Environmental Humanities

Call for a national programme for environmental humanities research. Environmental humanities are a rapidly growing field. They can yield new standpoints and solutions to central environmental problems and ways of achieving sustainable development of society. The Swedish research community has major potential to play a prominent part in this development, but existing research and educational environments need to be coordinated and new collaborative structures created.

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The Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research (Mistra) has drawn up a background paper on the theme of ‘Environmental Humanities’. Its authors point out that this field is undergoing rapid growth and that, in recent years, a growing number of world-leading universities and institutions have invested in ways of enabling the humanities to exert a vitalising effect on environmental research and research for sustainable development.

The Swedish Research Council for Environment, Agricultural Sciences and Spatial Planning (Formas), too, has identified a need for research in social sciences and humanities concerning the environment. Several recent proposals for calls have had this focus. Mistra and Formas have previously, in cooperation with several other research funders, published the report Mobilising Swedish Social Science Research on Sustainability (2010). This report is relevant to the present joint initiative.

Mistra’s background report contains a survey of the research field and its leading research environments around the world. It also argues for the need to invest in a research programme in the humanities. One overall conclusion is that there are many strong research environments in Sweden with great potential, but that conditions and incentives for collaboration and exchange with internationally leading institutions are lacking. With the right support, Sweden could become an early mover in this emerging research field.

Mistra and Formas intend to jointly establish and fund an environmental humanities programme. The purpose is to bring about a vigorous national initiative in environmentally oriented humanities, with the ambition of achieving international reference status within a few years. The programme is to be interdisciplinary, with a core of humanities. It will be open to all Swedish higher education institutions (HEIs) and every discipline in the humanities that is studied at Swedish HEIs. The programme may also include disciplines relating to humanities, especially social sciences.

Mistra and Formas have not laid down the exact forms that the programme is to take. The research groups who apply for it are expected to define the nature of the work, to a large extent, based on the guidelines issued in this call. The following considerations, in particular, must be borne in mind:

1. The programme must have a strong and well-defined organisation, with its own board and a markedly well-qualified academic and administrative management. The funds allocated for the organisation and management, including communication resources, are expected to make up roughly one-fifth of the total programme budget.

2. From the very start, the programme will comprise a set of strong and well-integrated research projects that define the profile and emphasis of the initiative. These projects will be connected thematically or through the joint questions addressed, but their means of coordination and integration must also be made clear. The allocation for the initial project portfolio is expected to make up roughly half of the total programme budget.

3. The programme must allocate funds to permit continuous stimulation of capacity building, researcher mobility and exchanges between HEIs in Sweden and abroad. Additional research projects may also be initiated. These ‘unrestricted’ funds must always be announced in calls for applications unless special reasons dictate otherwise. Calls and evaluation of applications will take place in consultation with Mistra and Formas, and award decisions will then be taken by the programme board.

4. The programme board will be appointed by the programme host in consultation with Mistra and Formas. Each funder is entitled to appoint its own co-opted board member.

Who can apply?
This call addresses research groups working at Swedish HEIs and research institutes. Researchers and organisations outside Sweden are welcome to participate as partners in the application but the principal applicant and planned programme host must be a Swedish institution. Companies and other organisations may take part as partners.

Special conditions
Counterfunding that represents at least 25% of the funds applied for is required. This counterfunding may be in cash or in kind, and come from the applicants’ HEIs or from other stakeholders in the project.

In this call, Mistra’s rules on overhead costs apply to the programme management (see point 1 above) and to the ‘unrestricted’ part (see point 3 above). Formas’s rules apply to the initial projects (see point 2 above). The programme budget should be drawn up according to the above distribution principles so that the funders’ contributions are of equal size.

Application and review process
The application must be written in English and not exceed 100 pages in length. The application should be emailed as a single PDF file to mail@mistra.org, and must reach Mistra not later than 4:00 pm on 2 December 2013.

All the applications will be evaluated by an expert panel appointed by Mistra and Formas in consultation. The following evaluation criteria will be applied:

1. The prospects for developing the programme into an internationally recognised initiative in environmental humanities.

2. Academic quality and benefit to society.

3. Degree of integration among the various parts of the programme, and the plan to promote an interdisciplinary way of working at project and programme level.

4. Scope for successful national and international research exchange, including the plan to ensure broad capacity building at national level.

5. Management, organisation, communication and budget.

Mistra, like Formas, is subject to the principle of public access. Accordingly, all applications submitted to Mistra are public documents. Under certain circumstances, Mistra may decide that parts of an application will not be publicly accessible.

Only applications that meet the requirements in this call document will be considered.

Time schedule
10 September 2013
Opening date for call

2 December 2013
Closing date for applications

January 2014
Evaluation of applications

March 2014
Funders’ decisions


Johan Edman, Programmes Director, Mistra
+46-(0)8-791 10 28, +46-(0)70-73 240 73 johan.edman@mistra.org

Lissa Nordin, Senior Research Officer, Formas
+46-(0)8-775 40 35, +46-(0)73-914 65 12 lissa.nordin@formas.se