Call for Proposals

Geospatial Fellows for Advancing COVID-19 Research & Education

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has placed the US and the world into an extremely challenging situation as populations and businesses experience massive impacts. During this worldwide fight against COVID-19, the geospatial data being rapidly collected are increasingly complex and broad in their coverage. Harnessing such geospatial data poses tremendous challenges to geospatial software, advanced cyberinfrastructure (CI), and related research communities, due to the complexity of the geospatial software ecosystem and the inherent interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary nature of COVID-19 problems. The challenges posed are both social and technical in nature, including finding the right tools, building interdisciplinary and multidisciplinary partnerships, and ensuring that research findings are readily accessible and reproducible. The National Science Foundation (NSF) has funded a project to conceptualize a Geospatial Software Institute (GSI) for establishing a long-term hub of excellence in geospatial software infrastructure that can serve diverse research and education communities by creating bridges across science domains. This GSI conceptualization project is well positioned to contribute to advancing COVID-19 research and education in significant ways by strategically and synergistically engaging diverse science communities.

The GSI conceptualization project, along with its partners such as the American Association of Geographers (AAG), Consortium of Universities for the Advancement of Hydrologic Science, Inc. (CUAHSI), NORC at the University of Chicago, Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC), and University Consortium for Geographic Information Science (UCGIS), is hence creating a new Geospatial Fellows program to engage researchers and educators from diverse geospatial-related science communities (e.g., public health, geosciences, geography and spatial sciences, and social and environmental sciences). The Geospatial Fellows program will advance two goals derived from the GSI conceptualization process: (1) to enable researchers and educators to harness geospatial software and data at scale, in reproducible and transparent ways; and 2) to increase the nation’s workforce capability and capacity to utilize geospatial big data and software for knowledge discovery. Specifically, the Geospatial Fellows will conduct cutting-edge COVID-19 research and education, resulting in geospatial software modules, data, computational notebooks and research publications, all of which will become publicly available on the Geospatial Hub. The Geospatial Hub, developed using CyberGISX, provides a collaboration and sharing environment with streamlined and user-friendly access to advanced CI and geospatial software capabilities, along with an integrated software stack for computationally reproducible research and education across a variety of geospatial-related domains.

The Geospatial Fellows are expected to make cutting-edge and important contributions to COVID-19 research and education as they play collaborative roles in designing and advancing the Geospatial Hub. They will help specify requirements in terms of geospatial software, data, and features needed for the Hub by working closely with peer Fellows and with the CyberGIS Center for Advanced Digital and Spatial Studies (CyberGIS Center) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. All work by the Geospatial Fellows will be undertaken remotely, but the CyberGIS Center will serve as the host and connecting community for the program. The Fellows will join regular collaboration meetings organized by the CyberGIS Center, and actively contribute to a webinar series focusing on geospatial analysis and modeling approaches to solving COVID-19 problems. A virtual workshop will be organized to synthesize the findings from the Geospatial Fellows program and gather additional feedback from pertinent communities on GSI conceptualization.

Specific topics of research that the Geospatial Fellows may undertake include, but are not limited to:

The Geospatial Fellows program will provide seed funding between $2000 and $6000 for each Fellow to conduct leading-edge COVID-19 research and education activities as they take advantage of the Geospatial Hub. The Fellows are also encouraged to develop educational materials in one or more competency areas of open and computationally reproducible geospatial software. This Fellowship is ideal for those working on interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary topics and does not require prior experience with cyberGIS or computational notebooks. The Fellowship will offer exciting opportunities for professional development and will help the Fellows build new connections across fields.

Proposal Submissions

Scholars interested in this opportunity are encouraged to submit proposals as described below.  Minorities and applicants from underrepresented groups are particularly welcome to pursue this opportunity. Each proposal may not exceed 5 pages (see specific guidelines below) and should conform to the following formatting requirements: 1) Times New Roman font type at a size of 11 points or larger; and 2) margins of at least one inch on all sides. Each proposal submitted should include each of the following components.

  1. Project summary (suggested length: 0.5 to 1 page)
  2. Project description (suggested length 2 to 3 pages)
    This description should include how the proposed project will advance two of the GSI goals. It should also specifically address the COVID-19 research that would be pursued by the proposal. The description should include how the PI plans to instigate and contribute content to the Geospatial Hub, identify any educational materials that might be developed, and enumerate any geospatial software requirements for the Hub.
  3. Deliverables and milestones (suggested length 0.5 to 1 page)
    The proposal should list geospatial software modules, data, notebooks, research publications, and/or educational materials that will be delivered by the project and an associated timeline.
  4. References cited (not included in page count)
  5. Budget justification (not included in page count)
  6. NSF style 2-page bio-sketch (not included in page count)

The proposal review committee will consist of individuals involved with the GSI conceptualization project and its related partner organizations. All submissions will be evaluated on the following three specific criteria: 1) How and to what extent does the proposed project make novel contributions to advancing COVID-19 research and education; 2) How and to what extent does the project engage geospatial software and advanced CI to tackle critical COVID-19 problems; and 3) Would the products generated by the project result in educational and training materials useful for the broad geospatial software community?

To find out more information about this program or the NSF GSI conceptualization project, please visit or contact Dr. Anand Padmanabhan ( To discuss potential ideas for proposals, applicants are welcome to contact Dr. Shaowen Wang (

Submissions should be sent via EasyChair ( The submission deadline is July 31, 2020, and applicants can expect to hear back from the committee by August 21, 2020.