Transdisciplinary Challenge Award: 2014
Collaborative Research Project

Request for Collaborative Research Projects:

Transdisciplinary Challenges for the 21st Century

Application Milestones:

Merrill Hall Sundial

Friday, December 6, 2013

2:00 pm, Curtin 939

Informational Meeting/Statement of Interest

Friday, January 17, 2014

Pre-Proposals Due

Friday, February 28, 2014

Proposals Due


The UWM Center for 21st Century Studies (C21) invites proposals from multidisciplinary research teams to work with C21 in addressing the transdisciplinary challenges of 21st century studies. A substantive one-year award will be made to a collaborative research project which brings together UWM researchers from the Center’s traditional constituencies in the humanities, arts, and humanistic social sciences with researchers from natural, physical, and quantitative social sciences. Other smaller awards may be given to encourage promising projects for future development.

This initiative is designed to prompt researchers from any disciplinary background to think in unexpected and untried ways about working with researchers in disciplines whose methodology, content, and institutional practices are unfamiliar to them. Although this is not the kind of research with which most academics have experience, we are convinced that this kind of research will become increasingly prevalent and necessary in the 21st century. The aim of these awards is not only to generate new research approaches to the complex problems of the 21st century but also to provide models for how researchers from disciplines that do not have a history of collaboration can work together to meet the complex, heterogeneous challenges of the 21st century.

The award will target project start dates near July 1, 2014.

Research Areas

Proposals are especially solicited which develop new concepts, methodologies, or approaches to their research problems that transform traditional disciplinary practices. Although proposals may be submitted on any research problem of pressing concern, C21 is particularly interested in sponsoring research in the following areas.

Digital: How do new technologies of computation create new paradigms of research and scholarship in the humanities and social sciences? How can such research areas as data mining, bioinformatics, and natural language processing be brought to bear on the liberal arts more broadly and how can the liberal arts, particularly in relation to philosophical concepts of meaning, information, number, space, and visuality, impact the way in which the computational disciplines conceptualize their research problems?

Environment: The 21st century faces crises of climate, scarcity, waste, pollution, and extinction. How do these crises open up new areas of research in the arts, humanities, and social sciences? How can artistic and literary depictions of these crises provide new possibilities for scientific research and technical development? Are we truly in a new geological era called the anthropocene, and if so what kinds of problems and challenges does this pose for 21st century studies?

Health: In the 21st century the health of individuals and communities poses increasing challenges to researchers across the disciplinary spectrum. These challenges cannot be solved by technical means alone, but must rely upon humanistic, artistic, and social scientific research as well. How can transdisciplinary approaches to questions of health in the 21st century employ the methodologies of the arts and humanities to reframe the way in which the medical and health sciences conceptualize and approach these key questions of individual and public health?

Security: How do questions of security, risk, and futurity—particularly as developed in economics, health science, engineering, and emergency management—intersect with similar questions in media, literature, or the imaginative arts? How can technical measurements and conceptualization of risk and security impact these imaginative realms? How can the imagination of risk impact problems of technical measurement and intervene in the formulation and management of natural and geopolitical emergencies?

Award Amounts

Proposals are invited for one-year research programs up to $150,000. Smaller awards may be given to promising proposals that could be funded more fully in the future.

Scholarly Presentation

To further the aims and mission of the Center for 21st Century Studies, winning teams will be asked to organize a public workshop, symposium, lecture series, or conference on their transdisciplinary topic at some time during the year after their research project is completed. The timing and nature of these presentations will be determined in consultation with C21.


All UWM faculty and research staff are eligible to propose a project. Because the winning project is meant to provide new models for how researchers from disciplines that do not have a history of collaboration can work together, proposals must meet the following criteria:

  • Researchers from at least two different departments must be involved
  • At least one researcher must be from the humanities, arts, social sciences or other traditional C21 constituencies
  • Projects are encouraged to deploy graduate (or undergraduate) assistants from participating disciplines as appropriate

Milestones in the Application Process

Informational Meeting/Statement of Interest: Each interested party should prepare a brief statement of interest, along with a two-page CV, to be submitted at an informational meeting at 2:00 PM on Friday, December 6, 2013, in Curtin 939. Indicate if you are seeking collaborators or, if you already are working with other researchers, their names. C21 will work to foster conversations among interested faculty as a means of facilitating collaborations among researchers from across various parts of campus.

Pre-proposals: Faculty who form collaborative teams must submit 2-3 page pre-proposals by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, January 17, 2014. Pre-proposals should contain a short draft of the project narrative, making clear what is unique or distinctive about this transdisciplinary research project, as well as 2-page CVs of all participants. C21 will provide brief feedback on these pre-proposals no later than Friday, January 31, 2014.

Proposals: Each proposal must contain the following components in a single-spaced document, with 12-point font and 1-inch margins. Proposals are due by 5:00 pm on Friday, February 28, 2014.

  • Project Narrative – Five pages maximum
  • Budget
  • Budget Justification
  • Two-page CVs of key project participants
  • Names of outside evaluators from each discipline represented

Evaluation Criteria for Proposals: Decisions on the award will be made by an ad hoc selection committee made up of faculty selected from the C21 advisory board as well as members drawn from a variety of disciplines and selected with substantial input from the faculty and academic staff governance committees. The C21 director and deputy director will be ex officio members of the selection committee. The primary criteria for selection of projects will include: 1) level of true transdisciplinary partnership; 2) strength of the proposal; 3) prospects for generating other similar collaborations; 4) likelihood of sustaining the project beyond the award period; and 5) relevance to C21’s mission.

Instructions for Submitting Proposals: E-mail completed proposal applications in a single PDF document to: no later than 5:00 pm, Friday, February 28, 2014. Late proposals will not be considered. For questions or further information please feel free to contact Richard Grusin, C21 Director, at

Request for 2014 Collaborative Research Projects (PDF version)

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