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SEES FY 2011 Activities

Released on January 4, 2011: Dear Colleague Letter for the Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) NSF-Wide Investment Area (NSF 11-022)

Released on March 9, 2011: Frequently Asked Questions for SEES (NSF 11-039)


In FY 11, NSF will continue to support and emphasize creative, interdisciplinary research that underpins the development of innovative solutions to pressing problems in sustainability science and engineering. SEES activities will focus on integrated science and engineering research in climate change and energy. This research – in such areas as complex environmental and climate-system responses and pathways – will be complemented by activities focused on sustainable and renewable energy technologies. It is expected to include conceptual, theoretical, empirical, and computational research to further develop the basic science, engineering, education, and policy knowledge base, and address the multifaceted challenges of sustainability at both individual and systems levels.

SEES research investments in FY11 are expected to include a broad array of research in the area of sustainable energy, such as: novel energy storage schemas; ecosystem impacts of energy technologies; improving the efficiency and yield of established sustainable energy systems, e.g. wind, solar; and the discovery and development of novel energy sources, e.g. biofuels, ocean/kinetic power. Energy-intelligent computational performance in computer and network systems, the use of information technology in smart sensing systems that have promise to save energy, and energy efficiency in manufacturing and materials will also be important emphases.

It is expected that SEES research will address key scientific uncertainties including: interactions between the climate, human and natural systems; feedbacks in the climate and carbon cycles; impacts of ice sheets dynamics on climate change and sea level rise; regional climate change and causes; the difference between low probability/high impact vs. high probability/low impact events on risk-based approaches to decision making; interactions between socio-economic factors and the evolution and utilization of adaptive and mitigating strategies; barriers, limits and costs of adaptation; effects of lifestyle and behavioral changes on energy consumption and climate.

In addition to advances in sustainability science and engineering research, these awards will include activities that help prepare an informed, solutions-oriented citizenry and future workforce to address the complex problems and decisions associated with sustainability. Educational experiences for undergraduate, doctoral and postdoctoral students will be an important part of the SEES investment.

Direct link to the NSF-wide Investments section of the FY 2011 Budget Request to Congress:

FY 11 Program Opportunities

  • Sustainability Research Networks (NSF 11-574)

    Sustainability Research Networks will engage and explore fundamental theoretical issues and empirical questions in sustainability science, engineering, and education that will increase our understanding of the ultimate sustainability challenge - maintaining and improving the quality of life for the nation within a healthy Earth system. The goal of the Sustainability Research Networks (SRN) competition is to support the development and coalescence of entities to advance collaborative research that addresses questions and challenges in sustainability science, engineering, and education.

    Preliminary Proposals: December 1, 2011
    Full Proposals: April 1, 2012

  • Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability Fellows (SEES Fellows) (NSF 11-575)

    Through SEES Fellows, NSF seeks to enable the discoveries needed to inform actions that lead to environmental, energy and societal sustainability while creating the necessary workforce to address these challenges. The program's emphasis is to facilitate investigations that cross traditional disciplinary boundaries and address issues of sustainability through a systems approach, building bridges between academic inquiry, economic growth, and societal needs.

    Deadline: December 5, 2011

  • Water, Sustainability and Climate (NSF 11-551)

    This activity enables interagency cooperation on one of the most pressing problems of the millennium--water sustainability --how it is likely to affect our world, and how we can proactively plan for its consequences. It allows the partner agencies--National Science Foundation (NSF) and the United States Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture (USDA/NIFA) -to combine resources to identify and fund the most meritorious and highest-impact projects that support their respective missions, while eliminating duplication of effort and fostering collaboration between agencies and the investigators they support.

    Deadline: October 19, 2011
  • Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (NSF 11-612)

    The Dynamics of Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNH) Program promotes interdisciplinary analyses of relevant human and natural system processes and complex interactions among human and natural systems at diverse scales.

    Deadline: November 15, 2011
  • Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) (NSF 11-025)

    NSF’s Partnerships for International Research and Education (PIRE) program has released a Dear Colleague Letter announcing that the FY 2011-2012 PIRE competition will be focused exclusively on the NSF-wide investment area of Science, Engineering, and Education for Sustainability (SEES). For more information about this funding opportunity, please visit the PIRE homepage at:

  • Research Coordination Networks (RCN) (NSF 11-531)
  • The goal of the RCN program is to advance a field or create new directions in research or education. Groups of investigators will be supported to communicate and coordinate their research, training and educational activities across disciplinary, organizational, geographic and international boundaries. RCN provides opportunities to foster new collaborations, including international partnerships, and address interdisciplinary topics.

    Deadlines (SEES Track): May 24, 2011; February 3, 2012

  • Dimensions of Biodiversity (NSF 11-518)
  • The Dimensions of Biodiversity campaign takes a broad view of biodiversity that ranges from genes through species to ecosystems in an effort to integrate both descriptive and functional aspects of biodiversity on Earth. The long-term goal of the campaign is to develop an integrated understanding of the key dimensions of biodiversity in an ever-changing world.

    Deadline: March 28, 2011

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