Jun 1, 2023

Webinar: The Science of Religious and Spiritual Exercises 2023 Request For Proposals

Key points to note about the application process and the kinds of research we're looking to fund.

By Templeton Staff

TWCF's Science of Religious and Spiritual Exercises (SoRSE) priority supports interdisciplinary scientific research to examine the causal impact of religious and spiritual exercises on human capacities and outcomes that are central to flourishing lives.

In this Request for Proposals (RFP), we seek to award a total of up to $3 million for additional research that will advance our knowledge of how religious and spiritual exercises contribute to flourishing-related outcomes. Learn more and get the details about this funding competition's two-stage application process. The RFP is open through July 2, 2023

Frequently Asked Questions from the Webinar

Q: Does TWCF have a restriction on awarding funds to current TWCF grantees?
A: No, although we will prioritize applications from teams who do not have a current TWCF grant in this initiative.

Q: Are you prioritizing proposals that are global in perspective (i.e., more than one culture)?
A: We welcome proposals that take a global perspective, though all proposals will be evaluated by the same criteria. Where two proposals are judged to be equally strong in terms of conceptual and methodological rigor, we will prioritize the project that will provide a more global understanding.

Q: Regarding practices that are similar to those currently funded in the initiative: If there is a similar aspect (e.g., fasting) but occurring in a different religious/spiritual tradition and holds a different meaning within than tradition than in the one currently funded by TWCF, would that be viewed as a practice that is different from those currently funded?
A: No; we will not consider a project on fasting, even if it is examined in a different tradition and holds a different meaning compared to projects on fasting that have been funded.

Q: Is it ok to submit proposals that include research on multiple practices and traditions?
A: Yes, provided the project is justified by strong theoretical rationale for examining or comparing multiple practices, and the research methodology is appropriate to the question.

Q: In terms of scientific rigor that goes beyond mechanistic approaches - would qualitative approaches such as ethnographic or phenomenological methods be appropriate?
A: The initiative aims to provide quantitative evidence of causal impact of spiritual exercises. Qualitative approaches are welcome provided they are combined with quantitative approaches.

Q: Are you going to look for any educational qualification of the team since the people who are practicing religious tradition are qualified in their religious practices only?
A: We are looking for transdisciplinary teams of researchers and expert practitioners or leaders of traditions. The empirical research program should be undertaken by those with training in the appropriate sciences, though their project’s design and understanding of the practice should be deeply informed by religious leaders or expert practitioners who have a deep understanding of the nature of the practice.

Q: In terms of geographical focus- can practices include multi-country implementation sites?
A: Yes.

Q: Do you have any definition of a 'spiritual exercise' i.e. boundaries, restrictions, temporal, spatial, etc.?
A: We define spiritual exercises as sets of defined, purposive, intentional and repeatable behaviors that have a religious or spiritual significance, and that are expected to strengthen the human spirit and lead to outcomes associated with human flourishing.

Q: Are you looking also for studies analyzing already existing panel data (for causality reasons)?
A: Use of existing data sets is permitted.

Q: Do you require any previous experience in donor-funded project execution?
A: No. We welcome proposals from applicants who have not received TWCF funding in the past.

Q: Are you interested in spiritual practices among nonreligious people?
A: Yes, with the assumption that the practices are spiritually motivated.

Q: Are you interested in researching working with the elements (water, fire, etc.)? Is TWCF interested in rediscoveries of practices that may be little known or in danger of being forgotten?
A: The call is open to a range of religious and spiritual exercises that are not represented in the
current grant portfolio.

Q: Does each practice researched require the participation of a leader/teacher or if researching multiple practices at least one of them also includes a teacher?
A: Yes. Researcher-practitioner (especially expert practitioners or teachers of the practice) is a requirement.

Q: Is the Mixed Methods approach and design favorable and acceptable?
A: Yes, mixed methods is acceptable though we require the project to include quantitative methodologies in the study of the causal impact of practices.

Q: Would a study of various interrelated exercises within a broader contemplative curriculum in a retreat setting over several years be considered? Or is the focus a single exercise?
A: Research on aspects of a curriculum would be considered, bearing in mind that the initiative’s focus is on projects that can elucidate causal mechanisms of specific exercises.

Q: Would travel be funded under this grant?
A: Yes. There is no restriction on travel funds that can be requested for project personnel employed by the organization (the “Legal Organization”) that will legally receive grant funds. Travel and lodging costs for individuals not employed by the Legal Organization) cannot exceed 10% of the request amount. Grantees will be required to attend one in person meeting (in the USA) and should budget for travel and lodging costs associated with this.

Q: Are 'practitioners' defined as formal leaders/teachers of those practitioners or can it also include expert practitioners that are not necessarily teachers of the practice?
A: We see practitioners as formal teachers or leaders of the specific, or leaders of a religious or traditional community who have extensive experience with the practice.

Q: Is the development of a mobile app or similar applications a plus or not?
A: Yes, provided the team has requisite knowledge and expertise with the development and scaling of a mobile app. We would not be interested in activities to develop an app if there is no clear pathway to market or scale.

Q: Online it says the neuroscience of spiritual exercises is out of scope—could you explain what this distinction means?
A: We are not interested in studies that only examine neural correlates of engaging in religious and
spiritual exercises.

Get more information about this RFP here.