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Frequently Asked Questions

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What is socio-environmental synthesis?
Socio-environmental synthesis generates useful new insights about the world’s most challenging environmental problems by combining diverse forms of knowledge in creative ways. Focusing on the complex interaction of humans and the natural environment, such synthesis opens up new ways of thinking about a particular problem, generating discoveries and solutions.

What is actionable science?
Actionable science is science that is relevant and/or applicable to government, business, and non-governmental organizational (NGO) audiences, and, in its broadest sense, can inform a larger, interested public. It is scholarship with the potential to inform decisions within government, business, and households; improve the design or implementation of public policies; influence public or private sector strategies; and inform planning and behaviors that affect the environment.

What are the current projects at the center?
A complete list of current projects at SESYNC can be found here.

Can SESYNC help with a local problem in my community or region?
No. SESYNC’s mission is to support research into and develop solutions for problems that are global in scope or affect a large percentage of the earth’s system. Therefore, we are not able to provide funds or staff to investigate or ameliorate issues that are particular to a local community.

Where does SESYNC’s funding come from?
SESYNC is funded through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and the University of Maryland. The University of Maryland provides operational and financial support for the center.

Does SESYNC advocate for policy changes?
No. SESYNC supports actionable science that has the potential to inform policy. Although we work to educate policy makers about important findings and their potential implications, we do not advocate or lobby for policy changes.

Where is SESYNC located?
SESYNC is located in Annapolis, Maryland, a thriving waterfront community conveniently located near Baltimore, Maryland, and Washington, DC.

Prospective Applicants

What are SESYNC’s current funding opportunities?
SESYNC’s current funding opportunities are available here.

How do I apply?
Principal Investigators (PIs) are may apply for SESYNC funding opportunities through the Center’s online submission system.

What types of projects does SESYNC fund?
SESYNC supports several programs that include funding for working groups focused around specific Themes or Ventures, postdoctoral and sabbatical fellows, workshops, short courses, and visiting fellows. Learn more about our programs here.

What doesn’t SESYNC fund?
SESYNC does not fund projects that are not directly linked to SESYNC’s mission. Likewise, SESYNC does not fund activities that are best suited for funding by another entity. SESYNC also does not fund the collection of new empirical data that requires field work, surveys, or assessments at sites other than SESYNC. The Center does not fund projects requesting overhead or funds for use by the investigator at the investigator's home institution.

How are proposals selected for support?
Proposals for support submitted under the Themes, Ventures, and Workshops programs are reviewed by an external panel of experts in SESYNC’s Scientific Review Committee (SRC). SESYNC’s External Advisory Board may also review and comment on applications. Criteria used for proposal evaluation differs slightly for each program, but all have the following in common:

  • A focus on fundamental research questions
  • Creativity and urgency of proposed activities
  • Feasibility
  • Qualifications, diversity of scientific backgrounds, and experience of proposed participants
  • Potential to contribute to actionable science
  • Participation of underrepresented groups with respect to gender, ethnicity, disability, and geographic location

Fellowship applications are reviewed by the Center’s Leadership team. The above criteria, which apply to the constitution of teams, are not relevant to Fellowship applications.

Please refer to the submission guidelines regarding respective programs for complete information.

What type of costs does SESYNC cover?
SESYNC provides travel support for participants of SESYNC programs such as Pursuits, Ventures, and Workshops. This support includes transportation, accommodations, and meals.

Will SESYNC pay a portion of my salary?
SESYNC does not provide salary support for its projects. However, salary support is provided for the Center’s sabbatical and postdoctoral fellowships.

What types of non-financial support does SESYNC provide to supported projects?
SESYNC offers state-of-the-art computational support and experienced technical consulting to all supported projects. Please refer to the Project Kick-off section for details on these services.

What computational resources are available?
The cyberinfrastructure (CI) program at SESYNC exists to: support the hardware, software, and data needs of the Center and its supported research; to enhance onsite and remote collaboration; and to facilitate the provision of technical resources needed to produce actionable science.

The CI team has instituted and will continue to refine a process for ongoing engagement with supported project teams. This engagement begins soon after award notification, and aims to have cyber resources in place and ready for use well ahead of each team’s first visit to SESYNC.

The following resources compose the core of our computational resources:

  • community.sesync.org
    SESYNC’s project collaboration platform, integrated with data storage.
  • Virtual Computing Resources
    Remote access to virtual computing resources that run an array of preconfigured software, including various GIS toolkits, computational packages, and database services.
  • Storage Services
    Access to a dedicated, remotely accessible storage pool integrated with the virtual computing resources.
  • Advanced Conferencing and Multimedia Support
    Onsite live video streaming and event recording, as well as web and telephone conferencing to support large groups with a mix of onsite and remote participants.
  • Software Development Environment
    An array of utilities to assist in project management.

In addition, IT staff members are available to assist and advise on database development, data analysis and visualization, GIS, and other technical aspects of project work.

Please refer to the Data & IT support policy document for further details. SESYNC encourages prospective applicants to contact the Center’s IT staff prior to proposal submission to discuss advanced cyber needs.

Leads & participants in currently funded projects

I’m the project lead. How do I schedule my group’s meeting?
Meetings are scheduled through the receipt of a group’s Meeting Planner. We recommend that PIs select two date options for meetings, as multiple groups will be looking to book meeting dates. SESYNC’s travel coordinator will review available dates with PIs to facilitate the scheduling process.

Do our meetings need to be held at SESYNC?
Yes, meetings for SESYNC-funded projects must be held at SESYNC headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland.

How can I access my group’s cyber resources?
All SESYNC cyber resources may be accessed online though links found on each project’s website within the project collaboration platform.

How do I book my travel?
Once a meeting has been scheduled, participants will receive a copy of SESYNC’s travel policies and a participant travel worksheet. The worksheet must be completed prior to booking any transportation or accommodation needs. After the worksheet has been submitted, participants may contact Globetrotter, SESYNC’s travel agent, to complete transportation needs. SESYNC will reserve accommodations in one of its contracted hotels.

How do I get my travel expenses reimbursed?
All PIs are provided with expense reimbursement forms during their meeting at SESYNC. The completed form, along with accompanying receipts, must be returned to SESYNC’s travel coordinator for processing. A full explanation of this process is found in our travel policies.

How do I acknowledge SESYNC support for my project?
Any resources or outcomes that result from your funded project must include the following language as an acknowledgement: “This work was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation DBI-1052875."