Laura and John Arnold Foundation: Low-Cost Randomized Controlled Trials to Drive Effective Social Spending
The Laura and John Arnold Foundation (LJAF) is seeking to fund programs that conduct low-cost Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) in any area of domestic social policy. The Foundation plans to fund all proposals that receive a strong rating from the reviewers. The reviewers include LJAF Evidence-Based Policy team members and outside reviewers, all of whom have expertise in RCT evaluations.
Applicants will be asked to address all four selection criteria below, although it is not expected that applicants will have finalized all aspects of the study design and partnership agreements; therefore, reviewers will focus primarily on the other two criteria – “importance” and “experienced researcher” – in determining which applicants to invite to submit a full proposal. For the invited full proposal, reviewers will consider whether all four criteria are satisfied. The four criteria are:
1. Importance: Is the applicant proposing to evaluate an intervention:
- That is backed by highly-promising prior evidence, suggesting it could produce sizable impacts on outcomes of recognized policy importance – such as educational achievement, workforce earnings, criminal arrests, hospitalizations, child maltreatment, and government spending; or
- For which there are other compelling reasons to evaluate its effectiveness (e.g., it is, or soon will be, widely implemented with significant taxpayer investment, and its impact on its targeted outcomes is currently unknown).
Note that, to meet this criterion, it is not sufficient to establish that the study addresses an important problem; applicants must also present compelling reasons to evaluate the specific intervention.
2. Experienced researcher: Does the applicant’s team include at least one researcher in a key substantive role who has previously carried out a well-conducted RCT (even if not low cost)? A well-conducted RCT is characterized, for example, by low sample attrition, sufficient sample size, close adherence to random assignment, and valid outcome measures and statistical analyses. To address this criterion, applicants should submit up to two reports from prior RCTs that the researcher has conducted. Reviewers will rely primarily on these reports in assessing this selection criterion.
3. Study design: Is the applicant’s proposed RCT design:
- Valid? In other words, does it have a sufficiently large sample (as shown through a power analysis) and other elements needed to generate credible evidence about the intervention’s impact on one or more targeted outcomes of high policy importance?
- Low cost? Such low cost may be achieved, for example, by (a) embedding random assignment in an intervention that government or philanthropic organizations are already funding or planning to fund; and/or (b) measuring key outcomes using administrative data that are already collected for other purposes and are of reasonable quality.
4. Partners: Does the applicant’s team include all parties needed to conduct the RCT? Examples of necessary parties include: researcher(s), an agency delivering the intervention, and an agency housing the administrative data.
Amount: The targeted award amount is $150,000, but can potentially range up to $300,000.
Eligibility: Applicants are generally expected to be tax-exempt organizations such as nonprofit organizations, universities, or governmental units. If organization is not tax-exempt and wishes to apply, they may contact the Foundation (see solicitation for contact information).
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