Skip to main content


Research Communities

What is a research community?

Humanity is already feeling the consequences of current environmental crises such as biodiversity loss and climate change. There is an imperative to develop coordinated, innovative, impactful, and inclusive solutions to these broad and complex problems. In response to this urgent and growing need, the Environmental Innovations Initiative awards seed grants for up to $25,000 each. A research community is led by faculty and includes collaborators across disciplines, all engaged in the study of a common theme of broad environmental significance. Collaborators may include fellow faculty, students, staff members, and/or external partners.

This one-year opportunity, renewable for up to three years, encourages applicants to actively integrate various disciplines in research as well as dissemination, which may take the form of publications, workshops, or events. Projects can have a local, regional, national, or global focus, promoting diverse collaborations for impactful outcomes.

The tracks for this opportunity are: 

  • Stewardship of Nature

    Key Concepts: preservation, restoration, valuation, habitat, biodiversity, ecology, nature-based solutions

  • Climate Action

Key Concepts: decarbonization, mitigation, adaptation, sequestration, migration, science-based targets

  • Societal Resilience

Key Concepts: human health, well-being, justice, ecological health, economic prosperity, responsible consumption/production/waste management, disruption preparedness


Who is eligible to apply?

Applications for research community funding must be faculty-led. In this case, faculty is defined as standing and associated faculty. Visiting faculty and post-docs are encouraged to engage with a standing faculty member to apply.


What are the relevant dates and deadlines for the 2024 Call for Proposals?

  • March 15, 2024: Applications due 
  • April 5, 2024: Winners announced


What should be included in the proposal submissions?

Interested faculty members should submit a document (.pdf) of no more than 3 pages (11-point font, 1-inch margins, and include page numbers) that includes: 

  • Project Name. 
  • PI Name and Department / School.
  • Names and Departments / Schools of additional collaborators.
  • Track to which the project most closely connects (Stewardship of Nature, Climate Action, Societal Resilience).
  • Project overview.
  • Key deliverables, including public-facing outcomes.
  • Defined role for student engagement.
  • Metrics for success. 
  • A description of how the Initiative funds would be spent.
  • Timeline for the activities that would be funded by the Initiative (NB: projects may be in-progress and may go beyond the scope of the funding cycle).
  • Any internal or external partners who would be engaged in the project activities.
  • Any group that received research community funding in 2022 should include information on key outcomes from the previous work, how funds were used/ If possible, please attach or explain any deliverables.


How should I submit my proposal?

  • Applications must be submitted via email to by 11:59 p.m. EDT on March 15, 2024. 
  • Funds will be distributed in June 2024 for use in the coming academic year.
  • Priority will be given to applications that integrate a diversity in disciplinary approaches and team membership.
  • Successful applications will involve students in meaningful ways.
  • Winning teams will be featured on the Initiative website and highlighted in related communications.
  • Each community must specify outputs that will result from this funding, including at least one publicly accessible product (op-ed, event, lesson plan for K-12, website, etc.)
  • Feedback will not be provided on proposals that are not selected.


How does a research community differ from a research project?

A research community consists of an interdisciplinary group of faculty, staff, and students engaged in the study of a common theme of broad environmental significance. Successful research communities engage multiple disciplines and have cultural, social, and political dimensions that open the possibility for on-going interdisciplinary engagement.


What are the terms of the funding?

Funding will be given for one year starting in June 2024. Successful projects are welcome to apply for additional funding in subsequent years and will receive funding for no more than three years.


What type of reporting is required if funding is granted?

Research communities recipients must report to the Environmental Innovations Initiative throughout the year of funding. Reporting requirements include: 

  • Two brief progress reports within the funding cycle are due on November 1, 2024, and February 7, 2025. 
  • One final report is due on May 24, 2025. 
  • Progress reports are meant to inform the staff of EII of the impact of the research communities. These updates also increase the work’s visibility via online and social media features. The responses can be brief and informal. Elements to highlight may include key accomplishments, number of students engaged, description of their activities, participating partners, media links and images. 
  • The final report summarizes the research community activities for the entire funding cycle. It should include features on results, expenditures, and key deliverables. The final report should be cumulative and supplied in pdf format to allow for sharing with EII leadership. 


What is a progress report? 

For research communities recipients: progress reporting is meant to inform the Environmental Innovations Initiative of the impact research communities are having throughout the year. These updates also allow the Initiative to add visibility to your work through its website, newsletter, and social media. Your responses can be brief and informal. As to not duplicate processes, any existing project tracking documents are welcome as attachments in lieu of written responses. Elements you may choose to highlight include: 

  • Key accomplishments: Highlight any key deliverables, milestones, or events during the past three months. 
  • Student engagement: Describe how students participated and how many students have been involved. 
  • Partners: Describe any internal or external partners who have been engaged during this period.
  • Media: Share links to media, photos, videos, or news items that have featured the project during this period.
  • Images: we use images of communities in action for our website and social media – we welcome compelling photos and illustrations. 


What is the final report? 

For research communities recipients: a final report is meant to act as a summary of the research community activities for the full year of funding. Final figures on results, expenditures, and key deliverables should be cumulative and supplied in pdf format to allow for sharing with Initiative leadership.

  • Project Name 
  • PI Name and Department / School 
  • Collaborators:  name and affiliation of collaborative who have been engaged in your activities.
  • Student engagement: How the project engaged students in meaningful ways, how many students, from which schools / disciplines. 
  • Metrics for Success: Provide results on all key metrics for success.
  • Budget: Overview of how the Initiative funds have been spent.
  • Summary of activities: Key accomplishments and deliverables for the year. Please include links and files as much as possible. 
  • Media: Share links for any media, photos, videos, or news items that have featured the project during this year.
  • Next steps: please let us know your plans. 
  • Feedback: as the Environmental Innovations Initiative continues to grow and evolve, please share your thoughts for our priorities and how we can continue to advance transdisciplinary collaboration.  


Who has received funding?

Explore the research communities on the Environmental Innovations Initiative website.


I have already been awarded funding through the research community program; can I reapply?

Yes. Funding can be awarded for the same community for up to 3 years. Previous applicants and awardees are also welcomed to apply for new research communities.


Can I participate in more than one research community?

Yes. Members of the Penn community are welcome to participate in more than one research community.


How is student involvement defined? 

The more the merrier. Projects that will directly involve multiple students from a variety of disciplines will be given preference over those with one or two research assistants. 


What constitutes a public-facing outcome?

The baseline for this is a report or event that is open to the public, but preference will be given to projects that are highly visible – in Philadelphia, in the world, in a particular sector or industry. Programming for specific communities outside of Penn also qualifies nicely for this criterion. 


What is meant by multidisciplinary

For the purpose of this program, we encourage collaboration across far disciplines. For example, humanities and STEM or social sciences and medicine.


Will I receive feedback on my proposal?

No. We will not offer feedback on proposals that are not selected.


Will there be opportunities to connect with other communities?

Depending on interest and availability, the Initiative may convene gatherings between groups. There may also be opportunities to collaborate on activities and presentations in the spring.


Can I use this funding as matching funds for a Penn Global grant?

Yes. If your research community has a global scope, you can use the Environmental Innovations Initiative funding as matching funds for Penn Global's Grant Program.


What is the Environmental Innovations Initiative?

Launched in 2020, the University of Pennsylvania Environmental Innovations Initiative is a pan-university program created around a vision of significantly impacting the critical environmental challenges of our time, particularly climate change, biodiversity loss, and human vulnerability. To accomplish this, the Initiative is committed to bringing together scholars, leaders, practitioners, students, and community members around themes of climate action, stewardship of nature, and societal resilience – including equity and inclusion. 

Learn more about the Environmental Innovations Initiative

Have more questions?

Contact us at