June 20, 2017

Trans-Disciplinary Centers for Advanced Study

Motivated by our commitment to thrive and prosper as a research-intensive university, Mason will invest in a small number of trans-disciplinary centers for advanced study that promise to distinguish Mason discovery (i.e. research, scholarship and creative work), both nationally and/or internationally, and inform and enrich Mason education and translation programs for the foreseeable future.  These centers will be motivated by compelling long-term (5-10 year) visions, and will build upon the creative insights and complementary expertise of multi-departmental or multi-unit faculty teams and, where appropriate, their external partners.  Each center of advanced study will be eligible to receive annual base funding from the university of up to $125,000.

As envisioned, Mason centers for advanced study will be exemplars of the promising trans-disciplinary discovery programs underway within the institution. Each center will be established for 5 years, renewable for an additional five years, and will receive Office of Research support contingent upon satisfactory annual performance reviews. It is anticipated that no more than five centers for advanced study will be supported at any one time, and that one or two centers will be established in each competition.

Proposals for the first competition for centers for advanced study should be sent as attachments to resdev@gmu.edu no later than 5 p.m. on September 29, 2017.  The proposal requirements and the review process to be used to identify the most promising proposal(s) are described below.  Please note that a faculty member may participate as a member of the proposing team in no more than 2 proposals in this competition.

Proposal Requirements

As defined below, each proposal should be no more than 16 pages in length, and should include the following sections:

  • Summary. (about 1 page) Provide the title of the center, its motivating vision and corresponding goals, and the names and affiliations of the proposing team members.  Proposing team members may include both Mason faculty and individuals from other partner organizations (if any).
  • Vision, Goals and Implementation Strategies. Describe the vision, goal(s), and trans-disciplinary opportunities created by the center, including the unique discovery opportunities to be pursued and the trans-disciplinary impact promised.  Provide the rationale for how the “whole” center is greater than the sum of its component discovery, education and translation parts, and provide a detailed implementation plan to provide confidence that the proposing team is well positioned to realize the vision and goals articulated.  Describe the degree to which the center builds upon expertise and capabilities in existing centers, programs, departments, colleges/schools and partner organizations, and why the proposing team believes the center will distinguish Mason nationally and/or internationally.  Describe other support opportunities created by the center’s capabilities and performance.
  • Leadership and Collaboration Plan. Describe the proposing team and its strengths and capabilities.  Provide details on the team’s plans to integrate and support all individuals involved in all components of the center to enable the center’s and each individual’s success. Explain how collaboration across individuals and organizational units will be supported.
  • Evaluation Plan. (about 2 pages) Provide an evaluation plan, including a milestone chart, that will permit annual evaluation and assessment of the center against its projected goals.
  • Budget. (about 1 page)  Describe how University funds will be allocated to help realize the vision and goals of the center.
  • References Cited. (1-2 pages)

In addition, (i.e. outside the 16-page limit), proposing teams may also provide:

  • Letters of Support from internal and external stakeholders (6-page limit).
  • Biographical Sketches (1/2-page limit per person, 5-page limit per proposal).

Proposals that exceed the page limits defined above (i.e. the limits of: 16 pages for the proposal; 6 pages for letters of support; and 5 pages for biographical sketches) will be returned without review.  No additional material or attachments may be submitted with the proposal.

Review Process and Criteria

A two-stage review process is envisioned, to include an anonymous review process by an external panel of experts who will down-select to a short-list of the most promising proposals.  The short-list  projects will be reviewed in a review process that includes a presentation format.

Reviewers will use the following criteria to evaluate proposals received.  Please note that the review criteria follow the proposal format. Be sure to give the criteria full consideration when preparing your proposals.

Vision, Goals and Implementation Strategies.   Comment upon the degree to which the center team proposes a compelling long-term trans-disciplinary vision that has potential to be realized in a 5- to 10-year timeframe and that will distinguish Mason’s discovery portfolio, both nationally and internationally.  Describe the degree to which the goals described position the team to realize its long-term vision.  Describe why the proposing team, and partners where appropriate, has/have, or don’t, the necessary expertise and access to infrastructure to realize their vision and goals.  Comment on the degree to which the implementation strategies described provide confidence that the proposing team will realize its vision and goals.  Comment on whether the proposal make a strong case that the whole center is greater than the sum of its discovery, education and translation parts?  Do the additional support mechanisms described give confidence that the center proposed will be able to fulfill its full promise.

Leadership and Collaboration Plan.
  Comment upon the leadership and collaboration plan provided and your confidence that the proposing team can effectively deliver their program of activities.   Provide an analysis of the value-added created by the participating individuals and entities and the commitment intimated in the letters of support provided.

Evaluation Plan and Budget.  Comment upon the degree to which the evaluation plan provided will help guide the investments and activities of the proposed center, and how the plan might be modified to better effect strong center outcomes.  Describe how the budget proposed positions the proposing team to realize their goals and/or suggest modified approaches.

Award Announcement

The University expects to announce the results of the first competition around January 2018.