Early Stage Urban Research: Request for Proposals

The Initiative on Cities invites Boston University faculty to apply for seed funding through our Early Stage Urban Research Awards. These awards support research addressing urban challenges and urban populations in the U.S. and abroad.

Information Overview

      Spring 2024 Request for Proposals: Early Stage Urban Research Awards

      For the 2023-2024 academic year, the Early Stage Urban Research Award will focus on catalyzing original urban research across the three themes that underlie our Urban-H Index. The Urban-H Index seeks new solutions to understand better and address three key challenges that pose a growing threat to urban livability and civility: housing, heat, and (mental) health.

      • Housing: Cities in the US and around the world face an array of challenges as they seek to adequately house growing urban populations, including soaring costs, supply shortages, substandard housing, opposition to density, and population displacement risks. Affordable, sustainable, and stable housing is key to a thriving city.
      • Extreme Heat: Urban residents and workers are increasingly exposed to extreme heat events and elevated urban heat islands, stressing their health and adversely impacting their quality of life. Energy, infrastructure, and vegetation are key mechanisms to mitigate heat risks but can also be threatened. Resilient cities anticipate and adapt to the present and future threats posed by heat.
      • Mental Health: Mental health risks are generally higher in cities than in rural areas. The root causes are wide-ranging, as are the repercussions, and new solutions are emerging to address mental health challenges and adapt the built environment to promote mental health. Healthy cities encompass physical and mental well-being.

      GOAL: We seek to catalyze translational research toward more affordable, inclusive, physically and socially resilient cities.

      Proposals can tackle a single theme or be cross-cutting. Equity must be treated as a critical consideration, as the most vulnerable residents in cities are often the most severely impacted.

      Eligibility & Stipulations

      • A member of the BU faculty must serve as PI. In the interest of promoting mentorship, we highly encourage faculty, when possible, to include one or more graduate student co-PIs. Interested students should work with a faculty PI.
      • Collaborative proposals involving researchers from multiple disciplines AND/OR external non-academic partners are also strongly encouraged.
      • Proposed budgets should not exceed $15,000. Projects can be local (to the Boston region), national, or international in scope.
      • We cannot cover fringe costs, except for student fringe costs, but faculty may be permitted to receive a partial summer salary if it is explained as part of the budget justification. Funds will be provided through research accounts or department accounts. We do not cover conference travel. Prospective applicants interested in urban issues not addressed above are invited to contact IOC Director Loretta Lees (llees@bu.edu) and Executive Director Stacy Fox (sfox@bu.edu) at any point.

      How to Apply

      Please follow our RFP Application Guidelines for all submissions. If applicable, please click to download the templates for the Organization Support Letter. All proposals must be submitted as a single PDF and include the relevant documents listed. Submissions should not exceed 4 pages, excluding letters of support.

      The deadline to apply is Sunday, March 3rd, 2024, by 11:59 PM ET.

      Please submit your completed PDF RFP application titled “2024 Early Stage Urban Research RFP” to Ting Wei Li at liting@bu.edu. You will receive an email confirmation within 1-2 business days.

      For additional inquiries regarding the application or if you have not received an email confirmation, please get in touch with Ting Wei Li at liting@bu.edu.

      Recently Awarded Projects

      Since 2015, we have awarded 104 projects with seed funding.

      In 2023, we funded 2 projects that focused on 1) understanding long-term mobility in Nairobi’s slums and 2) assessing the effectiveness of urban heat mitigation strategies at local (neighborhood) scales using first principle-based numerical approaches.

      In 2022, we funded 11 projects, including 7 led by BU graduate students and 4 by BU faculty. Topics include air pollution in cities, air quality in Boston Public Schools, health services for tiny homes housing the previously homeless, the experience of pretrial detainees, gentrification’s effects on social networks, and the characteristics of informal settlements facing eviction in India.