Overall Rating Platinum
Overall Score 86.33
Liaison Lisa Kilgore
Submission Date March 1, 2024

STARS v2.2

Cornell University
AC-10: Support for Sustainability Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Kurt Fritjofson
Research & Program Administrator
Operations Team
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the student sustainability research program:
Cornell Atkinson Center engages undergraduate students, graduate students, professional students, and postdocs each year in a range of sustainability-related funding, training, mentoring, and networking programs that take students beyond the classroom and into hands-on research and professional experiences on campus and across the globe. Below are highlights of our core student and postdocs programs. In addition to these, students and postdocs often work as research assistants on our faculty-funded grant projects.

Graduate Research Grants Program (formerly Small Grants Program) - Graduate Funding for Cornell Atkinson Thematic Areas

Eligibility: Cornell graduate students, professional students, and postdocs; supplemental funding for undergraduate research assistants is available for Small Grants awardees.

Cornell Atkinson’s Graduate Research Grants support pioneering research with the goal of creating practical sustainability solutions. These grants prioritize projects that align with the Center's four research areas: increasing food security, reducing climate risk, accelerating energy transitions, and advancing One Health.

Sustainable Biodiversity Fund - Protecting Earth’s Biodiversity

Eligibility: Cornell graduate students and postdocs from all disciplines; supplemental funding for undergraduate research assistants is available for Sustainable Biodiversity Fund awardees.

The Sustainable Biodiversity Fund supports innovative research on the most pressing questions in protecting biodiversity. Applicants are encouraged to propose interdisciplinary projects that will convert knowledge into actions that preserve biodiversity and its global ecosystem services.

Postdoctoral Fellowships - Sustainability Innovation Leaders

Eligibility: Completion of a Ph.D. before the fellowship start date; all disciplines welcome to apply

At Cornell Atkinson, collaborating defines our approach to catalyzing change. The Cornell Atkinson Postdoctoral Fellowships in Sustainability and the new Cornell Atkinson-Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) Postdoctoral Fellowships forge connections between postdocs and external partners, including government agencies, for-profit businesses, nonprofits, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). In the last five years, Cornell Atkinson has supported postdoctoral fellows in ambitious, cross-disciplinary research while building a core group of leaders capable of transforming sustainability public opinion, products, practices, and policies.

Sustainability Leadership Program - Training for Sustainability Impact

Eligibility: Cornell Atkinson, Joint Cornell Atkinson-EDF, and EDF Postdocs are eligible for all program workshops.

The Cornell Atkinson Sustainability Leadership Program, designed in partnership with EDF, is a sustainability-focused, interdisciplinary research opportunity to support the development of skills in interdisciplinary, cross-sector, and community collaboration; science communication; policy impact; and career design. The training aims to help Postdocs develop into leaders who prioritize listening, responsiveness, respect, and equality in their sustainability research and collaborations. Starting in 2019, participants who complete the research program will earn a Sustainability Leadership Certificate. The research program reflects that these “researchers working on sustainability are aware of the urgent challenges facing us globally, but they face a number of institutional barriers when attempting to design, implement, and report research for both the academic and nonacademic worlds. Taking knowledge to action effectively requires a range of skills in the areas of collaboration across disciplines and sectors.”

EDF-Cornell Atkinson Summer Internships - Hands-On Sustainability Experience

Eligibility: Cornell undergraduate and graduate students

Each spring, (through the Atkinson Center) ten Cornell students are selected for the Hands-On Sustainability Experience Summer Internship which offers immersive, hands-on experience at the intersection of science, policy, community, and industry. These internships expose student scholars and emerging scientists to the inner workings of leading environmental advocacy groups, such as Environmental Defense Fund due to connections with Cornell Atkinson. Working on cutting-edge sustainability issues in dynamic organizations, interns gain subject matter expertise and workplace skills. Selected students are hired for 8-12 weeks to conduct sustainability-focused research, including data collection, data analysis, and data communication, within their partnered organization.

Summer Mentored Undergraduate Research Grants - Faculty-led Research Mentorship

Eligibility: Professorial faculty and non-visiting faculty with a primary appointment

This program supports faculty-led summer opportunities for undergraduates conducting sustainability research, structured as a pair of undergraduate researchers mentored by a graduate student and faculty principal investigator. By offering this tiered mentorship structure, proposed projects are intended to prepare undergraduates to conduct independent research in a collaborative environment.

Does the institution have a program to encourage academic staff from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct sustainability research?:

A brief description of the faculty sustainability research program:
The Academic Venture Fund (AVF) is a foundational program at Cornell Atkinson supporting the next generation of sustainable solutions. Since 2008, the AVF has worked to seed original, interdisciplinary research that is not likely to find funding elsewhere because the projects are novel, risky, need early data to establish traction, or involve new teams working together.

The AVF provides roughly $1.5 million in funding annually, typically supporting 10 to 15 projects a year across a range of themes, including food security, climate risk, energy transitions, and one Health.

AVF projects often draw in external partners from industry, government, and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), as well as local leaders and community members.
Since 2008, AVF grants have funded 166 projects by over 350 faculty members, totaling more than $19.2 million. These projects have led to tens of millions in follow-on funding and have engaged more than 350 individual Cornell faculty members and more than 100 students as Research Assistants.

Please see our AVF webpage for more details on the 10 projects awarded in 2023: https://www.atkinson.cornell.edu/grants/faculty/avf/

Cornell Atkinson is co-leading a brand new, University-wide effort known as The 2030 Project: A Cornell Climate Initiative. (https://atkinson.cornell.edu/the-2030-project/fast-grants/) A crossdisciplinary effort, spearheaded by several colleges within the intramural community, The 2030 Project's initial funding program - the Fast Grants - were incredibly popular upon their debut in 2022. To enable Cornell faculty to seize urgent and unique opportunities, The 2030 Project and Cornell Atkinson offered the first round of Fast Grants to provide immediate support for impact-oriented climate research, within the $10,000 – $25,000 range. 50 proposals were received, and 12 Fast Grants were awarded in 2022, for a total of $387,763. Further expansion of The 2030 Project's funding mechanisms, in addition to a new Fast Grant call, are forthcoming.

For more about The 2030 Project, please see the home page: https://climate.cornell.edu/

As part of The 2030 Project, Cornell Atkinson recently collaborated on the launch of the Climate Solutions Fund. Supported in part by the generous proceeds from the 5/8/23 Dead & Co. concert at Cornell, the Fund seeks to accelerate cross-disciplinary efforts in the 2030 Project pillars: food & farms of the future; the energy systems of the future; the materials of the future; and the societies of the future – helping to develop systems that support human flourishing while minimizing harmful climate impacts.

Proposals may include, but will not be not limited to: solutions involving renewable and zero-carbon energy production; zero-emission agriculture; decarbonized industrial processes and sustainable material extraction; climate finance and climate policy development; and climate justice and adaptation.

The Cornell Atkinson Rapid Response Fund (RRF) facilitates urgent or time-sensitive research, workshops, and other activities within a broad range of sustainability initiatives. The RRF positions faculty to seize unique opportunities for small research projects with funding of up to $10,000. RRF awards can be used to generate preliminary results needed to compete for targeted external funding or to help finance sustainability-related events. RRF proposals are evaluated by the Cornell Atkinson leadership team on a rolling basis.

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Cornell Atkinson issued a special request for proposals in spring 2020 for seed funding to enable faculty to respond to unique opportunities related to the pandemic and sustainability.

Cornell Atkinson leadership evaluates RRF proposals on a rolling basis during the year. In 2020, we awarded 35 RRF projects (29 of these were specifically related to the COVID-19 pandemic). We awarded seven RRFs across a range of themes in 2021, and eight in 2022 to date. For a full list of recent RRF awards, click here: https://www.atkinson.cornell.edu/grants/faculty/rrf/

Cornell Atkinson brings together experts and innovators to deliver large-scale, long-term sustainability solutions. Through the Innovation for Impact Fund (IIF), we support basic and applied research with a clear pathway to impact and an emphasis on actionable, short-term results.

IIF issues calls-for-proposals that are designed with our partners—leading players in practice, policy and products—to jointly develop and test evidence-based solutions to some of the world's more intractable sustainability problems. Successful IIF projects create interdisciplinary teams with both Cornell and external partners, demonstrate new concepts, pilot applications of scientific discoveries, and implement real-world practices that can shape development policy or programming, develop tools, and build research and development capacity.

The Cornell Atkinson Center also has a number of programs aimed at supporting and preparing the next generation of sustainability scholars, including postdoc fellowship programs, graduate student grant programs with supplements to mentor undergraduates, internships, the summer mentored research grant program, a cross-campus graduate group of more than 150 students from 15 disciplines, and a certificate-earning program in sustainability leadership. These programs encourage innovative, interdisciplinary research with a focus on diverse perspectives and engaging partner organizations and communities.

For more, please visit: https://www.atkinson.cornell.edu/grants/postdocs/postdoctoral-fellowships/

Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:

A copy of the promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:

The promotion or tenure guidelines or policies:
Cornell University has a large number of centers encouraging collaboration across disciplines and with external collaborator (including the Cornell Atkinson Center); this approach to research is highly valued and often considered as a strong supportive activity in cases of faculty tenure and promotion.

The Cornell Atkinson Center's faculty funding supports Cornell faculty in the natural sciences, as well as in the social sciences, humanities, and arts who are working in the sustainability arena. Positive outcomes include studying the motivating roles of humor and anger in promoting climate change action and developing messages that use emotion to increase political engagement (https://as.cornell.edu/news/atkinson-center-names-2018-19-ssha-faculty-fellows).

Additionally, the Center's Academic Venture Fund (AVF) stimulates interdisciplinary research in sustainability at Cornell and promotes activities with the potential to attract external partners in industry, government, NGOs, and foundations. The AVF provides over $1.5 million in funding annually. The fund typically supports 10-15 projects a year across a range of energy, environment, and economic development concerns and supported 9 projects in 2022.

Recent examples include:

"Mapping Poverty, Natural Hazards, and Critical Ecosystem Services for Equitable and Sustainable Development": A multi-disciplinary team will harness big data, machine learning, and advances in poverty measurement to inform policy and investment agendas supporting equitable and sustainable development in low- and middle-income countries where threats to nature and human wellbeing are most critical. The researchers will pilot a new machine learning approach to estimate policy-relevant structural poverty measures at high spatial resolutions and demonstrate the transformative potential of such data products for research and decision-making around sustainable development, disaster risk reduction, and environmental conservation. The findings will inform the work of partners Conservation International, the Natural Capital Project, SPRING, and the World Wildlife Fund.

"Remote Sensing for Carbon-negative Climate Resilience in the Restored Herring River Estuary at Cape Cod National Seashore": Tidal flow to the Herring River Estuary (HRE), part of the Cape Cod National Seashore (one of the most visited US national parks), has been severely limited for over a century. This disconnection has widely impacted the ecology of the HRE, decimating its eponymous Herring Run, allowing invasive marsh grasses to become established over large areas, and negatively impacting water quality. By the end of 2022, the National Park Service (NPS) and the United States Geological Survey (USGS) will commence a ~$50 million project to reconnect the HRE to tidal inflows. Cornell researchers, in collaboration with scientists from USGS and NPS will measure water velocities and methane fluxes before, during, and after tidal reintroduction, deploying an infrared-based velocity measurement tool to examine the up and down flow directions under ebb and flow tides to collect data during this major coastal infrastructure renovation project.

For more, please visit: https://www.atkinson.cornell.edu/grants/faculty/avf/

Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research:
The Cornell University Library system offers Library Guides for assisting with research in many departments, including Environment and Natural Resources. Please see the following link for a list of departments and sample guides: https://guides.library.cornell.edu/home.

The Cornell Library System also created a series titled “Academic Libraries for Sustainable Development” designed to respond to the question, “What can academic libraries do to help build a better and more sustainable future for the world?” This four-part webinar series brought together librarians and thought-leaders around the world to address the toughest issues facing the planet as outlined by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.


Website URL where information about the institution’s support for sustainability research is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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