Postdoctoral Socio-Environmental Immersion Program 2016

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Dec 07, 2015


Please note: late applications will not be accepted.

Pre-screening application deadline: October 26, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

Collaborating Mentor application deadline for Mentor Registry: October 26, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Applicant-recruited Collaborating Mentor applications must be submitted by the Collaborating Mentor selection and commitment deadline.

Collaborating Mentor selection and commitment deadline: November 16, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Fellowship application deadline: December 7, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). (Link will be provided to successfully prescreened applicants.)


The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), located in Annapolis, Maryland, invites applications for two-year postdoctoral fellowships that begin August 1, 2016.

The Postdoctoral Socio-Environmental Immersion Program will bring early-career scholars to SESYNC to:

  • undertake individual synthesis projects,
  • participate in the Socio-Environmental Immersion Program, which immerses scholars in theory foundational to understanding socio-environmental systems, and
  • enhance their collaborative network, computational skills, and understanding of the science–policy nexus.

Fellows will undertake synthesis projects that advance understanding of socio-environmental systems. We encourage proposed projects that are interdisciplinary, but we also welcome applications that are primarily focused on a natural or social science discipline.

Applicants should choose a project idea and work with a prospective Collaborating Mentor, who will function as a project mentor, to co-develop the research. Collaborating Mentors may be either from a continually updated list of scholars (provided by SESYNC to successfully pre-screened prospective Fellows) who have expressed previous interest in working with SESYNC postdocs or someone you recruit. SESYNC must approve all potential Collaborating Mentors to ensure they understand the commitment they are making to your progress and success. Applications for Collaborating Mentors to be included in the Mentor Registry are due by October 26, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Collaborating Mentors may be recruited independently and do not need to be included in the Mentor Registry, but applications are still required by the deadline.

Synthesis is a research approach that accelerates knowledge production by distilling or integrating existing data, ideas, theories, and methods to draw more reliable or generalizable conclusions and to reveal novel areas of study. Synthesis often involves merging large and/or heterogeneous data sets from multiple sources, researchers, or fields of inquiry, as well as critical analysis in evaluating arguments and interpreting evidence. It can employ a diverse array of theoretical and methodological approaches (e.g., statistical/mathematical, structured case studies comparison, cultural analytics, scenario studies, game theory, ethnographic studies, organizational theory, simulation/computational modeling, etc.).

A key element of successful postdoctoral fellowship applications will be the identification of specific research questions and how they will be addressed using synthesis methods. Applications should identify the sources and accessibility of existing data and the theoretical and analytical methods to be used. Prospective Fellows should not propose projects that require extensive collection of new data. SESYNC offers substantial computational support and training opportunities for Fellows. Therefore, successful applicants need not have experience in all of the technical aspects of their analyses. Successful applications will also clearly delineate the roles of the Fellow and the Collaborating Mentor in the project.

Fellows have the opportunity to participate in a wealth of Center activities as observers and as active and welcome participants. These include working groups analyzing novel databases and writing papers on areas as diverse as non-native pest risk and globalization, adaptive water governance, macroevolution of ecosystem services, and differing ecological vs. political time scales.

2016 Immersion Program

Unique among environmental postdoctoral programs, a learning component of the new SESYNC postdoctoral program will steep Fellows in theory foundational to understanding socio-environmental systems. The core of this experience is a structured series of collaborative workshops led by visiting scholars but tailored to the postdoctoral experience. In 2015, these scholars came from ecology, economics, anthropology, and sociology.

Whether you consider yourself a natural scientist, a social scientist, or an interdisciplinary environmental scientist, the SESYNC Postdoctoral Socio-Environmental Immersion Program provides the freedom and support to do cutting-edge synthesis research while increasing your capacity to collaborate across disciplinary divides. It provides opportunities to help you chart your own academic and professional path in a vibrant environment focused on actionable science for a more sustainable future.

Preliminary Screening

Interested applicants must first submit a pre-screening application. If the applicant meets the requirements below, and their background and interests are an appropriate match for SESYNC, they will then receive the list of SESYNC Collaborating Mentors.

To be eligible for the fellowship, prospective Fellows must have received their PhD in an appropriate discipline within the past five years: no earlier than June 15, 2011, and no later than July 1, 2016. If the applicant has not received their PhD at the time they submit their application, a letter from their graduate advisor or a committee member must also be submitted during the screening process and with the final application. The letter should verify expectations for date of degree completion. Candidates who are offered a fellowship but do not complete their PhD by July 1, 2016, will have to reapply.

Pre-screening applications are due October 26, 2015, 5 p.m. Daylight Standard Time (EDT) but will be accepted on a rolling basis before then. The final version of the Collaborating Mentor registry will be made available by October 30, 2015.


Upon receiving the link to the SESYNC Registry of Collaborating Mentors, successfully pre-screened applicants should initiate contact with potential Mentors with whom they might be interested in co-developing a synthesis research project. The Mentor Registry will include preliminary project ideas, short bios, and contact information.

If the prospective Fellow and Collaborating Mentors mutually agree to co-develop a proposal for this fellowship, the prospective Fellow should take the lead in writing and developing the proposal.

Prospective Fellows are also invited to recruit their own Collaborating Mentors. However, all potential collaborators must submit an application to formally assume this role. The Collaborating Mentor cannot be the prospective Fellow's PhD advisor, PhD mentor, current postdoc advisor (if relevant), or past collaborator or mentor. Applications for Collaborating Mentors are due by the deadline for selecting Collaborating Mentors: November 16, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Final proposals must be submitted via an online webform provided only to prospective Fellows who have been successfully pre-screened. Required components of the application are described below. Fellowship applications are due by December 7, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Selection Criteria

Postdoctoral applications will be evaluated by the following criteria:

  • Explanation of how the proposed research will advance understanding of socio-environmental systems.
  • Novelty, creativity, and/or urgency of proposed activities.
  • Feasibility of producing meaningful synthetic research within a two-year time frame, including identifying and showing ability to access appropriate data and methods.
  • Applicant qualifications and experience.
  • Clear delineation of the value of the collaboration and the respective roles for the Fellow and Collaboratoring Mentor in the project.
  • Potential to contribute to and benefit from other research activities at the Center.
  • Explanation of interest in interdisciplinary and/or transdisciplinary research.

If invited, candidates must be available for Skype interviews on February 25 and 26, 2016, and for in-person interviews at SESYNC on March 23 and 24, 2016.


Appointments will be through the University of Maryland, and fellowship awardees must be based full-time at SESYNC’s facilities in Annapolis, Maryland. Depending on their research interests, Fellows may have the opportunity to spend part of their time at the offices of our partner organization, Resources for the Future, located in Washington, D.C.

The SESYNC postdoctoral fellowship provides an annual stipend, full University of Maryland employee benefits, and a small annual travel allowance to attend meetings or to meet with collaborators.

Postdoctoral fellowships are awarded for a maximum of two years and include structured mentoring programs, facilitated access to policy makers, and opportunities to participate in ongoing Center activities.

SESYNC Collaboratoring Mentors will also receive support to travel to SESYNC to work with the Fellow.


Pre-screening application deadline: October 26, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT).

Collaborating Mentor application deadline for Mentor Registry: October 26, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time (EDT). Applicant-recruited Collaborating Mentor applications must be submitted by the Collaborator selection and commitment deadline.

Collaborating Mentor selection and commitment deadline: November 16, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Fellowship application deadline: December 7, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST). (Link will be provided to successfully prescreened applicants.)

Components of an Application

Include the following as a single PDF, using single spacing, 12-pt type fonts, and 1-inch margins. Applications that do not submit the correct components will not be sent for review. Applications, as well as reference letters and Collaborating Mentor letter, must be received by SESYNC by December 7, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

[1] Cover Sheet (1 page)

  • Descriptive title (“SESYNC Postdoc: ….”)
  • Short title (25 characters max)
  • Name and contact information
  • Date of PhD defense: If the defense has not yet occurred, applicants need a letter from their graduate advisor or committee member verifying the expected data of completion. Candidates who are not expected to complete their PhD by July 1, 2015, will be removed from competition.
  • SESYNC Research Collaborator name, title, and affiliation
  • Project summary (250 words), appropriate for the public and to be posted on the SESYNC website
  • Keywords (up to 5 keywords different from those used in the title)
  • Potential conflicts of interest with members of the SESYNC Scientific Review Committee or Leadership Team (A conflict of interest will not disadvantage your application. Rather, we need this information to follow proper review protocol.)

[2] Research Proposal (5 pages max, including references)

  • Problem statement: Clear and concise statement of the project goals including specific research questions and how the project will advance understanding of socio-environmental systems
  • Methods to be used for the synthesis project
  • Description of prospective Fellow’s and Research Collaborator’s respective roles in the project and plans for maintaining communication throughout the project

[3] Status of Synthesis Material (1 page max)

  • Type of material (datasets, models, case studies, theories, etc.)
  • Location and accessibility of material

[4] Anticipated Cyberinfrastructure Needs (1 page max)

If applicable, briefly describe any anticipated needs for cyberinfrastructure support. This information should include descriptions of data sets to be used during this project; new data sets or software/databases to be developed; high performance computing needs; required data aggregation or fusion; and visualization software needs. Applicants should review SESYNC's Cyberinfrastructure Support Information & Policies and are encouraged to contact SESYNC cyberinfrastructure staff prior to submission if the project’s needs are beyond the scope of services outlined in these documents.

[5] Interdisciplinary Goals (~1/2 page)

In a paragraph of 200 words max, describe one or two topics and/or methods outside your area of expertise about which you would like to deepen your knowledge. One of SESYNC’s strengths is its diverse interdisciplinary culture, which provides many opportunities for such growth. For example, an ecologist proposing a project on nutrient dynamics in marine reserves could learn social network theory and techniques to illuminate relationships among people using reserves. Past and current postdocs have learned about development economics, agent-based modeling, and data visualization techniques, to name a few.

[6] Full CV of the Applicant

Include names and contact information for two references. Only two will be included in your application file. If more than two are sent, we will include the first two received.

Letters of Recommendation & Commitment

Please arrange for each reference to provide a letter of recommendation regarding your:

  • background,
  • ability to carry out the independent research as proposed, and
  • ability to engage in collaborative research as part of the SESYNC community.

These letters should be submitted directly by the recommender, separately from your application, via email to:

Please also arrange for a letter of commitment from your SESYNC Collaborating Mentor describing their view of their role and commitment as mentor and collaborator. These letters should be submitted directly by the Collaborator via email to:

All letters of recommendation must be submitted by the application deadline of December 7, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Application & Submission Process

Access to the approved list of Collaborating Mentors and the URL for the application webform will be emailed to all successfully pre-screened applicants.

Applications must be submitted as a single PDF file with all sections in the following order:

  1. Cover Sheet
  2. Research Proposal
  3. Status of Synthesis Material
  4. Anticipated Cyberinfrastructure Needs
  5. Interdisciplinary Goals
  6. Full CV of the Applicant

International applicants should review visa requirements before applying.

The deadline for applications for fellowships beginning August 1, 2016, is December 7, 2015, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).


Please contact SESYNC at:

The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer
Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply

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