Research Opportunity for UMD Faculty: Call for Workshop Proposals

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Nov 01, 2013

A University of Maryland campus-wide initiative to inspire novel interdisciplinary research collaborations at the intersection of social and environmental issues


The National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)—a center funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF) through a grant to the University of Maryland (UMD)—in conjunction with the UMD Office of the Provost, the Division of Research, and the deans of multiple colleges (CMNS, AGNR, BSOS, ARHU, ENGR, and JOUR) seeks short proposals for innovative interdisciplinary workshops that bring together scholars from diverse disciplines to focus on topics relevant to finding solutions to socio-environmental problems. The goals of this opportunity are to:

  • enhance interdisciplinary research collaborations within and beyond the UMD campus;
  • foster a sense of campus community; and
  • demonstrate international leadership in environmental sustainability research.

Environmental problems are inherently social problems—they emerge from tightly coupled social and biophysical processes. From local to global scales, humans are changing the environment, and in turn affecting human well-being. As the recent Belmont Challenge emphasized, some variables on which humans depend (climate, freshwater, biodiversity, etc.) are being pushed outside the stable boundaries that they have exhibited for thousands of years. Understanding the tight feedbacks between environmental change and human behaviors, decisions, and well-being remains one of the grand research challenges of our time. Such understanding is urgently needed as societies grapple with making decisions about and trade-offs between different options for managing socio-environmental systems and associated risks.

The lack of progress in understanding the complexity of interactions within coupled human-natural systems is largely due to the traditional separation of the natural and social sciences and humanities.

UMD has world-class scholars in the natural and social sciences, humanities, engineering, and computational fields who work on topics pivotal to the solutions of socio-environmental problems. Collaborations across disciplines are not new to College Park, but are far less common than ideal. This call for proposals provides opportunities for novel and transdisciplinary UMD teams to identify and explore cutting-edge research topics focused on the basic understanding of the environment and human society as interconnected systems.


A team of tenure-track UMD faculty can submit a proposal for a workshop.

  • The workshop must be led by two or more UMD faculty representing 1) the natural, engineering, or computational sciences AND 2) the social sciences or humanities.
  • At least half of the workshop participants must be from the UMD community.
  • Workshop topics must focus on some fundamental research problem or question that deals with the structure, dynamics, or sustainability of coupled human and natural systems.
  • Workshops should include no more than 15 participants since they are meant to be highly interactive, stimulate future collaborations, and yield tangible outcomes.
  • Workshops will begin with a talk by one of the leads or an invited outside speaker introducing the topic and challenges; this talk will be open to a broader scholarly community on campus.
  • Workshops will typically be 1–3 days in duration.
  • The workshop should result in the production of a peer-reviewed synthesis publication or submission of a competitive proposal to an extramural program.

As with all SESYNC projects, the Center covers travel and accommodations for participants in accordance with our policies and logistical support for the workshop, including facilitation and/or computational support, as needed.

We expect that some of the workshops will result in the development of further activities at SESYNC including synthesis projects, support for postdoctoral fellows, and graduate students affiliated with relevant faculty.

Suitable Workshop Areas

These topics are provided simply to highlight the breadth of areas that might be explored; workshops are expected to be much more focused in order to address specific questions that lead to tangible outcomes.

Example areas include, but are not limited, to:

  • Urban socio-environmental sustainability
  • Globalization, environmental change, and the transmission of disease
  • Development and social adoption of environmentally-sustainable energy production
  • Water scarcity and environmental sustainability
  • Food security and biodiversity
  • International trade and invasive species
  • Conservation planning and governance structures
  • Embedded sensor networks and environmental change
Components of a Workshop Application

Include the following using single spacing, 12-pt type fonts, and 1-inch margins:

Cover sheet (1 page)

  • Descriptive title of proposed workshop
  • Short title (25 characters max)
  • Name and contact information for two or more workshop leaders
  • Project summary (250 words): appropriate for the public; will be posted on the SESYNC and UMD websites
  • Keywords (up to five keywords different from those used in the title)
  • Proposed start and end dates; duration of meeting

Main body (4 pages max including references)

  • Description of the proposed workshop topic, why it is important to advancing in socio-environmental synthesis research, and its novelty or urgency.
  • How the workshop will capitalize on UMD’s community scholars in new ways to advance interdisciplinary collaboration and the development of insights pertinent to problem solving around socio-environmental issues.
  • Description of the targeted outcomes of the workshop (e.g., papers, grant proposal or potentially policy-directed efforts, databases, models, etc.).

Potential Participants (1 page)

  • Include a table with four columns, as follows: first column, names; second column, affiliations (including departments); third column, areas of expertise most relevant for the proposed project; fourth column, indicate those that are confirmed attendees.
  • Diversity statement: Include a paragraph describing 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.

Other Information (1 page)

If applicable, briefly describe any anticipated needs for cyberinfrastructure (CI) support. This 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; data aggregation or fusion required; and types of visualization. Applicants should review SESYNC's IT and data sharing 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 these documents.

Short CV of the Workshop Leaders (2 pages for each)

Do not include talks, society memberships, or papers in preparation.

Application & Submission Process

Applications will be accepted in digital format only, with all elements combined into a single PDF file.

Applications must be submitted online at by November 1, 2013, 5 p.m. Eastern Standard Time (EST).

Review Process

Review of applications will begin November 1, 2013.

All applications will be reviewed by a committee comprised of representatives of SESYNC, the Division of Research, and the participating colleges.

Contact for More Information

Dr. Margaret A. Palmer
Executive Director

Dr. Jonathan G. Kramer
Director for Interdisciplinary Science

The University of Maryland is an Equal Opportunity Employer

Minorities and Women Are Encouraged to Apply

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