Propose a Pursuit

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This call is not currently accepting applications. 

The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) invites proposals for collaborative team-based synthesis research (Pursuits) under the following three Themes:

We recognize that there are many potential projects with great applicability to socio-environmental problems that fall outside of these three Themes. Accordingly, SESYNC offers a limited number of opportunities for exciting and creative Pursuits that are not explicitly tied to a Theme (i.e., “socio-environmental problem-focused”). SESYNC continues to be interested in research that involves advancing S-E systems modeling, the ecological and social implications of new gene editing capabilities, and projects that focus on data and methodologies consistent with national accounting principles that synthesize both environmental and social data to construct accounts.

Researchers are encouraged to develop research questions and methods for results that can be applicable across multiple places and scales and have the potential to inform decision makers. We are particularly interested in novel, actionable synthesis efforts that employ synthesis methodologies in new ways. Projects that can bring together quantitative and qualitative data and knowledge are of special interest.

Teams should be comprised of ~15 members who will meet at our Center in Annapolis for three to four meetings of approximately three to five days over a period of two years. The composition and number of participants in a Pursuit will vary depending upon the nature of the research problem and the expertise needed to address it. Teams should be highly interdisciplinary (natural and social scientists), and we encourage the inclusion of individuals from outside of academia (i.e., governmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, the business sector). Projects co-developed by academic researchers and non-academic knowledge users (from the NGO, private, and government sectors) are encouraged. SESYNC places priority on teams whose members have not had extensive prior collaborations with one another.

Data-intensive analysis and/or modeling projects: In rare cases, highly computationally-intensive projects that advance socio-environmental synthesis may be eligible for limited technical support.* The proposed project must clearly demonstrate that need by meeting at least two of the following criteria (in order of importance): 1. Proposed computational work will require highly labor-intensive and iterative development of computational infrastructure (e.g. harmonizing and combining heterogeneous datasets; coding, debugging, and testing simulation models); 2. Proposed computational work requires additional effort and/or expertise beyond what SESYNC can provide; and/or 3. Proposed analysis has significant start-up costs (e.g. data cleaning, cyberinfrastructure set-up).

Proposed project outputs must include one or more publically available and computationally-derived product, such as (but not limited to) original datasets, databases, web tools, and analysis or model code. In order to be considered for additional funding as a computational project, applicants must first contact at least three weeks before the submission deadline to determine project suitability and obtain approval. If you ask for this type of funding without approval, your application will not be considered. (*Eligible support: One-year at 100% or two-years at 50% graduate student research assistant, programmer, or database technician depending on the technical skills required, OR one-year at 75% or two-year at 49% post-doctoral researcher.) 

Participation of underrepresented groups: SESYNC strongly encourages the inclusion of scholars from underrepresented U.S. minorities in all of our programs. Fellowships may be available for qualifying individuals to be in residence at SESYNC for up to one year (two years for postdoctoral fellows) to work on some aspect of the team project. In order to be considered, please email with a description of the proposed fellowship and the role that the fellow would play on the synthesis project.

Proposal Development

We encourage those interested in this RFP to discuss their ideas with SESYNC prior to developing their proposal. Discussions with team leaders can often help determine if an idea is appropriate for SESYNC, as well as how syntheses might be structured to achieve strong interdisciplinary/transdisciplinary outcomes. Please contact to arrange a conversation. We ask that you please include a paragraph and/or concept document about your project even if not fully developed (e.g., your research questions; what kind of socio-environmental data you plan to synthesize; what kind of product you envision). This will help in ascertaining whether or not your proposal aligns with SESYNC’s mission and in putting you in touch with the right person at SESYNC. 

To be most effective, this conversation should occur no later than three weeks prior to submitting a proposal.

Graduate students are not eligible to apply as PIs/team leads for this opportunity, although they may participate on teams. Graduate student-led Pursuits are handled through a separate RFP.

Support Details

Support for Pursuits includes travel, lodging, and meals for participants in accordance with our Travel Policies. All Pursuit meetings are held at our facilities in Annapolis, MD.

SESYNC has significant modeling, data analysis, and database management expertise to guide and support teams that need assistance with the technical aspects of data mining, processing, integration, analysis, visualization, and/or modeling.

Support is also offered for aspects of interdisciplinary team science including meeting design and facilitation of specific sessions and/or meetings as needed.

Proposal Criteria

Pursuit applications will be ranked with regard to the following:

  • suitability to the described Theme;
  • for projects not linked to a given Theme, a focus on an important and timely socio-environmental problem;
  • scientific merit of fundamental research questions (i.e., for projects that focus on a more regional scale or on a limited number of cases, findings should have implications that provide new insights with broad applicability);
  • novelty and creativity in approach or proposed outcomes;
  • feasibility to produce meaningful synthetic research including identifying and showing ability to access appropriate data;
  • potential to contribute to actionable science (e.g., inform decisions at the government, business, and household level; improve the design or implementation of public policies; and/or influence public and/or private sector strategies, planning, and behaviors that affect the environment);
  • qualifications, appropriate diversity of scientific backgrounds (social and natural scientists), and experience of the proposed participants;
  • inclusion of diversity to broaden the participation of groups underrepresented in SESYNC research including scholars from developing countries, and participants from underrespresented U.S. minorities (African Americans, American Indians including Native Alaskans, Hispanics, and Native Pacific Islanders; for more information on such efforts see:; and
  • an explanation of why SESYNC is the most appropriate way to support the activity.

Submission Instructions

What to Include

SESYNC applications are composed of three parts to be submitted via SESYNC's online submission system:

  1. An online form on the submission website,
  2. A proposal in a single PDF, which should be uploaded to the online form, and
  3. A downloadable Excel spreadsheet of potential participants, which should be completed and then uploaded to the online form. 

Proposal Requirements

Include the following in your uploaded PDF using single spacing, 12-pt type fonts, and one-inch margins.

Cover sheet (1 page max)

  • Theme that the Pursuit is responding to, or designate as “Socio-Environmental Problem-Focused” 
  • Descriptive title of proposed Pursuit  (“Pursuit: ….”)
  • Short title (25 characters max)
  • Name and contact information for up to two PIs
  • Project Summary (250 words), appropriate for the public; posted on the SESYNC website
  • Keywords (up to five different from those used in the title)
  • Proposed start and end dates, number and duration of meetings, as well as the estimated number of participants (please note: the earliest start date is November 2018)
  • Potential conflicts of interest with members of the SESYNC External Advisory BoardLeadership Team, Researchers, or Fellows

Main body (five pages max including references)

  • Problem statement: Clear and concise statement of the synthesis project to be undertaken and how it relates to the Theme (or “Socio-Environmental Problem”), including its direct or indirect contributions to complex socio-environmental systems. As appropriate, specify the novelty and creativity of the proposal.
  • Conceptual framework: Graphical and/or textual formats may be used to show how the synthesis approach and various components of the work are linked together to address the problem of interest.
  • Proposed activities: Brief description of the proposed synthesis activities and why they are appropriate for support by SESYNC as opposed to another funding program such as NSF's core programs.
  • Data: Description of intended data and any permissions needed for their use. If possible, please list the actual datasets that will be used to initiate the synthesis effort. Data access extends beyond identification of data sources to include a description of data accessibility, permissions, structure, format, and storage requirements. Proposals that do not provide detailed information on the data will not be reviewed. SESYNC supports socio-environmental synthesis research projects that aggregate and integrate, but do not collect, primary and secondary data.
    • Please note: SESYNC discourages applications requesting support for literature reviews. That said, we will consider meta-analysis synthesis of concepts, theories, and knowledge within the literature if particularly novel or timely.
  • Metrics of success: Description of which metrics are the most appropriate for evaluating the success of the proposed project, including an explanation of products and how products will help each audience (e.g., papers, policy-directed efforts, databases, models, development of new resources, etc). If successful, who are the non-peer audiences that would most likely use the knowledge or tools developed?

Diversity Statement (one page max)

Please describe the aspects of diversity in your participant list. Diversity is considered in all its aspects, social and scientific, including gender, ethnicity, scientific field, disability status, career stage, geography and type of home institution.

  • In the first paragraph, please describe diversity of backgrounds (social and natural scientists), experience of participants, gender, career stage, persons of disabilities, and country of origin.
  • In the second paragraph, please describe the diversity of participants with respect to groups underrepresented in SESYNC research including scholars from developing countries, and participants from underrepresented U.S. minorities (African Americans, American Indians including Native Alaskans, Hispanics, and Native Pacific Islanders). 

Other Information (one page max)

  • Briefly describe any anticipated needs for cyberinfrastructure (CI) support and any new data sets or software expected to result from the project. Applicants should review SESYNC's Cyberinfrastructure Support Information to familiarize themselves with the types of CI support SESYNC can provide and expectations regarding release of software and data upon project completion. Examples of supported CI needs include but are not limited to large data storage with collaborative access; assistance with database development, collaborative code development, and tool integration; use of SESYNC’s schedule cluster for large analyses; and advising/consulting on geospatial data processing and visualization. Applicants are encouraged to discuss their proposed project with prior to submission if the project’s CI needs are significant in scope.
  • Work plan including: 1. numbers of trips by year to SESYNC (broken down by number of US domestic and international participants), and 2. days of local support. SESYNC provides neither honoraria nor stipends for participants unless they are in residence as a visiting scientist for two months or longer.
  • PIs are encouraged to discuss with SESYNC other support services available at the Center. 

Short CV of the Pursuit (Proposal) Leaders (two pages max for each)

Please ONLY include the CVs of the Proposal Leaders, two pages maximum for each. Do not include talks, society memberships, or papers in preparation.

Current and Pending Support (one page for each PI/Proposal Leader)

Please list current, pending support and the relationship to the proposed work at SESYNC. In addition, please list proposals that you anticipate will be submitted during the period of this project that are substantively related to the synthesis effort. 

Potential Participants

Please download the Excel spreadsheet provided and complete the template using the column headers listed below for all participants. This should be uploaded separately from your PDF proposal to the online form. SESYNC places priority on teams whose members have not had extensive prior collaborations with one another. It is important to note that SESYNC strongly prefers that at least 50% of the listed participants are new collaborations. In addition, a substantive number of individuals on your list should be confirmed for participation. Proposals with no confirmed participants are seen as less competitive. 

  • Last Name
  • First Name
  • Affiliation (include department)
  • Website address
  • Primary Area of Expertise
  • Secondary Area of Expertise
  • Confirmed (Y/N)
  • Prior Collaboration with Pursuit (Proposal) Leaders (Y/N)
    • If yes, provide a very brief description of the nature and duration of prior collaboration(s).

We ask that you download and complete this spreadsheet, and then upload it separately to the online form once you are ready to submit your full application.  


Proposals must be uploaded to SESYNC’s online submission system by October 22, 2018, at 5pm Eastern Time (ET).



The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply

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