Together Duke Opportunity: Faculty Can Propose Research Collaboratories in Three Key Areas

Duke collaboratories RFP.

Deadline: February 15, 2019


Together Duke has targeted three challenges that reflect societal relevance, internal capacities for reflection and action, and alignment with Duke’s strategic priorities: Energy and Water Resources; Race, Religion, and Citizenship; and Population Health.

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 collaborate 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.

Energy and Water Resources

Access to secure and sufficient energy and water resources has always been critical for the security, growth, and well-being of communities. Today’s changing environment makes planning for that access particularly difficult, and emphasizes the urgency of adapting and building systems that are resilient to environmental transformations. The design of those systems is challenging on several dimensions: uneven access to high quality energy and water resources; risks posed by anticipated global climate change; and uncertain nature, scale, and location of future changes. Resilient systems must not only understand these factors, but be attentive to the social and ethical dimensions of adaptation.

Race, Religion, and Citizenship

Processes of mass migration, whether forced or voluntary, are generating increasingly multicultural, multifaith communities in the United States and across the globe. Legacies of inequity and the diffusion of social and cultural diversity raise the question of how people with different histories and cultures forge a common life, despite divergent and often conflicting visions of human flourishing. Identifying the practices, policies, and norms likely to foster a just and generous common life requires understanding the sources of religious, racial, ethnic, and cultural identities; their political, legal, and socioeconomic histories and consequences; and the meanings and practices of democratic politics, citizenship, and other forms of affinity through which people identify, communicate concerns, and resolve disputes.

Population Health

Optimal health is central to well-being in modern societies. Improving and maintaining the health of a community involves more than access to individual-level quality health care: socioeconomic factors, community or culturally-based health behaviors, and environmental factors also impact population health. As such, policymakers across the globe are shifting away from a focus on individual health care toward optimizing health outcomes of communities. Central to this goal is the ability to analyze and visualize data to understand the root causes of suboptimal health, and to develop, test, and evaluate health care and health promotion innovations.

RFP Process

Proposals must satisfy proposal guidelines and address one or more aspects of the three collaboratories: Energy and Water Resources; Race, Religion, and Citizenship; Population Health.

Project funding ranges from $20,000 to $200,000 annually. Proposals may request funds for one, two or three years; the project budget should match the horizon of the proposal. Annual renewal will be based on progress to date, likelihood of success, and demonstrated collaboration. Continued funding is also contingent on project team participation in collaboratory activities including progress reports and periodic workshops.

  • Principal Investigator (PI): The PI on the project team must be a Duke faculty member and be eligible per Duke policy. A faculty member may serve as PI for at most one proposal.
  • Co-Principal Investigator (Co-PI): Faculty may serve as a Co-PI on up to two proposals. There should be no more than 5 Co-PIs on any given proposal.
  • Eligible Duke faculty members do include those from the School of Medicine and the School of Nursing; however, proposals that include any faculty members from these units should have at least 50% of the total number of participating faculty come from other Duke schools. Funding recipients agree to the terms for inventions, patents, and licensing described in the research policy section of the Duke University Faculty Handbook.
Selection Criteria and Review Process

Proposals 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.

Proposals will be evaluated according to these selection criteria. The Collaboratory Review Committee includes individuals from across Duke University. All proposals, and discussions thereof, will be kept strictly confidential.

Proposal Requirements

The Provost’s Office uses MyResearchProposal online application software to submit applications. You will be asked to upload the following documents:

  • Abstract (maximum 500 words, 12 pt. font): Provide a nontechnical summary of the proposed project.
  • Research Proposal (maximum of 4 pages, 12 pt. font): Describe the project in sufficient technical detail that it can be assessed by domain experts. Provide background and motivation; research objectives and methods; potential impact; and where feasible, envisaged pathway to implementation of the solution.
  • Collaboration Plan (maximum of 2 pages, 12 pt. font): Describe the processes that will be implemented to facilitate sustained, meaningful collaboration among your team, as well as the plan to assess those processes and refine them as needed.
  • Student Involvement (maximum 2 pages, 12 pt. font): Describe how graduate students, and, if desired, undergraduate students, will be involved in the project; what roles will they play; how will they be mentored; what are the key educational and professional outcomes they will possess as a result of their collaboration?
  • Participant List: Provide a list of the project team members including name, email, affiliation, project role. Every proposal should clearly identify a project manager who will coordinate the project, including tracking threshold dates and metrics, capturing progress relative to that project plan, and communicating feedback to the collaboratory team.
  • Budget and Budget Justification (maximum 2 pages, 12 pt. font): Provide a one-page budget (up to 3-year budget) and accompanying budget justification describing how proposed funding will be used and how it will enable success of the project team.
  • NOTE: Collaboratory funds may be used for Ph.D. student stipend support. Please refer to the stipend schedule for guidance. Tuition remission on Provost grant funds has been waived by The Graduate School.
  • Additional Funding: Brief description (maximum 1 page, 12 pt. font) of any other funding received from Duke or external funders related to the project (and/or any relevant pending grant proposals).
  • Metrics for Success (maximum 1 page, 12 pt. font): identify key performance metrics for evaluating the project, including expected targets for those metrics at critical points in the project horizon (e.g., six months, one year, two years).
  • Letter of Support: Supporting letter (maximum 1 page, 12 pt. font) from your unit (school, department, institute, initiative, center) that addresses the unit’s ability and willingness to provide administrative support for the collaboratory.
  • A step-by-step user’s guide for applying via the MyResearchProposal software is available. Please review this document.
  • Enter Access Code PROVOST then select the Provost’s Office: Collaboratories opportunity and follow the instructions.
  • For any questions concerning MyResearchProposal passwords or system issues, please contact Lesia O’Hara or Anita Grissom at
RFP released 11/12/2018
RFP deadline for submission 2/15/2019
Finalists notified, additional information sought 3/30/2019
Project winner(s) notified; funds made available shortly thereafter 4/30/2019

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


Who can apply?

Any Duke faculty member eligible to serve as a Principal Investigator under Duke University research policies may apply.

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

Great news! Your idea is very likely eligible for consideration. If you need help determining the Collaboratory that is most relevant to you, please contact Ed Balleisen, Jennifer Francis, or Noah Pickus.

Our project idea doesn’t seem to fit within any of the collaboratories; what should we do?

Sorry. Inaugural funding of the Duke Collaboratories will focus funding on research projects that fit within one of the three identified collaboratories. Future collaboratories may well address other themes, so please review again next year. Also, please consider whether your proposal would better align with other internal funding mechanisms such as seed grant programs run by university centers, institutes or initiatives. 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 Selection Committee looking for proposals for a particular collaboratory?

No, each of the three collaboratories will receive equal consideration.

Is this our only chance at submitting a project proposal?

We plan to have RFP requests again next year, but the focal areas may change.

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 Selection 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, like Bass Connections or Interdisciplinary Community Planning Grants (ICPG)?

Collaboratories are a new 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.

New Grants Will Advance Collaborative Research by 11 Groups of Duke Faculty

Together Duke grantees

Six groups of Duke faculty have been awarded multiyear Research Collaboratory grants, and five groups have received one-year pilot research grants in the humanities and social sciences, Provost Sally Kornbluth announced.

Part of the Together Duke academic strategic plan, these new grant opportunities provide flexible, immediate resources to strengthen Duke’s intellectual communities and help faculty groups move forward on both fundamental inquiry and solutions for real-world problems.

“These proposals showcase the ingenuity and creativity of our faculty, especially when working together,” said Kornbluth. “These grant opportunities were among the earliest and clearest priorities of the academic strategic plan. Supporting faculty research is an essential way to advance the fundamental learning and discovery at which we excel, and those investments provide ripple effects that benefit teaching and service.”

The Offices of the Vice Provost for Interdisciplinary Studies and the Vice Provost for Academic Affairs oversee these seed grant programs.

Research Collaboratories

Collaboratory grants provide support for groups of faculty seeking to provide solutions to targeted problems in three areas: energy and water resources; race, religion, and citizenship; and population health. By drawing on its disciplinary depth, interdisciplinary strengths, and commitment to engagement, Duke has the capacity to make crucial research contributions in these vital arenas. Project funding ranges from $20,000 to $200,000 annually, with any related administrative work undertaken by an existing department, school, or interdisciplinary unit. Over time, thematic areas of focus will likely evolve.

Energy and Water Resources

Decisions, Risks, and Governance of Geoengineering

Mark Borsuk, Jonathan Wiener, Billy Pizer, and Drew Shindell, with Tyler Felgenhauer, Khara Grieger, and Varun Mallampalli

Unless greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced in the near future, society will be faced with severe climate change. Large-scale geoengineering, or climate engineering, has emerged as a potential approach that does not depend on emissions reduction. Two options are solar radiation management and carbon dioxide removal. Yet the cost and effectiveness of all geoengineering technologies remain highly uncertain. The various options may also pose risks of their own, including unintended climate effects, ozone layer depletion, changes in precipitation, and adverse effects on ecosystems and agriculture. It is even possible that turning to geoengineering may undermine efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This collaboratory will investigate the risks and opportunities associated with geoengineering as a climate change response strategy. It will also explore the policy issues that would need to be addressed if geoengineering were implemented.

Innovations in Infrastructure

Megan Mullin and Amy Pickle, with Martin Doyle, Jeff Hughes (UNC), Mark Borsuk, Robert Conrad, Katy Hansen, Christopher Timmins, Ryke Longest, Emma Rasiel, and Lori Bennear

Infrastructure —our interconnected roads and bridges, sewers and water pipes, power lines and broadband networks—undergird communities and provide a foundation for economic growth. Although Americans widely agree that improving infrastructure should be a top government priority, the condition of the nation’s infrastructure is in decline. The model of infrastructure provision that has dominated for a century—local government responsibility, funded by quantity-based fees and financed with municipal bonds—seems outdated. We struggle to produce a robust network of facilities and services that equitably reaches all our residents and demonstrates resilience to the effects of climate change. This collaboratory will examine and promote innovative models of infrastructure provision and governance, using urban water as an entry point for investigating the conditions under which old infrastructure governance models have failed and identifying opportunities for new models to improve the safety, reliability, and affordability of water services. Researchers will partner with communities to apply a governance-finance-engineering approach to place-based problems.

Race, Religion, and Citizenship

The Duke Polarization Lab

Christopher A. Bail, with Katherine Heller, Sunshine Hillygus, James Moody, Guillermo Sapiro, and Alexander Volfovsky

Issues related to race, religion, and citizenship sharply divide Americans. There is mounting concern that social media deepen these divisions by creating “echo chambers” that prevent exposure to people with different opinions. This collaboratory will develop app-based technology designed to disrupt echo chambers in order to reduce partisan conflict about race, religion, and citizenship. The project builds on a field experiment on Twitter that exposed a large sample of Americans to those with opposing political views in order to test whether such exposure shapes views about policy issues such as racial inequality and immigration reform. Researchers will identify how social media networks might connect people amenable to compromise, and produce a tool that all Americans can use to adjust the ideological bias in their networks and reduce polarization. The results will address theoretical and methodological questions that cut across multiple fields, provide a unique opportunity for Duke students to receive training in computational social science, and help community organizations to publicize the tool broadly with the goal of fostering greater ethnic and religious cohesion.

Understanding the Transforming U.S. South: Perspectives on Race, Culture, Politics, and Society

Kerry L. Haynie, John Aldrich, Linda Burton, Adriane Lentz-Smith, Mark Anthony Neal, and Donald Taylor

This collaboratory will conduct and commission original research on how transformations in racial and class demographics, economic development, and the legal landscape have reshaped the American South in politics, culture, health, education, wealth, and family and community structures. Over the past half century, the South, always a distinctive and critical crucible of national trends, has undergone dramatic change. No longer a “cultural and economic backwater,” the region is now home to the nation’s largest bank and three of the largest airlines. Research parks in Raleigh-Durham, Huntsville, and Austin define the cutting edge of new technologies. In this transforming South it’s now commonplace to see African Americans and women in elected offices, and as leaders in education and business. Despite all these changes, it has been more than 50 years since the last series of seminal academic studies sought to assess the state of the South. This collaboratory will fill this vacuum by reexamining findings and conclusions from earlier research and by generating new knowledge, and perhaps new understandings, of the American South.

Population Health

The Duke University Precision Health and Wellness Initiative

Geoff Ginsburg and Susanne Haga, with Gary Bennett, Larry Moneta, Sue Wasiolek, John Vaughn, Thomas Szigethy, Ryan Shaw, Ricardo Henao, Jessica Avery, Matthew Engelhard, Christina Nix, Kate Frankey, and Zachary A. Stowell

Aligned with the goals of Healthy Duke, this collaboratory will launch a hybrid population health/research and educational initiative to promote health awareness and engagement, establish healthy behaviors, and enable student-centered research and learning opportunities. The goal is to develop and pilot a campus initiative to promote healthy living through student engagement with wearables and novel learning opportunities and activities. Following a year-long planning phase, researchers will conduct two pilot projects initially focused on sleep behaviors. The first pilot will assess the feasibility and acceptance of using a wearable with a companion app to record sleep habits; incoming first-year students from a single residence hall will be invited to participate. Among the preliminary outcome measures will be perceived value of the wearable, number of sick days, psychological well-being, and academic performance. In the second pilot, researchers will evaluate a range of educational interventions comparing sleep behaviors over the year in students provided with several different educational interventions to improve sleep habits. The pair of pilot studies will provide the infrastructure for a scalable, campus-wide precision health program that can be introduced to entire future incoming classes.

A Road Map for Affordable Healthcare in the 21st Century

Nimmi Ramanujam, with Mark McClellan, Megan Huchko, Michael B. Waitzkin, Christina Silcox, Marlee Krieger, and Katelyn Bryant-Comstock

Health disparities in the U.S. will likely continue to widen and the costs of care will continue to increase unless key innovations are leveraged to improve access to efficient screening, diagnosis, and treatment of disease. For example, cervical cancer prevention is based on well-established interventions including HPV vaccination and screening followed by treatment of preinvasive disease. In the U.S., cervical cancer incidence and mortality have decreased by 70% over the last 60 years; however, women living in medically underserved regions experience a disproportionately high burden of cervical cancer, partially due to increasing attrition rates at each stage of the screen-diagnose-treat process. This collaboratory will create a roadmap to leverage transformative technologies into a scalable delivery model that can reduce burgeoning cancer disparities, with a focus on cervical cancer. Researchers will identify challenges and strategies to shift procedures from specialists to primary care providers and/or reduce clinical visits; conduct a cost-benefit analysis of this approach; and establish the acceptance of this approach by both providers and patients, including a sustainable business model, using the Pocket Colposcope as an example.

Provost Pilot Research Grants in the Humanities and Social Sciences

These grants support innovative faculty research in the humanities and social sciences—across and between all disciplines—that has successfully completed an initial phase of inquiry or preparation and has the potential to have broad and sustained impact. Funding ranges from $5,000 to $50,000 per project for one fiscal year.

Developing Social Determinants of Health Data Resources about Durham County Residents for Duke University and Duke Health Researchers

James Moody, with Alexandra Cooper, Matthew Dupre, Laura Richman, Joseph Lucas, and Mara Sedlins

Linking health records with data on social determinants of health—such as socioeconomic status, education, physical and social environment, and employment—can improve predictions of health risks and provide personalized care. Building on a 2018 Data+ project, researchers will implement a pilot focused on Cabarrus County, N.C., home to Duke’s MURDOCK Study. The longer-term goal is to develop data resources on social determinants of health for use across a wide range of contexts, including linkage to research data as well as health record data.

The Global Novel: Form and Method

Nancy Armstrong, with miriam cooke, Roberto Dainotto, Shai Ginsburg, Erdag Göknar, Aimée Kwon, Anne-Gaëlle Saliot, Leonard Tennenhouse, Anne Garréta, and Aarthi Vadde

For almost three centuries, novels featuring individuals who leave their homes and struggle for a place in a changing world kept the myth of modernization alive, renewing its promise of a future state of economic plenitude. The novels written for today’s global book market overturn this narrative in order to tell a story in which economic progress disrupts the daily life of entire communities, forces them from home and nation, and keeps them on the move. Researchers will produce a collection of articles to identify the form and scope preliminary to explaining the cultural implications of the global imagination.

Healthcare Provider Networks and Opioid Prescriptions

Lisa Keister, with Thomas Buchheit, Joseph Lucas, and James Moody

Opioid addiction, misuse, and overdose have increased dramatically in the U.S. An important characteristic of this national health crisis is that many addictions and deaths can be traced to legal and justifiable prescriptions written by healthcare providers. This project explores how provider networks, a powerful but understudied influence, shape prescribing behavior. Researchers aim to use a unique Duke University Medical System dataset to study network relations and prescriptions; collect data on networks external to DUMS and explore how they interact with Duke networks to influence prescriptions; and study how the association between networks and opioid prescriptions responds to policy changes.

Mapping Global Energy Infrastructure to Support Effective Policymaking, Investment, and Grid Management

Jordan Malof, with Kyle Bradbury, Marc Jeuland, Steven Sexton, and Bryan Bollinger

High-quality data on the locations and characteristics of energy infrastructure greatly facilitate effective energy policymaking, management, and modeling. However, these data are frequently scarce, incomplete, or unreliable. This project will develop a platform that leverages recent breakthroughs in deep learning to scan global-scale remote sensing data in order to extract such information at unprecedentedly high geospatial resolutions, and to make those data resources publicly accessible. Researchers will demonstrate the efficacy of this approach to explore several novel research questions in the social sciences, in collaboration with Duke researchers and external partners.

Understanding Policy at Scale: A Process Evaluation of India’s New Maternal Health Program in Madhya Pradesh

Manoj Mohanan, Grant Miller (Stanford U.), Alessandro Tarozzi (UPF and Barcelona GSE), Harsha Thirumurthy (U. Pennsylvania), and Usha Ramakrishnan (Emory U.), with Mac McCorkle

To improve health and nutrition outcomes among pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children under five, the Government of India launched the Pradhan Mantri Matru Vandana Yojana in 2017 to provide a conditional cash transfer to first-time pregnant women and new mothers. While conditional cash transfers are a common policy tool, we lack a clear understanding of how they impact health and nutrition outcomes. This project will conduct monitoring and evaluation of this program in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

Learn More

Originally posted on Duke Today

Provost Offers New Opportunities for Duke Faculty Scholar-leaders through Together Duke

Together Duke

Deadlines: October 20, 2017 (ICPG) and December 15, 2017 (PPRG and Collaboratories)

In efforts to invest in the Duke faculty as scholars and leaders of the university’s intellectual communities, and to provide new resources to support the faculty and their work, the Provost is pleased to offer the following three sequenced grant opportunities for faculty and student support as part of Together Duke.

Intellectual Community Planning Grants

Seed funding to support a group of faculty to begin or test a new collaboration around a shared intellectual interest. Project funds ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 will be awarded for use during the 2018 calendar year. This is the third year of this grant opportunity; recipients from the grant cycles in both the first and second years represent a broad range of groups and new projects.
Deadline: October 20

Provost’s Pilot Research Grants (new)

Pilot funding to support innovative faculty research in the humanities and social sciences—across and between all disciplines—that has successfully completed an initial phase of inquiry or preparation and with the potential to have broad and sustained impact. Project funding will range from $5,000 to $50,000 per project for a fiscal year.
Deadline: December 15

Collaboratories (new)

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. Collaboratory grants will provide support for groups of faculty working on more established projects that seek to provide tangible solutions to targeted problems in 3 areas: energy and water resources; race, religion and citizenship; and population health. Project funding ranges from $20,000 to $200,000 annually.
Deadline: December 15

To view the full RFPs for all three grants, and for instructions to apply, please visit the Together Duke website.