2019 Transdisciplinary Centers for Advanced Study Call for Proposals

Motivated by our commitment to thrive and prosper as a research-intensive university, we are excited to announce Mason’s second competition for 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 are motivated by compelling long-term (5-10 year) visions, and build upon the creative insights and complementary expertise of multi-departmental or multi-unit faculty teams and, where appropriate, their external partners. Each center for advanced study is eligible to receive annual base funding of up to $125,000 for 5 years, renewable for an additional five years, and will receive this 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.

Mason centers for advanced study are exemplars of the promising trans-disciplinary discovery programs underway within the institution. Following the first competition in 2017-2018, two centers were funded, The Center for Adaptive Systems for Brain-Body Interactions (CASBBI) and the Quantum Materials Center (QMC).

Proposals for the second competition for centers for advanced study should be sent as attachments to resdev@gmu.edu no later than 5 p.m. on January 31, 2019. 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 with ½ inch margins and a font size of no less than 12 point. The proposal 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. Explain how a culture of responsible conduct of research will be promoted within the center and how trainees will receive specific guidance and training on these important topics.
• 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. Please describe the measures and/or methods that you will use to determine whether the center is meeting is its goals or whether a change of course is needed
• 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 will be used, 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/or 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 makes 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? Centers should endeavor to create distinctive trans-disciplinary partnerships that transcend conventional disciplinary boundaries (e.g., fine arts, sciences and engineering; humanities, conflict resolution and health policy).

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.

Please direct questions to resdev@gmu.edu, to Aurali Dade at 703-993-5381, or to Rebekah Hersch at 703-993-5940.

February 2019 UPDATE: We received 12 Transdisciplinary Center for Advance Study applications which included 176 faculty across the 12 applications. Initial reviews of the applications took place March 1, 2019.

Six teams were selected as finalist. The finalists’ oral presentations will be conducted 9:00 am – 4:15 pm on March 28, 2019 in Johnson Center (JC), Room 239A. The schedule for the presentations can be found
2019 Finalist Presentation Schedule

2017-2018 Competition Winner Announcement

We are delighted to announce the winners of 2018 Mason’s Center for Advanced Study competition.  These centers promise to distinguish Mason discovery, both nationally and internationally, and inform and enrich Mason education and translation programs for the foreseeable future.  Motivated by compelling long-term visions, they build upon the creative insights and complementary expertise of multidisciplinary faculty teams and their external partners.  Each center will receive support for five years, which will be renewable for an additional five years, contingent upon satisfactory annual performance reviews.

The two centers identified below were selected following a multi-stage review process.  Indicating our community’s interest in forming multidisciplinary teams to address compelling transdisciplinary research problems and opportunities, we received twenty-six center proposals.  Following an initial review step, a group of seven finalists progressed to the final stage of the review process from which the two proposals described below were recommended for support.

 •   Center for Adaptive Systems for Brain-Body Interactions (CASBBI) – led by Drs. Siddhartha Sikdar, Jim Thompson and Lynn Gerber, this Center seeks to improve function and quality of life for individuals with physical and mental disability through transdisciplinary research on the mechanisms and modulation of complex adaptive systems underlying human movement and behavior.  A core team of fourteen Mason faculty from four colleges/schools, their students, and their external partners, plus other collaborators who may join the Center over time, will accelerate the development of improved clinical interventions through the transdisciplinary systems-level study of physical and mental disability.  Effective therapeutic management of these conditions requires convergence research involving the integration of knowledge across disciplines to uncover underlying neurobiological mechanisms, to modulate them through novel technological approaches, and develop measurement tools sensitive to changes resulting from the interventions.

•   Quantum Materials Center (QMC) – led by Drs. Patrick Vora, Qiliang Li and James Glasbrenner, this Center will explore, discover and develop materials necessary to create innovative computing technologies. In collaboration with their external partners, the core team of eight Mason faculty from four departments, their students and their external partners, plus other collaborators who may join the Center over time, will establish a transdisciplinary approach to the discovery and development of quantum materials. This approach will utilize a computational materials discovery framework to search for quantum materials using machine learning and global optimization techniques, synthesize the predicted materials and explore their properties, and incorporate the materials into novel logic devices suitable for Beyond Moore computing.

We are grateful to all the talented and creative faculty teams who submitted proposals to the competition, and hope that those that were not selected this time might consider revamping or fine-tuning their proposals in preparation for next year’s competition or for other funding opportunities.  Finally, we hope that the ideas and insights surfaced in preparing for the competition will lead to promising discovery outcomes regardless of the results of this competition.