Please note, this RFP has been updated with three modifications. See italicized text in Eligible Types of Expenditures section (re: faculty salary) and FAQ #5; see newly added FAQ #17.

Request for Proposals

Thanks to generous funding from The Duke Endowment, we (the offices of Durham & Community Affairs, Climate and Sustainability, Faculty Advancement, and Interdisciplinary Studies) are accepting research proposals to engage with “Environmental and Climate Justice in the Carolinas.” The deadline for submissions is March 17, 2024. We anticipate issuing three to four awards ranging up to $150,000 with start dates as early as July 1, 2024, and ending by June 30, 2026.

Background and Themes

A university-wide, impact-oriented initiative, the Duke Climate Commitment addresses the climate challenge by creating sustainable and equitable solutions that place society on the path toward a resilient, flourishing, carbon-neutral world. Environmental and climate justice is one of the four research priority areas identified in the Climate Commitment. As a major research institution, Duke has the opportunity to leverage its research expertise, in partnership with community organizations and local institutions, to deepen our understanding of environmental and climate justice and to apply that knowledge to produce more equitable outcomes.

Environmental justice (EJ) is a conceptual framework that allows researchers and practitioners to explore, explain and take action to address the structural, institutional and historical influences that shape the distribution of environmental harms and benefits. Climate justice (CJ) is a subset of environmental justice that begins by documenting and explaining the disproportionate impacts that a changing climate has on specific groups of people and communities, and then focuses on conceptualizing, implementing, and evaluating strategies to redress those disproportionate impacts.

The research and practice of EJ and CJ are rooted in community partnership and engagement. We expect that proposals for this opportunity will reflect best practices in community-engaged research and will focus on EJ or CJ challenges within North and/or South Carolina. We remain mindful, however, of the geographic interconnectedness of EJ and CJ issues, and welcome proposals that explore the regional, continental, and global dimensions of EJ and CJ challenges in the Carolinas. Many community groups are currently being contacted as partners given the excitement around Justice 40 as part of the Inflation Reduction Act. We ask that proposed projects be mindful of the demands on communities and local partners and where possible we will favor projects that have existing working relationships underway and demonstrate that the work proposed for this RFP is not a burden. In recognition of the additional resources that are needed when engaging in partnership with communities, selected projects will be able to draw on up to $150,000 in funding, as well as additional support in project management.

We invite research proposals from full-time, regular rank Duke faculty and research staff in good standing with the university. Priority consideration will be given to proposals that:

  • Involve equitable and substantive collaborations with community partners throughout every phase of the research process;
  • Are grounded in already established community partnerships;
  • Are informed by best practices in community engaged research;
  • Demonstrate how the research project accelerates existing work;
  • Reflect a breadth of intellectual expertise;
  • Engage centrally with environmental and/or climate justice issues salient in NC and/or SC;
  • Sensibly engage graduate and undergraduate students in aspects of the anticipated research; and
  • Plan for impact or sustainability beyond the term of the grant — either through communicating research outcomes to inform ongoing efforts in NC and/or SC or laying out how research and equitable engagement and partnership might continue beyond the duration of the grant.

The Ethos of Community-Engaged Research

Community-engaged research involves co-creation between academic scholars and partners beyond the community. Such undertakings rest on trust and mutual respect that requires significant investment of time in relationship-building. Community-engaged researchers recognize the significant knowledge that community members possess about their own community and its circumstances and have the capacity and motivation to listen with humility. They develop key questions and research methods with their external partners, explain the nature and goals of research with any community informants or subjects, adhere to the highest ethical standards of community engaged research, and discuss research findings and dissemination strategies with their community partners.

Duke faculty who would like their research to move in this direction, but who lack experience with this approach and/or pre-existing relationships with partners, are strongly encouraged to avail themselves of a workshop in Spring 2024 (additional details forthcoming) cosponsored by the Office for Faculty Advancement, Office of Durham & Community Affairs and Office of Interdisciplinary Studies. Awardees will be required to participate in a workshop (details to be provided in the award letter) on community engaged research prior to deployment of any grant funds. For additional resources, see:

Researchers who do not already have well-established relationships with partners may wish to take advantage of the Provost’s Intellectual Community Planning Grants, which are offered on a regular basis, and designed to facilitate the creation of new partnerships.


Duke full-time regular rank faculty can serve as primary investigators (PIs).

Eligible Types of Expenditures

Budgets may cover a range of reasonable and justifiable research expenses. Common expenses include: stipends for research assistants; honoraria and payments to community partners and consultants; research-related travel and materials; workshops; transcription services; statistical consultants; open access publication subventions (in the case of research that has already reached an advanced stage); and interactive multimedia installations or multimedia platforms. Projects should allocate no more than 25% to community partners and/or consultants, which may include up to $10,000 in compensation for any community partner designated as a co-PI. For projects that involve faculty with full nine-month salaries, summer salary up to $20,000 + fringe is also allowed, per project with a maximum of $10,000 + fringe per faculty. For projects that include faculty expected to raise their salaries through grants, an additional $10,000 + fringe is allowed to go toward effort (for a total of $30,000 + fringe), though still with a maximum of $10,000 + fringe per faculty).

Proposal Requirements

In addition to general information, proposals should include the following:

  1. A brief abstract or summary of the proposal (250-word maximum);
  2. A brief description of existing community partnerships and research undertakings relevant to the proposed new/ongoing work (2 page-maximum);
  3. A brief description of how the research team will ensure an ongoing equitable partnership with these community partners (two-page maximum), along with a letter (or letters) of support;
  4. A research plan (three-page maximum) that articulates (1) statement of research objectives, (2) description of significance and innovation of the research, (3) history, scope and duration (including project history, previous funding and preliminary work, if applicable), (4) work plan and methodology, and (5) plans to sustain project, including work toward external funding;
  5. A project timeline (one-page maximum);
  6. A budget along with research schedule and milestones (one-page maximum);
  7. List of project personnel with titles and email addresses; and
  8. Two-page CVs for each faculty member of the research team.

Review Process and Selection Criteria

Applications will be subject to peer review, including both faculty and community experts, as well as the evaluation of a selection committee comprising faculty and community partners. Peer reviewers and selection committee members will focus on the criteria below. Interviews with finalists may also be arranged.

  • Originality and significance of the contribution of the proposed research;
  • Depth of engagement with NC and/or SC community partners and organizations;
  • Feasibility;
  • Opportunities for students to engage in the project;
  • Feasibility of the sustainability plan, including potential for future external funding; and
  • Intellectual breadth of the faculty team.

Duke Research Policies

All grantees must adhere to Duke’s Research Policy Manual throughout their awards’ performance periods. The responsibility to address issues concerning data management (Chapter 5), intellectual property (Chapter 6) and human and vertebrate animal subjects (Chapter 7), among others, will be vested with PIs. Applicants should direct any questions of university-wide research policies to the Office for Research & Innovation.

Expectation of Training

Awardees will be required to participate in a workshop (details to be provided in the award letter) on community engaged research prior to deployment of any grant funds.

Provision of Assistance with Project Management

Through a partnership with the Office of Research & Innovation, grant recipients will receive access to a project manager to assist with organizational and logistical matters.

Submission Instructions

Please submit proposal information via this online form. Kuali Build is a Duke OIT program that is available to Duke users with a valid NetID.


  • 1/5/2024: RFP release
  • 3/17/2024: RFP deadline for submission
  • 5/15/2024: Awardee(s) notified
  • 7/1/2024: Funds made available (or sooner upon request)

Contact for Questions

Please contact the Office for Faculty Advancement at with any questions about this request for proposals, including questions about using Kuali Build. We invite you to register for office hours to discuss potential proposals with the Office for Faculty Advancement, Office of Climate and Sustainability, Office of Durham & Community Affairs and Office of Interdisciplinary Studies.

  • Tuesday, January 16, 11:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
  • Monday, February 12, 10:00-11:00 a.m.: Register

Frequently Asked Questions

Each application must identify one, and only one, applicant as the Primary Investigator (PI). The PI will oversee the fiscal, programmatic and administrative aspects of a sponsored project. In general, members of the Duke regular rank faculty in good standing with the university are eligible to serve as PIs on sponsored projects at Duke as a matter of privilege. Individuals who are not regular rank faculty members may be granted eligibility to serve as PIs with the prior approval of the appropriate institutional official or office. For more information, see Chapter 2 in the Research Policy Manual. The PI is responsible for the execution of the award. This includes spending funds according to what was agreed upon in the submitted proposal and in the award letter. Any award modifications must be approved by the Office of Climate and Sustainability prior to expenditure. The PI is also responsible for completing the project by the end of the award cycle.

If you have been granted blanket PI status by OVPRI, you are eligible to participate. Otherwise, you are welcome to participate as a research team member, but not as a PI or co-PI.

Collaborations with outside Duke contributors are acceptable, and they can be listed as co-PIs.


The salaries of Duke research staff members can be supported by the grant for contributing their disciplinary expertise to a project. This can either be through an honorarium or a supplemental payment up to $10,000 in salary support, plus fringe.

Yes. You may compensate community partners for their engagement with the research project. You may establish payment to non-Duke individual through an independent contractor form if the individual complies with the independent contractor status. In order to ensure the consultant is an individual contractor, please review the ICC form. If it is determined that they fit the Independent Contractor criteria, please complete the OSA form seeking help from your business manager.  Payments to community partners and/or outside consultants cannot exceed $25,000.

Yes. Paying a faculty collaborator from a North Carolina or South Carolina institution is an allowable expense. Summer salary up to $20,000 + fringe is allowed per project with a maximum of $10,000 + fringe per faculty.

We encourage you to discuss your ideas with the Office of Durham & Community Affairs staff, who may be able to connect you to potential partners. Contact Abdullah Antepli at for more information. Please also note that for early stage projects, the Office of the Provost provides funding for Intellectual Community Planning Grants, which may be used to cultivate both internal and external relationships.

Yes, the fringe is covered as well. Please check with your business manager for the current fringe rate and add it as a separate line item to your budget.

The $10,000 (or $20,000) salary component is for the duration of the grant project. The salary component can be split among several faculty or over multiple years.


No, but exceptions can be made for the summer session. Please check with The Graduate School for the current rates.

Yes, you may request equipment, and it is recommended that the purchase not reflect a large portion of the project budget.

The PI may submit a formal request to modify a project’s budget during the funding period. The request must include a justification for the change, a project timeline and modified budget, and be submitted and approved prior to expenditures.

An annual report for the duration of the project describing the use of funds, the outcomes of the project, and, if relevant, a description of the student and community engagement in the project will be requested each year the grant is active. A report template for the submission will be provided.

We are giving preference to proposed projects that focus on issues relating to NC and SC because these are the states served by The Duke Endowment. But projects can engage with issues that involve global processes that affect NC and/or SC.

Yes, so long as they are working on environmental or climate justice issues, have established partnerships with community organizations, and propose funding that facilitates research that will inform their creative outputs.