: Throughout the RFA, it is made very clear that this is a submission for Year 1 only requiring detailed budget info for only those projects. Sections D & E of the Budget form in Grants.Gov request Forecasted Cash Needs and Budget Estimates of Federal Funds Needed for Balance of the Project. What information should be included for these sections, if any, since specifically defined research projects for subsequent years are not to be included?
A: Section D, Budget Information—Non-Constructions Programs (SF-424A) pertains to the frequency you plan to draw down funds within the budget year. Section E. Estimates of Federal Funds Needed for Balance of the Project is the section where you provide approximations of the federal funds which will be needed to complete the program. You do not need to provide a detailed budget for this section, merely an estimate. See the Instructions for the SF-424A for more information.