Our Research Approach

Humanity’s social and ecological challenges have become so complex and intertwined that they require interdisciplinary, collaborative knowledge and response, rather than individual research or action. NCEAS does not rely on permanent research faculty. Our innovation stems from a global network of thousands of researchers. Through open Calls for Proposals NCEAS solicits project ideas for collaborative Working Groups focused on the most pressing environmental questions. Rather than collecting new data in the laboratory or field, NCEAS adds value by integrating existing datasets and models, and combining different perspectives and methods, to create new scientific insights. NCEAS has earned a reputation as one of the most productive and impactful science institutions in the world, delivering impartial science to address critical decisions on global environmental issues.


NCEAS Calls for Proposals

NCEAS engages the scientific community in collaborative, synthetic research through Calls for Proposals, joint project proposals, and self-funded working group meetings. You can receive notices for new Calls for Proposals by: Subscribing to NCEAS News, or Following NCEAS on Twitter (@nceas) or Checking for the orange Call for Proposals box on the NCEAS homepage.

Call for Proposals

NCEAS periodically issues open Calls for Proposals inviting scientists to submit synthetic and collaborative research proposals. Successful proposals identify a significant research question that is at a critical point where it could uniquely benefit from the collation and synthesis of existing data as well as the collaboration and analysis by an interdisciplinary working group. NCEAS issues SNAPP Calls for Proposals and Special Calls for Proposals:

SNAPP: Science for Nature and People: As part of a collaborative initiative with The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), NCEAS issues SNAPP Calls for Proposal (RFP) once a year in March. We seek project proposals that use existing data to fill important knowledge gaps and advance solutions to significant problems at the intersection of nature conservation and human well-being. Projects must have the potential to generate clear outcomes for improving human well-being and nature conservation. Individuals of any nationality, in any institution or governmental agency, are welcome to submit a SNAPP proposal.

The next SNAPP Call for Proposals will be released in March 2017. You can review last year’s SNAPP RFP on the SNAPP website.

Special Calls: NCEAS operates on the premise that: 1) many decades of data have been collected that can be synthesized to produce novel insights into important scientific and societal issues; and 2) the expertise and information resources necessary to accomplish these syntheses are latent but distributed throughout the science community. Periodically NCEAS is approached by a foundation, consortium, or government agency to convene one or more Working Groups to tackle a specific issue or analyze a new collection of data.

The Gulf of Alaska Long Term Synthesis call for Working Groups and Postdoctoral Associates is an example of a Special Call which was initiated and funded by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustees Council.

There is currently a special Call for Proposals for the State of Alaska's Salmon and People Project. Click the photo below to learn more. Applications close September 20, 2016.



Joint Project Proposal

Alternatively, NCEAS is happy to work with scientists to develop a joint proposal for funding that could be submitted to public or private grantmaking agencies and organizations. The Arctic Options project exemplifies this model, where NCEAS worked with the Principle Investigators to develop a highly collaborative and synthetic proposal using layered environmental data and increased human activity projections to identify policy and governance options for the Arctic. This proposal was funded by the NSF ArcSEES program.

Contact nceas [at] nceas.ucsb.edu to explore the possibilities of generating a joint synthesis project proposal with NCEAS.

Self-funded Meetings

NCEAS’ institutional and disciplinary "neutrality" facilitates Working Group creativity and increases the degree of trust and speeds conflict resolution among participants. The Center provides technical and analytical support and takes care of the mundane logistical issues, providing a highly supportive and productive environment for collaborative projects.

If you already have funding for a collaborative workshop or working group effort but want a “neutral” location that provides a robust cyberinfrastructure and support, NCEAS conference space and staff can be made available for a small fee. For more information on hosting your next collaboration at NCEAS, contact nceas [at] nceas.ucsb.edu.


NCEAS Working Groups

NCEAS Working Group Model

Addressing the complex and intertwined social and ecological challenges facing society requires a different level of thinking and synthesis. At NCEAS, we believe greater problem solving capacity emanates from collaborative knowledge and response, rather than simply individual research or action. NCEAS is dedicated to conducting ecological and conservation science that is collaborative, open, integrative, relevant, and technologically informed.

For each critical challenge we undertake, a Working Group is formed composed of 12 to 18 experts selected from a range of disciplines, sectors, and geographical regions. They come together to focus and collaborate intensively for a week at a time. Each participant brings his/her data, methods, and experiences for synthesis and analysis, to create new knowledge and understanding. NCEAS’ hospitality, technical infrastructure and support catalyze creative and innovative collaborations.

Everything we do—the knowledge we build and apply, the choices we make, and the actions we take to solve complex socio-ecological and conservation problems—starts with our collaborative approach to synthesis and interdisciplinary teamwork to tackle the challenges we face together.

What Makes NCEAS Working Groups Successful?

The success of the NCEAS approach is evident from the significant impact that synthetic work has had on the fields of ecology and conservation. A good resource for better understanding the correlation between successful collaborations and productivity in scientific syntheses at NCEAS is a paper published by Hampton and Parker, 2011 in BioScience. The heterogeneity of the participants in NCEAS Working Groups is an important factor in their success – mixing genders, disciplines, career stages, sectors, and institutions—Campbell et. al., 2013 evaluated the value and quality of science produced from gender heterogeneous working groups. Find out more about current NCEAS Working Groups.

Planning a Working Group at NCEAS

If you are planning your first Working Group at NCEAS you may find the following links most helpful: