Population Reference Bureau (PRB) is now accepting applications for its 2018-2019 Policy Communication Fellows Program. The program is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). It is open to individuals from developing countries currently enrolled in academic institutions pursuing doctoral programs and who are between their 3rd and 5th year of studies. Developing-country applicants may be in any field of study but their research focus must be related to one or more of the following:

  • Family planning and/or reproductive health (FP/RH).
  • Contraceptive use/behavior.
  • Maternal and child health (MCH), specifically family planning/MCH integration.
  • Population growth.
  • Adolescent reproductive health.
  • Poverty, health equity, and connections with reproductive health.
  • Gender issues, specifically gender-based violence (GBV), early marriage, and male engagement in family planning.
  • Population, health, and environment interrelations.

The goals of the Policy Fellows program are:

  • To understand the process by which research informs the policy environment.
  • To learn how to communicate research to policy audiences in a way that encourages action.
  • To improve participants’ communication skills using a variety of format and platforms.

The Policy Fellows program, initiated in the 1980s, has close to 400 alumni. Policy Communication Alumni Fellows are highly respected in the field and actively engaged in advocacy work. The program aims to bridge the gap between research findings and the policy development process. While research often has profound policy implications, it must be communicated effectively to a variety of nontechnical audiences in order to have an impact.


The Policy Communication Fellows Program seeks to train the next generation of leaders shaping policy in their countries. The fellowship is hosted in partnership with African research and advocacy experts to encourage South-South collaboration and knowledge exchange. Fellows will learn, firsthand, local advocacy priorities and policy landscapes and how to tailor their research messages to relevant policy audiences. Fellows are mentored throughout the program on different strategies to effectively communicate their findings to non-technical audiences. The Policy Fellows program is committed to providing an enriching, cutting-edge experience for participants that reflects the diverse and constantly evolving landscape of policy and communications

The year-long fellowship program engages participants through a blended learning approach. Fellows are required to attend a weeklong training workshop, complete instructional curricula online, and submit assignments throughout the fellowship.

The program has three components:

Online Coursework

Throughout the yearlong fellowship, participants will be required to attend short online lectures and complete associated assignments to supplement the in-person training. Fellows are expected to join one orientation webinar prior to the summer institute, as well as attend post-institute online lectures throughout the year

Summer Institute

Participants will attend a weeklong policy and communication workshop focused on the role of research in the policy process and on techniques for effective communication of research findings to decisionmakers. At the summer institute the participants will interact with PRB staff and local experts active in policy research and communication. During the training, participants are asked to work with their own research data to identify the policy relevance of their findings; Fellows will learn how to draw implications of those findings and how to communicate them effectively to policy audiences through a variety of platforms. The date and location of the summer institute will be announced in March 2018.

Policy Communication Assignments

During the 2018-2019 academic year, Fellows will apply the skills learned at the workshop to prepare written assignments and an oral presentation for policy audiences, based on their dissertation research. Throughout the assignments, Fellows will receive individual feedback from policy communication experts on their work

PRB covers travel, lodging, and per diem expenses for each Fellow to attend the workshop.


All participants must be citizens of developing countries that are supported by USAID population and health funding.

In addition, participants must be currently enrolled in doctoral programs at reputable academic institutions, and between their 3rd and 5th year of studies. PRB gives priority to applicants whose dissertation research is focused on the topic areas noted above and who are in an early stage of their career. This program takes place in English, and applicants must demonstrate that they can effectively communicate their research in English through their application materials.


The deadline for applying is Feb. 12, 2018. The Fellowship awards will be announced in March 2018.

Applicants must submit the following to PRB:

  • A cover letter stating why you wish to participate in this program.
  • An application form.
  • An updated resume with a full list of educational and other professional activities.
  • A two- or three-page summary of the applicant’s dissertation research.
  • Two letters of reference sent directly from the person writing the reference (via e- mail).


Completed applications, letters of reference, or questions about the program should be sent via e-mail to: policyfellows2018@prb.org.

Countries Eligible for PRB’s Policy Communication Fellows Program

These are the countries that are supported by USAID Population funding as of December 2017, and therefore are the only countries from which participants are eligible for the Policy Communication Fellows Program.

Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Haiti, India, Kenya, Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Rwanda, Senegal, South Sudan, Tanzania, Togo, Uganda, Yemen, and Zambia.

Frequently Asked Questions

I’m only in my first or second year of studies in my Ph.D. program. Can I still apply?

During the Policy Fellows program, we ask participants to work with their own dissertation research topics. For this reason, it is important that all participants have a defined dissertation topic, preferably one that has been approved by his/her doctoral committee. Many participants already have preliminary results from their research. Students who meet this requirement are generally entering their 3rd to 5th years of study. On occasion, students in their 1st or 2nd year can also meet these requirements. If you don’t think you are far enough into your proposal to apply this year, we encourage you to check back and consider applying for the program in the next year.

I am entering my 6th (or more) year of study in my Ph.D. program. Am I eligible to apply?

If you are still enrolled in your Ph.D. program, you are still eligible to apply to the Policy Fellows program. During the selection process, we tend to give preference to those students who will remain enrolled throughout the academic year. Please be sure to note your anticipated graduation date as requested on the application form.

My dissertation research does not fit within the list of topics you provided, but I am sure that this program will be very beneficial to me. Can I still apply?

PRB’s funding for this program comes through the Office of Population and Reproductive Health (OPRH) at USAID. Therefore, we are limited to accepting participants whose research topics pertain to the objectives of the OPRH. Relevant areas of research are listed on the program announcement and main Fellowship webpage.

I am a citizen of a country that is not included in your list of developing countries that are supported by USAID. Can I still apply?

PRB’s funding for this program comes through our PACE Project, funded through the USAID Office of Population and Reproductive Health. As such, we are only able to support students who are from USAID family planning priority countries. If your country of citizenship is not included on the list of countries with USAID Population and Reproductive Health programs, you are not eligible for this program.

I am currently enrolled (or about to enroll) in a Master’s program. Am I eligible for this program?

Unfortunately, at this time only students who are enrolled in PhD or Doctoral programs are eligible for this Fellowship.

I am a citizen of a developing country who has already completed my Ph.D. I am now working as a researcher, and I can see that this program would be very beneficial to me. Can I apply?

The Policy Fellows program is designed for students who are currently pursuing their Ph.D. If you are not currently enrolled as a student in a Ph.D. or doctoral program, you are not eligible to participate.

PRB periodically offers similar workshops, specifically designed for in-country researchers and professionals, around the world. You can check our website to see if any workshops are coming up in your country.

I have been accepted as a Ph.D. student at a reputable university, and I plan to research a topic related to your list. Can I apply for the Policy Fellows program now?

We require participants in this program to be currently enrolled in PhD or Doctoral programs, with a defined topic for their dissertation research. Most often, students meet this qualification during their 3rd to 5th years of study. It is important that participants are already enrolled and pursuing their dissertation because we ask you to work with your dissertation topic and anticipated or preliminary results during the workshop.

The application form asks about my proposed topic of research for the Fellows Program, and we are required to submit a 2- to 3-page summary of our research. Can you provide any more guidance about this?

During the summer institute, we ask all participants to work with their research topics, including the preliminary or anticipated findings. We want these exercises to be relevant to you, so we generally ask participants to focus on their dissertation topics. Some applicants, however, find that there is one particular aspect or question in their dissertation that is most relevant for policy and the research areas required for this workshop. In those cases, applicants may choose to focus on that one particular element of their research in the proposal and application form. Others may choose to submit a 2- to 3- page summary of their entire dissertation topic. The choice is up to you. We discourage applicants from proposing entirely new research questions for this Fellowship.

You should list the title of your research on the application form. In the 2- to 3- page summary, you should try to include a brief summary of the background, methodology, anticipated results, and potential policy relevance of your topic. We ask that all applicants stay within the 3-page limit. You can choose to submit this proposal either single- or double-spaced. Endnotes and/or references are not included in the 3-page limit.

To whom should I address the cover letter, one of the required application materials?

You can address the cover letter to the Selection Committee, or Members of the Selection Committee. The Selection Committee is comprised of representatives from both PRB and USAID.

The Fellowship announcement says that PRB provides accommodation during the institute. What kind of accommodation can we expect?

During the summer institute, participants will stay in a hotel or dormitory very near to the workshop location. Fellows typically share rooms (2 per room). A per diem allowance is provided to cover meals and incidental expenses.

I noticed past programs were held in the United States. Will there be an opportunity for participants to travel to the United States during the fellowship?

The purpose of the program is to train future leaders in policy and advocacy skills that can be used to impact population and reproductive health in participant’s home countries. The program has undergone a re-design process to highlight the wealth of knowledge and expertise thriving in countries outside of the United States and leverage on-the-ground relationships and experiences to enhance the summer institute. The program will support participant to travel to the summer institute, which will now be held in a sub-Saharan Africa country. The program no longer funds travel to the United States.

How time-intensive is the online coursework component of the program?

The online coursework will be in the form of short modules and webinars, lasting approximately one hour. Reading in advance of webinars, and short assignments afterward, will be required. Students should be available at the scheduled times for webinars and complete modules on time. The program recognizes students have many demands on their time throughout the school year and will be mindful of scheduling webinars and online assignments.

How will I know my application and reference letters have been received?

Participants will receive an email confirmation once a completed application, including two letters of reference, has been received. It is the responsibility of the participant to ensure the individuals writing the letters of reference submit by the deadline.