“Being Human”: Interdisciplinary Mini-labs

Call for Proposals

PIs: Jeanette Kohl and the Center for Ideas and Society
Supported by grants from the UCR offices of International Affairs and Research and Economic Development

Eligibility: UCR Faculty
Application Deadline: July 15, 2020
Award Period: AY 2020-2021

PI Jeanette Kohl and the Center for Ideas and Society invite proposals for cross-campus, interdisciplinary mini-labs on the theme of Being Human.

Interdisciplinary studies have been a key axiom of research centers in the humanities and sciences for some time now. Yet the need for targeted, cross-disciplinary investigations into the prospects and vulnerabilities of being human is perhaps increasingly urgent.


The COVID-19 pandemic offers a stark illustration. It is, in the first place, an epidemiological and medical problem that requires investigations into causes and possible cures. At the same time, the pandemic has proven to be a powerful social, cultural and political particle accelerator, one that emphasizes and radicalizes ideological viewpoints and reveals systemic weaknesses. The pandemic has cast a spotlight on partisan entrenchment and social stratification in the United States, raised ethical questions about care and concern for others, invited us to learn from historical and cross-cultural comparisons and inspired us to look to global artistic and literary traditions for insight and support. The success of future crisis management will require more than medical science and virology alone; it will need strategies guided, as well, by the joint forces of ethical, social, cultural, political and humanistically informed expertise.

The same is true for many of the other urgent issues we confront: genetic engineering, climate change and the refugee crisis are but three examples. The full exploration and understanding of such issues require the expertise of faculty drawn from diverse disciplines across colleges and schools at UCR. The new interdisciplinary campus initiative Being Human promotes this interdisciplinary effort by hosting quarter-long mini-labs intended to foster conversation and collaboration on problems and issues of shared concern.

Mini-Lab Applications:

Applications are invited for mini-labs on topics related to the theme ‘Being Human’, to be investigated at both conceptual and problem-solving levels. The labs are intended to spark cross-campus collaborations and to seed larger grant initiatives.

Mini-labs may be conducted in any quarter of the academic year 2020/21. Each will consist of 3 to 5 faculty investigators from colleges and schools at UCR, with at least one member from CHASS and one member from the BCOE, CNAS or the Medical School in each lab. Participants will each receive a $500 contribution to their research funds. (Contributions may be partially or fully pooled to facilitate the work of the mini-lab.) Each lab will deliver an in-depth position paper at the conclusion of its study that outlines the work conducted, an assessment of the interdisciplinary efforts, and the potential for future collaboration.

Applicants should submit a brief (1-page) description of the proposed topic and a list of participants (confirmed and tentative) to CIS@ucr.edu by 11:59 pm on July 15, 2020.

Evaluation Criteria:

Project Focus

    • The importance of the questions, issues, or problems the collaboration seeks to address.
    • The capacity of the project to enhance or develop insights into or an understanding of these questions, issues, or problems.
    • The extent to which the project has appropriately taken account of existing research and scholarship.


    • The ability of the participants to complete or make a significant advancement on the project.


    • The clarity of lines of responsibility and accountability.


    • Potential of the proposed topic to lay groundwork for and inspire future research, programs, grants, or community relationships.
    • Potential to establish innovative collaboration across schools and colleges.

For more information, contact PI Jeanette Kohl (Jeanette.kohl@ucr.edu) or the Center for Ideas and Society (CIS@ucr.edu, attn. Georgia Warnke).

Supported by the Center for Ideas and Society and grants from the UCR offices of International Affairs and Research and Economic Development.