• Internal: 09/30/2019
  • Proposal: 12/02/2019


  • Amount: $1m per year
  • Duration: 5 years


NSF seeks proposals to establish an adaptive and responsive research network that supports investigations of the Earth’s Critical Zone. This network will consist of two components that will work together to advance knowledge, education, and outreach in this convergent science: 1) Thematic Clusters of fixed or temporary locations will conduct basic research on significant, overarching scientific questions concerning the structure, function, and processes of the Critical Zone. These U.S.-based Clusters could include existing observatories engaged in collecting environmental data, other monitoring locations that have been in operation for extended periods of time, and new sites that will support the scientific goals of the Cluster; 2) A Coordinating Hub that will oversee the compatibility and archiving of the data resulting from the Thematic Clusters, coordinate outreach and community-building activities, support the use of network facilities by outside researchers, and plan for infrastructure needs of the network.

This solicitation invites proposals for either of the two components: 1) Thematic Cluster or 2) Coordinating Hub. The Thematic Clusters will carry out interdisciplinary research on scientific questions and manage part of the network infrastructure; the Coordinating Hub will serve as the national center for the network. The infrastructure of the network will be accessible to other research teams pursuing research in the Critical Zone.

The Thematic Clusters (Clusters) will operate an array of CZ locations chosen on the basis of a unifying scientific theme. Each Cluster would ideally have several locations encompassing multiple watersheds that could facilitate investigations of environmental gradients relevant to the proposed research theme. The Network is expected to include Clusters with a variety of physical and environmental characteristics, such as lithology, climate, erosional and depositional settings, land use, and biota, that foster investigations showcasing convergent science and multidisciplinary teams. These Clusters could include existing CZOs or similar locations that have been actively gathering data for extended periods of time, other locations that leverage relevant data sets that have been collected previously, as well as new locations that will support the science theme.

The Coordinating Hub (Hub) will manage the standardization, archiving, and accessibility of the data generated by the Clusters, convene regular meetings of the Thematic Clusters, and plan for future research infrastructure needs of the network. The Hub will also help support national outreach activities and organize workshops that engage the larger CZ community. These activities are expected to enhance scientific progress within the domains of CZ research and to encourage the participation of a broad range of scientists from various disciplines, at different career stages, and from groups that are traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

Eligibility & Submission Requirements

Limit on Number of Proposals per Organization: 4
Thematic Clusters: 3 proposals per organization

Coordinating Hub: 1 proposal per organization

An organization may submit a total of 4 proposals to this competition, 1 for the Coordinating Hub and 3 for the Thematic Clusters. If you are interested submitting, please contact Karen Drew (x 4824) by as soon as possible and by 30 September 2019 submit a 2-page pre-proposal following the NU Procedure for Programs with Limited Submissions.

Contact Information

Cognizant Program Officer(s):

Please note that the following information is current at the time of publishing. See program website for any updates to the points of contact.