Bass Connections Project Proposals [Restricted to Duke Faculty and Grad Students Only]

Funding Agency:
Duke University

Bass Connections brings together faculty, postdocs, graduate students, undergraduates and community partners to tackle complex societal challenges in interdisciplinary research teams. Faculty may apply for between $5,000 and $25,000 for a year-long project team.

For some faculty, Bass Connections provides a mechanism to pilot a new research initiative and lay the groundwork for external grant proposals. For others, Bass Connections offers an innovative teaching model and the chance to mentor students in a small group atmosphere. Bass Connections also provides a model for initiating or deepening engagement with a community organization or collaborators outside of Duke who can provide input into the construction of research questions and translate research findings into action.

Project teams are expected to be more than a collection of individuals working in parallel. Instead, they should foster dynamic collaboration in which all members are exposed to the diverse aspects of each project and work together toward shared goals.

Projects should provide students and faculty the opportunity to struggle collectively with a complex problem and produce meaningful deliverables. Products may take several forms, including published reports and articles, curated exhibitions, datasets to spur further research, marketable services or commodities and strategic solutions for community needs. Projects are encouraged (but not required) to involve external community partners (e.g., private companies, school systems, international NGOs and U.S. or international government entities).


Proposals for joint Bass Connections and Data+ projects must be received by November 2, 2020 at 5:00 p.m. Proposals for Bass Connections project teams are due December 4, 2020 at 5:00 p.m.

Agency Website

Areas of Interest

Projects may be proposed in relation to one or more of the five broad, interdisciplinary themes of Bass Connections, or to Bass Connections Open. This year, we particularly welcome and encourage projects  proposed to any theme  focused on racial injustice and inequality, systemic racism and social justice.

When completing a proposal, faculty may choose to take advantage of the following opportunities. Please note that applying for these opportunities will not increase your project budget, but rather may increase the likelihood that your project will be selected by allowing us to leverage funds designated for a specific purpose.

  • Joint proposals for Bass Connections projects and Summer 2021 Data+ projects: Data+ is a summer research program affiliated with Bass Connections. You may propose a Data+ project linked to a year-long Bass Connections project through this RFP – you do not need to complete a separate application for Data+. However, to align with the Data+ timeline, you must submit your proposal by November 2, 2020. Your proposal should articulate how you will connect the summer research experience with the year-long project. Please note that funding decisions will be made by each program individually, so it is possible that your proposal may be accepted for only Data+ or only Bass Connections. 

    We also encourage teams to link year-long Bass Connections projects to Story+. Faculty wishing to apply to Story+ must also complete the Story+ RFP, also due December 4, 2020. Please contact Amanda Starling Gould with questions about Story+.

  • Biodiversity Conservation: Through a gift to the Nicholas School of the Environment and Bass Connections, funds are available to support projects related to biodiversity conservation: projects that aim at stopping degradation of the planet’s natural environment, the species it harbors and the services it provides to people. These projects must include at least one NSOE faculty, postdoc or graduate student on the proposal. For more information, contact Lori Bennear. Faculty who wish to propose projects under this opportunity should apply through the Energy & Environment theme and check the Biodiversity Conservation option.
  • Ethics: For projects proposed through Bass Connections Open, funds are available to support projects that address ethical and normative issues broadly-conceived, with a preference for projects that overlap with core Kenan program areas. If you are interested in discussing ideas for potential projects, please contact Suzanne Shanahan, Director of the Kenan Institute. Faculty who wish to propose projects under this rubric should apply through Bass Connections Open and check the Ethics option.
  • Arts: Funds are available to support projects that complement hands-on artistic creation in any medium with research related to aesthetic, cultural, historical or theoretical dimensions that inform the work. The project should culminate in a public exhibition, screening, reading or performance.  The project team may have dedicated space in the Rubenstein Arts Center if appropriate.  Faculty who wish to propose projects under this rubric should apply through any theme or Bass Connections Open and check the Arts option.
  • Humanities: Funds are available to support projects that engage critically or creatively with the humanities (e.g., languages, literature, culture, history, philosophy, religion, the arts and/or other related domains). Projects that involve substantive contributions from humanities faculty and students are encouraged.Faculty who wish to propose projects under this rubric should apply through any theme or Bass Connections Open and check the Humanities option.

Eligibility Requirements

  • Proposals may be submitted by any faculty member. Staff, graduate students, postdocs and trainees/fellows may also propose projects, but all projects must have at least one faculty team leader.
  • Individuals may propose more than one project but should not serve as a team leader on more than one project per year unless those projects each have another committed co-leader who is a regular rank faculty member. Individuals may serve as a team contributor on more than one project.
  • Team leaders are expected to be regularly available (i.e., not on sabbatical away from Durham or extended leave) during the year in which the project would take place (2021-2022) and to attend all team meetings. We recommend that faculty notify their department chairs of their intent to apply to help with departmental planning.
  • Teams should provide opportunities for at least five students (graduate and undergraduate) to participate.
  • Bass Connections teams are expected to meet at least weekly. During the academic year, students receive academic credit as the default mechanism (via a tutorial or independent study). Student compensation during the academic year is generally reserved for students in leadership roles on a team.
  • Projects typically run for either 9 or 12 months. Projects may start in Summer 2021 or Fall 2021.



Amount Description

Budgets typically range from $5,000 to $25,000. Funding may cover reasonable research costs such as student support, participant payments, travel, materials and supplies. In general, projects with the highest level of funding include those with travel, summer funding for student work, graduate student support for project management roles, and special research materials.

We strongly encourage proposals that leverage additional funds. Please describe such matching funds (both awarded and under consideration) so that we understand the comprehensive outlay for the project.

Funding Type



Grad/Prof Students
Post Doctoral Fellows


Arts & Humanities
Engineering and Physical Sciences
Environmental & Life Sciences
Social Sciences

External Deadline

December 4, 2020