Grand Challenges RFP Frequently Asked Questions

Grand Challenges are problems of global, national and regional significance that require researchers to work together across disciplinary boundaries to develop and implement solutions. Grand Challenges address problems that, when solved, have a significant positive impact on people and society. These challenges are large in scale, ambitious in scope, and multi-disciplinary. They enable multiple paths towards solutions, and are relevant across varied disciplines and communities.

Grand Challenge Conceptual Goals are measurable outcomes of conducting Grand Challenge research. It may be useful to articulate your proposed GC Conceptual Goal Using the SMART goals framework: specific (or clearly focused), measurable, ambitious, realistic/relevant, and time-bound (has a deadline for accomplishing the goal). A detailed illustration of smart goals is provided in the UCLA Report on University-Led Grand Challenges found here (page 4): Examples of Grand Challenges Conceptual Goals are also provided in the Request for Proposals.

A GC Conceptual Goal can be addressed through many individual or collaborative research projects. UNM will select three GC Conceptual Goals, and will provide planning grants for at least three multi-disciplinary research projects. When you propose a GC Conceptual Goal, you do not need to propose a multi-disciplinary research project. Instead, you will summarize the current state of research related to that challenge, and you will propose a preliminary multidisciplinary research team. Those teams selected to receive planning grants will participate in a Spring 2019 scoping workshop to help develop multidisciplinary research projects for further development. Your multidisciplinary research project will not encompass all of the research required to meet your GC Conceptual Goal, but will make meaningful contributions to it.

Each GC proposal must include at least one Convener who is a tenured faculty member. The convener has two initial responsibilities:

First, the Convener coordinates the proposal team in developing a Grand Challenge Conceptual Goal proposal and, if selected as one of the Grand Challenges, will help identify additional participants for the scoping workshop. 

Second, the Convener serves as the primary point of contact for communications related to the proposal and, if selected as one of the Grand Challenges, for communications related to the scoping workshop and any other information required by the GC Steering Committee.

If selected as a Grand Challenge, the Convener and proposal team members are expected to attend a 1.5-day scoping workshop during the week of February 18-22. An outcome of that workshop will be a plan that further defines research and education projects that will address the Grand Challenge Goal and the roles and responsibilities associated with these projects. It is anticipated that each team member may contribute differently based on their interests and expertise. 

Each GC proposal team must include one Convener who is a tenured UNM faculty member (from any of the UNM campuses, colleges, schools or centers).  Each team must also include members of at least three academic disciplines, and from at least two multiple schools, colleges or campuses.  There is no established minimum or maximums for the number of team members.

Each GC proposal team should possess the expertise necessary to convene and coordinate a series of externally funded, multidisciplinary research projects related to the proposed GC theme, and should demonstrate the capacity to expand participation in research across the institution, and with external stakeholders.  Each GC team should demonstrate the capacity to secure extramural research funding, and should be diverse across multiple dimensions, including, but not limited to, race and gender.

These qualifications are shared by the team, and are not required of each individual team member.  For instance, your team should include at least one member who has participated in multidisciplinary research.  But it is not required that every member of your team has such experience.

GC proposal teams may include tenured or tenure-track faculty, research faculty, lecturers, staff, students, or community members (among others).  However, there is no requirement that your team includes representatives from these categories.  Rather, each proposal team should demonstrate the expertise and scope necessary to address your proposed Conceptual Goal.  Teams are encouraged to include faculty or staff members who regularly participate in classroom instruction or co-curricular programming (undergraduate or graduate) and/or who regularly participate in community outreach/engagement.

President Stokes will decide which three GC Conceptual Goal proposals become UNM’s three Grand Challenges.  Proposal teams for each of these three will receive $70K planning grants to design a multidisciplinary research project, and to seek additional extramural funding.  This funding should be encumbered prior to August 2019, and can be applied to expenses such as release time, faculty salaries, graduate student salaries, research materials, technology or supplies.  You will not need to develop a budget for your GC Conceptual Goal proposal.  Budgets will be developed following the Spring 2019 Scoping Workshops.

To facilitate the process of converting large GC Conceptual Goals into manageable multi-disciplinary research projects, UNM will sponsor a series of scoping workshops in Spring 2019.  One 1.5 day workshop will be scheduled for each of the three GC Conceptual Goals that are selected by President Stokes during the week of February 18-22.  Attendance at the workshop will be required for the Convener and the majority of proposal team members. Additional participants will be invited to the workshops to ensure the diverse perspectives and expertise needed to generate creative, ambitious plans are represented.

To some extent, the answer depends on the team.  If your team is successful at securing extramural funding, your team may remain engaged in multidisciplinary research for the foreseeable future. We anticipate that successful Grand Challenge teams will continue as long as they maintain enthusiasm and funding and make progress toward their GC goals.

The role of the Convener—someone responsible for maintaining regular communication with the Grand Challenges Initiative leadership--may be filled by different team members over time.  But we anticipate that someone on your team will fill this role as long as your team continues to conduct research and produce important findings.

The GC Request for Proposals is available online here (add link).  Your completed proposal (including attachments) should be combined into a single electronic document (PDF is preferable), and emailed to  The deadline for submission is 11:59 pm January 17th, 2019.  The document should have the file name format: GC [keyword]_[lead convener last name].  The keyword is one you select to easily identify your proposal.  For instance, a file name could be: GC Climate_Lopez.

No, you will not need to provide letters at this time.  In your proposal, you will identify existing and potential participants.  It assumed that you have secured their permission to be included in the list of existing participants, but not necessarily in the list of potential participants.

The only attachments allowed are:

  1. the one page coversheet,
  2. references or biobliography, and
  3. biosketches (max two pages per biosketch) for your convener and key team members.

There is no page limit on the references or bibliography, and there is no maximum limit on the number of key members for whom you can attach biosketches. No other tables, letters of support, addendum or other attachments will be accepted. Other than the allowed attachment above, all pages count towards the five-page proposal limit.

Each proposal will be reviewed by both a consulting firm that has experience with university-led grand challenge programs and UNM emeritus/retired faculty members, using the review criteria detailed in the RFP. All reviews will be compiled and submitted to the Grand Challenges Steering Committee, who will generate a formal recommendation to President Stokes. President Stokes will make the final selection and announcement of UNM’s three Grand Challenges.

No. One goal for the Grand Challenges is to expand UNM's capacity for engaging in multi-disciplinary research among existing faculty members. While we welcome emeritus faculty to serve as proposal team members, they are not eligible to serve as conveners.

Yes, but only for HSC-led Grand Challenge proposals.

For more information, email or visit the GC website at