A New Format in 2020

Due to the continuing  impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our communities, CUAHSI has implemented a new two-track Let's Talk About Water (LTAW) Competition for 2020.  

Questions regarding Let's Talk About Water and the Challenge Grant program can be directed to Jon Pollak at jpollak@cuahsi.org.  


2020 Let's Talk About Water Challenge Grant Program


Track 1: Film Competition & Festival 


Building off of the recent success of the first virtual Let's Talk About Water film festival hosted by University of Saskatchewan, CUAHSI invites individuals from U.S. based universities to produce a short film that highlights the importance of their water-related research or a water-related issue in their community. Applicants will be required to submit a pitch of up to two pages to be eligible for a competitive grant of up to $500. Grantees will be required to submit their completed short film to CUAHSI by March 1, 2021.

In today's world of social media, a short film is a potent tool for communicating complex issues of water science. Here are some tips for how to approach making your short film: 

  • Consider ideas around water quantity and quality (too much, too little, too dirty) to tell your story
  • A short film helps to crystalize and visualize your work, which can help define the abstract for your research
  • Your film could target your local community so that it serves as a bridge and shares the academic wealth
  • Use the cool tools of today's media, you can be artistic and poetic in your approach
  • Bring people together across disciplines to contribute to the film such as artists, film makers, and journalists
  • Tell a story using a specific geographic location or a scientific concept
  • Make it fun!

CUAHSI will host a virtual film festival on World Water Day (March 22, 2021) to debut films produced with the support of the LTAW program. A first place cash prize of $2,000 will be awarded and all grantees will have the opportunity to introduce their film and answer questions from attendees. 

Pitch Format and Evaluation Criteria - a pitch of up to two pages should be submitted and include the topic of the proposed film, the rationale for this topic, the production team, the anticipated outcomes, and the purpose for which the $500 grant will be used. Pitches will be evaluated based on topic relevance, clarity, project management, and use of grant funds. 


Track 2: Virtual Let's Talk About Water Event or Series


Individuals at U.S. academic institutions are invited to submit proposals for a virtual LTAW one-time event or an ongoing series. Proposals should include a budget, not to exceed $2,500, budget justification, proposed film and virtual venue, and expected outcome. Expenses may include securing rights to show a film, staff or student labor, and honoraria for speakers. Other expenses may be considered with appropriate justification. Proposals will be evaluated based on these criteria. In addition, reviewers will look favorably upon the creative use of communications technology to provide an inclusive and accessible venue for film-inspired scientific discussion about water. 


Available Consultation

Challenge Grant recipients may receive film and program consultation from Program Director, Linda Lilienfeld, who developed the LTAW concept. Linda has 35 years of film research experience and has screened over 300 water films and designed successful LTAW events all over the world. 


About Let's Talk About Water

Let's Talk About Water uses film as a catalyst for discussion about important water issues. Films can be powerful educational tools for the sciences because they use storytelling to engage audience emotionally, which: 

  • heightens a general audience's interest in science content; 
  • helps the audience make meaningful connections with the subject matter; 
  • aids scientists in contextualizing their work; 
  • and catalyzes a conversation

Documentary films are especially good at creating teachable moments and providing opportunities to apply critical thinking skills by testing the validity of the films' message. 

The LTAW event formula is simple; a panel of experts and the audience view a water-related film together followed by a moderated discussion between the panel and the audience. Moderators actively manage the discussion by challenging the panelists with follow up questions, asking questions to simplify language, and encouraging different points of view. 

As a scientist, LTAW events give you the opportunity to tell the story of your work in a way that connects with a general audience. 

Learn more about developing a Let's Talk About Water event in this EOS article. CUAHSI has developed resources for hosting your own Let's Talk About Water event. Check them out here


Student groups or university faculty are eligible to apply for a Challenge Grant, but the grant must be awarded to a U.S. university, therefore the applicant must be affiliated with a university. 

Student groups are asked to provide a letter of support from a faculty advisor. 


I am a student. Can I apply for a Challenge Grant?

Yes! Some of our most creative events have been organized by student groups. We ask that student groups submit a letter of support from a faculty advisor who agrees to over see the project and help with the grant management.

I’m a university staff member, not a professor. Can I apply for a Challenge Grant?

Yes! Applicants must be affiliated with a US university, but do not need to be a professor to apply.

Do in kind donations count as matching funds?

Yes, we will accept in kind donations as part of the matching funds, such as the cost of a venue or faculty’s time. Please be sure to include this in the budget.

Are indirect costs allowed in the budget?

No, indirect costs are not allowed in the Challenge Grant budget.

If selected, when will I receive the Challenge Grant award?

Notification of Challenge Grant award winners will be made in December. The Challenge Grant is awarded as a reimbursement after the completion of the event, meaning that costs should be covered by the event organizer up front. CUAHSI staff can also work with event organizers to pay directly for event costs if needed.

Do you have recommendations for films to use?

Yes! CUAHSI has created a Film Guide that includes frequently used films and ideas to engage the audience. Check it out here!

Photo Credits: Jennifer Cohen (LTAW event at Oregon State University)