Postdoctoral Fellows Program: Team Science: Research on Practices in the Transdisciplinary Environmental Sciences

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Aug 14, 2015

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) located in Annapolis, Maryland, invites applications for a two-year postdoctoral fellowship to begin in 2016. We seek research proposals from applicants using theoretical, computational, and/or empirical approaches from the social sciences and elsewhere to research the practices and processes of interdisciplinary team science when applied to socio-environmental research.

The successful candidate will conduct research to synthesize knowledge of the practices used in transdisciplinary team science and characterize practices with respect to the challenges of integrating social and environmental sciences in the study of socio-environmental systems. In addition to leading independent synthesis research, the postdoctoral fellow will spend a portion of his/her time collaborating with several research teams also synthesizing practices of team science at SESYNC. This combination of independent and collaborative research provides an unusually rich opportunity for the postdoctoral fellow to contribute to the development of the field of transdisciplinary team science in the sphere of socio-environmental challenges.

This postdoctoral fellow will, along with all other SESYNC postdocs, also participate in an innovative “Immersion Program” designed to rapidly boost their understanding of the theoretical contributions from several disciplines to the study of socio-environmental systems.

A key element of the successful proposal will be the identification of specific research questions and how they will be addressed using synthesis methods. In particular, proposals should identify the sources and accessibility of existing data to be used in addition to the theoretical and analytical methods.

Prospective fellows should not propose projects that require extensive collection of new data. Additionally, proposed projects should not rely entirely on material from the applicant’s prior work.

Research questions/topics could come from any of a wide range of disciplines and should advance the effectiveness of team research, as well as the scholarship of this topic. Examples of potentially relevant topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Social science: Development of a standard terminology and structure for describing team science practices in research publications.
  • Social science: What are effective leadership or facilitation practices for transdisciplinary team science in socio-environmental research?
  • Social science/evaluation: How have different team science practices differed in effectiveness and success of outcomes?
  • Social science/education: Develop a curriculum for teaching research integration and implementation practices across graduate/post-graduate socio-environmental science programs.
  • Information science: Can an ontology or thesaurus of key terms used for research integration and implementation in transdisciplinary team science be developed and then used to analyze the practices of team science in the socio-environmental domain?
  • Information science/social science: Computational approaches to analysis of team science practices and effectiveness in socio-environmental contexts.
  • Environmental sciences: How do team research and implementation practices differ among different types of socio-environmental problems? How and why do they differ with practices in medicine, engineering, and other domains?
  • Political science: How do environmental team science research and implementation practices differ among and within diverse types of institutions? What strategies foster effective collaboration among divergent institutions?

Selection Criteria

Proposals will be ranked primarily by the quality and feasibility of the proposed research and the applicant’s potential to contribute to research activities at the center.

In addition, proposals will be ranked with regard to their:

  • 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.
  • Explanation of why SESYNC is the most appropriate way to support the proposed research activities.


Appointments will be through the University of Maryland, and awardees must be based in our facilities in Annapolis, Maryland. The 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 and opportunities to participate in ongoing center activities.

Fellows will have two mentors: a professional mentor at SESYNC and a domain mentor. The domain mentor should be an established scholar with whom the postdoctoral fellow has not previously worked. This mentor will assist in technical and topic-related aspects of the fellowship. After a postdoctoral fellowship has been awarded, the domain mentor may apply to SESYNC independently for travel funds to SESYNC. Note that while we encourage identification of a domain mentor in the proposal, it is not required. We will assist in identifying an appropriate domain mentor following award of the fellowship.


We welcome applications from PhD-level researchers with a history of relevant research and publication.


The deadline for applications is August 14, 2015. Skype interviews will be conducted in the final two weeks of August, and in-person interviews will be during the week of September 14, 2015. The start date for this fellowship will be during the first quarter of 2016.

Components of an Application

Include the following in a single PDF file using single spacing, 12-pt type fonts, and 1-inch margins.

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 occurred, applicants need a letter from their graduate advisor or committee member verifying the expected data of completion.
  • Project Summary (250 words) – Appropriate for the public; will be posted on the SESYNC web site.
  • Keywords (up to 5 keywords different from those used in the title).
  • Potential conflicts of interest with members of the SESYNC External Advisory Board or Leadership.

Research proposal (5 pages max including references)

  • Problem statement – Clear and concise statement of the project goals, including specific research questions and how it will advance socio-environmental synthesis and/or contribute to actionable socio-environmental synthesis science or policy.
  • Methods and data to be used for the project.
  • How the proposed project/activities will make use of SESYNC’s opportunities to enhance the postdoctoral fellow’s career and why SESYNC is the most appropriate place to undertake the work.

Anticipated cyberinfrastructure needs (1 page or less)

If applicable, briefly describe any anticipated needs for cyberinfrastructure (CI) 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 CI Information and Policies and are encouraged to contact SESYNC CI staff prior to submission if the project’s needs are beyond the scope of services outlined in this document.

Full CV of the applicant, including names and contact information for three references

Letters of Recommendation

Please arrange for each reference to provide a letter of recommendation regarding your background, your ability to carry out the independent research as proposed, and your ability to engage in collaborative research as part of SESYNC community. These letters should be submitted separately from your application. All letters of recommendation must be submitted by the application deadline of August 14, 2015, via email to:

Submission Process

Applications must be submitted via the online webform at:

Potential international postdoctoral fellows should review visa requirements before applying.


Please contact Dr. David Hawthorne at:

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

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