Cross-Cutting Initiative Seed Funding Competition 2011-2012

Call for Proposals – Cross-disciplinary Research Grants

Proposals are solicited from the Columbia University faculty and research staff to advance the goals and objectives of the Earth Institute’s Cross-Cutting Initiative (CCI). Under the CCI, scholars from a wide range of fields (e.g. earth, biological, engineering, health, social, and political sciences) join forces to address complex global challenges and possible solutions to the most pressing problems in the field of Sustainable Development. The CCI aims to establish new methods for bridging disciplines and enabling scientists from different fields to address intrinsically cross-disciplinary problems and work towards practical solutions. A website is available which provides information on the CCI and on current and past CCI awards and recipients:

For additional information, contact Erin Kennedy at or 212-854-7071, or Adrian Hill at or 212-854-3871.


These funds are available only to members of the Columbia University community.

-The lead Principal Investigator (PI) must be a full-time research scientist, research scholar or faculty member at Columbia University. There can be up to four co-PIs. There is no limit to the number of project team members.

-An EI Fellow or Columbia postdoctoral research fellow may be the PI of a project as long as a co-PI who is a full-time research scientist, research scholar or faculty member at Columbia University signs an agreement to assume responsibility of the project in case the Fellow leaves Columbia University. If a postdoctoral research fellow wishes to be PI, he/she must indicate in the proposal when the fellowship ends. A fellow may also be a co-PI.

-The project team ideally will be comprised of a mix of senior and junior scientists including Earth Institute Fellows, and may include graduate students. The project team may include collaborators outside the Columbia University community.

-A project that receives funding from the CCI is an Earth Institute project and will remain so regardless of changes in project leadership.

Award Amounts and Project Renewal

A maximum amount of $50,000 will be granted to a single project, except under rare circumstances with approval by the CCI Steering Committee. The typical range of award amounts is between $10,000 and $30,000. A minimum of $10,000 will be awarded to a research projects; proposals for community building and definition of new lines of inquiry through seminar/colloquia-type activities can request for an award under $10,000. Support can be provided for preparation of specific proposals emerging from CCI planning activities.

Project Requirements

-The project should be critical to the mission of the Earth Institute and the proposal should describe how it will address the mission of the Earth Institute.

-The project should be interdisciplinary by seeking new and innovative ways of drawing together faculty and research staff from across academic disciplines, bringing their knowledge, experience and expertise to bear on the task of finding practicable solutions to complex global challenges in line with the CCI goals and objectives (see above). Priority will be given to proposals that address 3 or more of the following nine cross-cutting themes:

--Climate and Society Interactions
--Managing Water Scarcity
--Clean Energy
--Poverty Alleviation
--Ecosystems Health and Monitoring
--Global Environmental Public Health and Global Health Delivery Systems
--Food, Ecology and Nutrition
--Hazards and Risk Reduction

-Intellectual inquiry should be outcome-driven. Examples include creating technologies that improve the quality of life, or using new kinds of science and public policy to have direct impact on individuals.

-The proposed work should feed back to the research within the five clusters of the Earth Institute: Earth Sciences, Biological Sciences, Engineering Sciences, Social Sciences, and Health Sciences.

-Projects may be place-specific, but the overarching theme should address problems that are relevant on a global scale or, in other words, are scalable.

-The project should aim to leave behind a legacy – institution building, external funds to further the research, published papers in peer-reviewed journals, etc., and how the experience gained from this project might be leveraged for external funding in future years. Project PIs will be asked to provide content for web pages that the Earth Institute will develop for each project.


The following criteria will also be taken into consideration by the CCI Steering Committee:

-Creativity of the research
-Information on how the relevance of the research will be conveyed to the public
-Composition of the project team


Proposal Format

The proposal should include the New Project Proposal Coversheet and up to five (5) pages (minimum of size 12 font, 1” margins) covering the remainder of the information about the project. Only the first five pages will be considered if more than five pages are submitted. All proposals must be submitted in Microsoft Word or equivalent (please no PDF files) and the budget must also be in Word format. Appendices are not permitted except one (1) page of references (can be in size 10 font and at the end of the proposal). The proposal should contain the following sections:

Title and Scope of Project.  This section should include the project title and a description of the goals and objectives of the project. An explanation is required of how the project relates to the 6 project requirements (listed above). This section should also address issues of scaling and the possibilities for generalizing and increasing the scope of the project.

Methodology.  This section should layout the basic research plan – what actions are going to be taken in order to reach your goals and objectives, how data will be collected or generated and how the data will be analyzed. This section should include information on design, population and sampling, instrumentation, procedures and timeframe, and analysis plan. Knowledge of alternative methods should be demonstrated and the case made that the proposed approach is the most appropriate and most valid way to address the research question. PIs should provide a letter of support or other documentation to assure that data can be obtained as planned.

Fieldwork Site and Project Client/Project Partners. This section should present the fieldwork site and partners, if identified, and state any background experience of the Project Team working in the proposed locations or with the proposed partners.

Project Timeline. This section should describe the timing of the project plan and anticipated project milestones during the 18 month project period. The Cross Cutting Initiative Steering Committee requests an update 9 months after the start of the project. One 6-month extension may be requested.

Required Equipment and Approvals.  This section should describe any equipment that is to be used and whether new equipment is required for the project. The grant money cannot be used to purchase new computers. Software, if it is vital to the project, can be purchased. This section should also list the approvals necessary for project initiation (e.g. Institutional Review Board, etc.).

Names and Titles of Contributors and their Role in the Project.  This section should present a breakdown of the Project Team, Collaborators, etc. and provide a brief description of what specific activities they will be conducting.

Conflicts of Interest. This section should list any member of the CCI Steering Committee that has a conflict of interest with the proposed project. Members of the Steering Committee are Peter Schlosser (chair), Steve Cohen, Yochanan Kushnir, Klaus Lackner, Upmanu Lall, Art Lerner-Lam, John Mutter, Cheryl Palm, Richard Plunz, Neil Schluger, Madeleine Thomson, Maria Uriarte, and Lex van Geen. For proposals beyond the expertise of Steering Committee members, the Steering Committee may seek advice from additional experts.

Itemized Budget.  This section should contain an itemized budget projected for the seed funding. If this request is part of a larger project, please indicate how the remainder of the funds will be obtained or what portion can be accomplished with the requested amount. The project funding can stretch over more than one year and if that is the case, the budget should include a breakdown by fiscal year (July 1-June 30). Indirect costs should not be included although the charge for fringe/benefits on salaries should be 33.7% for faculty, staff and fellows (does not apply to students). The grant money cannot be used to cover student tuition but can be used for interns, research assistants and work stipends. The grant money can be used to cover faculty time or can provide additional funds to complement existing salaries; this is left to the discretion of the project leader. The CCI Steering Committee recommends that the grant money not be used for senior staff salary and instead be applied to junior staff.



Proposal Submission

Proposals must be received electronically by 12:00 pm, noon, on May 16, 2011, to Late submissions will not be considered.

Award notification will be made by July 1, 2011.


Final Report

A final report is due at the end of the project. The final report form will be provided one month in advance of the deadline but can also be requested from Adrian Hill,