In 2019, the Social Science Research Council (SSRC) established the Transregional Collaboratory on the Indian Ocean, an initiative to catalyze collaborative research into the mutual shaping of social and environmental change in the region. Drawing together scholars and institutions from across the globe, the program will fund cutting-edge social inquiry on the Indian Ocean region. It will also support the development of new models of international research partnerships, grounded in principles of ethical collaboration and equity in the production and dissemination of knowledge in and about the Global South. 

The Collaboratory invites proposals for 12-month planning grants to develop collaborative research projects that deepen understanding of the effects of political, economic, and social processes in contexts of profound climate and environmental change in and across Indian Ocean countries. This funding is open to individual applicants, to small teams at the early stages of formation, and to established research teams intending to embark on new areas of inquiry. Planning grants may be used for the purposes of preliminary field research, networking, workshops, or other activities beneficial to the further development of collaborative research. The aim of these grants is to help develop robust projects eligible for future funding, including the Collaboratory’s second phase, for which applications will be due in May 2021. Planning grant recipients will receive up to $35,000 for research planning related expenses, including travel and accommodation, research equipment, and convening costs. In addition to their funded proposals, researchers will participate in workshops organized by the program, focusing on themes such as the modes of collaborative research, the advancement of ethical practices related to research collaboration, and others that emerge from the grant cohorts themselves. 


We strongly encourage applications that bridge disciplinary and geographic boundaries, and propose creative approaches to the study of the Indian Ocean and its subregions. Grants are open to scholars and professionals working in the social sciences and allied disciplines, including the physical and natural sciences where relevant. The principal investigator (PI) should hold a PhD in a relevant field and be fully embedded in and engaged with the Indian Ocean region. Co-PIs and other team members may hold or be working toward a postgraduate degree, or have attained a relevant professional qualification. These individuals may not necessarily be grounded in the Indian Ocean but should demonstrate a level of interest in the region. Finally, the project should be transregional in its geographic focus and/or in the composition of the research team. 

How to Apply

The deadline for applications has passed. In the case of team applications, the principal investigator must complete the online form and upload all required documents on behalf of the research team.

A complete application must be submitted at apply.ssrc.org and includes:

  • Online application form
  • Project proposal (5 pages). Click here to view proposal requirements
  • Current CV of the PI and up to two Co-PIs, where relevant (2-3 pages each). CVs should include the following details: education and employment history, relevant research experience, honors and awards, professional affiliations, language skills and a list of no more than 5 relevant publications
  • Proposed budget (1 page)

Additional Information

Selection Criteria

In addition to the strength of the proposal with regard to innovative ideas, research plan, and methods, the selection panel will consider elements such as interdisciplinarity, the transregional nature of the project, as well as diversity and composition of the proposed research teams. Demonstrated commitment to the ethics of collaborative research will also serve as an important factor in the selection process. 

Research Themes

Applicants may address themes such as (but not limited to):

Resources: Natural resource management and governance (policy and legal perspectives); gender dimensions of natural resource use; fisheries; food security; water security and disputes; war and conflict; international and imperial rivalries; piracy; fossil fuel (political economies of, changes in use or production); pollution. 

Infrastructure: Ocean-based infrastructure development; tourism; spatial transformation; trade;corridors, roads, and belts; sustainable cities; sea and water securitization; post-war reconstruction; foreign investment; the spatial dimensions of social justice. 

Oceanic livelihoods: Lives and livelihoods of island and coastal communities; rising sea levels and submerged cities; spatial transformations on the Indian Ocean rim; islandness; ocean-hinterland relations; public health; urbanization; demography, migration, and refugees; transborder solidarities and social movements. 

Methodologies and approaches: Ecological zones and weather patterns as frameworks; foregrounding local perspectives and problems; social networks; Science, Technology, and Society (STS) approaches to climate change; thinking about other seas and regions (comparisons and connections); identifying new archives and sources; heritage; the archaeology of the ocean. 

Please contact program staff at iocollaboratory@ssrc.org for further guidance in preparing your application. 

For details about application requirements and other useful information, see the FAQ.