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Moonshot RFP Submissions

Background and Justification

The CALS Roadmap to 2050 identifies five Transdisciplinary Moonshots—opportunities for the CALS community to collaborate on future-focused, cross-disciplinary scientific discoveries and breakthroughs and to align research, education and extension programs for greater impact and stronger connectivity. This Request for Proposals (RFP) centers on faculty hiring in targeted cohort areas, with the goal of hiring 25 new faculty in the moonshot initiative.

Our world’s most pressing challenges—climate change, food insecurity, data technology, cancer and disease, and other existential threats—are too interconnected and multifaceted for any single discipline or method to resolve. They demand a concentration of the best ideas and techniques from across CALS and the university, developed and implemented every step of the way with external outcomes in mind.

In addition, multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary breakthroughs need to be tightly coupled to transdisciplinary approaches to implement real world outcomes through engagement that reaches beyond the academy.  

CALS is launching our Transdisciplinary Moonshots to inspire our community to think beyond conventional academic silos and to aim our constellation of expertise at our world’s most dire threats. Through this effort, CALS will serve as the nexus for diverse perspectives; as a test bed for visionary research, innovation, teaching and outreach to unlock holistic solutions and pioneer basic scientific breakthroughs that provide a giant leap forward for humanity.

While the Transdisciplinary Moonshot initiative, which includes broad scholarship and research opportunities, will be rolled out in several layers, the first step outlined here is focused on cohort hiring proposals.

The five moonshot areas

The five Transdisciplinary Moonshot areas for cohort-based hiring include:

green leaves surround computer with text

Redesigning 21st Century Agri-Food Systems

Nourishing people and planet as interconnected systems that create opportunities for digital agriculture, circularity, markets and economic development, and impactful local solutions from New York to the world.

Resilient agri-food systems are essential to human existence. Global food networks must adapt to feed a population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050, while also contending with land, water and energy shortages caused by a warming planet. CALS seeks to develop novel ways to boost food production and nutrition, reduce waste and conserve resources—ensuring a nutritious, accessible, equitable, and sustainable food supply for all.

Pioneering Life Sciences Breakthroughs

From biomolecules, genes, and evolution to human behavior, development and communication, species composition, biodiversity conservation and the biosphere.

To thrive in this solutions century, we must decode the complex, interlocking systems that underpin life. We will investigate the fundamentals of molecular and cellular biology, the communities and ecosystems that sustain human, animal and plant health and examine the dynamics of our interdependent systems and human behaviors—with an eye on unlocking new and thoughtfully implemented technologies and approaches to solve global problems and scientific puzzles that have eluded us.

Leading in Synthetic Biology 

Harnessing the power of science and innovation biology to engineer new material solutions, create sustainable technologies for markets, and understand such advances from a societal perspective.

We have the potential to harness the very building blocks of life—genes, molecules and cells—for major, life-changing impact. With synthetic biology, scientists can design and program new biological organisms for the sustainable production of fuels, foods, medicines, and other next-generation materials critical to fight disease, power society, feed communities, and lower our carbon footprint. 

Accelerating Holistic Climate Solutions 

From energy resources, greenhouse gas reductions, carbon capture, and resilience to adaptation, economics, climate justice and food security.

At CALS, we believe we can feed the planet while also helping to cool it. It will take every weapon in our arsenal to fight climate change—a transformation of our food and farm systems, material and manufacturing processes, energy systems, and societies and economies for a safer, healthier, decarbonized world. We are driving practical solutions to save our planet and commit to ensuring that all communities benefit from these advances. 

Strategic Wild Card 

In addition to the four core areas above, we solicit bottom-up proposals in new areas not currently identified in the moonshots as hiring priorities for the college. This opportunity will enable CALS to explore exciting areas of emerging importance, which connect to our core mission and form distinctive opportunities to lead in the solutions century.

The power of collaboration and trailblazing scholarship in CALS prizes approaches that continue to expand on the edges of our core. Opening to unknown and previously unidentified topical areas will continue to expand on the college’s mission. 

RFP details for faculty-led cohort hiring

CALS requests proposals from tenure-track faculty at all ranks. Proposals for hiring cohorts must be framed around the five key areas listed above. This competitive call will enable CALS to attract new faculty, primarily at the assistant professor level, to build on our existing strengths and draw new connections across departments and disciplines, and bolster connections with extension and innovation in the college.

  • Proposals received by December 20 will receive full consideration.

Formatting your proposal

Proposals shall be up to five pages in length (single space, 12-point font) according to the following format:

Introduction and Justification (half page)

Describe the proposal's connection to a key "moonshot" area, how it advances the 2050 plan, and its importance for bolstering and expanding upon existing strengths in CALS. Proposals must list one primary moonshot area for consideration as listed in the 2050 plan as noted above.

In addition to selecting a primary moonshot category some proposals may share overlap with other moonshot areas. In this case, please list sub-areas of overlap. If you’re choosing the Strategic “Wild Card” moonshot,  please specify the general theme of the wild card area, and how it is distinct from the four other moonshot categories.

Position descriptions (One and a half pages)

Describe up to five new tenure track faculty positions (one paragraph each) in the proposed cohort, including listing the preferred tenure home department in CALS for each position. Multiple potential home departments may be listed in certain cases where the candidate will be allowed to choose their tenure home.

Diversity and inclusion (half page)

Describe how the cohort will advance CALS' diversity and inclusion goals in the 2050 plan and the process through which the advertising and hiring will adhere to best practices. Also please specify how any scientific advancements coming from your proposal will place a deliberate emphasis on serving those who have been traditionally excluded from opportunities to thrive.

Connections to existing programs in CALS and the broader university (half page)

Describe how the cohort will be integrated into existing programs and link to college and university wide initiatives, including centers, institutes and/or the big ideas in AI and the 2030 Project. Describe how the cohort will advance President Pollack’s One Cornell mission, including connections to Weill Medical College, Cornell Tech, Cornell AgriTech and the Ithaca campus. Where Provost Kotlikoff’s existing Radical Collaborations offer potential synergies, please identify them explicitly.  

Academics and curriculum (half page)

Briefly discuss undergraduate majors and graduate programs that would benefit from this hiring, or any new programs that might stem from bolstering this area of research. Describe how our curriculum and academics will be advanced by the proposed expansion in expertise. 

Outreach/extension/commercialization (half page)

Briefly describe how the cohort will leverage and build upon a transdisciplinary approach by including existing outreach activities, extension including CCE, and/or commercialization/pathways to innovation. 

Cohort onboarding and hiring plan (half page)

Briefly describe the plan for onboarding the cohort, including point people involved, and the plan for introducing the cohort to faculty and existing programs that complement the primary moonshot area. Note that positions are expected to be searched and hired over a three-year period. 

Additional details

  • Tenure-track faculty at any rank who are housed in an academic unit in CALS are eligible to submit a proposal. Faculty with appointments outside the college who are in a shared unit across colleges and schools are eligible to apply. Research, teaching and extension (RTE) faculty are encouraged to join the proposing team as co-PIs. However, to be consistent with the current hiring practices of new tenure-track faculty, the PI(s) of the proposal must be a tenure-track faculty member.
  • Proposals can have a maximum of three lead PIs, and an unlimited number of co-PIs. Co-PIs can include tenure-track and RTE faculty and can also include Cooperative Extension specialists. 
  • Up to five tenure-track positions can be proposed in each cohort. Proposals can also identify up to one non-tenure track RTE position to substitute with one of the tenure-track positions. Such substitutions need to be strategically justified. Overall positions must span at least three different academic homes in the college. Proposals must represent diverse scientific approaches in the moonshot. For example, a proposal that is mainly composed of social scientists must deliberately identify the benefit of, and need for, at least one natural scientist position—and vice versa. No more than one senior faculty hire (already tenured associate or full professor) may be included in the proposed cohort; the remainder of the positions must be at the non-tenured assistant level. 
  • Proposals must consider diversity and inclusion in the hiring plan and must detail the cohort’s connection to broader engagement activities consistent with the Land Grant mission of CALS. 
  • Department chairs/directors must write a short letter of acknowledgment for each proposal for which positions are proposed to be housed in their academic unit. 

Selection criteria

Proposals will be ranked based on the visionary nature of the cohort, the linkages of the proposal to the 2050 plan, the advancement of the cohort in leveraging and expanding legacy strengths in CALS, the integration and mentoring plan, potential impact on diversity and inclusion goals, and outreach/extension/commercialization. Positions should not be proposed in more than one proposal. Proposals that are complementary and overlapping may be merged at the discretion of the dean. Positions supported in the proposals will be determined at the discretion of the CALS' deans.

Submission process

Proposals shall be sent as a single pdf file using this online form, including separate letters of acknowledgement from the department Chairs involved.

  • Proposals submitted by December 20, 2022 will be given full consideration.
  • Successful proposals will be announced in February or March of 2022, with hiring beginning in summer-fall 2023.
  • It is expected that full position descriptions (CALS format) will be developed during Spring 2023. This will be the responsibility of the PIs working collaboratively with the departmental home of the faculty recruits in the cohort.
  • Position descriptions will be reviewed and approved by CALS leadership beginning in late April.

Example 3-year timeline for searches

  • Y1: Convene 2 (or 3) search committees during the summer of 2023 (search committee composition will need SrAD approval); run concurrent searches AY23/24 with searches launching in early fall.  Launches may be delayed to Spring in searches looking to overlap with disciplinary norms.  
  • Y2: Convene remaining search committees during the summer of 2024; continue searches carried over from AY23/24 and run next set of searches.
  • Y3: Continue searches through to completion.   

Submit your proposal

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Please contact Senior Associate Deans baa7 [at] (Beth Ahner) or era23 [at] (Esther Angert) for questions related to the proposal submission process.