Propose a Collaboratory for Research on Immigration or Science, Technology, and Ethics

New themes for Collaboratory grants.

Deadline: January 24, 2020


Through funds from Together Duke, the Provost has established a funding program to support groups of faculty whose engaged research targets selected societal challenges in alignment with Duke’s strategic priorities. After the first two cycles in which we supported research on the themes of Energy and Water Resources; Race, Religion, and Citizenship; and Population Health, the Provost’s Office has selected two new themes for the 2020 grant competition: Immigration; and Science, Technology, and Ethics.

Duke has the intellectual resources and organizational nimbleness to convene technical, legal, scientific, ethical, cultural, and historical explorations of these issues. By drawing on disciplinary depth, interdisciplinary strengths, and commitment to engagement, we have the capacity to make crucial research contributions in these vital areas and to serve as an important node for convening stakeholders.

Through an open RFP process, we support the development of collaboratories – groups of faculty and students from across the university who work together to address aspects of each challenge.

Collaboratories have three goals. First, they should harness Duke’s existing human capital and institutional capacities to advance understanding of, and provide tangible solutions to, targeted problems. Second, they should provide graduate students with a platform for learning how to engage with societal challenges and how to translate knowledge into action. Third, where appropriate, they should incorporate Together Duke’s focus on earlier, deeper, and more sustained two‐way engagement with external communities and organizations.


As the recent Provost Forum (October 16‐17, 2019) highlighted, processes of mass migration, whether forced or voluntary, are raising difficult issues both here in the United States and across the world.

Societies and governments are wrestling with questions about the status of refugees and asylum seekers, as well as the impact of large numbers of immigrants on local economies, social cohesion, and politics. Amid worsening geopolitical conflicts and an intensifying climate crisis, we can expect even more dramatic movement of human populations across borders in the decades ahead.

How can we best understand the evolving dynamics of immigration and the social and political responses to it? How should policy‐makers weigh humanitarian considerations against assessments of national interest and/or commitment to democratic decision‐making? What insights do immigrant communities offer about these ever more insistent dilemmas?

Science, Technology, and Ethics

We live in a world reshaped ever more rapidly by scientific and technological change. Artificial intelligence; synthetic biology; self‐driving cars; genetic engineering; nanomaterials; automation of manufacturing – fundamental new discoveries and innovations are remaking our day to day lives, often at a dizzying pace.

What ethical principles should constrain the pursuit of scientific knowledge? What moral traditions should guide our evaluation of scientific and technological breakthroughs? When should forecasts of potential harms lead societies and governments to slow down the pace of change? What frameworks of intellectual property strike the most sensible balance between fostering innovation, on the one hand, and constraining economic inequality or ensuring broad access to knowledge, on the other?


  • Principal Investigator (PI): The PI on the collaboratory must be a Duke faculty member, from any discipline, and be eligible per Duke Policy. A faculty member may serve as PI for one proposal.
  • Co‐Principal Investigator (Co‐PI): Faculty may serve as a Co‐PI on a maximum of two proposals. There should be no more than five Co‐PIs on any given proposal.
  • Proposals including faculty members from the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing should have a majority of participating faculty from other Duke schools.

Selection Criteria and Review Process

Proposals for new teams in the 2020 competition will be evaluated based on the following criteria:

  • Creativity and potential for the project to identify scalable transformative solutions
  • Commitment to engage faculty and students meaningfully in collaborations across Duke University and beyond (e.g., industry experts, community organizations, government agencies, think tanks, NGOs)
  • Capacity to educate, train, and mentor graduate students on engaging with societal challenges and translating knowledge into action

The review process of submitted proposals will be overseen by the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and the Executive Vice Provost, who will convene a Collaboratory Review Committee including individuals from across Duke University. Finalists will be asked to meet with members of the Review Committee to answer questions about proposals. We anticipate sharing feedback from peer reviewers to all applicants at the conclusion of the selection process.

Scope and Duration

Project funding ranges from $40,000 to $200,000 annually. Proposals may request funds for one, two, or three years; the project budget should match the horizon of the proposal.

For teams who propose multiyear funding and receive an initial grant, the process of evaluating renewal applications will be based on research progress‐to‐date, likelihood of continued success, efforts to secure external funding (where appropriate), and demonstrated collaboration and effective project management. Continued funding is also contingent on project team participation in collaboratory activities including progress reports, periodic workshops, and development events.

In the first two cycles of this grant opportunity, the average annual award was $96,550.

Proposal Requirements

The Provost‘s Office uses Formstack to submit applications. You will be asked to provide the following information:

  • a nontechnical abstract/summary (maximum 500 words) of the proposed project
  • a research proposal (maximum four pages) that describes the project in sufficient technical detail that it can be assessed by domain experts, including background and motivation, research objectives and methods, potential impact, and an envisaged pathway to implementation of the solution
  • a collaboration plan (maximum two pages) which describes the processes that will be implemented to facilitate sustained, meaningful collaboration among the team, as well as an assessment plan to refine processes as needed
  • a description of student involvement (maximum two pages), including how graduate students, and undergraduate students if desired, will be involved in the project, roles, mentoring, and key educational and professional outcomes students will gain as a result of their collaboration
  • a project participant list, including name, email address, affiliation, and project role; and, a clearly identified project manager to coordinate the project, tracking threshold dates and metrics, capturing progress relative to plan, and communicating feedback to the participant team
  • brief (two page) CVs for PI and Co‐PIs
  • a proposed budget (maximum one page) for up to three years and a budget justification (maximum one page) for how proposed funding will be used and how it will enable success of the project
  • information on other funding already obtained or requested (if applicants receive news about other funding proposals after the submission deadline, they should provide updated information)
  • key performance metrics evaluating the project (maximum one page), including expected targets at critical points in the project horizon (e.g., six months, one year, two years)
  • letter(s) of support (maximum one page each) from the PI’s unit (school, department, institute, initiative, center) that addresses the unit’s ability and willingness to provide administrative support for the collaboratory.

To apply, visit


RFP released11/6/19
RFP deadline for submission1/24/20
Grant recipients notified4/30/20
Funds made available7/1/20 (or sooner upon request)


For any questions related to your project proposal, please contact Ed Balleisen, Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies,; Jennifer Francis, Executive Vice Provost,; or Noah Pickus, Associate Provost and Senior Advisor,

For any questions regarding Formstack or the submission process, please contact: Amy Feistel,

Information Session

All faculty are invited to learn more at an information session on Thursday, January 9, from 3:00 to 4:00 in the Karl E. Zener Auditorium, 130 Sociology-Psychology.


Who can apply?

Any Duke faculty member eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator (PI) under the Duke University research policy may apply.

Our project idea is related to more than one collaboratory theme; what should we do?

Great news! Your idea is very likely eligible for consideration. Please contact Ed Balleisen, Jennifer Francis, or Noah Pickus if you need help determining the theme most relevant to your project.

Our project idea doesn’t seem to fit within either of the collaboratory themes; what should we do?

Sorry. The Duke Collaboratory Grants in 2020 will only consider new research projects that fit within one of the two identified collaboratory themes. Future collaboratories may well address other themes, so please consider this opportunity again when the Provost Office next offers it. Also, please consider whether your proposal would better align with other internal funding mechanisms such as seed grant programs run by university institutes, initiatives, or centers. If you would like to discuss the possible fit of your project within this scope, please contact Ed Balleisen, Jennifer Francis, or Noah Pickus.

Our project idea is not very interdisciplinary. Is this okay?

Yes, we are interested in projects of all types that have a strong likelihood of resulting in tangible solutions.

Is the Review Committee looking for proposals within a particular collaboratory theme?

No, each of the two themes will receive equal consideration.

Is this our only chance at submitting a project proposal?

Every year we reassess focal areas for collaboratory grants.

Is there an optimal number of collaborators for a project team?

While there is no optimal number of participants on the project team, we are expecting to see significant collaboration. We think a true collaboratory would have at least four core faculty associated with it.

What kinds of items and expenses is the Review Committee looking to fund? Are there items or expenses that are discouraged?

We are keen to support funding for direct research‐related items including, but not limited to, research assistance, research‐related travel, partial graduate student stipends, workshops and other convenings, and data and data management. The funding is not intended to support course buyouts, course development, or new Ph.D. slots.

What kinds of deliverables do you expect the project teams to produce?

Great question! Deliverables might take a range of forms from peer‐reviewed scholarship, white papers, and reports to digital and visual products and new databases. And of course, we expect the project team to prepare progress reports for review.

We aren’t sure about the appropriate university unit to approach about providing administrative support for our proposed collaboratory. What should we do?

Please contact Ed Balleisen, Jennifer Francis, or Noah Pickus to discuss possibilities.

How are collaboratories different from other calls for proposals we’ve seen, such as Bass Connections or Interdisciplinary Community Planning Grants (ICPG)?

Collaboratories provide an opportunity to support groups of faculty providing tangible solutions to targeted problems. Students are likely to be part of such groups, but are not required. Bass Connections project teams, on the other hand, require participation of students at multiple learner levels. ICPG is aimed at faculty groups in the initial stages of exploration of a topic, to begin or test a new collaboration around a shared intellectual interest.

What do you mean by two‐way engagement?

Two‐way engagement refers to a dynamic intersection in which both the academy and society learn from each other. Benefits include asking better and more relevant questions, and learning how best to communicate ideas and findings to the public.

Learn More