Overall Rating Gold - expired
Overall Score 70.76
Liaison Richard Johnson
Submission Date Oct. 13, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Rice University
AC-10: Support for Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00
"---" 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 research in sustainability? :

A brief description of the student research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The annual Rice Undergraduate Research Symposium (RURS) enables Rice undergraduate students in all disciplines to share their research and design projects with the broader Rice and Houston community. Monetary prizes are awarded to students, and are determined by faculty, graduate student, and community judges. Specific prizes are awarded to students whose research focuses on sustainability and the environment through the Center for Energy and Environmental Research in the Human Sciences (CENHS) as well as the Shell Center for Sustainability.

-The CENHS Prize “recognizes an outstanding project that seeks to promote a deeper and broader understanding of environmental issues through interdisciplinary approaches and/or improvement of the sustainability of the community.”
-The Shell Center for Sustainability Awards “recognize outstanding, multidisciplinary research projects that consider long-term sustainable development in the Houston region and/or Gulf Coast.”

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

A brief description of the faculty research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The Shell Center for Sustainability seeks to create an interdisciplinary program of research, education, and outreach to identify and address potential threats to the sustainable development of living standards. The Shell Center for Sustainability regularly issues calls for proposals to fund significant interdisciplinary faculty research in the broad area of sustainable development. Details about funded projects can be found at https://shellcenter.rice.edu/content.aspx?id=53

Furthermore, Creative Venture provides awards to help faculty members develop new projects focused on creativity and the arts that lead to more lasting partnerships, innovative arts making or teaching environments, cross-disciplinary collaborations, or unusually creative works. There is an award for up to $50,000 specifically for "Energy and the Environment Awards."

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 brief description of the institution’s support for interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

TENURE, AND RENEWAL OF CONTRACTS" as a companion to the University's policies on Appointments, Promotion and Tenure (#201-97 and 201-01).

Within these guidelines, in sections B.6. and B.7., there is language that explicitly describes the need to populate the promotions and tenure committee with reviewers capable of properly evaluating interdisciplinary research. In particular for internal reviewers, "...when the candidate's work has significant interdisciplinary content and overlaps with other departments, consideration should be given to appointing an internal reviewer from another department. In special cases the internal reviewer may be from another institution. This may arise, for example, when no one at Rice has the expertise to evaluate the candidate's work." Further, the guidelines provide similar direction for the selection of external reviews. Specifically, "The external reviewers should be chosen from among the recognized leading scholars in the candidate's field. They should also be from programs or departments that are at least of comparable quality to Rice. In cases where a candidate's work involves more than one sub-field or discipline, it is very important that the reviewers be selected to provide a range of expertise that matches that of the candidate. This is especially important for individuals whose work contains significant interdisciplinary content."

In absence of these provisions, the promotion and tenure committee will struggle to properly evaluate interdisciplinary research. With these safeguards, research that spans disciplines is encouraged and positively recognized.

For further details, see:


An example of a positive outcome supporting interdisciplinary research would be the promotion of Dr. Caroline Masiello to the rank of Full Professor in 2015 with the department of Earth Science, with a secondary appointment to Chemistry. Dr. Masiello's publications are frequently interdisciplinary, including faculty from civil engineering, chemical engineering, earth science, and chemistry.

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

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The library supports sustainability research by providing resources on the subject in the form of print and electronic books, journals, databases, government documents, and visual media. Because the subject of sustainability is related to a number of academic disciplines (architecture, environmental engineering, ecology, etc.), those departments use their library budgets to order materials on sustainability. Collection Development Librarians also order materials related to sustainability with general library funds.

The most important way that the library supports sustainability research is by providing online access to the journal literature via online databases. Some of the most comprehensive databases such as Web of Science, Compendex for Engineering Literature, Avery Index to Architectural Periodicals, and other databases are available to Rice students and faculty. Without these databases, research could not be done. The library also provides access to major e-journal collections such as JSTOR, Science Direct, Wiley Blackwell, Oxford, Springer, and Project Muse. Furthermore, if a journal article cannot be found in the Rice Library or in one of these collections, then it will be ordered from some other library (worldwide if necessary) via Interlibrary Loan. This service is funded by the library, and is free to Rice students and faculty.

Through the library website, students are also able to access a variety of research guides, including one specifically related to sustainability.

The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
Additional documentation to support the submission:

Data source(s) and notes about the submission:

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