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  • AASHE-STARS

The Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS) is a transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance.

Overall Rating Gold
Overall Score 67.88
Liaison Mary Easterling
Submission Date Sept. 14, 2017
Executive Letter Download

STARS v2.1

Pennsylvania State University
AC-10: Support for Research

Status Score Responsible Party
Complete 4.00 / 4.00 Mary Easterling
Assoc Director, Analysis & Assessment
Sustainability Institute
"---" indicates that no data was submitted for this field

Does the institution have an ongoing program to encourage students in multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability? :
Yes

A brief description of the student research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

Penn State's Sustainability Institute established the Reinvention Fund to provide support for student and faculty research in sustainability. The purpose of the Reinvention Fund is to provide resources to innovative teams seeking to pursue interdisciplinary and holistic solutions to sustainability challenges in a way that fosters cross functional integration of Penn State’s teaching, research, outreach, operation, and administration expertise, so that our university community can link and leverage our depth and build our collective capacity in pursuit of sustainability. The first round of Reinvention Fund projects was completed in 2015; over $100,000 was awarded to student projects.

Penn State faculty mentor students' participation in other externally sponsored research competitions. For example, a Penn State student team has competed in the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Collegiate Wind Competition in each of the last four years (2014-2017), taking first place overall in three of those years. the 2017 competition focused on testing a small-scale wind turbine in a portable wind tunnel designed and built by the National Renewal Energy Laboratory.

Another example is the Penn State Advanced Vehicle Team, which has participated in Advanced Vehicle Competitions for over a decade. The objective of EcoCAR2, one such competition, is to construct vehicles employing innovative technologies which reduce greenhouse emissions, have better efficiency, and reduce overall petroleum consumption from well-to-wheels when compared to the stock vehicle-while maintaining consumer acceptability and usability.


Does the institution have a program to encourage faculty from multiple disciplines or academic programs to conduct research in sustainability topics?:
Yes

A brief description of the faculty research program, including the incentives provided and any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

Penn State's Sustainability Institute established the Reinvention Fund to provide support for faculty and student research in sustainability. The purpose of the Reinvention Fund is to provide resources to innovative teams seeking to pursue interdisciplinary and holistic solutions to sustainability challenges in a way that fosters cross functional integration of Penn State’s teaching, research, outreach, operation, and administration expertise, so that our university community can link and leverage our depth and build our collective capacity in pursuit of sustainability. The first round of Reinvention Fund projects was completed in 2015; almost $775,000 was awarded to faculty projects. A list of the projects can be found at: http://sustainability.psu.edu/reinvention

Penn State's Institutes of Energy and the Environment (IEE) fosters and facilitates interdisciplinary scholarship and collaboration to positively impact important energy and environmental challenges. IEE has an annual seed grant competition to foster basic and applied research focused on strategic research themes, most of which are sustainability-related. In 2016-17, the five research themes were: Climate and Ecosystem Change; Future Energy Supply; Smart Energy Systems; Water and Biogeochemical Cycles; and Health and the Environment; a total of $800,000 was allocated.

The Smeal College of Business runs an annual Sustainability Research Grant competition open to faculty. Proposals are evaluated on intellectual merit, the relationship of the research results to the business case for sustainability, and the involvement of faculty or students from different departments or colleges. Since the program's establishment in 2015, annual award amounts have ranged from $10,000 to $14,500.


Has the institution published written policies and procedures that give positive recognition to interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research during faculty promotion and/or tenure decisions?:
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s support for interdisciplinary, transdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The Office of the Vice President for Research (OVPR) is centrally responsible for facilitating the $800-million-per-year research enterprise at Penn State, and its mission is to support a rigorous program of faculty and student research and creative accomplishment by enhancing the environment for scholarly and artistic endeavors, encouraging the highest standards of quality, and fostering ethical conduct in research. A primary responsibility of the OVPR in enhancing this environment is the facilitation of strong programs for interdisciplinary research, operationalized via nine university-level research institutes and centers. The interdisciplinary institutes promote collaboration across departmental and college boundaries in order to focus research strengths on important scientific questions and societal needs, through a combination of funded and co-funded faculty positions (with clear P&T expectations for interdisciplinary research), seed funding, and support services.

Penn State's Administrative Guidelines for Promotion and Tenure state, under the heading of Assessing The Scholarship of Research and Creative Accomplishments, that
"It is expected that units encourage and support collaborative and interdisciplinary research and that units will develop methods to assess these activities."
http://vpfa.psu.edu/files/2016/09/p_and_t_-guidelines-2i76gdt.pdf


Does the institution have ongoing library support for sustainability research and learning?:
Yes

A brief description of the institution’s library support for sustainability research, including any positive outcomes during the previous three years:

The Penn State University Libraries provide access to a plethora of materials and searchable databases that support sustainability research including GreenFILE, GreenR, GreenWire, BNA Environment Law Reporter, Environmental Sciences and Pollution Management, Ecology Abstracts, and many others. Examples of library resources can be found here: http://psu.libguides.com/sustainableengineering http://guides.libraries.psu.edu/energysustainpolicy


The website URL where information about the programs or initiatives is available:
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Additional documentation to support the submission:
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Opportunities for sustainability research funding through external grants are posted weekly on the Sustainability Institute's website: http://sustainability.psu.edu/learn/researchers/sustainability-funding-opportunities

The information presented here is self-reported. While AASHE staff review portions of all STARS reports and institutions are welcome to seek additional forms of review, the data in STARS reports are not verified by AASHE. If you believe any of this information is erroneous or inconsistent with credit criteria, please review the process for inquiring about the information reported by an institution and complete the Data Inquiry Form.