Sustainable Laboratory Certification Pilot Programme
Science Foundation Ireland funds excellent and impactful research and talent, and shapes the future of Ireland through anticipating what’s next and widening engagement and collaboration. SFI has developed its Climate Action Strategy 2024-2027 in which SFI commits to support climate action and sustainability within our community. SFI’s goal is to support a collective effort towards tackling the challenges of climate change and creating a sustainable future for all. A key pillar in this strategy is ensuring SFI’s funded programmes are undertaken in a manner that supports sustainable practices.
Many labs across Ireland have begun their sustainability journey combatting negative impacts that laboratory activities could have on the environment and undergoing sustainable certification processes. Inspired by the actions of these labs and to support our research community in adopting and continuing sustainable research practices, SFI is developing a pilot sustainable laboratory certification programme. This programme will be delivered in partnership with My Green Lab. This pilot programme will support up to 100 labs maintained by SFI Principal Investigators (PIs)/Funded Investigators (FIs) and their research groups to participate in the My Green Lab certification process. SFI will support the cost of participation in the programme.
Expressions of Interest (EOIs) are invited from PIs/FIs in receipt of SFI funding who would like to participate in the pilot. The pilot certification programme will be split into two tranches consisting of approximately 50 labs each. The first tranche of labs will start the certification process in mid-November 2023. Typically, labs are certified within 6–9 months of starting the process. It is anticipated that the second tranche will start their certification journey in Q1 2024.
The certification process provided by My Green Lab (MGL) begins with an initial baseline self-assessment that is completed by lab members. This takes the form of an online survey covering various facets of lab practices and sustainability, which takes approximately 30–45 minutes to complete. Following this, a set of recommendations are issued by MGL to inform the lab members of additional steps they could take to align with sustainability best practices.
Figure 1: 14 topic areas covered by the My Green Labs assessment
The lab members are then afforded time to discuss and implement improvements. Several months later, a second self-assessment is completed by lab members. This is used to quantify progress made in addressing the recommendations and forms the basis of the certification awarded. At this stage, MGL issue recommendations for further improvements based on the progress already made by the lab/team. MGL require that at least 50% of lab users participate in the self-assessment process. The primary responsibilities of the PIs/FIs are:
- Engaging in the self-assessment process,
- Encouraging lab personnel (at least 50%) to participate in the process,
- Actioning recommendations received from MGL, where feasible.
MGL will provide participants with a suite of resources to support researchers on their journey to certification. This includes a kick-off online meeting with MGL, a comprehensive feedback report following the initial baseline assessment, a feedback presentation summarising the labs’ results, and engagement resources such as worksheets and case studies.
Evaluation of Pilot
SFI will be initiating an independent review at the end of the pilot period to allow for system learning and understanding for further rollout. It is important that quality assurance on maximising sustainable practices of changes in behaviours and mindset rather than ‘green washing’ are on demonstration.
EoIs can only be submitted by a Principal Investigator or Funded Investigator who currently holds funding from SFI and maintains a research laboratory (for example, wet, dry or computational laboratories). EoIs will not be accepted from team members.
Where a lab is shared across multiple PIs coordination of the certification process across all PIs sharing that lab, is expected.
Eligible PIs/FIs interested in participating in the pilot programme are invited to complete a short online Expression of Interest form. Applications from all types of laboratories are welcome and encouraged.
Applications will be grouped into two tranches. EoIs for consideration in the first tranche of the pilot should be received by 1pm 7th November 2023. EoIs for consideration in the second tranche of the pilot should be received by 1pm 31st January 2024.
Notification to Applicants: mid-November 2023 (Tranche 1), February 2024 (Tranche 2)
Please note that while the application deadline for Tranche 2 is 1pm 31 January 2024, we encourage applicants to submit EoIs at any time up to 31 January 2024. Where there is sufficient demand, applications may be assessed prior to the final cut-off date.
The following details are requested as part of the EoI submission process:
- Applicant Name and Contact Details
- Research Body
- Qualifying SFI award reference number
- Role on the award
- Type of laboratory
- Description of the lab in terms of discipline and experimental set up, as appropriate (max 200 words)
- Motivation for participating in the pilot (max 200 words)
- Outline any sustainability measures ongoing in your lab/institution (Optional, max 200 words)
To be reflective of the diversity of programmes and activities that SFI funds, we wish to ensure that a diversified sample of laboratories are selected to participate in the pilot. The following considerations will be made in selecting labs:
- Disciplines/research area
- Type of lab (e.g., wet or dry)
- Research Bodies
- Regional representation
- Career stage of participant researchers
EoIs will be reviewed internally by SFI in conjunction with My Green Lab and successful applicants for the first tranche will be informed of the outcome in early November. A session at the 2023 Research Summit, taking place on 21 and 22 November 2023, will be dedicated to the Sustainable Laboratory Certification pilot.
SFI expects that at least one individual from each lab selected to participate in the pilot will complete My Green Lab’s Ambassador Program. Labs that are selected to participate in the pilot will be invited to join the Irish Green Labs network.
Please note that the EoIs will be shared with My Green Lab as part of the selection process. SFI will notify Research Bodies of applicants within their institution who have submitted an EoI.
SFI and My Green Lab hosted an information webinar at on October 2023, please check below.