Berkeley Collaborative Research Opportunities Proposals


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Berkeley stands alone among the world’s great universities in its dual character of challenging society to realize its full potential for humanity in a way that is just and equitable, while also challenging the imagination by creating an entirely new understanding of the world. Rising national and global inequality, stress on the environment, and crises in civil society and public health mark this as a fraught time when Berkeley’s commitment to public-spirited engagement has so much to offer on the large-scale problems we face. At the same time, opportunities abound to enlarge our knowledge from the molecular scale to the cosmos, from neurons to the human mind, from the study of history to insights on the evolution of cultures in this era.

Purpose of the call:
This call invites interested groups of faculty to propose multi-disciplinary initiatives that capture Berkeley strengths and aspirations and that help lay a foundation for our future. Up to eight cross-cutting initiatives in designated theme areas may be selected for seed funds and further development efforts. The Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research has supported such initiatives in the past on a case-by-case basis. This call is intended to systematize the use of these resources and to open it up to broad discussion. This selection process will also involve faculty participation. If the process is successful, a call of this type will be issued periodically.

Theme areas:
Interdisciplinary initiatives in the following broad theme areas will be considered:

  • Inequality, the future of work, and entrepreneurship in the public interest

  • Global change—from understanding to resilience

  • Ideas to launch a new age of discovery           

We seek proposals that bring together colleagues from a wide range of disciplines that have the potential to engage the imagination of faculty, students, and the public, and that position Berkeley to play a leading role in the future. Faculty are encouraged to work with the Vice Chancellor for Research to get feedback and support in the development of proposals.

Proposals should minimally provide (more detailed guidance is provided below):

  • A compelling statement of the opportunity.

  • Participating faculty and initiative leadership. People and plan.

  • Competitor analysis and a statement of why the proposal is a good fit for Berkeley.

Due dates:

July 15, 2016: Intent to propose, interest in collaboration, or ideas for forums.

  • Although not required, you are encouraged to email your intent, interest or ideas to with CC to paul.alivisatos. Based on this feedback, the VCR Office will help facilitate connections between faculty members and support community discussion/workshops. 

October 21, 2016: Proposal due date

  • Proposals should be uploaded here.

What this is not:
Berkeley research is astonishingly broad and excellent across the board, and it is driven bottom up by the vision of faculty. This allocation of some seed resources to larger multi-disciplinary activities is not intended to restrict the scope of research at Berkeley or to take resources away from individuals or disciplines. It is intended to empower interested faculty to take advantage of the Berkeley ecosystem by creating additional avenues for collaboration. If successful, it will enrich the Berkeley research environment. We already invest in interdisciplinary work through the VCR office, and the goal of this exercise is to open up these investments for inclusive debate and discussion.

Examples of Ideas (Just for Thought)
Faculty are encouraged to reach across disciplines and to bring their own ideas to this process. Here are examples of potential initiatives that were discussed at the April 13 faculty forum:

  • Inequality and the future of work in a diverse society and globalized economy: deeper understanding of the origins of economic and social inequality; policy solutions to establish broad and inclusive economic growth in California, the United States, and the world.

  • Development of a social science of coexistence and preservation of diverse human cultures in this era of globalization.

  • Arts and Design as an innovative resource for imagining the future of our global society and for fostering humanistic values in an age of advanced engineering, science, and technology.

  • Entrepreneurship in the public interest; broad access to entrepreneurship opportunities and a new definition of the Unicorn, one that benefits 1 billion people.

  • Resilient ecosystems, food, and healthy lives for 10 billion people on a hotter planet.

  • Recyclable and sustainable materials and systems from the atom to the city. Water, energy, waste, and cities: a new approach to human technologies for the global scale.

  • Convergence of computation, engineering, and biosciences for public health and precision medicine to broaden the advances in health enjoyed today by the wealthiest to all.

  • Deeper knowledge of the human mind, development, learning, and creativity through partnerships of neuroscience, cognitive science, and the humanities.

  • Data science, robotics, and artificial intelligence as tools that promote individual inquiry and fulfillment, create meaningful employment opportunities, and enhance democracy.

  • Understanding the basis of life from molecules and genomes to organisms and ecosystems.

  • Evolution of the Universe and its planetary systems, and seeing them in new ways with a second quantum revolution.

Entirely new topics or different groupings are encouraged!

What resources will be provided to successful teams
Up to eight teams will be selected for further support. Each team will be awarded up to $300,000 in seed and planning funds for a two-year period. Teams will then engage more deeply with the VCR and Deans to plan successful initiatives more intensively.