Grants for social science research on solar radiation modification
Solar radiation modification (SRM) is a controversial proposal for reducing some of the impacts of climate change by reflecting away a small fraction of inbound sunlight. For more about SRM, see What is SRM? in Resources and frequently asked questions.
SRM raises numerous and diverse social and political challenges. Examples include:
Most SRM research—especially in the social sciences—has taken place in the Global North. Yet the social and political challenges are at least as relevant in the Global South, which has the most at stake. These are the kinds of issues that the Socio-Political Fund was set up to explore.
The Degrees Initiative’s Socio-Political Fund will provide grants to small teams and individual researchers in the social sciences in the Global South. It is the first fund aimed entirely at researchers in developing countries and emerging economies to study SRM’s social and political dimensions. It supports work across social science disciplines, including anthropology, economics, ethics, geography, law, political science, psychology, risk science, and sociology.
Grants can cover project staffing costs, access to research and data, and direct research costs. Each grant also includes specific support for open-access publishing fees and participation in international conferences. Importantly, successful applicants will join—and help grow—a diverse global research community which includes some of the world’s top SRM experts, benefitting from South-South and South-North collaboration and professional networking opportunities. We expect each supported project to produce at least one publication in an international academic journal.
There are several objectives of the Fund :
Successful teams will receive USD 45,000, and individual researchers will receive USD 25,000, to develop, conduct, and publish their results. Of this, all but USD 10,000 (that is, USD 35,00 for teams and USD 15,000 for individual researchers) can be used for:
Of the grant, USD 10,000 is set aside for:
Additional funding may be awarded on a competitive basis if need is later identified in a refined proposal following the research-planning workshop.
The Degrees experience is about much more than grants. We are building a global community of SRM experts—something that we think is an essential precondition for the good governance of SRM. We therefore emphasise community-building and support activities to allow researchers to interact with each other and with SRM experts around the world. Therefore, the Fund also supports:
We hope and expect to support many of the researchers beyond the initial grant period, helping build a global community of SRM experts, as we have done in the physical sciences.
One of the unique benefits of the Fund is its research collaborator network—an arrangement that has worked well in our Degrees Modelling Fund. Projects will be connected with a pool of collaborators who are some of the world’s most experienced SRM experts and give their time as unpaid volunteers. The collaborators work cooperatively with the Socio-Political Fund researchers, helping them to understand the complexities of SRM and get access to the data they need (if applicable), and the key literature in their field of study. In turn the collaborators get to learn from the supported researchers: about their methods and the climate-related challenges in the regions from which they come.
The researchers are free to define how they work with their collaborators and there is no obligation to work with them at all. But most of our past teams in the physical sciences have reported that it is one of the best parts of their experience, with a number of the scientists continuing to work together outside their Degrees-supported projects—for instance by submitting joint funding proposals or by working on other projects.
After making decisions on the researchers that will receive grants in late February 2024, the Socio-Political Fund journey then begins with a two to three day research-planning workshop in Istanbul in the last week of May. One or two members from each supported project must attend—this is an essential part of the process. The research collaborators will also participate.
At the workshop, the researchers will learn more about SRM and present their initial research plans for review, discussion, and refinement. Perhaps most importantly, the workshop participants will get to know each other as they join a growing international community of SRM experts.
After the workshop, researchers are expected to submit a more detailed plan. At this stage, additional funding may be requested and later awarded on a competitive basis if the need is identified—for instance, where larger teams are needed to carry out the planned work.
The Degrees Initiative places a great emphasis on community building. Every project will receive funding to send researchers to conferences. Additionally, the Degrees Initiative will organise monthly calls to allow Socio-Political Fund researchers to stay in touch with each other and the latest SRM news, and to present their work for discussion and feedback. In the past, Degrees has also provided additional funding to allow its supported researchers to attend major SRM events and has organised additional workshops to enable them to meet up, present their work, and learn from each other. We plan to do more of this in the future.
The Degrees Initiative is not prescriptive about the focus of DMF research projects or the methods used to undertake the research. The research can address any aspect of physical climate change, or any climate impact, such as extreme temperature or rainfall, agriculture, ecosystems, or water resources. The first round of DMF studies explored how SRM could affect, amongst other things:
An application to the Socio-Political Fund is relatively light-touch. Applicants need to submit a CV, a research statement that explains what they would like to study, why the topic of study is important, and how they plan to conduct their work.
We recognise that there has been little or no SRM research in most countries. Applicants are not expected to be SRM experts and so are not expected to submit a full research plan at the application stage. Instead, they need to show that they have a strong track record in research within their social-science discipline and a promising general description of what they would like to study, how, and why, if they are awarded a grant. Previous experience working on related topics, such as climate change or emerging technologies, is an asset.
The Degrees Initiative is not prescriptive about the specific research question, methods, or outcomes of projects. The proposal can address any socio-political aspect of SRM. However, proposals that would help developing countries or regions, or the wider Global South, better understand what SRM might mean for them will be more likely to receive funding.
The Degrees Initiative has run nearly 30 engagement workshops on SRM across the Global South over the past decade. Participants at these workshops were consistent and clear that they wanted to understand what SRM would mean for their regions and the Global South. Good Socio-Political Fund projects will generate new knowledge that will help stakeholders understand the implications of SRM. More abstract proposals, including proposals to study how SRM is being researched, are not excluded but are less likely to score well at peer review.
Further reading on SRM and inspiration for research topics
Applicants looking to better understand the social and political dimensions of SRM and for ideas for possible research topics can read the report Reflecting Sunlight: Recommendations for Solar Geoengineering Research and Research Governance (US National Academies, 2021, see particularly the section “Social dimensions,” pages 233-245). Additional ideas can be found in the article “Social science research to inform solar geoengineering” (Aldy, Joseph E., et al., Science 374.6569 (2021): 815-818 [PDF]). There are many other possible topics.
Overall, applications will have a better chance of funding if they:
Capacity-building is also a key objective of the Socio-Political Fund. Degrees is looking to support researchers that show promise to become regional leaders in the field of SRM research. Applications that have a mix of experienced and early-career researchers, that include or are led by women, and/or that are based in least-developed countries (LDCs), will be looked on favourably.
Applicants are welcome to discuss potential projects with the Degrees Initiative before submission by emailing email@example.com. But please note that we do not have the capacity to review proposals or comment on the likelihood of success.
Principal investigators must have a PhD and should have appropriate research experience. They must be citizens of one of the following countries AND should work at a university or research institution in one of the listed countries:
Albania, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cabo Verde, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini (Swaziland), Ethiopia, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Indonesia, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kenya, Kiribati, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Maldives, Mali, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Mongolia, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Macedonia, Pakistan, Palestine, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Rwanda, Samoa, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Solomon Islands, Somalia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, Ukraine (except the Crimea, Donetsk and Luhansk regions), Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.
Applications from an emerging economy with a Human Development Index greater than 0.8 and that are located in developing regions will still be considered, but applicants would have to make the case for why they need research support and how their research will help developing countries to understand the impacts of SRM. This includes for example Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Malaysia, Panama, Türkiye, Uruguay etc.
Due to country-wide sanction regimes and/or operational limitations, we are unable to fund projects in Afghanistan, Cuba, Iran, North Korea, South Sudan, Sudan, and Syria. Nationals of these states who are based in eligible countries can still apply for grants.
Projects in anthropology, economics, ethics, geography, law, political science (including security studies and international relations), psychology, risk science, and sociology (including public perception and opinion) are eligible. Proposals in other social science fields might be eligible; please inquire by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
The review of applications and the allocation of funding will be made according to the following process:
The selection committee will meet in late February 2024, and notification of the results will be made shortly thereafter upon approval by the Trustees of the Degrees Initiative. Applicants shortlisted for a grant will receive a conditional award letter addressed to the principal investigator and the head of their institution and undergo a due diligence process. Shortlisted applicants that meet the due diligence requirements will then be officially awarded the grant upon completing, after the research-planning workshop, a budget that describes how funds would be used and signing a grant agreement.
Grants will be awarded and administered by the Degrees Initiative through an agreement between the Degrees Initiative, the principal investigator, and their institution.
Each successful applicant will be expected to publish at least one paper in a respected international academic journal, and principal investigators must submit a final report at the end of the grant period
Successful applicants will commit to undertaking their Socio-Political Fund research according to the agreement, and the host institution will commit to providing the appropriate resources and facilities necessary for the project. Equipment, software, and literature provided for the project through the Fund will remain the institution’s property after completion.
The funds for salaries will be paid to the awarded institution in arrears pending the receipt of satisfactory progress reports as established in the grant agreement. The funds for the research (that is, excluding the support for conference attendance and publication fees) will be paid up-front upon signing the grant agreement.
If you have any questions about the Socio-Political Fund grants or this call for proposals, please first refer to the FAQ available on our Resources for applicants page. For any other questions, please contact email@example.com.
Please note that we do not have the capacity to review proposals and provide comments on the likelihood of success.