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The Environmental Collaboratory Inaugural Pilot Research Grants

February 25, 2022

The Environmental Collaboratory (TEC) was conceived to create a platform to align the core functions of higher education—teaching and research—with a community-driven and justice-centered approach to climate and environment problem solving. The fundamental need for this work was brought into sharper focus nationally during the summer 2020 uprisings for racial justice, which took place against a backdrop of a global pandemic and intensifying climate disruptions. These events laid bare the urgency of work towards processes for racial justice, equitable infrastructure investments, and a transition to a clean energy economy.

TEC facilitates environmentally just solutions that work on the ground. It aims to transform the historic asymmetric power dynamics of environmental challenges by facilitating co-designed transdisciplinary solutions within authentic partnerships with community leaders, nonprofits organizations, corporations, and government agencies—locally, nationally, and globally. To realize this vision, TEC seeks to support research, education, civic engagement, and public programming in collaboration with faculty, students, and professional staff in colleges, schools, and offices across Drexel University. TEC is especially interested in a broadly defined and inclusive approach to inquiry focusing on climate change, environmental justice, and human wellbeing that welcomes faculty and students from across the university. The solutions to address todays’ challenges in the private and public sectors requires new models and innovative approaches to often disparate fields, including but not limited to, finance, entrepreneurship, engineering, business, law, policy, public health, medicine, data, information technology, history, the creative arts, infrastructure design and management, and civil and human rights.

In support of The Environmental Collaboratory, the Office of Research and Innovation, with generous contributions from College of Engineering and the Academy of Natural Sciences, is launching inaugural pilot research grants that ground innovative approaches and transdisciplinary research—co-designed and co-implemented with external stakeholders—that develop near-term ways to address urgent circumstances on-the-ground. Lessons from funded projects, including principles and processes of co-designing research with external partners, are intended to inform the design and implementation of TEC. 

Objectives for this Funding:

TEC seeks to use these grants to showcase expertise from across the university to forge cross discipline innovation emerging from new collaborations and contribute to the early foundation of TEC, while informing its implementation and processes. The research, broadly defined to be inclusive of all disciplines, should advance a subset of the objectives below, depending on the nature and design of the work. 

  • To support transdisciplinary research and creative expression by multidisciplinary teams that engages Drexel’s faculty and students in partnerships to address complex community-level issues related to climate and environment. 
  • To support research and creative activity that has the potential to generate both impactful short-term outcomes and sustained research partnerships.  
  • To cultivate a cohort of faculty, student, staff, and external partner investigators who can help ground TEC’s commitment to generating knowledge that is implementable, repeatable, scalable, or generalizable. 
  • To catalyze potentially transformational solutions through, for example: 
    • developing novel data sets and/or tools 
    • generation of shared knowledge  
    • piloting/testing transparent and equitable models of mutually beneficial engagement. 

TEC’s Priorities:

As the implementation of The Environmental Collaboratory commences, with extensive input from Drexel’s faculty, students and staff, these priorities will guide its research, education, civic engagement, and public programming.

  • Supporting multidisciplinary teams that combine faculty, professional staff, external practitioners, and community partners.  
  • Supporting innovative transdisciplinary inquiry that can be challenging to fund. 
  • Supporting compensated research opportunities for undergraduate students where possible. 
  • Outcomes or deliverables that elevate community-identified priorities and environmental justice concerns, and which lay the groundwork for follow-on implementation, including potential subsequent funding. 
  • Outcomes or deliverables that identify needed transformations in policy, planning, economy, social arrangements, and/or design. 
  • Research methods that incorporate authentic co-design and implementation with external partners. 
  • Research partnerships that demonstrate a thoughtful engagement process designed to enhance external partners’ capacity. 
  • Support for research areas and questions that are underfunded. 
  • Support for faculty members who have not previously received internal funding. 

Requirements for Awarded Funds:

  • Principal Investigator should be a Drexel faculty member. Each proposal must have at least one co-investigator. Co-investigators may be other Drexel faculty or professional staff, external practitioners, or community partners. Drexel personnel should represent perspectives from different disciplines. 
  • Awardees are expected to participate in a quarterly discussion with TEC staff to reflect on the progress of their projects as it relates to the design and implementation of TEC and as a guide for its partnership practices. In addition, a 6-, 12-, and 18-month progress report on outputs and outcomes, as well as a final report will be generated via a provided template. 
  • Funds must be expended within 2 years of award. 
  • Funds for summer salary or faculty buy-outs for course relief, with departmental and dean approval, should not exceed 50% of the proposed budget. 

Total funds available: $100,000

Project Awards: 

  • Awards up to $10,000 and $20,000
  • Award announcements begin May 9, 2022

A second round of funding for The Environmental Collaboratory Pilot Research Funding will be available in 2023. Awarded projects that can demonstrate the need for additional funds will be eligible to apply for additional funding based on availability.

Information Sessions:

Attend an optional pre-proposal information session on March 3rd at 3pm, March 7th at 10am, or March 9th at 12noon to ask any clarifying questions about this RFP and to hear more about TEC’s goals for this funding opportunity.

Registration is required to attend. Please register no later than Wednesday, March 2, 2022 to receive the meeting invite.

How to apply for Research funds?

Attend an optional pre-proposal information session on March 3rd, 7th, and 9th to hear more about TEC’s goals for this funding opportunity.

Submit a proposal via the Drexel University Funding Portal no later than April 8, 2022. Proposals should include the following sections, and sections 1 through 5 should not exceed three pages: 

  1. Research/Scholarly Activity team (faculty members/professional staff) 
  2. Participation of external partners, if any (practitioners/community members/community-based organizations)  
  3. Project description 
    1. Introduction/rationale 
    2. Relevant experience working with project partners
    3. Potential impact
    4. Innovation
    5. Approach
  4. A timetable showing activities and anticipated deliverables, including those that will be pursued beyond the funding period. 
  5. Budget and budget justification 
  6. Biosketch/CV for all Drexel-based project team members 
  7. Letter of support from department/unit head(s) 

Questions? Email: