Request for Proposals

Deadline: Monday, June 1, 2020 *Closed*

The School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) is pleased to announce the availability of seed funding to advance inter- and transdisciplinary research that aligns with the School’s mission to provide sound research outcomes that inform our collective future; and to prepare our undergraduate and graduate students for the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead, with a long term view of helping to build a more equitable, healthy, and sustainable planet.

The SES seed funding is available for two tracks of collaboration with different purposes:

  • Track 1 - Convene an affinity group ‘ideation’ meeting.
  • Track 2 - Develop a new research question with up to $5000 available for each project.

Details for the SES Seed Grant RFP are provided below or can be found here.


Currently, SES is home to more than 120 faculty across five academic departments (Environmental Conservation, Geosciences, Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, Microbiology, and Stockbridge School of Agriculture) and two colleges. Our member departments are linked by eight areas of excellence:

  1. Biodiversity and Ecology
  2. Built Environment
  3. Clean Energy
  4. Climate and Resiliency
  5. Earth and Ocean
  6. Food Systems and Security
  7. Society, Community, and Culture
  8. Soil and Water

Each of these is interdisciplinary by nature. The strong linkages between these areas represent truly transdisciplinary and convergent research opportunities - deeply integrating the natural and built environments with the human dimensions of sustainability and resiliency. SES research and graduate training are strategically aligned with the United Nation’s Sustainability Development Goals and issues of national importance. These include renewable energy; impacts of climate change on ecosystems, people, and infrastructure; coastal resilience; soil health and clean water; food security; and urbanization, to name a few.


SES is requesting two types, or tracks, of proposals, to help spark sustainability research on campus. The SES research fund was created to promote collaboration and to advance meaningful transdisciplinary sustainability scholarship. We seek proposals that are innovative, exploratory, and emphasize inter- and transdisciplinarity. Team composition should also be experimental, bringing together diverse perspectives, worldviews, career stages, disciplines, backgrounds, ages, and genders.

Track 1: Affinity ‘ideation’ meetings

Groups with common research interests related to sustainability and spanning multiple disciplines can request an ideation meeting. Ideation meetings can be up to a half day in length. This track provides support to help organize and convene groups around one or more Areas of Excellence, which may or may not include a more targeted focus. The intent is to lay the foundation to identify synergies and possible collaboration opportunities.  For this track, SES will:

  1. Help the investigators identify potential participants and collaborators with like-minded interests from within SES and across campus.
  2. Arrange a meeting venue, including AV needs.
  3. Provide catering (coffee, snacks, or lunch) depending on the time of day and duration of the meeting.
  4. Provide a facilitation expert through our partnership with the Office of Research Development. Facilitation can help nascent groups sharpen their research concepts and ideas, and create a path forward for working together, including possible follow up meetings.
  5. Help identify upcoming funding opportunities well suited to the topic area.

The intention of Track 1 proposals is to forge collaborative relationships, to brainstorm, and to weave that brainstorming into a transdisciplinary conceptional model that could lead to an extramurally funded proposal. Track 1 groups are encouraged (but not required) to apply for a Track 2 seed grant within one year.
No budget is required for Track 1 ideation meeting requests. SES will cover expenses associated with the activities listed above, up to a maximum of $500.

Track 2: Seed Grants

Existing inter- or transdisciplinary research groups that are already organized may bypass Track 1 and request seed funding for up to $5000.  Seed grant funding is intended to support the development of a research proposal, suitable for an identified off-campus funding opportunity. Typical expenditures might include on-campus meetings, expenses associated with preliminary data gathering, and travel support for off-campus collaborators. Expenditures are flexible, but they must follow standard University guidelines, and funds should not be used for faculty salary support. It is expected that Track 2 SES seed grant recipients will submit a proposal to an external funding agency, foundation, or other funding sources within one year of receiving SES support.
Both Track 1 and Track 2 proposal must:

  • be related to the broad area of sustainability;
  • be inter- or transdisciplinary in scope; and
  • include at least three lead project proponents from three different departments (within or beyond SES departments and colleges).

SES plans to support up to three Track 1 ‘ideation’ workshops and three Track 2 seed grants in AY 2020-2021.


SES faculty (tenure and non-tenure track) and staff are eligible and encouraged to apply. One faculty member will be identified as the lead coordinating investigator (CI), with at least two other co-CIs from two other departments. Participants additional to the three lead investigators can be from any department. Track 1 ideation meetings should aim to have at least 10 participants involved in the meeting, while Track 2 proposals might involve fewer faculty and staff. In both cases, the proposed ideas, group makeup, and number of faculty involved are flexible, but strong interdisciplinarity is required.  Engagement with faculty outside of SES is strongly encouraged.

Preference will be given to proposals that demonstrate the following:

  • A commitment to transdisciplinary collaboration with ongoing opportunities to partner on projects and initiatives.
  • A focus on new or developing research with a clear plan for extramural funding.

Review Process & Timeline

Proposals will be reviewed by the SES Research Task Force, with oversight and guidance from the Office of Research Development.

Important dates for the SES Request for Proposals:

  • Open:  March 4, 2020
  • Deadline (extended):  June 1, 2020
  • Proposal decisions announced:  early June 2020
  • Funding available:  Mid-June 2020

Track 1 meetings should occur by January 1, 2021. Track 2 projects should commence within six months of award receipt. By August 31, 2021, all funds should be expended.

Funding Criteria

Proposals will be funded based on their perceived potential to lead to transdisciplinary research in the broad areas of sustainability and resiliency. Potential applicants are encouraged to explore the United Nations’ sustainable development goals ( and the concept of convergence science at the National Science Foundation ( Proposed groups should include expertise across multiple SES areas of excellence and demonstrate the potential for deep integration across those areas.

Successful proposals will:

  • Clearly connect their proposal to one or more of the SES Areas of Excellence.
  • Include a highly diverse team representing multiple departments, colleges, and areas of expertise.
  • Articulate how the proposed research is distinct from existing work and how it is inter- or transdisciplinary.

Proposal Instructions & Format

All proposals should be written in no smaller than 11 pt. font. Figures are not required.  Due to the nature of the funding, the proposal requirements differ for each track.

Track 1: Ideation Workshop

Up to two pages of single-spaced text outlining a broad area of sustainability research interest among five or more faculty that is interdisciplinary or transdisciplinary in scope and in line with existing SES areas of excellence on campus, but requiring further ideation and sharpening of ideas to become a potential research proposal.
Key elements should include:

  • an identified lead coordinating investigator, two additional co-investigators, and two addition participants;
  • contact information for all participants;
  • approximate timing when an affinity ‘ideation’ meeting will occur, before January 1 2021;
  • a concept title; and
  • a brief project description with enough conceptual content to allow SES to identify other potential participants across campus.

Track 2: Seed Grant Funding

Up to three pages, describing a specific inter- or transdisciplinary research topic, linked to a specific request for funding or an expected proposal submission. Track 2 proposals should Include the following:

  1. Name of Seed Grant Project.
  2. Project Description. A brief description of what the project might achieve, including the project goals and methodology, the inter- or transdisciplinary nature of the project team, the potential for convergence across disciplines, and what differentiates it from standard disciplinary research. The project should link to one or more SES Areas of Excellence. Describe the sustainability challenge(s) to be addressed and how the proposed work fills a need in the existing research.
  3. Justification. Explain the importance of the research question, and why the team makeup and/or approach is original, integrative and relevant to big questions in the field.
  4. Plan of work. Include a timeline, key partners, approach, and funding targets.
  5. Team list. A) Provide a list of all team members, including titles, and affiliations. Identify the lead investigator and two additional co-investigators, ideally from different departments or demonstrating strong interdisciplinarity. If this is a new research collaboration, articulate how the makeup of the team is distinct from existing partnerships on campus or more generally. If team members are already networked or working together, tell us how the proposed work is different than already established projects and how the team might leverage the existing work. Include non-CI team members and collaborators, and what they will add to the project.
  6. Budget. Plan for funding up to $5,000.  Prepare a simple budget that provides sufficient information for reviewers to understand the funding request. Seed funding may be used for any legitimate research expense, but will not support tenure-track faculty salaries (summer or academic year). Graduate student and post-doc support can be included. List any other planned, pending, or received funding for this work. List any additional resources that might be leveraged because of the SES funding.
  7. Extramural Funding.  Provide a brief follow-on funding plan that explains how the research launched by the seed grant award will be continued. Include information on the potential source(s) and timing of follow-on funding opportunities within 1 to 5 years.
  8. Short format (2-page) CVs or biosketches for all team co-CIs.

Expectations of Funding Recipients

SES will provide support to teams, including but not limited to: meeting and event planning, website visibility, assistance with off-campus grant proposals, use of conference and meeting space, and communications materials and support. We expect teams to stay connected and actively engaged with SES during their funding cycle.
Funding recipients are required to submit a brief summary report to SES upon completion of the project or affinity event. For Track 2 recipients, teams will be asked to present their results to the SES steering committee at the end of the funding cycle. It is also expected that an off-campus grant proposal will be submitted within 1-year of receiving the seed funds.

More information

Proposals should be in PDF format and emailed directly to:
Darci Connor Maresca
Rob DeConto

Please feel free to contact Darci or Rob if you have questions or need additional information.