2023 PDRI-DevLab Visiting Fellowship for African Scholars – Request for Applications

2022-23 Request for applications

Release date: October 13, 2022

Application deadline: December 13, 2022 

Fellowship period: September – December 2023


The Penn Development Research Initiative (PDRI) / DevLab@Penn is committed to building capacity for rigorous research on pressing policy challenges facing low- and middle-income countries, by providing training and research opportunities for emerging researchers.

In service of this mission, we are inviting researchers from Sub-Saharan Africa interested in deepening their skills in quantitative social science, developing collaborative research projects, and building their academic networks, to apply for a semester-long fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania, to be completed during the 2023 Fall semester (September – December 2023). This fellowship is being implemented with technical assistance from the Center for Effective Global Action (CEGA).

Each visiting fellow will be paired with a faculty mentor affiliated with PDRI-DevLab, a network of researchers at the University of Pennsylvania whose research seeks to identify solutions to the challenges facing LMICs. PDRI-DevLab faculty affiliates study a wide variety of development topics, including governance, education, migration, health, labor markets, and other topics. Each fellow will be further paired with a PDRI-affiliated PhD student.

Visiting fellows will have the opportunity to audit doctoral-level classes, carry out independent research, present their research, receive mentorship from faculty, and launch collaborative research partnerships with Penn faculty and graduate students.

PDRI will cover the costs of room and board in Philadelphia, health insurance, a monthly stipend, visa fees, and round-trip economy airfare for selected fellows, with a total level of support of approximately $15,000. Please note that PDRI-DevLab does not provide financial support for spouses or other family members.

After completing the fellowship, fellows are expected to return to their home university or research institute in Sub-Saharan Africa and assume a leading role in promoting the use of impact evaluations and evidence-based public policy, while continuing to collaborate on research projects initiated with Penn colleagues. Although we currently don’t have earmarked grant funds for scholars, there are numerous research grant opportunities which our staff will assist connecting scholars with.

Eligibility criteria:

Applicants to the PDRI-DevLab Visiting Fellowship must:

  • Be a national of a Sub-Saharan African country (following the World Bank regional classification for Sub-Saharan Africa) and be fluent in English
  • Have completed a PhD within the last 8 years, or be enrolled in a PhD program in political science, economics, statistics, sociology, education, epidemiology/public health, or another social science discipline;
  • Have a current affiliation with a research institution, university or other research organization in Sub-Saharan Africa, preferably one that supports policy-relevant, quantitative social science research;
  • Plan to return to a research institute in Sub-Saharan Africa after the fellowship.

Female applicants are strongly encouraged to apply.

Please direct any questions about eligibility or any other issues to our staff team at pdri-info@sas.upenn.edu.

Number of fellowship slots: A total of three fellows will be accepted for the 2023 fall semester. These are available for fellows meeting the above eligibility criteria.

Fellowship activities

During the fellowship, visiting researchers will have the opportunity to: 

  • Audit doctoral-level courses on international development, impact evaluation, and research methods taught by PDRI-affiliated faculty and other instructors from across Penn’s schools.
  • Present their own research during seminars and workshops, and give guest lectures in classes or other events at Penn.
  • Carry out an independent research project under the mentorship of a PDRI faculty member.
  • Launch collaborative research projects with PDRI-affiliated faculty, graduate students, and other researchers at Penn.
  • Potentially visit and present their research at other universities in the Northeast region.
  • Participate in policy dissemination by contributing to policy briefs, and attending meetings with policymakers and stakeholders.
  • Participate in monthly “extracurricular” activities in the Philadelphia region (e.g., a visit to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, local historical sites, etc.)
How to apply

To respond to this RFA, please submit the following information and documents through this Jotform link by December 13, at 23:59 ET:

  1. Personal Statement (1 page): Please describe your personal motivations for applying to the PDRI Visiting Fellowship–why are you particularly interested in this program? What do you hope to accomplish during the semester and beyond? 
  2. Curriculum Vitae/Resume 
  3. Research Proposal: Not to exceed 2 pages. Refer to Appendix “Instructions for Research Proposal” below. During the fellowship, you should work on the proposal you have submitted, unless you decide to change it (with agreement from PDRI staff and your mentor).
  4. Evidence of Leave Approval from the applicant’s supervisor or department chair demonstrating support and certifying that, if the applicant is selected, he/she will be able to take a 3-4-month leave of absence.  
  5. Transcript of any coursework completed within at least the last 5 years (i.e. your scores or grades from university courses). Scanned copies are acceptable.
  6. Names of two references: Please provide names and affiliations for two individuals (senior colleagues, professors, supervisors) who can speak to your research capacity, quantitative skills, and qualifications for the PDRI fellowship.
  7. OPTIONAL: You may attach one working paper or publication.
Please submit your application materials here by 11:59 PM ET on December 13th, 2022.