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Faculty teams invited to apply for research grants on global issues

A new "intellectual venture capital" fund for faculty interested in team research on contemporary global issues has been established at the Institute for International Studies. To stimulate the formation of multidisciplinary research teams, the Bechtel Initiative on Global Growth and Change annually will fund up to two new one- to three-year projects.

"Traditionally, [the faculty who] have been able to form this type of research team at Stanford are the engineers, and the inspiration for this fund is the same but for a broader group of faculty," said Coit Blacker, director for special projects at the Institute for International Studies. "It is a kind of intellectual venture capital fund to assist in the creation of multidisciplinary research teams, probably primarily from the social sciences with partners from the professional schools and engineering, to support contemporary-oriented work that somehow touches on global growth and change along multiple dimensions ­ economic, political and technological."

The Stanford-based fund was made possible by a gift from the Bechtel Group of San Francisco, he said, and has broader goals than those typical of national foundations or government agencies that normally fund social science research. The institute requires faculty from at least two disciplines to have partners, such as corporations, foundations or non-governmental organizations, from outside Stanford to aid in the design and application of the research.

For example, Blacker said, a research team might form to look at how the world's "mega-cities" ­ those with 20 million inhabitants or more ­ can cope with their unique political and technical challenges. "Having some kind of ongoing relationship with regional planning agencies for one or two of these cities could make the scholarship better," Blacker said, and make it more likely that the research would be applied. Another example, he said, might be a project that brings together faculty who work on risk assessment, geology and insurance to study how to cope with the catastrophic risk of low-probability but high-impact natural events, such as earthquakes, in the growing Asia Pacific region.

Funds will be awarded on a competitive basis with a rolling deadline for applications in this first year, Blacker said. Project awards may be for any amount but are expected to be approximately $100,000 annually for a maximum of three years. Projects should have either a clearly defined end point or excellent prospects for future support. An advisory committee chaired by Professor James Gibbons will assist in assessing the proposals.

A few planning grants in the range of $10,000 to $15,000 also will be awarded twice a year. Deadlines for planning grant applications are April 15 and Oct. 15.

For more information, see or contact Blacker's office at 725-5368 or by e-mail at cblacker@leland.


By Kathleen O'Toole

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