Kellogg Research Clusters

Since 2017, the Kellogg Institute has supported faculty-led research clusters in distinctive areas of high-impact, mission-driven research and programming. Through competitive three-year grants, these clusters promote innovative, interdisciplinary research on the Institute’s core research themes of democracy and human development. 

Research Cluster on Democratization Theory

The researchers are fundamentally rethinking concepts relating to regimes and regime change in order to develop theories of long-term historical progression toward democracy, and regression from it, that pay more attention to neglected dimensions. Some efforts build on the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) conceptual scheme and data; others are complementary or completely separate. The cluster traditionally gives less emphasis to suffrage extension and the fact of elections and more attention to the role of the judiciary and constitutions, legislative strength, election administration, and human rights, among many possibilities.

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Research Cluster on International Education

In this interdisciplinary research cluster, which brings together two major University institutes and a range of scholars with expertise in education, religion, politics, law, and methodology, researchers are embarking on an ambitious study of Catholic international education as a precursor to a future comparative study of faith-based education more generally. The cluster aims both to establish Notre Dame as a world leader for research on international Catholic education and to build the foundation for a research agenda on international faith-based education.

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Each Research Cluster addresses a significant common problem or set of interrelated questions through individual and collective research. The clusters are organic and expansive in nature, and combine the strengths of the Institute’s faculty fellows with its extended community of scholars, which includes current and former visiting fellows, doctoral student affiliates, and distinguished research affiliates. External collaborators also take part. 

The clusters are intended to serve as incubators for larger, longer-term collaborations that can attract external funding and generate significant research outputs. They also enrich the Institute’s distinctive intellectual community by generating partnerships that can spark new approaches and findings, as well as facilitate the mentoring of junior scholars. 

The research clusters also:

  • Cross disciplinary, sub-disciplinary, and/or methodological boundaries and lead to cross-fertilization across regions and themes;
  • Link important normative and theoretical work, high-level empirical research, and applied research;
  • Use a multidisciplinary and/or mixed-method approach to address complex problems and important challenges facing humankind;
  • Integrate and explore the intersection of the core themes of democracy and human development;
  • Contribute to relevant contemporary debates on public policy.

Kellogg Research Clusters are funded through an annual call for proposals. For details, see the other tabs.


A Research Cluster must have at least two principal investigators, at least one of whom must be a Kellogg Faculty Fellow. Proposals must identify a minimum of three on-campus researchers working on a common theme, including Notre Dame faculty, Visiting Fellows, and doctoral students whose dissertation topic is directly related to the theme of the Research Cluster. 

The Institute stongly encourages Research Cluster proposals that make connections across the Kellogg community — including Faculty Fellows, current and former Visiting Fellows, current Doctoral Student Affiliates and PhD alumni, and Distinguished Research Affiliates — as well as those that involve collaboration across disciplines, departments, colleges/schools, and with other institutions or external partners.

Members of a Research Cluster may be individual scholars pursuing related but independent projects, or a team of scholars pursuing collaborative research.  The Research Cluster must develop a platform of research in the area of the Cluster that can be expected to yield a sufficient number of research outputs within a specified time frame and that has the potential to be competitive for external funding.  Collaborative initiatives might include the expansion of faculty members’ current projects or the instigation of new collaborative ventures. 

Funded Research Clusters may include elements of but will transcend projects eligible for Kellogg funding in the categories of faculty research, working group, or conference grants.  Research Cluster grants are not intended to provide seed funding for singular research projects or proposal development by small teams.  The term “cluster” is meant to indicate a larger scale of collaboration than research partnerships based on one project or a few closely related narrow research questions. 

Among other things, the Kellogg Institute especially seeks to support Research Clusters that:

  • Cross disciplinary, sub-disciplinary, and/or methodological boundaries and lead to cross-fertilization across regions and themes;
  • Link important normative and theoretical work, high-level empirical research, and applied research;
  • Use a multidisciplinary and/or mixed-method approach to address complex problems and important challenges facing humankind;
  • Integrate and explore the intersection of its core themes of democracy and human development;
  • Contribute to relevant contemporary debates on public policy.


Submission Dates for 2023-24:
Stage IThe deadline for the submission of the concept note: September 6, 2023
Stage II - The deadline for the submission of the full proposal (if invited for full proposal): October 24, 2023.


Research Cluster grants typically awarded up to $75,000 over three years.  Disbursement of the total award amount may be divided unequally across years (e.g., a larger amount may be required in earlier years for start-up expenses).

These grants are intended as seed money to foster the formation of cohesive, ongoing Research Clusters organized around a specific theme, issue, or set of closely interrelated questions or problems.
Research Cluster grants are intended to support aspects of the Cluster that benefit the group as a whole and may be used for a variety of programmatic elements and project costs, including but not limited to:

  • Travel expenses associated with collaboration with individuals involved in the project from other institutions, including short-term visitors;
  • Graduate or undergraduate research assistants, including those providing logistical and administrative support for the group;
  • Acquisition of research materials, including electronic databases, books, manuscripts, microfilm, etc.;
  • Research computing or computer software (but not hardware) for research purposes;
  • Buy-out(s) of teaching responsibilities; and
  • Support for team-taught seminars or courses by members of the Research Cluster.

Research Cluster proposals may also include a request that the Institute support a Visiting Fellow or other post-doctoral researcher with funds over and above those in the proposed Research Cluster grant budget. 

In addition to the above funding awarded through a Research Cluster grant, proposals by designated Research Clusters and those of its members that advance the work of the Cluster are prioritized in other areas of Institute funding, including grants for faculty and graduate student research, course development grantsconference/workshop grants, and funding for speakers in the Kellogg lecture series.  The Institute may also provide Research Clusters with logistical assistance, such as office or collaborative work space, support for external grant proposal development and implementation, event coordination, and publicity.

Award Criteria

All Research Cluster proposals must demonstrate intellectual merit, as well as fit with the Kellogg Institute mission and the potential to make a significant research impact in the Institute’s core thematic areas and advance its strategic plan.

In addition, the following criteria are used to evaluate the strength of proposals:

  • Cohesion of research interests of the identified participants;
  • Anticipated outcomes, including potential for future publication and/or other significant research outputs;
  • Potential to leverage Kellogg support to garner substantive external funding;
  • Potential for sustained collaboration that catalyzes partnerships across disciplines, departments, and colleges/schools, and with other institutions or external partners that provide long-term strategic value to the Institute as a whole;
  • Potential to build long-term, multidimensional relationships that advance key Kellogg objectives for research excellence, student and educational opportunities, fieldwork, and policy engagement and impact;
  • Potential to involve PhD, Master of Global Affairs, and Kellogg International Scholars Program students in research related to the theme of the Cluster;
  • Ability of the proposed Cluster composition to create synergy among various disciplines, methods, and approaches in a way that addresses the research question or problem better together than separately.

Successful Research Cluster proposals have an ambitious mix of programmatic elements and significant mechanisms of interactivity and collaboration, with priority given to those that incentivize connections across disciplines and/or regions of study that are otherwise absent.

Applicants are strongly encouraged to seek, and priority is given to projects with demonstrated potential to secure, financial support from other sources, both internal and external to Notre Dame.

Proposal Submission and Review

Research Cluster proposals are considered in a two-stage process. 

Stage I: Prior to submitting a full proposal, a two-page concept paper must be submitted for review by the Faculty Committee of the Institute. The concept papers should include the following:

  1.  a brief abstract (approx. one paragraph, including the research theme to be addressed, alignment with Kellogg mission and research priorities, the project's goal and its primary objectives);
  2. background Information (approx. 1-3 paragraphs, including relevant background on major issues/questions to be studied, the significance of the work to be pursued, relevant literature, and/or theoretical, conceptual, or policy context);
  3. proposed activities and outputs (approx. 2-4 paragraphs, e.g., anticipated lab activities, scholarly and/or policy outputs, potential collaboration, and possible partners and opportunities for engagement);
  4. a project timeline (approx. 1 paragraph, indicating grant lifecycle over a 3-year period);
  5. the project's ability to achieve the award criteria listed below (approx. 1 paragraph); and
  6. the total budget request (identifying anticipated funding categories (e.g., travel, participant support, etc.) and estimated total amounts for each category; an itemized or detailed budget is not required at this stage but will be requested if invited to submit a full proposal; total awards are typically $75,000 over three years, awarded in annual amounts of $25,000).

Stage I: Submission Deadline: The deadline for the submission of the concept note is September 6, 2023

Stage II:  The deadline for the submission of the full proposal (if invited for full proposal), is October 24, 2023.

Full proposals should be no more than eight pages (not including budget and CVs) and should include:

  • A brief abstract (150–200 words)
  • A delineation of the specific components or activities for which funding is sought
  • A timeline and outline of the Cluster’s scope over one to three years
  • A statement of expected accomplishments during the period for which funding is requested
  • A statement regarding the anticipated scholarly products
  • A statement regarding the potential for competing successfully for other funding, including potential funding sources
  • If funding for graduate or undergraduate assistance is requested, a description of how the student(s) will be involved in the research
  • Abbreviated (two-page maximum) CVs that highlight recent publications and other relevant work of the principal investigators and other key project participants
  • A statement regarding previous support received from the Kellogg Institute for related activities by project participants and results achieved
  • An itemized budget and narrative budget justification.

Peer reviews will be sought before a final decision is made to award funding.