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Research Review FAQs

Research Review Process

The Research Review Committee (RRC) just published a new Reference Matrix that is meant to provide answers to a variety of common questions. Please reference the matrix, as well as the information below, to help you complete your proposal. If you have any questions that still remain unanswered, please feel free to contact the RRC at

I am applying for a grant to implement a program or conduct research (or both) in SDP. What steps do I need to take?

This quick reference sheet provides a summary of the different steps to take when applying for and receiving a grant to implement programs and/or research in SDP.

Who is on the Research Review Committee?

The Research Review Committee includes five core members – four from the Office of Research and Evaluation (the Director, two program managers, and one senior research associate) and one external researcher who serves in an advisory (non-voting) capacity. Each month, an additional three to five ORE staff members join the committee as rotating members to review the proposals that align to their areas of expertise.

What is the typical Research Review Committee process for a proposal?

Each proposal and research study is unique, but a typical process is as follows:

  1. Researcher and District partners (e.g. central office staff, school staff) develop a plan for a possible research study.
  2. Researcher contacts for an initial consultation about the proposed study [REQUIRED for Dissertations, OPTIONAL for all other studies]
  3. Researcher submits proposal, supporting materials, and payment to the RRC (for details see the Submitting a Proposal page and see this page for 2018 proposal deadlines).
  4. RRC members receive the proposals two weeks before the monthly meeting.  RRC members review the proposals and prepare comments and questions for discussion at the full Committee meeting.
  5. At the RRC meeting, the Committee discusses: (a) whether the proposed research is aligned with District goals; (b) whether the proposed research is duplicative or unnecessarily burdensome to students or school personnel; (c) whether there is evidence that all required procedures will be followed when conducting research with human subjects in school settings; and (d) that the proposed research project does not overlap with other research projects in ways that make it difficult to interpret the findings.
  6. Within 2-3 weeks of the RRC meeting, the RRC sends out decision letters or requests more information in order to make a decision.

Do researchers need IRB approval for studies before submitting a proposal?

IRB approval is required before the RRC will approve research projects.  However, the RRC will consider proposals if IRB approval is pending.  If all other aspects of the proposal are satisfactory, the RRC will issue a conditional approval letter, stating that final IRB approval is required before a full approval letter will be granted.

Do programs collecting their own data need to submit a proposal through the Research Review Committee?

Yes. Any organization, person, or entity collecting student, teacher, or staff data for any purpose must submit a proposal to the Research Review Committee. Learn more on the Research Review Committee’s main page or via our Reference Matrix.

Do programs collecting data for grant-reporting purposes need to submit through the Research Review Committee?

Yes. The Research Review Committee recognizes that data collected for grant-reporting purposes may not constitute formal research, but such work still requires approval. Learn more about Progress Monitoring applications on our Submitting a Proposal page.

When are the Research Review Committee deadlines?

The Research Review Committee meets monthly. You can find important events and dates on our Calendar page or HERE.

Research Forums – What are they? When are they?

Our Research Forums are monthly presentations that are intended to introduce external researchers, program staff, and stakeholders to the District’s approach to evidence, research, and implementation. The forums also cover Research Review Committee procedures and processes and allow attendees to interface with our staff and ask questions. Research forums are held once a month, usually on the first Tuesday. You can find important events and dates on our Calendar page or HERE.

I am a student. Can I conduct research within the District?

At this time, the Research Review Committee only accepts proposals for Doctoral dissertations. You can learn more on the Research Review Committee’s main page.

I am a District employee working on a graduate degree.  Does my proposed research project count as “external research”?

Yes.  Any project that is not conducted by the the Office of Research and Evaluation is considered an external research project and requires a proposal to the Research Review Committee.

I have permission to conduct research. Do I need clearances?

Any person entering District schools for research purposes, even for a limited time, must have clearances on file with the Research Review Committee (RRC). When possible, clearances should be submitted with your RRC proposal. You can learn more about required clearances on our Policies & Procedures page.

What clearances do I need to conduct research within SDP?

All researchers who will be working (i.e., recruiting, collecting data) within schools will need to have clearances on file with the RRC. Should submit either during your proposal review process (preferred) or shortly thereafter. You will need the following clearances: FBI Fingerprint Clearance, PA Criminal History Check, and PA Child Abuse Clearance. You can learn more about required clearances on our Polices & Procedures page.

I have permission to conduct research and I need to submit my formal Data Request. Where do I start?

You will need a formal Data Agreement. This process is separate fro your research review approval and will be completed after you receive approval. This agreement is a formal legal agreement, and once it is fully executed, you may submit your data request HERE. Please recognize that data retrieval services are in high demand and your request may take up to 30 business days, or 6-8 weeks, to process.

I am interested in submitting a grant application. Where should I start?

You should contact the Office of Grants Development.


I am considering conducting research within SDP that involves collecting data. Where should I start?

All those considering research within the District should consult Philadelphia’s Open Data Sources and our District-wide Survey Data Tool. If these sources do not meet your specific needs, you will need to submit a proposal to the Research Review Committee to conduct research.

Can schools release data to me to help me complete my research?

Schools are not authorized to release data. All data requests for research purposes must be approved via the RRC and are subject to data agreement procedures and policies.

How long does the Data Agreement process take?

The process of creating and finalizing a data agreement varies in length; it can take anywhere between a few days to a few weeks, depending on legal requirements.

How do I return my Data Agreement to the District?

You can return your data agreement via mail to:

Research Review Committee
Office of Research and Evaluation
School District of Philadelphia
440 N. Broad Street, Suite 214
Philadelphia, PA 19130

Why do we have to return a hard copy of our Data Agreement?

Because each data agreement is legally binding, we require that you return the “wet signature,” or hard copy, of the document to us via mail. We do not accept DocuSign or electronic copies of data agreements. This is for legal record keeping.

Who can I contact with questions?

Please send all questions to

Last modified: February 14, 2018