Small Grants Frequently Asked Questions

Is my research considered social science?

What constitutes a strong budget justification?

At the time of submission of the proposal, does the proposed project have to have IRB approval?

Do all the research project’s team members have to be at Cornell?

Can the research project include co-PI’s, post-docs, or graduate assistants who are not members of the faculty?

If awarded an ISS small grant, when could I expect to receive the funding?

Is there a time frame during which the funds must be spent?

What do I do if the research or conference budget needs to be reallocated after I receive my award?

How are the proposals evaluated?

If I have been funded by the ISS before, how long should I wait before reapplying? 

Does it matter if I was the lead PI or a secondary PI on the previously funded grant?

Can a small grant be used to support graduate student research?


Is my research considered social science?

By social science research, we mean research that is eligible for funding from social science directorates of the major federal funding agencies. At the National Science Foundation, for example, this includes the Directorate for Education and Human Resources, the Directorate for Social and Behavioral Sciences, and their subsidiary organizations  (e.g., Behavioral and Cognitive Sciences, Social and Economic Sciences, Law and Social Sciences, Human Resource Development, etc.).

The ISS funds social scientific research eligible for funding by other federal agencies. For example, the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, and other agencies all support social science research. In general, the ISS follows the federal government’s lead and any social science research project eligible for funding from a federal agency is also eligible for ISS support.

This does not mean that your faculty appointment needs to be in a department that carries the name of one of the disciplines NSF identifies as a social science: anthropology, communications, economics, linguistics, government/political science, psychology, or sociology. Indeed, the ISS strongly encourages participation by social scientists housed in multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary departments across Cornell.

Finally, we support social scientists engaging in collaborative research with non-social scientists, as long as the social scientist has a lead role in the project and the project has a large social science component likely to lead to publications in peer-reviewed social science journals or other outlets. For example, ISS would consider funding a social scientist who is co-leading, along with a geneticist, a study of the relationship between gene activation and social environments. It would not support a geneticist who is the sole investigator on a study of the relationship between gene activation and social environments.

What constitutes a strong budget justification?

A detailed budget justification gives the review committee a clear idea of what the funds will support and includes sources for cost estimates. For example, list the model of equipment or software to be purchased and its cost from a particular vendor, like Buy.com.  How much does a ticket cost on Expedia or from AAA for car rental or air travel at the same time you estimate you will be in the field?  How many hours at what rate per hour do you plan to hire a research assistant, based on what precedent?

At the time of submission of the proposal, does the proposed experiment already have to have IRB approval?

No.

Do all the research project’s team members have to be at Cornell?

No.

Can the research project include co-PI’s, post-docs, or graduate assistants who are not members of the faculty?

The lead PI must be a Cornell tenure-track or tenured faculty member. However, the entire research team does not have to be on Cornell’s faculty. The team can include non-tenure track research associates, post-docs, and graduate students participating as collaborators and/or hired research assistants. However, ISS grants cannot be used for tuition, stipends, or student fees on graduate assistantship lines. Small grants cannot be used for graduate student research projects.

If awarded an ISS small grant, when could I expect to receive the funding?

The PI is asked to complete an award transfer form. Once the award transfer form and any additional paperwork are submitted to the ISS, small grant awards are typically transferred by the end of the month. ISS small grant awards must be transferred by the end of the fiscal year when the award is made.

Is there a time period restricting when the funds must be spent?

Awards are ideally spent within a year from when they are awarded. At the end of this period, the PI is asked to file a brief report to the ISS director regarding the research progress and disposition of the small grant funds. Funds that are not used within two years are returned to the ISS for reallocation to subsequent small grant awardees.  Two years after returning the funds, the PI is eligible to reapply for funding for the same project.

What do I do if the research or conference budget needs to be reallocated after I receive my award?

PIs need ISS approval to reallocate more than 25 percent of the funds at any point after funding.

How does the ISS evaluate proposals?

Two peer scholars, outside the applicant’s department, evaluate each proposal based on the following criteria: quality of social science scholarship (including theory and methodology), the importance of the core ideas and whether they are innovative, whether the work is likely to inspire future research, and whether the budget is appropriate. We also consider whether the research design is methodologically sound,  the likelihood of the research resulting in publication in peer-reviewed journals, and whether the project is likely to obtain external funding at some point.  We fund conferences of interest to social scientists across the university, whem the budget appears justified, and primarily supports Cornell social science faculty members as opposed to faculty from other institutions.

If I have been funded by the ISS before, how long should I wait before reapplying?

Faculty who have previously received an ISS small grant as a lead PI or received ISS Faculty Fellow funding can reapply for funding after a two-year wait. In other words, if ISS funding was received in fall 2012, the faculty member may reapply in fall 2014.

Can ISS Small Grants be used to fund graduate student research?

 No.

For more information on the small grants program, please see the overviewPlease submit proposals and direct questions to socialsciences@cornell.edu.