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PEGASuS 3: SUGI-Nexus ‘Take it Further’ Grants

Deadline: July 15, 2020

Request for Proposals
An initiative of Future Earth, supported by Colorado State University, the University of Colorado Boulder, and the CSU Global Biodiversity Center.
This initiative is funded by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Science Program.

Summary of opportunity

Future Earth is pleased to announce the latest in a series of new funding opportunities through the Program for Early-stage Grants Advancing Sustainability Science (PEGASuS). PEGASuS focuses on transdisciplinary research connecting the natural and social sciences. The goal of this program is to increase knowledge, promote innovation, and establish evidence-based solutions to the world’s most difficult sustainability challenges.


Background and rationale

The Sustainable Urbanisation Global Initiative (SUGI) Food-Water-Energy Nexus approach provides a unique collaboration framework for natural and social scientists, small and large businesses, cities and non-governmental organisations, to tackle the urban challenges of food, energy and water nexus. The SUGI projects are developing new knowledge, innovative and integrated solutions and tools to address food, water and energy challenges in urban areas. 

Future Earth, with funding from the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Science Program, is now partnering with the Belmont Forum and JPI Urban Europe to make available a new grant opportunity to the SUGI/Nexus teams and new partners. This opportunity will focus on enhancing and accelerating the existing projects as well as fostering new cross-project collaborations and facilitate the involvement of new partners.


Eligibility requirements

Successful proposals must include members from at least two SUGI-NEXUS teams (more is fine). Teams should list at least five people as members, and at least three of the listed members on a team should be from outside the existing SUGI-NEXUS groups.


Guidance for successful proposals

Successful PEGASuS proposals will demonstrate a compelling need for transdisciplinary integration to advance discovery and innovation by building upon the existing Belmont Forum SUGI-NEXUS projects while also taking the existing research in new directions. 

Research projects may focus on any aspect of the existing SUGI-NEXUS project. Applicants must present a clear Research Plan including a research hypothesis, research methodology, and expected results and products. Proposals can come from any institution from any country. Applicants are encouraged to pursue food-energy-water sustainabilty solutions that translate to the developing world, and include support for research partners and institutions from the Global South as appropriate.


Evaluation criteria and review process

The criteria for project selection include a strong research focus, interdisciplinarity, the potential for innovation and discovery, the capacities of the research to advance knowledge and inform decision-making, and the capabilities for integrating science and non-science partners. Teams will be further evaluated by the scientific credibility and originality of the proposed work and their capacity to develop new tools, models, products, and knowledge by combining robust research initiatives from multiple disciplines.  Proposals will be scored and ranked based on the following criteria:

  • The technical excellence and feasibility of planning and executing the Research Plan within the proposed budget and time constraints (50 points)
  • The interdisciplinary design and strength of the team, depth and breadth of collaboration across disciplines, countries, and sectors of society (25 points)
  • The potential for the research to lead to significant advances within the thematic areas outlined above and relevance to the Future Earth Vision and the SUGI-Nexus program (25 points)

Instructions for proposal preparation

Full proposal deadline: July 15, 2020. Award teams will be notified in August.

Proposals are limited to five single-spaced pages, 11-point font, with one inch margins. Include an appendix with a biosketch for each of the principal investigators (maximum two pages each), a research budget (maximum one page), and list of references. The appendix is not counted in the five-page limit. Submit proposals in PDF format online through the following link: https://fe.secure-platform.com

Proposals should generally follow the format given here:

  • Part 1. Title of the research project. Titles should be catchy and short enough to use for general communication purposes.
  • Part 2. Brief, compelling, three to five sentence summary, in third person, of the project’s proposed work in words that a layperson would understand. This summary will be used in all official Future Earth communications (website, press releases, annual reports, etc.). Use verbiage that is understandable to technical and non-technical audiences and can be used in isolation from the rest of the proposal.
  • Part 3. Problem Statement: Describe the issue to be addressed and how this team’s work will make a significant contribution to and fill a unique niche within sustainability science.
  • Part 4. Research plan: Describe the transdisciplinary research synthesis activities that will integrate and move the project forward and provide a 12-month timeline. Describe the expected results, outcomes, and products of this work and explain the metrics of success. Please note that due to donor requirements, all grants funding MUST be spent by November 30, 2021 with no exceptions.
  • Part 5. Team Composition: Explain why the proposed activity requires a transdisciplinary approach and provide a rationale for the proposed interdisciplinary team. Describe the leadership and team organization. In general, it is expected that multiple principal investigators from different disciplines will be responsible for the group’s organization, intellectual leadership, and for ensuring that the objectives of the proposed research are met. Describe how students, postdoctoral fellows, and other researchers, and non-academic (e.g. private sector, government, or NGO) partners might be involved now or in the future. It is expected that multiple institutions, nationalities, and disciplines will be represented given the breadth of the challenge being met by the proposed research and the interdisciplinary nature of successful SUGI-NEXUS research for global sustainability. Diversity in background, nationality, institutional rank, gender, and expertise will be strongly valued.
  • Part 6. Budget and Resource Needs: Describe the budget needed to achieve the goals of your project within 12 months (starting approximately in November 2020). Indirect costs are permitted up to 12.5% rate. Future Earth will aim to provide additional limited in-kind support for communications. Successful applicants will be required to complete a detailed budget spreadsheet, track all expenses, and submit original receipts and financial reports to Future Earth’s office at Colorado State University. All funds must be spent by November, 2021 with no possibility for extensions. Work plans and budgets must reflect this. Budget should be no more than USD $80,000.


Expectations of PEGASuS grant recipients

PEGASuS recipients will be expected to provide mid-term and final public reports to Future Earth as well as limited ad hoc requests for updates from Future Earth. A goal of PEGASuS is to share information broadly and build community therefore grantees are expected to follow open data standards. Additional details on reporting requirements and intellectual property will be provided upon notification of awards.

Any and all outputs (e.g. science publications, presentations, published abstracts) should acknowledge funding support from The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation’s Science Program and administrative support from Future Earth, the University of Colorado Boulder, and Colorado State University’s Global Biodiversity Center and School of Global Environmental Sustainability.

While PEGASuS grants could potentially be used as seed funding to catalyze larger research programs, PEGASuS grants must also deliver stand-alone tangible research products within the timeframe and budget of the award.


PEGASuS Program Manager and Point of Contact:
Dr. Craig Starger, Colorado State University and Future Earth: craig.starger@futureearth.org

About Future Earth
Future Earth is the largest coordinated effort to mobilize science in the service of sustainability. Future Earth was designed with the goal of generating integrated knowledge, tools, and capacities in support of more rapid, effective, and durable solutions to our largest sustainable development challenges. We are building an international community committed to building the knowledge needed for global sustainability and supporting collaboration among scientists and stakeholders on key challenges in sustainability science. The Future Earth Colorado Hub is based at the School of Global Environmental Sustainability (SoGES) at Colorado State University, the Sustainability Innovation Lab (SILC) at the University of Colorado Boulder, and the Institute for a Sustainable Earth (ISE) at George Mason University in Virginia.