Request for Proposals

What is the Developing Belief Network?

The initial formation of the Developing Belief Network will consist of a minimum of 10 research teams, with the potential for 12 if there is available funding. In addition to the PIs (Richert & Corriveau), the network will be comprised of 8 to 10 additional research teams selected for subawards, and we anticipate a total of 12 to 24 unique research sites in the Developing Belief Network.      Investigators will work across research sites over 5 years to develop a collaborative cross-cultural methodology, create culturally-validated measures, and collect data to contribute to a shared dataset on the development of religious cognition and behavior from children and families around the world. The Developing Belief Network will partner with Databrary to provide access to this rich dataset to the developmental science community broadly. The inaugural instantiation of the Developing Belief Network will be constructed through an open and invited RFP solicitation. Sites will be selected for their (a) demonstrated ability to collect developmental data and (b) representation of important dimensions of religious belief (e.g., supernatural agents, animism, atheism). Upon successful building of the research network and completion of the first round of data collection, we will apply for funding to expand the network to include multi-time point data collection (expanding the data set to be a semi-longitudinal data set on patterns of individual development over time) and new teams of researchers (expanding the cultural data set to incorporate even greater cultural variation).


What are the specific research questions of interest?


Broadly construed, the aim of the Developing Belief Network is to utilize collaborative measurement validation and data collection practices to measure basic developmental processes (especially, theory-of-mind, executive functioning, causal reasoning, beliefs about possibility, ontological reasoning, essentialism and concepts of the soul/spirit) as well as to gather information on diversity of religious beliefs and practices (e.g., supernatural agents, ritual practices, beliefs in magic and superstition).


Inaugural members of the Developing Belief Network will have the opportunity to shape the specific research questions that the collaborative network will address. Some specific processes and research questions of interest to the PIs and the John Templeton Foundation include:

  • What are cultural variations in the development of folk theories? Do children need to have a foundational folk theory of humans or the physical world before they can develop concepts of supernatural agents or causes?

  • How do cultural variations in religious concepts (e.g., beliefs about animism, the properties and functioning of spirit/life force/soul) relate to the development of ontological boundaries and the extent to which religious concepts are or are not minimally counterintuitive?

  • How do natural and supernatural explanations develop to (co)exist in individual minds?

  • How do cross-cultural and within-cultural variations in verbal, non-verbal, and textual information provided to children relate to children’s concepts about and belief in natural and supernatural agents and causes?


Do I have to study religion to be a member of the Developing Belief Network?

No. We invite all scholars who have a research interest in the above questions and who have access to diverse populations of children to apply.



What is expected of members in the Developing Belief Network?

a. Network members are expected to have an established site for data collection with children and parents at a location outside of the United States or with an understudied population within the United States.

b. Network members will work with each other, the project leaders, and an advisory board to develop a collaborative methodology that can be used across the sites. At the kick-off workshop in Year 1, proposed methods will be presented to research sites. Site PIs selected through the RFP solicitation will be responsible for contributing culturally-relevant revisions/suggestions (e.g., names of supernatural agents, appropriate data collection methods with children), translation, and back translation of the methods for their research field sites. All measures will be piloted and finalized by the end of Year 2 so that data collection can begin in Year 3.

c. All network members must commit to attending a kick-off meeting and 4 additional annual meetings. Site members will be asked to submit regular progress reports and be available for regular Skype or Zoom meetings.

d. Network members must indicate their existing practices or plans to translate, back-translate, and culturally validate developmental tasks.

e. Network members will be required to follow the guidelines set by the Project Leaders regarding open science practices, sharing of protocols (e.g., Study Swap procedures), and collaborative data sharing of key aspects of the collaborative data set.

f. Network members will be expected to actively engage in dissemination of findings, through conference presentations and manuscript submissions.

g. Network members will be asked to contribute content to a website devoted to this project. Content may include descriptions of their field site and lay summaries of key findings.

What is the Timeline?








Who Can Apply?


The Principal Investigator of the research site must have a doctoral degree (or equivalent) and be affiliated with an accredited college or university. Applicants should be listed on only one proposal for this competition. Site PIs will work together during the first year to decide on a shared number of tasks to be implemented across research sites, with translation and backtranslation, and validation in Year 2, and testing in Years 3-5 (see anticipated timeline below). Please note, the use of these funds may be subject to restrictions in OFAC sanctioned countries. Investigators should email PIs Richert & Corriveau with questions.


What are the Subgrant Budgets?


Approximately $4 million will be made available to fund 8-10 awards with a maximum request of $500,000. The budget cap of $500,000 is inclusive of overhead (indirect costs). The Templeton Foundation’s maximum overhead allowable for these awards is 15%. We encourage proposals from a large pool of potential applicants, including teams of researchers who are capable of collecting cross-cultural data from a variety of religious communities to paint a broad picture of the development of religious cognition. Note that funding will be contingent upon appropriate documentation of IRB approval (dependent on country requirements), and approval of the research team.


What are Required Expenses?

Grant applicants are required to allocate some of their budget toward the following:

  • Travel for the site PI to attend the kick-off meeting in La Jolla, CA, as well as 4 additional meetings (location TBA) to finalize the measurements and present on progress (1/year). [Lodging and meal costs will be covered by the large project grant.]

  • Equipment for data collection. The collaborative methodology will involve developing a testing interface and links to networked data storage.

  • A least $5000 for fees associated with open-source publication.


What Are Allowable Expenses?


Grant applicants may consider allocating their budget toward the following:

  • Salaries or contract stipends for research team members

  • Compensation associated with participant recruitment

  • Support for Research Assistants

  • Statistical consulting

  • Travel and lodging associated with field site data collection

  • Equipment and materials costs

  • Institutional indirect costs (Templeton caps indirect costs at no more than 15% of the budget).


Who Will Review My Proposal?


Proposals will be reviewed by the Project Directors Dr. Rebekah Richert (University of California Riverside) and Dr. Kathleen Corriveau (Boston University) and a Scientific Advisory Board composed of scholars from a variety of related disciplines:


Dr. Karen Adolph (Psychology, New York University).

Dr. Maureen Callanan (Psychology, University of California, Santa Cruz).

Dr. Rick Gilmore (Psychology, Pennsylvania State University).

Dr. Paul L. Harris (Harvard Graduate School of Education).

Dr. Deborah Kelemen (Psychological & Brain Sciences, Boston University)


Where May I Find More Information?

Website: Information on the goals and intent of the Developing Belief Network can be found at This website also contains a brief overview of the background and justification for the specific research questions that will guide the initial research goals of the network.


Grant Application Timeline - click here.

Project Timeline - click here.


The Developing Belief Network is funded by The John Templeton Foundation, with additional support from the University of California, Riverside and Boston University, and involves a partnership with Databrary.