General Overview

A stakeholders group has been appointed by Provost Rikakis for implementation of the Global Systems Science Destination Area (GSS).  Prior to formation of the GSS stakeholders group, Phase I of implementation was initiated by the Provost, which includes an ongoing cluster hire of five GSS supported positions for faculty in the area of infectious diseases.  These hires are also being augmented and coordinated with the strategic hiring plans of several colleges, which is a key aspect of growing signature strengths within the GSS DA.  The stakeholders group is now charged with implementation of Phase II with the express goal of identifying and supporting signature strengths, existing or emerging, that fall within the purview of the GSS DA.  This will be achieved by a "rolling" implementation process involving sequential "Requests for Concepts" that will occur over the next several years.

A "concept paper" is defined as:  A plan proposed by an interdisciplinary team to build a particular signature-strength within a thematic area as broadly defined by the Global Systems Science Destination Area.

Over the course of about five years, a systems approach will be applied for the implementation and coordination of successful concepts, together with coordination with other destination and strategic growth areas, as well as by integration with college strategic plans.  In this way, implementation of an evolving, carefully considered, and faculty driven approach to create a truly robust strength in Global Systems Science will be achieved.

The GSS stakeholders now invite faculty teams to submit concepts for implementation of Phase II.  Details for preparation of relatively brief concept papers for consideration by the stakeholders that embrace the overall goals of the GSS DA are provided below.  It is anticipated that two "concepts" will be selected for full development and initial implementation this year with development and implementation of other concepts in subsequent years.  Following selection, faculty teams associated with a particular concept will be provided discretionary funds as well as staff support to more fully develop the concept. The fully developed concept must embrace all aspects of the academic and research enterprise and also bridge disciplines spanning the sciences and humanities as described in the GSS white paper.  Staff support for full concept development will include participation by Dr. Janet Webster (program manager for GSS), Dr. Jean Clarke (Fralin associate director of special projects), Ms. Lindsay Key (Fralin senior communications officer), Dustin Covey (Fralin IT officer), and Julia Gregory (Fralin financial manager).

Faculty teams considering submission of a concept paper should contact Dr. Janet Webster ( so that she can answer questions and provide guidance for initial concept development.  She can also provide information about personnel resources available to help in the preparation of initial concept papers.


Beyond Boundaries, Virginia Tech’s envisioning of the future of the university, revolves around VT-Shaped Discovery, Communities of Discovery, and the Nexus of Discovery. VT-Shaped Discovery builds on and fully integrates the outreach and service missions of the university so that students will benefit from deep disciplinary understandings, crosscutting partnerships, and broad interpersonal and communications skill development. Communities of Discovery enable experiential learning and applied research competencies, including broad-based partnerships between the university and industry and nongovernmental and governmental actors. The Nexus of Discovery integrates disciplinary excellence and complex societal problem spaces, as seen in the Destination Areas.

Destination Areas (DAs), along with the related, smaller-scale Strategic Growth Areas (SGAs), will provide faculty and students with new tools to identify and solve complex, 21st-century problems in which Virginia Tech already has significant strengths and can take a global leadership role. Transdisciplinary teams, tools, and processes that are poised to tackle the world's most pressing, critical problems will be created through the DAs. As a result, Virginia Tech will become an international destination for talent, partnerships, transformative knowledge, and significant outcomes in these areas to meet the needs of a rapidly changing world.

The Global Systems Science Destination Area (GSS DA) is envisioned to be a transformative approach to problem solving that harnesses the unique strengths of Virginia Tech together with its institutional culture and mandate for service. The GSS DA is focused on critical problems that cross the nexus of natural and human systems:

Request for Global Systems Science concept papers

The stakeholders group requests the submission of "concept" papers from faculty teams to aid in the implementation of the next stage of the GSS DA.  In the development of concept papers, it should be kept in mind that DAs are expected to connect the full span of relevant knowledge necessary for addressing issues comprehensively.  Therefore, humanistic, scientific, and technological perspectives should be addressed in relationship to one another and considered as a way to overcome traditional academic boundaries, such as those that separate science, technology, engineering, and mathematic (STEM) fields and liberal arts.

Content and Form of Concept Paper Submission

Title Page (1 page)-Concept title; names and university affiliations of all proposed participating faculty.  One or two faculty leads should be indicated.

Proposal Narrative-No more than 2.5 pages

1. Vision Statement (~0.5 pages):  Describe the overall vision of the concept. Indicate how the program will leverage and build on existing or emerging strengths within VT.

2. Relevance (~1.0 pages):  Discuss how the concept is relevant to the goals of the GSS DA and relevant to existing or emerging opportunities for extramural funding, including federal, industrial and philanthropic opportunities. Indicate potential connections to other Destination Areas.

3. Curriculum Opportunities (~0.5 pages):  Describe how the concept might contribute to existing curricula and also provide opportunities for further curriculum development as a way to provide novel learning opportunities at the graduate and undergraduate levels.

4. Description of Resource Needs (~0.5 pages): Broadly describe faculty/staff hires and infrastructure associated with such hires necessary for VT to extend or gain preeminence in the concept area for both research and education.  Resource needs should take into account the entire breadth of the DA philosophy.  For guidance, it should be assumed that up to five FTE, and a portion of associated start-up funds, will be resourced from the GSS over an approximately three year implementation period.  Other FTEs and support provided by participating colleges can be anticipated depending on their corresponding strategic plans.  However, coordination with college strategic plans is expected to be an important aspect of the full development process rather than an aspect of the present call for initial concept papers.

Appendix I: Biosketches:  Include the biosketches of participating faculty using NIH formatting.  Please note: The addition of other faculty, not included in the original concept paper, is expected during the full development stage.

Appendix II:  Up to two pages including tables or figures that support the concept.

Appendix III:  A provisional job ad that captures the essential features of the concept paper and provides a starting point for a potential cluster hire effort.

Implementation of selected concepts

Teams for implementation of selected concepts will be provided $75,000 to use between June 2017 and June 2018. These funds should be prioritized and expended to begin implementation of the overall vision.  They can be used in any way the team decides best addresses the research and curriculum objectives of the concept as it relates to achieving the GSS DA vision.  Examples of fund use include, but are not limited to, buy-out for faculty to work on curriculum ideas, travel to talk with groups around the country who are doing similar projects, or bringing in external experts to Virginia Tech to validate the program.  Personnel resources that will be available to assist full concept development include Dr. Janet Webster (GSS DA program manager), Dr. Jean Clarke (Fralin associate director of special projects), Lindsay Key (Fralin communications director), Dustin Covey (Fralin IT officer), and Julia Gregory (Fralin financial officer). The GSS DA expects to initially support 2 concepts for Phase II, with an expectation for support of other concepts as part of Phase III and Phase IV in subsequent years.

Concept Submission Information

Submission Dates and Times

Concepts Due:  Monday May 15, 2017

Review of Proposals by Stakeholders: May 15 - June 1 2017

Earliest Start Date:  ~June 1, 2017

Other submission requirements

11 pt. font in Arial or 12 pt. font in Times New Roman

Single spaced

0.5 margins minimum

Send concept papers to by the 5 PM on Monday, May 15, 2017.

If you have any questions, please contact Janet B. Webster, GSS Program Manager,, 540-231-9547.  

Concept paper review.  Concept papers will be rapidly selected in a two-tiered process.  The first tier will involve prioritization of the concept papers by the GSS stakeholders without participation of the Deans that are sitting members of the stakeholder group.  The prioritized list will then be submitted for consideration to Cyril Clarke, Paul Winistorfer, Sally Morton, and Alan Grant who will further prioritize the submitted concept papers based on collective strategic hiring plans.  It is anticipated that the subcommittee comprised of the indicated Deans will consult with other Deans, Institute Directors, and Department Heads as they deem appropriate.