Salata Institute Climate Research Cluster FAQs

Questions about the Salata Institute Climate Research Cluster application process answered. Page last updated: 2.6.24
Dec 13, 2023

What are we looking for in a Climate Research Cluster?

Many major climate challenges embrace both the unknown – topics on which academic research is needed – and realities driven by our complex social, legal, and political decision-making process. These two factors make implementing climate solutions difficult. A Climate Research Cluster should tackle a climate challenge that calls on both traditional academic research and the development of actionable proposals derived from that research and related knowledge. The scope of a cluster should be broad enough to have the potential for real-world impact yet narrow enough that the cluster can make significant progress. A research cluster should undertake new and consequential research, not just support an existing research program, although projects that build on existing research and otherwise meet the applicable criteria will also be eligible for funding.

Climate problems typically touch many parts of our economy, political systems, and culture. Many climate problems also raise significant issues of equity, both historically and from future climate change and the energy transition. Thus, research addressing such problems inevitably cuts across academic disciplines. The Climate Research Cluster program aims to develop and to support a community of scholars at Harvard committed to ambitious and meaningful real-world progress on important climate problems. Funded proposals will provide for ways to cultivate such a community through public presentations, holding workshops, and other ways to connect with colleagues across disciplines and schools.


What is the consultative process for developing a research cluster proposal?

The Salata Institute has created a consultative process to facilitate the development of strong proposals to the Climate Research Clusters Program. This process includes Q&A sessions, a networking reception, presentations of proposed projects, and consultations with prospective project teams. See the table below for a list of dates and indicate whether you would like to participate by using the respective RSVP links. While we encourage engagement in this process, participation in these events is optional.

EventDate, Time, LocationRegistration Information
Q & A Session 1Feb. 16, 2024, 12 – 1 PM, Salata Institute conference room, Belfer Floor 3.5, HKSRSVP here
Q & A Session 2Feb. 21, 2024, 1 – 2 PM, Kresge 200, Chan School of Public Health RSVP here
Q & A Session 3March 8, 2024, 1 – 2 PM, Harvard University Center for the Environment, 26 Oxford St., 4th Floor: MCZ 440RSVP here
Project Presentations & Networking EventApril 26, 2024. Details to be announced.RSVP link to come

Is there a preference for a specific disciplinary orientation?

No.


What is the three-step review process?

The first step is an opportunity to pitch a concept for a Research Cluster. The Salata Institute’s Research Committee will engage with first-round proposers to explore collaboration across other proposed clusters, and, if necessary, to modify the scope of the proposal. The process may yield a revised proposal (step 2). From these revised proposals, a small number of clusters will be invited to prepare a detailed proposal (step 3).


What is the timetable?

PIs should submit a 500-word concept proposal by April 1, 2024, using the Salata Institute’s application portal. (The link to the portal will be provided in an updated version of the RFP before the submission deadline.) The Salata Institute will invite all PIs to make one-slide presentations of their concept notes and to network with their peers at an event, tentatively scheduled on April 26, 2024. PIs may subsequently opt to modify their proposals, merge their proposed projects with those of others, as broad collaborations will be encouraged. Updated and extended concept proposals are then due on June 3, 2024.  Based on the concept proposals, a small number of clusters will be invited to submit full proposals, which will be due on September 26, 2024. Awards will be announced in time for funding to commence in January 2025.


What is the format of the first-stage concept proposal?

The first stage concept proposal should contain the following information:

  • Title
  • Submitting team (PI and any co-PIs)
  • Statement of the real-world climate problem the cluster addresses
  • Description of cluster research questions
  • Possible additional cross-School collaborative opportunities for the cluster
  • Likely uses of funds, in broad terms

How important is interdisciplinary and cross-School collaboration?

An accepted and launched Climate Research Cluster must have co-PIs representing at least two Schools, and ideally the Cluster ought to span multiple disciplines. Preliminary concept proposals do not need to have co-PIs from multiple Schools but should explain what other School(s) and other disciplinary area(s) could be part of the Cluster.


Who is eligible to submit a first-stage concept proposal?

Anyone with Harvard PI status.


How can Principal Investigators (PIs) who are not ladder faculty participate in the program?

PIs who are not ladder faculty may serve as co-PIs with a ladder faculty member in a Climate Research Cluster.


Could Research Clusters include collaborators from government and non-governmental organizations?

Yes.


May I submit more than one concept proposal in the first step of the application process?

Yes.


What is the expected time commitment and will research space be provided?

Each cluster will require a significant time commitment from its members, as well as a high level of interaction among them. This interaction will involve co-locating regularly to facilitate the fruitful exchange of ideas and to hasten the synthesis of research findings. The Salata Institute will provide this meeting space at no cost, or the space can be provided by the cluster PIs. Limited space will be provided for postdocs or graduate students; specifics should be discussed with the Salata Institute.


Will any concept proposal be disqualified after step one (April 1, 2024)?

No. By submitting a concept proposal, PIs gain access to the consultative process that is described in the RFP.


Will external reviewers be involved in evaluating proposals?

Yes, external reviewers will serve on the selection committee and as referees for individual proposals.


Could research clusters leverage this funding to raise matching funds?

Yes, the Salata Institute encourages the use of Research Cluster funding to raise additional resources.


Could research cluster funding be used to seed collaborations with other universities?

Yes, so long as the core criteria of the climate research cluster program are met.


Could research cluster funding be used to purchase instruments or data?

Yes.


What are the reporting requirements of each Climate Research Cluster?

Clusters are to meet annually with the Salata Institute’s Research Committee to discuss the status of the project. Clusters are also expected to organize presentations of their research periodically.


Might there be funding for promising projects that aren’t awarded Climate Research Cluster grants?

Yes, the Salata Institute may provide seed grant funding to such projects for the purpose of supporting PIs in developing projects into future Climate Research Clusters.


Where should I address any additional questions?

Please address any other questions to james_clem@harvard.edu.