Apply to the 2022 Sustainability Seed Grant Program

Sparking Innovation & Transformative Sustainability Research Collaborations

Deadline: Thursday, June 9, 2022 (11:59 PM)

The School of Earth & Sustainability (SES) is pleased to announce seed funding to advance inter- and transdisciplinary sustainability research that can help eradicate inequity, enhance environmental and social justice, and build a more resilient future. The SES mission is to provide sound research outcomes that inform our collective future; and 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. We seek proposals that align with our mission.

SES seed funding is intended to spark new collaborations, research questions, and external proposal submissions. Up to $10,000 is available for each project. Funded projects will have some staff support and assistance in identifying funding sources. Details for the SES Sustainability Seed Grant RFP are provided below or can be found here.

Focus

SES is requesting proposals to spark new sustainability research on campus. The SES research fund was created to promote collaboration and advance meaningful transdisciplinary scholarship. We are seeking innovative, exploratory proposals linking the social and natural sciences, and the natural and built environments in ways that create new knowledge enhancing sustainability and resilience. SES prioritizes projects that explore linkages between environmental and social equity and sustainability. Team composition should be experimental, bringing together diverse perspectives, worldviews, career stages, disciplines, backgrounds, ages, and genders.

Funding

Inter- or transdisciplinary research groups may request seed funding for up to $10,000. The funds are 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. SES seed grant recipients will ideally submit a proposal to an external funding agency, foundation, or another funding source within 12-18 months of receiving SES support.
Proposals 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).

Background

Currently, SES is home to more than 120 faculty across two colleges (Natural Sciences and Social and Behavioral Sciences) and five academic departments (Environmental Conservation, Geosciences, Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, Microbiology, and Stockbridge School of Agriculture). Eight areas of excellence link member departments:

  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 areas is interdisciplinary by nature. The strong linkages between the areas represent transdisciplinary and convergent research opportunities - deeply integrating the natural and built environments with the human dimensions of equity, sustainability, and resilience. SES research and graduate training are strategically aligned with the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and issues of national importance. Improving social and environmental equity is central to the SDGs, which include expanding educational opportunities, eradicating poverty, eliminating food and energy insecurity, improving health and general well-being, and building sustainable cities and communities.

Eligibility

All UMass 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 different departments. At least one CI should be from an SES department. Participants additional to the three coordinating investigators can be from any department. The proposed ideas, group makeup, and the number of faculty involved are flexible, but strong interdisciplinarity is required. 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.
  • Engagement of faculty both within and outside of SES.

Selection Process & Timeline

Proposals will be reviewed by the review panel comprised of SES Steering Committee members with guidance from the Office of Research Development.

Important dates for the Sustainability Seed Grant RFP:

  • Deadline: June 9, 2022 (11:59 pm)
  • Proposal decisions announced: End of June 2022

Funds will be available to recipients shortly after they are notified. Projects should commence within six months of award receipt. All funds should be expended by August 31, 2023.

Criteria

Proposals will be funded based on their perceived potential to lead to transdisciplinary research in the broad areas of equity, sustainability, and resilience. Potential applicants are encouraged to explore and connect their proposal to 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 and the UN sustainable development goals.
  • Include a highly diverse team representing multiple departments, colleges, and areas of expertise.
  • Articulate how the proposed research is distinct from existing work, how it is inter- or transdisciplinary, and how the team will integrate their research.

Proposal Format

Proposals should be no longer than five pages, but not including team CVs, using a font no smaller than 11 pt. Figures are not required. Proposals should include the following:

  1. Name of Seed Grant Project.
  2. Team list. A) Provide a list of all collaborators, including titles and affiliations. Identify the lead coordinating investigator (CI) and at least two other co-CIs, ideally from different departments or demonstrating strong interdisciplinarity. If this is a new research collaboration, articulate how the team’s makeup differs from existing partnerships on campus. If team members are already networked or working together, tell us how the proposed work is novel from 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.
  3. Project Description. A brief description of the project, including 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 and UN SDGs while describing the sustainability challenge(s) to be addressed and how the proposed work fills a need in the existing research.
  4. Justification. Explain the importance of the research question(s) and why the team makeup and approach is original, integrative, and relevant to big questions in the field.
  5. Plan of Work. Include a timeline and approach. 
  6. Budget. Identify the total funding requested. 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. List any other planned, pending, or received funding for this work. List any additional resources that might be leveraged to support the project.
  7. Extramural Funding. Provide a brief description of how the research launched by the seed grant award will be leveraged for significant external funding. Include any known information on the potential source(s).  Identify key search words to be used for a grant funding scan.

The appendix will include short format (2-page) CVs or biosketches for the CI and co-CIs.

Submission Instructions

Proposals must be received no later than 11:59 PM on Thursday, June 9, 2022.  Submit proposals electronically by emailing Darci Connor Maresca at dmaresca@umass.edu.

Expectations of Funding Recipients

SES will provide support to teams, including but not limited to: organization and coordination, website visibility, assistance with off-campus grant proposals, and communications materials and support. We expect teams to stay connected and engaged with SES during the funding cycle.

Recipients must submit an annual report and final report.  Any promotion of research, including publications, conference presentations, and posters need to acknowledge the UMass School of Earth & Sustainability sponsorship.  Ideally, an off-campus grant proposal will be submitted within 12-18 months of receiving the seed funds.  SES should be notified of any grant proposal submitted or awarded external funding that leverages work funded by the SES seed grant program.

More Information

Learn about previous projects funded by the SES Seed Grant Program, by clicking here.

Please feel free to contact Darci or Rob if you have questions or need additional information.
Darci Connor Maresca dmaresca@umass.edu
Rob DeConto  deconto@geo.umass.edu