Germination Space: Think big

Published January 8, 2018 This content is archived.

The Germination Space program provides SUNY researchers an opportunity to formulate and refine research questions. The program — a series of in-person and online interactions with interdisciplinary peers — supports researchers as they challenge traditional assumptions, explore unchartered areas and germinate high-impact, transformative research questions targeted at major societal challenges. 

Germination Space information


This experimental program explores methods for effectively generating transformative research questions that address significant societal challenges. Whether motivated by curiosity of knowledge or the pursuit of specific solutions, the questions:

  • Tend to be open questions without apparent, definitive answers;
  • Do not set any initial constraints, such as disciplinary boundaries, availability of resources, etc.; and
  • Challenge both stated and hidden assumptions. 

The multiple-iteration and cyclical process allows Generation Space participants to formulate, reflect upon and redefine research questions.

  • Formulating: What motivates the question, and what outcome is expected if the question is answered.
  • Reflecting upon: Challenging both stated and hidden assumptions as well as constraints; exploring opportunities to leverage existing knowledge and technologies.
  • Redefining: Understanding the needs of the key stakeholders; examining the societal relevance of the research question; then redefining the question based on information and insights gained from all three stages of the process.

Selected program participants will work with interdisciplinary peers in refining their own research questions, identifying and challenging fundamental assumptions and limitations within traditional disciplinary views. 

Program details

Through a series of live workshops and virtual collaboration, participants will iterate through a cyclical process of question formulation and refinement. Participants must attend all on-campus sessions and complete all remote collaboration work for a given cycle. Any university, PI-eligible researcher can participate if they commit to attending all UB program (Feb. 1 - May 31) dates:

  • Workshop A: March 9, 2018
  • Workshop B: April 6, 2018
  • Workshop C: May 4, 2018

Based on the response, organizers will invite selected researchers to a series of three on-campus, ideation workshops. Between workshops, researchers will collaborate online to explore feasibility and refinement. Participation is mandatory for all three on-campus workshops.

Participants will generate and refine research questions, subsequently developing collaborative research proposals over the course of the semester and will be expected to provide white paper proposal summaries at the end of the final workshop.

UB will provide two seed funding grants — $25,000 each — on a competitive basis based on the submission of these white papers. The Office of Research Advancement will support participants with formal external proposals that leverage the seed funding within ~12 months of completing the program.

Responding to this CFP

This Call for Participation (CFP) seeks researchers committed to pursuing potentially high-impact, transformative research questions that push traditional disciplinary boundaries. Participants must be willing to challenge and refine both their own research questions and those of their interdisciplinary peer groups. We encourage PI-eligible researchers from all backgrounds to apply. 

A. Applicants must submit a 1-page narrative, plus cover, as described below. Documentation due by 5 PM, Jan. 26, 2018.

Cover Page – The cover page (one page) must include:

  • Campus name;
  • Name and detailed contact information for the applicant (title, email address, phone number);
  • Brief statement of research expertise; and
  • Statement of commitment to attend all on-campus workshops

Narrative – The submitted narrative (one page) must include three sections:

  1. Clear, brief summary of researcher’s motivation for taking part in the Germination Space program and commitment to participate in full process
  2. Keyword summary of current research interests
  3. Explanation of the researcher’s current research interests and their relevance to the challenges of AI

Biosketch – The two-page biosketch (NSF format) must include:

  • Name, Job Title, Professional Address, Telephone Number, and E-mail address (*no personal information, e.g., home address, home phone, marital status, etc., should be included);
  • Professional Preparation: A list of individual’s undergraduate and graduate education and postdoctoral training, including institution, location, major/area, degree, and year;
  • Appointments: A list of individual’s academic/professional appointments in reverse chronological order;
  • Publications:  A list of up to five recent publications closely related to the proposed areas; and
  • Synergistic Activities: A list of up to five examples of collaborative research activities, and other relevant research achievements.

B. If selected, you will be invited to take part in the Spring 2018 cycle. You must confirm participation within seven (7) days of receiving the invitation.

Due dates

CFP Response Deadline: by 5 PM, Jan. 26, 2018.

Submit materials and questions (via email) to Dr. Amanda Baker at

Commitment Deadline for invited applicants (notified no later than Feb. 9, 2018): Feb. 16, 2018.

  • After confirming participation, researchers will receive materials to prepare for first workshop by February 21, 2018.
  • Attend Workshop A: March 9, 2018
  • Attend Workshop B: April 6, 2018
  • Attend Workshop C: May 4, 2018

The Germination Space is part of an experimental effort to improve idea generation and refinement, funded by the National Science Foundation (EFRI-1745897/1745891) to Drs. Grace Wang and Phillip Ortiz at SUNY System Administration and Drs. Kemper Lewis and Ryan Muldoon at the University at Buffalo. Project costs are covered by NSF.

Seed funding will be provided by the UB Office of Research and Economic Development.