Environmental Communication

Call for proposals and announcement of funding

This post is also available in Swedish

The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) invites research groups, jointly with other stakeholders in society, to submit proposals for a new research programme to further develop understanding of the nature of the connection between knowledge and action. Well-developed, interdisciplinary collaboration among research groups in a range of different disciplines is expected. The research must also be based on cooperation with interested parties of various kinds.

Background

Mistra’s mission is to support the kind of environmental research and development that has a bearing on society’s development and can be applied in decisions and action. This remit includes a substantial interest in enhancing our understanding of how knowledge and action are connected. More knowledge and facts do not automatically result in better decisions. We need more research on this complex process.

Many of the steps that need to be taken regarding the climate, environment and sustainability require communication of various kinds. Communication concerning environmental issues is itself a key form of measure and often a requirement for solutions gaining acceptance.

Numerous factors make communication of facts and knowledge about environmental matters especially complex, regardless of whether an issue burdened by controversies is involved. The information as such may be hard to understand. In addition, we process difficult information in a variety of ways, and the social influences to which people are subject also play a part. Besides conveying scientific facts, the communicator also needs to bear in mind that varying values, norms, attitudes and behaviours will be factored into citizens’ and organisations’ standpoints.

Research on issues relating to, or touching on, communication on environmental issues is conducted in many fields. Examples are psychology, education, environmental history, philosophy, sociology, political science, engineering and scientific studies, neural science, rhetoric, media and communication science and economics.

In spring 2018, Mistra appointed an international expert panel with the assignment of drawing up a background paper ahead of a decision to call for research proposals. The panel’s task included proposing the emphasis of a new research programme on environmental communication. This call for research proposals is based on the panel’s conclusions and proposals in its report, Re-framing Environmental Communication: Engagement, understanding and action (Appendix 1).

In the event of any minor differences between the Swedish and English versions of this call, the English version has precedence. 

Focus

The programme may concern the five research areas identified in the background paper (Appendix 1). But environmental communication research should not be seen as a limited field. Instead, openness to a range of different viewpoints and disciplines should be maintained.

The programme must be interdisciplinary and break new ground compared with what have been seen as conventional studies of (environmental) communication. Its analysis must be innovative and it must inspire new forms of communication practice.

The research should also be based on cooperation with interested parties of various kinds, in order to promote more relevant and robust inputs and results. The aim is for these inputs and results to contribute to an understanding of how to translate knowledge and facts into action or behavioural changes.

The new programme is expected to play a key part in public debate and a coordinating role in research and communication on environmental issues. In the long term, it is expected to develop into the leading knowledge node in a network of influential agents, both academic and otherwise, in this area.

Relevance and expected impact in terms of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals must be covered in the programme proposal.

The programme must be planned to take four years but have an eight-year perspective. It is very important to involve all the business partners right from the planning stage, and onward throughout the whole research process.

During the programme implementation, dialogue, sharing of experience and, where relevant, collaboration with other Mistra programmes are expected.

Who can apply?

This call addresses research groups in all academic disciplines working at Swedish higher education institutions, research institutes and companies, as well as purchasers in the business and public sectors and civil society. Researchers and organisations active outside Sweden may participate, but the principal applicant and planned programme host must be a Swedish organisation.

The host organisation and other organisations taking part are expected to be coordinated in a consortium and to submit a joint proposal.

Special conditions

  1. Co-funding at 10% of the total programme budget, from companies, sector organisations and government agencies, for example, is required. The co-funder’s contribution may be partly in kind, such as staff involved to assist in the programme. The co-funding requirement is based on experience showing that commitment and integration in the programme are enhanced when more than one organisation contributes resources. The co-funding expected must be reported in the proposal and attested with a certificate from the planned programme host.
  2. Current rules concerning indirect costs: see Appendix 4.

Application process and review

The programme proposal must be written in English, except for a summary in Swedish. It should comprise the following parts and appendices, and must comply with the specified page limits. If the proposal exceeds any of the page limits it will not be processed. No other appendices other than those specified below may be attached.

The main part of the proposal (a maximum of 40 pages) must include the following parts:

Summary in English and Swedish

  1. Vision, aims and expected impact
  2. Scientific, including state-of-the-art, value of the programme
  3. Benefits of the programme to society
  4. Organisation of the programme
  5. Skills and networks
  6. Description of component projects
  7. Deliverables
  8. Communication and implementation
  9. Budget (use the budget template, Appendix 5).

The following appendices must be attached:

  1. CVs for up to 10 key people (maximum of one page per person)
  2. Certificate from planned programme host.

Note that the programme proposal must clearly specify the following: (a) preliminary programme title, (b) planned programme host, (c) planned programme director and (d) contact person for the proposal, with full contact details.

Although 40 is the maximum number of pages for the main part of the proposal, this number is not a target as such. Writing concisely and readably is in every applicant’s interest. If approved, the proposal will be the basis of the plan steering the programme.

A certificate should be attached to the proposal confirming that the planned programme host (and also the main applicant) is prepared to assume the role of hosting the programme and to make the requisite resources available, and also accepts Mistra’s rules regarding indirect costs. The planned programme host must also certify that pledges on co-funding have been obtained and match the revenue budget reported. This certificate must be signed by the Vice-Chancellor, Chief Executive or equivalent (or the person appointed by the Vice-Chancellor or Chief Executive in his or her stead).

Note that heading a Mistra programme is normally a full-time commitment, and that every programme is expected to have a communicator and a well thought-out budget for communication and implementation. Read the section on ‘Managing Mistra programmes’ (under ‘Research’) at www.mistra.org/en.

Mistra intends to award research funding for one (1) of the programme proposals submitted. It is not possible to apply for funds for individual projects within the scope of this call.

Note that Mistra is subject to the principle of public access to official records. This means that all documents received by Mistra, including proposals, are public. On certain conditions, information may be treated as confidential. Personal particulars received are managed in accordance with current legislation on data protection. For more information, see Mistra’s Data Privacy Policy (https://www.mistra.org/en/data-privacy-policy/).

The proposal should be sent as a single PDF file (including appendices) by email to mail@mistra.org, to reach Mistra not later than 6 March 2019.

Evaluation criteria

All the proposals will be evaluated according to the following criteria, in which the potential for solving environmental problems and the expected contribution to sustainable development are crucially important:

  1. Approach, i.e. how far the programme has a central, coherent idea and an innovative direction, how well the aims are formulated and how well the anticipated effects are reported (including indicators).
  2. Scientific quality, i.e. how well the programme meets the high requirements in terms of skills, theoretical standards and methodological quality.
  3. Benefits, i.e. how well developed the collaboration with users of the research results is (and is expected to be) and which supportive communication processes and methods will be used to attain effective implementation.
  4. Management and organisation, i.e. the manner in which the programme will be integrated in the host organisation, how it will be governed and structured, and to what degree it will make efficient use of resources.

Time schedule

2018

22 October               Call opens

2019

6 March                   Call closes

March–May             Evaluation of proposals

June                         Award decisions taken by Mistra’s Board

August                      Programme start (preliminary)

Contact

Malin Lindgren, +46-761 123 700, malin.lindgren@mistra.org.