The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine
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Request for Applications: Synthesis Grants – Award Year 2016

Grant Type Description

Synthesis Grants: These grants will support projects that will generate novel insights, address critical questions, or lead to new approaches to interpreting and using existing observations or monitoring data by bringing together concepts, methods, and/or data from different disciplines and sectors (i.e., scientific synthesis). Proposed projects should involve the integration of distinct elements into a possibly complex but coherent whole to accomplish the research. These grants are not intended to support the mere collation of data without a specific purpose or the collection of primary data (including new field, laboratory, or imagery data).
Modes of synthesis that this opportunity will fund include:
  • Data integration, which aggregates two or more complementary datasets into an integral whole, typically to add new dimensions to the existing information to address specific questions, or to support new types of research or research on a larger scale, or to develop new approaches or technologies
  • Expanded and enhanced use of findings from different sources (e.g., distinct research disciplines, technologies, methodologies) in new contexts (e.g., through systematic review and meta-analysis)
  • Integration of two or more methods to create a new analytical pathway; and
  • Conceptual synthesis, which bridges theories and paradigms that underpin previous studies

A Letter of Intent is required for this funding opportunity.

Key Dates

Letter of Intent
March 1, 2016: Online Submission of Letter of Intent Opens (CLOSED)
April 27, 2016, 5:00pm ET: Letter of Intent Due (CLOSED)
Full Proposal
April 28, 2016: Online Submission of Full Proposal Opens (ONLY open to Applicants who submitted a Letter of Intent)
June 22, 2016, 5:00pm ET: Full Proposal Due

TOPIC: Scientific Synthesis Connecting Environmental, Social, and/or Health Data

This funding opportunity seeks projects that will use environmental data in combination with individual-level or population-level socio-cultural, economic, and/or health data to either (1) advance the development of tools, methodologies, and approaches for understanding interactions between the environment, social systems, and human health; or (2) integrate existing data to generate novel insights and address important questions. Proposed projects should address one of two themes:
  • Coastal Communities: Advancing understanding of the short-term and long-term impacts of offshore oil and gas operations on human communities in coastal regions adjacent to the U.S. outer continental shelf by developing new knowledge about these impacts or new approaches for monitoring and assessing the consequences of social or economic conditions and/or environmental exposures as they act together to affect human communities.
  • Human Exposure: Advancing study design, tools, models and technologies for assessing human exposure to environmental contaminants, particularly those related to oil and gas operations. This could include chronic exposure or acute exposure from oil spills or other sudden and large-scale environmental disturbances/disasters, and their related impacts on the social, physical, and/or mental health and well-being of individuals and populations.
The study of how environmental conditions affect human populations requires an examination of complex relationships among environmental, social and cultural, economic, and/or health conditions. Such studies are challenging for a variety of reasons—for example, differences in data collection, coding, and format; discrepancies in the spatial and temporal scale of information; and limited familiarity and interactions across the social, environmental, and health sciences about the methodologies and information resources within these and other disciplines. This RFA challenges proposers to bring together data, concepts, and/or methods, and/or data from different disciplines and sectors to address one of the two themes identified above.

What we are looking for:

Below are examples of the types of research that may be needed to address these goals. This list is not comprehensive, but illustrative. It is intended to challenge proposers to consider the range of opportunities that could be supported through these grants. Inclusion of a formalized approach to communicating project results to relevant coastal or affected communities is encouraged.
  • Approaches that take advantage of innovative methods and emerging technologies for integrating and using individual or population-level health and/or sociodemographic data and environmental data (e.g., improved study designs and methodologies; exposure models; new tools and approaches for rapid and integrated data collection; new tools and approaches for data organization to facilitate data sharing and comparability of results across studies).
  • Synthesis of disparate but complementary information, results, or perspectives to develop new research approaches (e.g., tools, technologies and methodologies, for example a method that would allow observational methods and simulation to be combined in a rigorous way).
  • Strategies for identifying populations or areas that could serve as a reference for assessing impacts of offshore oil and gas operation on humans (individuals and/or communities) in regions along the U.S. outer continental shelf where offshore oil and gas development occurs or may occur.
  • Educational or training initiatives that encourage and support scientific synthesis research on connections between environmental conditions, social systems, economic well-being, and/or human health.
  • Formalized and sufficiently specific approaches (i.e., formal procedures and processes) and professional standards that can promote and enhance data access, sharing, and collaboration across disciplines.
  • Informatics frameworks and other interoperability solutions to advance the integration and integrative analysis of environmental data with individual-level and/or population-level data.
The Program will not consider funding:
  • The mere collation of data without a specific purpose (i.e., collated data must be used to test hypotheses; develop models, new approaches, or new methods; or for other purposes). 
  • Activities that require the collection or generation of primary data (including new field, laboratory, or imagery data).
  • Activities or programs that are simply a continuation of efforts already underway (without the engagement of new perspectives or approaches).
Award Information

Anticipated Project Duration: 24 months
Estimated Number of Awards: 10 to 14 awards
Anticipated Total Amount for this Funding Opportunity: $5 million. Resources made available under this funding opportunity will depend on the quality of the proposals received. The Gulf Research Program reserves the right to select for negotiation all, some, one, or none of the proposals received in response to this solicitation.


The Gulf Research Program welcomes proposals from non-federal government organizations on behalf of all qualified scientists, engineers, health professionals and educators. The applying organization will be referred to as the applicant hereafter. The scientists, engineers, health professionals, and educators who will lead the proposed project will be referred to as project directors hereafter.
  • This funding opportunity is for new activities only. The applicant must not have received any other support for this project, and the project must not be currently under consideration for funding by another funder.
  • Project directors usually initiate proposals that are officially submitted by their employing organizations (the applicant). When initiating a proposal, the project director typically is responsible for ensuring the proposal meets all the requirements outlined by the Gulf Research Program as well as any requirements set by the employing organizations.
  • Non-federal government organizations in the United States that have a valid federal tax ID number are eligible to apply.
  • An applicant may submit multiple applications on behalf of different project directors, but it may submit only one application for each project director. Individuals may be involved as a project director and key personnel, or as key personnel, in up to three proposals; in each proposal, a clear description should be included to explain how the proposed project is not duplicative of other proposed efforts or how the participant will budget his or her time.
Watch this tutorial video for an overview of the RFA, the intent of these grants, the RFA topic and guidance on the process of applying
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