Fantastic Funders: the Science for Nature & People Partnership (SNAPP)
This candid interview is a part of Instrumentl’s Fantastic Funders series.
The Science for Nature and People Partnership (SNAPP) is a union between the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), The Nature Conservancy and the Wildlife Conservation Society. SNAPP’s mission is to achieve both environmental conservation and the development of human communities in tandem.
Angela: Let’s start from the beginning. What inspired the partners to create the Working Groups grant program?
Geoff: SNAPP is only a few years old and the Working Groups grant program is the core activity. The founders of SNAPP had a vision to fund science-to-solutions that each partner couldn’t do on their own and needed the various skill sets and strengths of each partner working in tandem. The vision was for SNAPP to do for conservation and sustainability what Bell Labs did for communications technology last century — support innovative, timely and cutting edge applied science projects.
SNAPP projects are funded for two years each. At the end of the two years the research, tools, and products developed are meant to be implemented in partnership with policy makers and resource managers on the ground. Not every Working Group will succeed — some will fail. But the hope is that some of these projects are wildly successful and be copied and broadly applied around the world.
Angela: It seems like diversity is a key ingredient in SNAPP’s Working Groups, is that right?
Geoff: That’s right. And that is the model that NCEAS has pioneered in the last 20–23 years of its history. Prior to the creation of the NCEAS, it wasn’t very common to bring such a diverse group of experts together and convene them in one place to have them synthesize data, databases and datasets that already exist.
Angela: What projects do you think are great examples of the type of projects you’re looking to fund?
Geoff: The two we started with have been pretty successful.
The first is about Coastal Defenses. The idea is to have scientists, resource managers and policy makers who are working with sea level rise and degradation of coastal habitats to come together to find new ways to protect those habitats and coastal cities. They have been successful at coming up with a variety of proposals that they have been sharing with their partners and policy makers.
Another group, Data-limited Fisheries, has also found great success. They help fisheries actually know what constitutes their fisheries and how healthy they are. The team has created a tool that can be broadly applied to fisheries that are lacking such data.
Angela: What should a Working Group look like?
Geoff: Working Groups have diversity that really strengthens their ability to do the task it’s been assigned to do.
This is diversity in terms of where participants come from geographically and also gender, age, and career progress. We’re always insistent that groups have postdocs and where possible people working towards their doctorates along with experts and people much further along.
“We find that diversity really works and it’s effective.”
Angela: Often times, fundraising is about creating relationships with the grant-maker before they apply. Do you think creating a personal relationship with somebody at SNAPP is part of the grant process?
Geoff: It’s not necessary by any stretch. We’ve certainly funded projects that come from people we don’t know very well or might have only talked to on a limited basis. Unfortunately we don’t have the bandwidth to provide a lot of hands on support through the proposal development process. But we are certainly eager to establish partnerships with new researchers where possible. I would encourage people to reach out to me if they want some help in the development of an idea. However it’s not mandatory by any means and it’s not something we can do with everybody unfortunately.
I would encourage people to go to our website and see if any of their questions are answered there. They can also find my contact information there.
Angela: What’s a common misconception that an applicant may have when applying for a SNAPP grant? What are some errors you see over and over again?
Geoff: We have spoken with several people who are under the impression that SNAPP can fund the salaries of individual working group members; that is not the case. SNAPP funds the convening of working groups, the production of tools and implementation documents, outreach with policy makers, etc. Some funds can be used to pay a data technician or software development contractor, but working group members cannot use funds for their salaries.
Angela: What’s 1 or two pieces of advice that you would give to somebody applying to the SNAPP Working Groups grant?
Geoff: In the past we gave a standard amount of funding for each project. This time we’re changing it up a little. We’re really encouraging groups to create their own budget based on their needs, with encouragement towards cost effectiveness.
I would highly encourage those interested in applying to thoroughly review the RFP as far as what we recommend on the budgetary side of things and to move forward with a keen eye toward trying to figure out the most efficient ways of completing the proposed tasks.
Angela: I assume that’s why you say the amount is up to $200,000 USD. That’s the cap and recipients determine their own budget.
Geoff: Yes. We realized when we were funding projects in the past with a blanket $200,000 USD, there were some projects just adding things to get to $200,000 USD. And we realized it was a little wasteful. Now, if it means we can fund more projects because some of them need less funding, all the better right?
Angela: Is there anything else you’d like potential applicants to know?
Geoff: Yes, one other thing interesting to note is that we are strongly committed to helping deal with climate change. In some ways, in response to the fact that funding for climate change science is currently and likely continuing to be in decline, especially in the United States, we’re encouraging people with ideas for doing climate change oriented research to apply this round. It’s not a mandate, and we’re not only going to be funding for climate change science but we want to be very clear that we are all about it.
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