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Harvard Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability Discusses Salata Institute’s New Seed Grant Program

Harvard established the Salata Institue for Climate and Sustainability last year with a $200 million donation from Melanie Salata and Jean E. Salata.
Harvard established the Salata Institue for Climate and Sustainability last year with a $200 million donation from Melanie Salata and Jean E. Salata. By Frank S. Zhou
By Sabrina R. Hu, Crimson Staff Writer

Harvard’s Salata Institute for Climate and Sustainability on April 17 launched a new grant program, awarding $30,000 to fund research and workshops on emergent topics related to climate change.

In an interview Monday, Harvard Vice Provost for Climate and Sustainability James H. Stock said a main objective of the seed grant program is to encourage faculty less familiar with the climate space to “dip their toe in the water” of the field.

One of the purposes of the grant, he said, is to “simplify and reduce barriers for faculty who want to work in this space, who are passionate about doing something in climate and sustainability, but haven’t really had the opportunity to.”

A gift from the Troper Wojcicki Foundation is supporting the grant. Harvard faculty are encouraged to submit proposals for the grant program by May 12.

Beyond the grant, Stock also discussed other climate initiatives at the University, noting that Harvard has been working to hire a slew of climate-related positions across the University.

Harvard Business School announced a cohort of five visiting scholars at its Institute for the Study of Business in Global Society on April 12.

Other schools at the University have continued searches to fill other climate-related roles, including four climate positions within the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, up to three senior scholar appointments within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and “three outstanding offers” in climate and sustainability within Harvard Kennedy School — an increase from the two outstanding offers announced in December.

Harvard spokesperson Rachael Dane declined to comment on the status of the FAS climate cluster hire.

In addition, Stock said the Salata Institute is co-sponsoring four climate fellowship positions — two with the Harvard Global Health Institute and two with the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study.

Stock said it is important for Harvard to build up faculty, graduate students, and postdoctoral fellows in climate.

“We have tremendous strengths,” he said. “But we need to be doing more and in search of doing more. We need to be teaching more classes. We need to be doing more research. We need to be doing it more collaboratively and part of doing more is hiring more folks.”

More broadly, the Office for Sustainability is “working hard” on an updated official sustainability plan for Harvard’s climate goals since the previous one lapsed in 2021, Stock said.

Stock did not respond to a request for comment on the recent backlash to the Salata Institute’s decision to fund a project on corporate net-zero targets headed by Harvard Law School professor Jody L. Freeman, who sits on the board of fossil fuel company ConocoPhillips. On March 29, Harvard Faculty for Divestment penned a letter to Stock and University President-elect Claudine Gay questioning the decision to fund Freeman’s project.

“The Salata Institute will be in dialogue with signatories of the faculty letter regarding the Net-Zero Climate Research Cluster in the coming weeks,” Salata Institute Director of Communications Tegan O’Neill wrote in an emailed comment.

Stock also discussed Salata’s upcoming Climate Action Week, which will run from May 8 to 12 and feature the inaugural Harvard Climate Symposium. U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry is set to speak at the symposium.

The symposium is the first major event of the Salata Institute’s Climate Action Accelerator, a nonpartisan platform supporting research and discussions on climate-related issues.

According to Stock, the symposium will focus on next steps to “reduce emissions in an equitable way” over the next decade. Stock added that Harvard Climate Action Week will feature events and activities from various schools and centers.

“There’s lots of different things going on, and that’s fantastic,” he said.

—Staff writer Sabrina R. Hu can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @sxbrinahhu.

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