The Social Sciences Research Institute is a research funding entity for Rice social sciences faculty and graduate students. It provides seed funds and other awards to promote cutting-edge research in the social sciences.
When the Social Sciences Research Institute (SSRI) was founded in 2007, there were three programs: The Seed Money Grant Program (discontinued in 2017), the Research Professorship Program, and the Mini-Grant Program. Two years later, the Dissertation Research Improvement Grant Program was introduced, and in 2010, the Collaborative Research Grant program (discontinued in 2016) was announced. The purpose of the Seed Money Grant Program was to provide funding so that faculty may collect preliminary data or perform preliminary research that will enable them to submit a more competitive proposal to an external funding agency. Research Professorship awards provide faculty with one semester of time free of teaching, typically in that faculty member’s one-course semester, to concentrate on a major project that would be difficult to do if they also had teaching responsibilities to fulfill. Mini-Grants are designed to accommodate small, immediate research needs, such as software purchases, data collection costs, and student support. The Dissertation Research Improvement Grant Program was added to help alleviate the burden graduate students face when performing their dissertation research. Just like faculty, students have costs associated with their research, such as travel expenses for fieldwork or compensation for human subjects, and this grant program helps award recipients with these costs. The Pre-Dissertation Research Grant Program provides support for graduate students who are conducting preliminary research related to their dissertations so that they may prepare stronger dissertations and/or submit more competitive dissertation research applications to other funding sources. The Collaborative Research Grant program was designed to encourage collaboration across disciplines and give faculty seed funding to enable them to put together a competitive research proposal to an external funding agency. The SSRI also houses the Religion in Public Life program which uses research to expand understanding and advance dialogue about the role of religion in public life.