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The Shell Center for Sustainability's mission is to foster an interdisciplinary program of research, outreach, and education to address actions that can be taken to ensure the sustainable development of communities' living standards, interpreted broadly, to encompass all factors affecting the overall quality of life.


Shell Center for Sustainability

Rice University 
Request for Faculty Proposals
May 2009

2009 Request for Faculty Proposals

The Shell Center for Sustainability seeks to create an interdisciplinary program of research, education, and outreach to identify and address potential threats to the sustainable development of living standards. These standards are interpreted broadly to encompass all factors affecting quality of life, including the continued availability of environmental resources.

The Shell Center for Sustainability calls for proposals to fund significant faculty research during the current academic year in the broad area of sustainable development. We encourage Rice faculty to apply for a Shell Center grant and hope to receive a wide range of proposals. Our goals embrace multidisciplinary research in areas of sustainable development beyond technical and scientific subjects alone. We particularly welcome multidisciplinary proposals that address wide-ranging sustainable development solutions and that meet the criteria for funding outlined below.

A. Focus Areas

The SCS is seeking faculty research proposals that address concerns about a sustainable future. The proposals might concentrate in any of the following six areas or their combination:

1. The supply and efficient use of energy

2. Air quality

3. Water quality

4. Biodiversity-forestry

5. Urban sustainability, including such issues as congestion, social cohesion, flooding, subsidence, and access to green space

6. Climate change

As indicated in Section D (below), the process asks the faculty to submit a 1-2 page “idea paper” to the Shell Center’s Operating Committee. The Operating Committee, after reviewing the “idea paper,” may request more detailed information.

B. Criteria and Priorities

Partnership and collaboration are important in reaching sustainability solutions. Proposals can include internal participants (within Rice) and/or external institutions and organizations whose involvement will be important in developing effective solutions. However, a Rice professor needs to be the PI on the project.

Priority will be given to projects that create partnerships and collaborations on a multidisciplinary basis, involving at least two separate departments, and that address one or more of the following priorities:

1. Expand our knowledge about the threats to sustainability arising in one or more of the six areas listed above.

2. Address how public policies can influence private sector decisions in ways that make them more compatible with sustainable development.

3. Demonstrate how new scientific understandings or new technologies can reduce threats to sustainability arising in one or more of the six areas listed above.

4. Show clearly how Shell Center funding will help leverage additional research, resources, and opportunities. All existing funding sources must be listed in the proposal.

5. Demonstrate that the research represents a new line of inquiry for one or more of the principal investigators on the team.

6. Provide appropriate opportunities to involve undergraduate and graduate students in the research project.

C. Funding

1. The Shell Center will allocate up to $200,000 in fiscal year 2009-2010 to support up to five grants. As noted below, funding is normally provided for one year only, but projects supported in one year are eligible to reapply for additional funding in competition with new projects in subsequent years.

2. Shell Center funds can be used as matching funds for grant applications to such external sources as the NSF, but only when there are no other Rice sources of matching funds for the research.

D. Project Review

The Shell Center for Sustainability will rely on its Operating Committee to evaluate all research proposals. Any current Operating Committee members who appear on a proposed research team will be recused from participating in the selection process.
The proposals should be submitted by the Principal Investigator (PI) of the project, who will be the responsible agent for the disposition of the project funds and for the completion of the project. The PI must be a Rice University faculty member. A graduate student can be listed as a Co-PI.

More than one project that meets the focus areas, criteria, and priorities of the Shell Center can be submitted. A PI on one project can be an investigator on another project. The determination of team member time commitments is the responsibility of the team participants.

After the first round, the selection committee will consider 5 to 8 projects that meet the criteria and goals of the Shell Center for Sustainability, to make the final selection.
The award amount will be determined once all the successful proposals have been selected. The committee may decide to fund fewer projects at a higher level or more projects at a lower level, depending on the number of proposals that best meet the criteria. Projects that request a larger share of the total funds available would need to be of significantly higher quality to be accepted.

Funding is normally awarded for one year’s work. The intention is to foster research that can then be taken to outside agencies for further funding. The committee will entertain proposals that would extend beyond one year. However, the proposal would need to be re-submitted for consideration in subsequent years, in competition with all other proposals in that year.

Funding may be available for subsequent research, based on the project’s progress and accomplishments.

All successful projects must meet the objectives of the Shell Center for Sustainability and address one or more of the focus areas. They also should be responsive to the above stated criteria and priorities.

The submission schedule is as follows:

1. Proposals must be submitted to the Shell Center for Sustainability by 5 pm on Monday, August 31, 2009. They should be addressed to Lilibeth André. Associate Director, Shell Center for Sustainability, MS 27, or submitted electronically to

2. By Monday, September 28, 2009, the Shell Center’s Operating Committee will select the most promising proposals and may request additional material to build upon and clarify the ideas in the proposal. 

3. By Monday, October 5, 2009, the Center’s Operating Committee will select the grantees.

Upon selection and acceptance of funding, Principal Investigators will receive the funding after they have delivered a one-page project summary for public information along with any supporting images, pictures, or graphs. Team member photos should also be provided. A progress report is required at 50%, and can be submitted electronically. The final report will be presented to the Shell Center’s Operating Committee. All reports will follow the format for submittals, as outlined below. There will be additional opportunities to discuss the project as well.

All written materials must be in a language that can be readily understood by a non-technical audience and the general public. This material should include graphs, images, photographs, publications, and mention of any patents, awards, or other recognition received by the project.

References to the research should include credit to the Shell Center for Sustainability for funding received.

E. Submittals

Please follow the format below in preparing the two-page submittal. Proposals should include a brief statement of the anticipated results and reporting methods (e.g., publications, patents, etc.). The proposal must be clear to non-technical reviewers.

1. Objective

2. Approach

3. Team

4. Focus and Criteria

5. Schedule

6. Budget

F. Contact

For Additional information, please contact Lilibeth André, Associate Director, Shell Center for Sustainability, at (713) 348-2796 or at

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