The Molly K. Macauley Award for Research Innovation and Advanced Analytics for Policy

The application period for this award is now closed. Read about the award winner.

Since 1952, Resources for the Future (RFF) has been a leader in economic analysis and policy innovation for managing environmental and natural resources. Molly Macauley, former RFF Vice President for Research, was a pioneer in her field—helping decisionmakers understand the economics of space. RFF has created the Molly K. Macauley Award for Research Innovation and Advanced Analytics for Policy in her honor. Applications are sought for research that will leverage the power of Earth observations data; other sources of new, complex, and large datasets; and advanced analytical methods to analyze such data.

Research Themes, Deliverables, and Outcomes

We are seeking proposals for new research that will support and enhance the activities of the Consortium for the Valuation of Applications Benefits Linked to Earth Science (VALUABLES), a new consortium at RFF made possible through a partnership with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). VALUABLES is focused on advancing innovative uses of existing methods and developing new techniques for valuing the information provided by Earth observations, especially those derived from satellites and aircraft.

Any area in which Earth observations play a role may be addressed, including applications relating to human health, air quality, water resources, ecosystem services, natural disasters, food security and agriculture, wildland fires, energy, urban development, and transportation and infrastructure. However, the use of remotely sensed data must be a key component of the analysis. In addition, we especially welcome proposals that focus on evaluating the socioeconomic impacts of applications of Earth observations for solving pressing societal problems and that quantify, in monetary terms, the value of Earth observations in specific applications. In so doing, proposals should clearly describe how information from Earth observations makes improvements to decisionmaking and the value of those improvements. Applicants may propose to quantify the private and/or social benefits of applications of Earth observations, including nonmarket benefits.

Outreach and Dissemination

Applicants should emphasize the broader societal relevance as well as the intellectual merit of their work and describe a work plan inclusive of not only peer-reviewed scholarship but also publication in general-audience media and the VALUABLES suite of communication activities, which includes case studies, online tutorials, and multimedia products. RFF supports research that has both scholarly impact and policy relevance, thus proposals for the Macauley Award are expected to clearly identify both types of deliverables and outcomes—i.e., expected contributions to scholarship and to policy. Research teams will be expected to work with the VALUABLES Consortium’s outreach and communications team to integrate their research results into VALUABLES’ capacity-building and communications products, which may include fact sheets, blog posts, and webinars.


The Macauley Award is open to researchers at US-based universities and nonprofit research institutions. Interdisciplinary research teams are preferred, and teams that involve both economists and Earth scientists are particularly encouraged.


$100,000 is available to support one or more grants. Co-funding from other research grants or sources of funds is strongly encouraged.


The grant performance period is up to 18 months. The starting date is flexible but applicants are encouraged to target a start date no later than July 1, 2018. Interim written and oral reports to RFF will be required at intervals during project execution.


The application period for this award is now closed. 

First Step: Applicants submit a brief pre-proposal limited to three pages, single-spaced, with no smaller than 11-point font and 1-inch margins. The pre-proposal—to be sent by email as a single PDF file to—should include the following:

  1. the title of the project;
  2. the names, titles, and professional addresses (including telephone numbers and email addresses) of each investigator (note: please also specify the Principal Investigator as the main point of contact;
  3. a concise description of the proposed research, including data and methods;
  4. a concise description of the innovation the research offers and the outreach products (for example: journal articles, blog posts, multimedia presentations, etc.);
  5. a description of the target audience for this work and a plan for reaching this audience;
  6. the proposed dates for start and completion of the project;
  7. an estimated budget including salaries, benefits, other direct costs, IDC/overhead, and any matching funds;
  8. a short budget justification, stating how the funds will be used (e.g., personnel time, travel, IDC rate, etc.); and
  9. a brief statement of prior experience of the project leader(s).

RFF encourages applicants to initiate discussions about project ideas well ahead of the pre-proposal deadline. Questions about project ideas and the pre-proposal may be submitted to

Second Step: Final proposals will be invited upon the recommendations of a review panel of experts from the academic and policy communities. Final proposals should include all of the information contained in the pre-proposal, more in-depth discussion of the proposed research and its anticipated intellectual and policy contribution, a detailed outreach plan, and a detailed budget. Please limit the proposed research discussion and outreach plan to five pages. (Note that figures are included in the five-page limit, but references are not.) There is no length limit for the budget. Attachments to the final proposal should include CVs for the project lead and each co-investigator.Email final proposals to as a single PDF file. Final proposals will be reviewed by a panel of experts from the academic and policy communities.