Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) Project 2024 – We are now accepting applications for the 2024 cohort of STAARS fellows! Only applications submitted through our online platform will be accepted. The application will close on January 19, 2024 at 11:59PM Eastern. We will hold a virtual information session (register here) on December 19th from 9:00 – 10:00AM Eastern to answer questions.”
The Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) fellowship program, a multi-institution collaboration managed by Cornell University in collaboration with the World Bank’s Development Research Group, and the Partnership for Economic Policy (PEP), announces its annual call for research proposals. Early-career researchers selected as STAARS Fellows in 2024 advance rigorous, policy-oriented research on the causal determinants of productivity and income growth, asset accumulation, rural employment and risk management in African agriculture and rural spaces.
The Fellowship covers travel and training expenses. STAARS Fellows will be paired with faculty, senior research staff, or affiliated researcher mentors from Cornell University, the World Bank, or PEP, with whom they will jointly author a paper on a topic of mutual interest relating to structural transformation in Africa south of the Sahara. The program aims for publication of resulting research findings in high quality, peer-reviewed journals and as working papers. In addition, the World Bank, PEP, and Cornell will facilitate Fellows’ participation in scientific and policy conferences, provide professional development training, and build Fellows international research networks.
The STAARS Fellowship began in 2016 and to date has supported 70 Fellows from diverse backgrounds. Learn about past Fellows here.
Scope of Research and Geographic Focus
Prospective STAARS Fellows are invited to develop proposals in the following thematic areas for empirical work on Africa south of the Sahara:
- Dynamics of agricultural inputs use, technological change, and productivity growth.
- Rural factor (e.g., credit, labor, land) and product market performance and links to urban markets.
- Agri-food systems and value chains, their performance and evolution.
- Food security, nutrition, health and education linkages.
- Poverty dynamics, risk management and resilience against shocks.
- Sustainable natural resources management.
- Gender and marginalized groups.
STAARS Fellows’ rigorous policy analysis should use existing data, such as the Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS–ISA), Demographic and Health Surveys or similar high-quality datasets from Africa south of the Sahara. STAARS does not fund new data collection.
Structural Transformation of African Agriculture and Rural Spaces (STAARS) Project 2024 Eligibility
The call is open to early career researchers, either Ph.D. students in their final year prior to degree completion or preferably those who completed their Ph.D. no earlier than 2018. Priority is given to researchers who have earned at least one degree from an African university, plan to work professionally in low- and lower-middle income countries, and have proposals relating to the research themes indicated above. Qualified female researchers are particularly encouraged to apply. STAARS welcomes applications from fresh Ph.D. graduates who can benefit from mentorship and additional training to become internationally respected and recognized researchers. Fellows are expected to complete the proposed project by submitting findings as a draft working paper by December 13, 2024, and proceeding to submit the paper to a peer-reviewed journal and/or conferences by June 30, 2025.
Researchers are expected to be familiar with and have demonstrated access to existing data sets and have a strong working knowledge of appropriate software, typically Stata and/or R, and an interest in econometric analysis of high-quality data sets. Knowledge of geo-referenced data and GIS software to manage them is an asset.Knowledge of Stata and/or R will be assessed at the finalist stage.
The selected applicants will receive funds to cover travel and participation in a three-week mentorship program at Cornell University or the World Bank (based on mentorship). The remainder of the research coordination and professional development training will be conducted virtually. Fellows are expected to commit significant time to the proposed research and capacity development activities. A modest honorarium will be provided to each Fellow. No salary support is available; STAARS will not cover the scholar’s time allocated to this research. A letter of support from the candidate’s current advisor/supervisor/or manager is required, explicitly indicating that adequate work time will be made available for full participation in the program, if selected. The program cannot support costs for any new data collection.
The STAARS program spans 15 months from the date of expected selection to the delivery of final outputs by the STAARS fellow. Selected STAARS fellows are matched with at least one main mentor who is faculty, senior research staff, or an affiliate researcher at Cornell, the World Bank, or PEP and who shares an interest in the proposed topic, as well as with a (more junior) peer mentor. Upon selection, mentorship and collaboration begin immediately with a series of launch workshops involving the fellows, mentors and STAARS leadership occurring during the first several weeks of the fellowship period. A period of regular remote collaboration follows, with weekly or biweekly virtual meetings. During this period, training workshops are held at relevant points in the teams’ research process. Training workshops are designed to assist in fellows’ professional development and supplement their skills. Topics may include but are not limited to: coding and data management skills; reproducible research processes; technical writing; presentation skills; time management; grant writing; navigating peer review; research ethics; and policy engagement planning. In September 2024, the STAARS fellows spend 3-weeks visiting their mentors at the mentor’s institution, during which the STAARS fellows work intensively on the research project, participate in feedback workshops, hold a public seminar, and participate in network-building activities.
Items in italics denote in-person events during the fellows’ visit to the U.S. The remaining events are virtual.
- Virtual Launch: Fellows and Mentors Orientation – April 2, 2024
- Virtual Launch: Work Planning – April 4, 2024
- Virtual Launch: Panel of Past Fellows – April 16, 2024
- Virtual Launch: Presentations – April 18, 2024
- Milestone: Individual Meetings with STAARS Faculty Director – April 22 – 26, 2024
- Training: Research Ethics – April 25, 2024
- Training: Time Management – May 2, 2024
- Milestone: Final Work Plan Due – May 3, 2024
- Training: Transparent and Reproducible Research – May 7, 2024
- Training: Data Management – May 9 and 14, 2024
- Training: Writing Structure – July 11, 2024
- Milestone: Paper Draft 1 Due – August 21, 2024
- Travel to Cornell (Ithaca, NY) and Mentor Institution – September 2024
- Seminar: Intensive Feedback Workshop – September 11, 2024
- Training: Grantsmanship – September 12, 2024
- Training: Effective Presentations – September 12, 2024
- Training: Navigating Peer Review – September 13, 2024
- Seminar: Invited Seminars – September 23, 2024
- Milestone: Paper Draft 2 Due – December 13, 2024
- Seminar: Progress Presentations – March 27, 2025
- Milestone: Paper Submission to Academic Journal – June 30, 2025
STAARS will hold an informational webinar on Tuesday, December 12th from 9:00 – 10:00am Eastern Time. Please register for the webinar here
The STAARS Fellowship application process is managed by Cornell University, in collaboration with the World Bank and PEP. Applicants must prepare a maximum 2500-word research proposal, which motivates the selected research issues and objectives, outlines data sources and proposed methodology, and contains a convincing plan for completing the project by June 30, 2025. Projects that propose to use data that are not publicly available must provide documentation that they already have access to those data. All proposals shall be prepared in English. All proposals will be peer-reviewed by experts from Cornell, the World Bank, and/or PEP. Shortlisted applicants will be required to attend a short, virtual interview with the STAARS leadership team and potential mentors and complete a Stata/R assessment to assess their qualifications in using statistical software necessary to carry out their proposed work. More details will be provided to shortlisted candidates at the time of notification.
The deadline to submit a research proposal is January 19, 2024 at 11:59 PM New York time. Applicants should submit their completed proposals via the STAARS online application link. A worksheet that outlines the questions and can be used to collect answers prior to submitting online can be found here. Accepted applicants will be notified by mid-March 2024 and are expected to begin remote collaboration with their mentor and be prepared to join launch activities immediately upon acceptance. Any questions about the application process or program should be directed to email@example.com.
Research Proposal Template
Within the online application, please complete the applicant information and research sections. At the end of the application form please attach, as a ZIP folder or merged PDF, the following materials:
- Research Proposal (2500 words max.):
- Title of the proposed research
- Targeted country(-ies)
- Introduction and motivation that includes clear statement of research objectives and hypotheses
- Description of data source(s) and any prior experience working with the proposed data
- Proposed methodology
- If applicable, summary of any preliminary results
- Proposed timeline for the research
- Bibliographic references (not included in the 2500 words)
- CV of the applicant
- If proposing to use data that are not publicly available, a letter or other documentation from the data steward(s) indicating that the applicant will have access to the data to use in the proposed project
- Letter of support from applicant’s current supervisor, clearly indicating that the applicant will be granted time to work on this project, if selected
- Photocopy of the passport biodata page and, if applicable, any current US visa