Limited Submission: Sustainability Research Networks Competition (SRN)

02/07/2014, 5:00 PM

please find a limited submission opportunity from NSF with only three proposals allowed per lead institution. If you are interested in submitting to this program please email me by February 7th.


Sustainability Research Networks Competition (SRN)
2014 Focus: Urban Sustainability

Program Description:

The goal of the Sustainability Research Networks (SRN) competition is to bring together multidisciplinary teams of researchers, educators, managers, policymakers and other stakeholders to conduct collaborative research that addresses fundamental challenges in urban sustainability. SRNs may link existing centers and networks and will develop new partnerships and collaborations. Networks will be multi-institutional and may include international partnerships.


1. Frontier urban sustainability research theme

An SRN should be designed to identify and address an ambitious and nationally important theme in urban sustainability research(described below) that requires the scale, breadth, facilities and integration across disciplines and sectors made possible by a large and diverse network.

2. Interdisciplinary research

Sustainability research transcends traditional disciplinary boundaries. The network will bring together social and natural scientists, engineers, educators, managers and other stakeholders from a range of disciplines and backgrounds, which could also include researchers in the humanities. Together, through closely integrated research activities, they will foster new theoretical advances, knowledge and tools that forge the integrated science and engineering disciplines of the future.

3. A network involving multiple institutions and sectors

SRNs will also be expected to provide pathways for translating research into practice through, for example, policy, management and public outreach. An SRN will link scientists, engineers and educators in multiple institutions and be geographically dispersed. Humanities researchers may be included in the team if appropriate to the project scope. The SRN may build upon but not duplicate existing activities. Funding and other resources will be shared among the network partners. The network should promote collaboration with resource managers, policymakers, end-users and other stakeholders in the private and public sectors through the direct involvement - from the outset - of participants from federal, state and local agencies and tribal communities, non-governmental and international bodies and industry as appropriate. It should be designed to adapt and grow as new opportunities arise and should be sustainable after the period of NSF funding has ended.

4. Support for education, outreach and diversity

The network should include a strong program of linked education and outreach activities that support the goals of the SRN itself, increase stakeholder engagement and train the next generation of researchers to meet the interdisciplinary research needs of the future. An SRN is expected to include a range of research and education training opportunities, promoting the development of a diverse, internationally-competitive and globally-engaged workforce of scientists, engineers, humanities scholars, educators and citizens who are well-prepared for a variety of career paths related to sustainability. Outreach activities may include collaborations of professionals in the sciences, engineering, arts and the humanities.

5. Management and organization

The lead organization will submit the SRN proposal and, if funded, will be responsible for the financial and administrative management of the network. The Principal Investigator will be the SRN Director, with overall responsibility for developing and maintaining the shared research, education, and goals of the network. The Director will be supported by a Management Team comprising up to two further members from the lead organization and up to three members from each partner organization. In addition, an independent External Advisory Committee (EAC) must be appointed to provide ongoing guidance and advice to the Management Team throughout the lifetime of the network.

6. Award size and duration

SRN awards are expected to be 4 to 5 years in duration. The total budget for an SRN may not exceed $12,000,000.

B. Focus on Urban Sustainability

More than half of the world's people now live in cities, and in the U.S., the figure is 80% (U.S. National Academies, "Pathways to Urban Sustainability: Research and Development on Urban Systems-Summary of a Workshop," The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2010). Globally, urban environments spur economic development and can promote efficient resource use, but their high population density can create increased pressure on supporting ecosystems and reduced resilience to external threats such as extreme weather events. The long and short-term effects of urbanization on coupled environmental, engineered, social and economic systems are poorly understood.


With this solicitation, we are seeking proposals to create research networks focused on urban sustainability. The overarching question is how can we develop sustainable, resilient urban systems that provide healthy, safe, and affordable environments for the growing number of people living in cities and their surrounding metropolitan areas across the globe?


There is no universally accepted definition of "urban" and its usage varies based on discipline, institution, agency and context. For the purpose of this solicitation an urban center has:

an economy that is primarily non-agrarian, where a significant majority of the population is not primarily engaged in agriculture;
multiple services, such as water, sewage, energy, etc. through engineered systems;
social, cultural and economic diversity;
pluralistic governance structures.

Integrated research on urban sustainability will improve our fundamental understanding of the interconnected processes and feedbacks that operate within the urban system at multiple temporal and spatial scales. This will support the assessment of efficiencies, co-benefits, threshold effects and trade-offs, creating opportunities to design more efficient infrastructure and improving the resilience of urban systems to internal and external stressors.

Proposers may frame their networks around particular issues or topics important to urban sustainability, e.g. coastal urbanization, urban heat islands, food systems, energy, biodiversity, essential ecosystem services, transport or governance. Research must focus on identified urban systems, but may also include closely coupled regions beyond urban boundaries where this is essential to the study of the urban system. For example, issues of urban water quantity and quality might also include an examination of the hydrology, land use change and ecosystem services associated with a watershed.

An international perspective is encouraged if appropriate, but is not required. Where studies will center on specific cities or geographic regions, proposers must explain the broader relevance and applicability of their findings.

NOTE: This is the second and final SRN competition. No further SRN solicitations are planned.

Sponsor Deadline:

Full Proposal due April 29, 2014